Godless elites?

By Razib Khan | May 28, 2008 3:33 am

My two posts on religion & IQ/education are getting a lot of attention. I didn’t spend more than 30 minutes on both entries combined, so the attention to unit time invested ratio is rather out of wack. Doing some digging it’s funny how interested people are in this topic, while at the same time being totally disinclined to do their own leg work. Multiple message boards have also pointed to another similar survey which shows the relationship between religiosity and IQs in international comparisons. You might be amused to find out that I wrote that up in 30 minutes 5 years ago as a joke! All the data is real, I didn’t make it up, but in all honesty I connect these particular dots to see peoples’ prejudices slam up against their anti-prejudices. Most atheists are Good Enlightened people who are often skeptical of IQ tests because Good Enlightened people know that standardized tests are false (except of course in the cases where they make sure everyone knows their really high standardized test score while at the same time admitting that it “doesn’t mean anything….”). But atheists also generally believe that religious people, especially fundamentalists, are stupid and lacking in reasoning capabilities. So how about pointing out that religious fundamentalists don’t do as well on tests which supposedly measure reasoning ability? If you track some of the reaction on the message boards you see repeated instances of excitement and glee before someone pipes up to remind the assembled godless that “IQ isn’t a valid measure of intelligence.” Gosh darnit!
For the record, I believe IQ and standardized tests in general have predictive power. I also don’t believe in God.
In any case, a few people have questioned the relationship between education & Biblical literalism. I’ve pointed out that that’s a pretty robust trend over many decades, but I’ll offer some quick “proof.” Then I’ll repost some data I found in regards to elites and their religious affiliations and views which might interest.

So, One-Third of Americans Believe the Bible is Literally True, High inverse correlation between education and belief in a literal Bible:
Straightforward, no? Those who take the Bible literally comprise more than 40% of those who have only a high school education or less, and about 10% of those with postgraduate educations. The proportion drops monotonically as the level of education increases.
But now to something more interesting. I got this table from Public Attitudes Toward Church and State, a book published in 1995 that seems to have survey data from the Washington D.C. area….

Table 2.2 Religion and Religiosity among Elites
  Academics Business Government Media
Mainline Protestant 30 42 44 41
Evangelical Protestant 1 13 15 9
Catholic 14 27 22 25
Jew 9 7 5 7
No Preference 45 12 14 19
Religion Very Important 11 49 43 31
Religion Not Important 46 12 23 19
Attend Church Weekly 12 32 36 34
Never Attend Church 33 9 12 17
Bible Literally True 1 11 12 11
Born Again 3 18 14 16

This being D.C., I wouldn’t be surprised if the respondents who were in government would later be found in business and vice versa, so that might explain the similarity of the numbers for these two groups. They’re basically the same pool. Of course the academics are the most clearly secular, while the journalists are more religious, but not as much as the government or business sector. Note the low representation of belief in Biblical literality in terms of interpretation even among the more religious segments of the elite. 90% of the business elite adhere to religions which hold the Bible to be their central text, but only 12% of these take it literally. Remember that this is in a nation where 1/3 do take the Bible literally.

  • Ian

    The steady swap between “literal” and “inspired” as education progresses is interesting, but you have to wonder about the mental acrobatics which go on here.
    At some point these swappers have to set up mental filters to sift out which parts of the Bible they’re willing to swallow whole and which they’re not.
    I think a more interesting survey would be one which digs into the “rationale” they use in determining what they’re willing to take literally and how literal they’ll take it.

  • http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/ Luis

    I think Christianity, as all or most organized religions, is basically political: organization for power (not of the masses, of course). This has been so since the beginning (probably Jesus himself was heavily involved in Jewish politics) and if you dig in the Christian Coup in the Roman Empire (and religious persecution after it) it’s very evident. So I’m not the least surprised that business and government (and also media, “the fourth power”) score high in religious types.
    Still I will never stop getting negatively surprised by the high rate of biblical literalism among USAmericans. This kind of fundamentalist belief is more proper of underdeveloped low education countries, really.

  • Caledonian

    The US is a low-education country, Luis, and it’s becoming more underdeveloped with every moment. Why should biblical literalism surprise you here?

  • WhatJesus?

    And stop referring to Jesus as if he actually existed. Read up on your solar deities and stop perpetuating the lies.

  • http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/ Luis

    And stop referring to Jesus as if he actually existed.
    He may have existed actually, even if the accounts are largely exaggerated. The most simple and reasonable explanation is that the guy actually was there, even if what we read of him now is mostly mythology. Actually I think Herakles also existed probably, even if only a little bit of his mythology is remotely close to reality and all the rest is just decoration, imports from other myths, popular superstitions and general Disney-ization of the real thing.
    Personally I think Jesus was probably a zealot “terrorist” and that the transformation of the real man into the ideal god is very well metaphorized in the choice of Jesus Barrabas (son of the father, literally) and Jesus the Christ (both the same person: one the real thing and the other the edulcorated myth).
    If media recording doesn’t prevent it, they may one day do the same with Osama.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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