Evolution is false, the Bible tells me so

By Razib Khan | May 17, 2010 3:04 pm

In the post below I pointed to various differences in regards to acceptance of evolution by demographic. One of the issues is that just because X correlates with Y, does not entail that X causes Y (and of course, if X correlates with Y, and Y correlates with Z, that does not entail that X correlates with Z). You can use the GSS to run some regressions and see what the strongest predictive variables. Because of this I know that the variable BIBLE is very predictive of skepticism of evolution. Additionally, even smart people with college educations who have a literal inerrant view of the Bible are skeptical of evolution. To show the power of Biblical fundamentalism I thought it would be useful to plot differences in regards to the Index of Creationism by various demographics for both Fundamentalists and non-Fundamentalists. So below I have a set of charts which have two series, one for Fundamentalists, and one for non-Fundamentalists, of a given demographic. So for example one chart has Fundamentalists and non-Fundamentalists separated by attainment or non-attainment of college educations.

The primary variables are BIBLE & SCITEST4.


Which of these statements comes closest to describing your feelings about teh Bible? 1. The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word. 2. The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word. 3. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men.

I recoded so that responses 2 and 3 are classed as non-Fundamentalist.


For each statement below, just check the box that comes closest to your opinion of how true it is. In your opinion, how true is this? d. Human beings developed from earlier species of animals.

I created the Index of Creationism = (% “definitely not true”) X 3 + (% “probably not true”) X 2 + (% “probably true”) X 1, from three of the four responses to SCITEST4.

In the charts below the blue squares = Fundamentalists. The red diamonds = non-Fundamentalists. I rescaled so that 1 is the minimum for the Index of Creationism on all charts.






Reminder: blue squares = Fundamentalists, red diamonds = non-Fundamentalists. A few notes. For stupid, average and smart, I simply recoded the WORDSUM vocabulary test. Stupid = 0-4, Average = 5-7 and Smart = 8-10. For region, it’s pretty self-explanatory, though do note that I placed Texas and such in the South, not the West. The West are the Pacific & Mountain regions only. Those with no college degree includes all those without bachelor’s degrees (non-four year degrees).

Do you notice the counterintuitive pattern when it comes to intelligence and Creationism, and income and Creationism? The sample size for SCITEST4 isn’t that hot, so you could chalk it up to noise, but I’ve done enough poking around the GSS to trust this. There is a pattern where very intelligent and/or high socioeconomic status Fundamentalists adhere to the viewpoint which in the general population is correlated with lower intelligence and socioeconomic status. I think the dynamic here is partly the same one when it comes to political polarization: stupid and lower status people tend to be less ideologically coherent because they don’t spend much time thinking about abstract questions. From what little field investigation I’ve performed dull human tends to fixate on sensory or interpersonal questions, not intellectual ones. In other words, very stupid Fundamentalists may not even understand what they’re being asked. Very stupid people also tend to agree that they’re political moderates more often than the intelligent; moderate seems like a good thing to say for someone who never thinks about politics. I think this issue to some extent explains the lack of effect among Roman Catholics. Unlike Protestants views about the Bible are less emphasized in Roman Catholicism traditionally, so many Catholics may not have well thought out opinions on the topic.  Those who answer that they believe the Bible is the literal and inerrant Word of God may not really even know what this really should mean. The question is geared toward those with Protestant presuppositions.

There may also be the secondary effect of self-selection when it comes to intelligence and income for Fundamentalists. Fundamentalism tends to correlate with lower intelligence and income, and those who choose to remain Fundamentalists despite higher intelligence and income may self-select for the most extreme and rigorous subset of this class. More theologically liberal and lax Protestant denominations tend to be biased toward wealthy and well-educated individuals, some of whom have switched denominations as they go up the class hierarchy. Those who refuse to switch as they ascend the class ladder may be a peculiar subset. By contrast, lower class status denominations may include more lax individuals in relation to belief or practice who would not feel comfortable in a liberal denomination because of their class status.

This pattern of social sorting probably explains the fact that region still has a significant predictive power even controlling for Fundamentalism. Northeastern Fundamentalists are equivalent in skepticism toward evolution as Southern non-Fundamentalists. I have seen similar tendencies among black Americans in relation to social issues and religion; secular individuals who are black are invariably more socially conservative that secular individuals who are white. I think this is a function of the fact that secular blacks are embedded in a more socially conservative cultural milieu. Similarly, non-Fundamentalist Southerners are embedded in a more Creationist culture, as Fundamentalists are numerically more preponderant in the South than non-Fundamentalists. New Englanders exhibit the inverted tendency. Someone who is a conservative, Fundamentalist or Republican in New England may actually be liberal, theologically moderate and a Democrat in the South.

Variables: Region, Wordsum, Relig, Income, Degree, Scitest4

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Creationism, Culture, Data Analysis
MORE ABOUT: Creationism, GSS
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  • M Burke

    Reminder: a majority of the well-known (Princeton, Yale, etc) universities in the US were founded by Reformed denominations which, while generally believing in and teaching 6-day YEC, none-the-less were the epicenter of higher learning for over a century. I think you might consider doing a little research on the differing positions of those you seemingly lump into the classification of “fundamentalists”. As Dr. Michael Horton has said, fundamentalism is not a theological position, but a mindset shared equally by those of conservative and liberal stripes.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    m burke, you don’t need to remind me. i’m not a retard. since EVERYONE in the 17th and 18th centuries was a 6-day YEC that’s totally a specious point. additionally, the reformed tradition which gave rise to harvard, yale and princeton long ago stopped adhering to theologically conservative positions (harvard famously became unitarian dominated). i’m aware that there are different ways to define “Fundamentalist,” but i think it’s pretty clear from the post in what context i’m using the word.

    and it’s kind of weird to name-check a conservative reformed theologian by name without a link as if everyone would know who you’re talking about.

  • sammyb

    It is true. The bible is a book of myths. There is no proof, no reality, no reason for the bible to be anything more than a creation of moral laws for a community of people who wanted to explain the world around them in the context of what they saw and experienced. In the same vein as Gilgamesh, Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, Isis, Shiva, and so on, indigenous and separated peoples used their imagination to create the beings they felt controlled their lives in some mysterious and usually terrible way like Yahweh in the old testament. We have always needed some manner to explain the world around us. Gods sufficed like parents were to children..the moral controller.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    sammyb, that’s all fine, but irrelevant to the post.

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson

    Razib used “fundamentalism” in a contemporary sense, but historically fundamentalism means certain Protestant and usually Calvinist groups which developed in the US during the early 19th century which developed their thinking in opposition to liberal Christianity of the Unitarianand Episcopal types*, which read the Bible metaphorically and adapted the interpretation to the modern science, etc., of the time.

    The whole literal / metaphorical distinction is highly misleading, however. Many fundamentalist churches read the Bible as coded prophecy, so that many passages have a different meaning than the literal meaning, and this is metaphorically and not literal reading. (For example, the Scofield Bible, dispensationalism, and everything having to do with The Last Days). What fundamentalists forbid is only metaphorical readings of the Bible intended to bring it into harmony with modern science and the modern world. This especially applies to any skepticism about miracles.

    Up until Andrew Jackson most American Presidents were liberal Christians. Today’s conservative Christians either ignore this fact or they lie.

    *Yes, Episcopals are far different than Unitarians in most respects, but at that time neither read the Bible literally.

  • flaco

    Just a comment, may not be too relevant with this post but more of an observance and this seems like an appropriate place to comment.

    I find it interesting as I have been subscribing to Discover magazine for a few months now and I find it interesting that many of the articles seem to hint that a belief in Deity contradicts evolution. To whatever extent one may believe in evolution, a belief in God should not be disproved by science but rather, supported. True religion and true science should support each other. Truth is truth, no matter how little we know of science or religion. It is amazing how much the scientific method has given us, but if that is the only source of truth then we will remain quite ignorant. Many of the greatest scientists have increased in a faith of God as they have learned more of the Laws of nature. Now as for the Bible, I believe that when it was written, much of it was correct, but time has definitely played a role in some things being twisted and lost in its history.

  • Melykin

    John Emerson wrote:
    “…but historically fundamentalism means certain Protestant and usually Calvinist groups which developed in the US during the early 19th century which developed their thinking in opposition to liberal Christianity of the Unitarianand Episcopal types, which read the Bible metaphorically and adapted the interpretation to the modern science, etc., of the time.”

    It must be different in Canada. The Presbyterians (Calvinists) in Canada merged with the Methodists and Congregationalists to form the United Church of Canada in 1925. The United Church of Canada has always been more liberal than the Anglican Church, though in recent years the Anglicans have also gotten to be quite liberal. However, the Anglican church will not, for example, officially bless same sex marriages, but the United Church will. (Actually the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in B.C. does bless same sex marriages, but this has created a huge controversy and some of the more conservative congregations are trying to split. )

    The United church ordained its first woman in 1936, while the Anglicans didn’t begin to ordain women as priests until 1976.

    There are fundamentalist Christians in Canada but I don’t think there is any reason to think they arose mainly from a Calvinist tradition.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    This data makes me more convinced that the your earlier point about intelligence and extreme views is a genuine effect. I’ve read your prior posts on this subject, but this one pushes me over the edge to becoming pretty convinced of the claim (I’m not sure why this does so given that the evidence here is with a substantially smaller sample and with a less robust effect then when you had the same result with political viewpoints on the GSS data. But the fact that this pattern is showing up in two distinct types of questions certainly helps a lot).

    The indication that fundamentalism reverses the standard correlation between intelligence and acceptance of evolution may have implications for people trying to increase acceptance of evolution. In particular, it means that increasing the general intelligence of the population may not help much unless we can make sure that includes a corresponding reduction in fundamentalism overall (since fundamentalism is inversely correlated with intelligence itself this may occur automatically).

  • http://haquelebac.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/my-fossil-railroad/ John Emerson


    I’m pretty sure it is different in Canada. Fundamentalism nowadays is strongest in the American South, which is different than the rest of the country in a lot of ways, and still more different from Canada. The United Church of Canada sounds like the United Church of Christ in the US, which is fairly liberal. Fundamentalists include Baptists but also various “non-mainline” evangelical and charismatic churches defined from the beginning by fundamentalism. As far as I know most of them are Calvinist in descent but their theology is dominated by fundamentalism. But other Calvinist (Reformed) churches developed in a different direction, especially in the North. (Evangelicals and charismatics overlap with fundamentalists and are usually conservative, but not always).

  • miko

    May not be that intelligence/income drives you to an extreme view, but they drive you to be confident enough of your opinion to indicate it honestly on a multiple choice test in which you are obviously staking out one end of a spectrum. I think less confident people (who overlap extensively with stupid/poor) might see a list of choices and tend to try to hit more toward the middle ground. Anecdotal experience leads me to think that being strongly opinionated is evenly distributed among the stupid and smart, but who knows.

    I know there are studies of broad differences among different countries in how they answer scalar questions, not sure if this has been done for different groups within the US.

  • miko

    “I’m pretty sure it is different in Canada.”

    This is one of those sentences that can be deployed at random and always be true.

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  • Jim

    Even applies to breakfast cereal and gas station snacks, miko.

    As a regular attender at a fundamentalist church (but one who would rank a “2” on your scale and so be non-fundamentalist myself), I’ve seen this effect anecdotally. The “rank and file” believe in creationism because they’ve always been told that it’s true and it’s the most literal interpretation possible – it requires no thought.

    The more educated fundamentalists construct great towers of rhetoric and “facts” to support their beliefs. In fact, we’re currently enduring a singularly craptastic class on how evolution is wrong that’s being taught by a licensed pharmacist and lapsed MD. He’s a brilliant man, but hidebound about his beliefs.

  • Tom Bri

    John, that second paragraph in post 6 hits it pretty well. I am a Christian, but find Bible literalists amusing. Ask them if Jesus spoke in parables, or even what his last words were. Two different gospels give different last words.

  • Adam Jones

    If some of these stupid fundamentalists that believe in Creationism end up having on average far more kids than smart non-fundamentalists do (which seems to be the case), could you argue that these stupid people are actually genetically smarter than the intellectually smart people?

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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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