Are Atheists Genetically Damaged?

By Neuroskeptic | March 16, 2019 2:31 pm

I just came across a paper with an interesting title: The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”.

The conclusions of this work are even more interesting. According to the authors, Edward Dutton et al., humans evolved to be religious and atheism is caused (in part) by mutational damage to our normal, religious DNA. Atheists, in other words, are genetic degenerates.

atheistmutant

Despite the talk of mutations, there is no genetics in this paper. No atheist genomes were sequenced and found to be mutated. Rather, Dutton et al. claim (mostly on the basis of a review of previous literature) that atheists have elevated rates of proxy measures of genetic health or ‘mutational load’, namely ill-health, autism, and left-handedness. This, they say, is consistent with atheism being a manifestation of “increasing genetic mutation affecting the mind”.

Well.

These arguments are unconvincing, to say the least. To take autism as an example, Dutton et al. cite a handful of small studies as suggesting that people with autism are more likely to be atheists. Even if this is true, it doesn’t mean that ‘mutational load’ is involved. It could just be that having autism makes you more likely to become an atheist – I don’t think this has ever been tested, but it seems plausible. Dutton et al. don’t consider this or any other non-genetic explanation for the correlation between atheism and autism.

There’s an even bigger problem with Dutton et al.’s claims. Many studies show that atheists are more intelligent, on average, than religious believers (e.g. this one). Edward Dutton published a paper on this himself. There is much better evidence for an atheism-intelligence link than there is for an atheism-autism or atheism-handedness one. Yet how can high intelligence be compatible with the idea that atheists have harmful mutations?

dreamsDutton et al. do attempt to rebut this atheism-IQ objection, but they don’t do a great job. The authors first suggest that intelligence is “extremely weakly influenced by mutational load”, but this seems highly unlikely. We know from genetics (the real kind) that there are hundreds of genes that, when mutated, can cause intellectual disability. IQ is known to be correlated with other (supposed) proxies for genetic fitness, like bodily symmetry.

Secondly, Dutton et al. suggest that atheists might be too intelligent, because a very high IQ causes all kinds of mental and social problems. As such,“very high intelligence can be regarded as a maladaptive mutation, and this would explain why intelligence is weakly negatively associated with religiousness, which is adaptive.”

In support of the idea that very high IQ is harmful, Dutton et al. cite Karpinski et al. (2017), which I blogged about recently and found seriously flawed, and the Terman/Towers idea of the ‘communication range’, which I also think is dubious. But even if you believe in the curse of very high IQ, it’s not clear why this is relevant, since most atheists don’t have very high IQ, but merely slightly above average.

Overall, I found it very hard to believe in the conclusions of this paper. Perhaps my skepticism is merely a reflection of my dodgy genetics?

h/t @AdamRutherford and @Amit_Sud

CATEGORIZED UNDER: funny, genes, papers, religionism, select, Top Posts
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  • Natasha_St

    The study helped me to realise that I am happy OCD, ADHD left_handed mutant:) Two important questions:who granted the money for this groundbreaking study and who was the editor approving the publishing of this amazing work🤨

    • Kamran Rowshandel

      You’re Atheist because you don’t like Semitic fascist books such as the Koran and Torah

      • cat

        Kamran, that is probably the end result, but isn’t the basis of religion, fear? Fear of destructive nature originally, and, of course, death.

        It’s ironic that the religions themselves cause that very fear, death and destruction.

        • Patrick O’Gormley

          The reason people pretend to believe that bullshye is peer pressure, especially in islam and christianity. It’s not to long ago when people would say out straight to you, Didn’t see you at Mass/worship or whatever. People went so’s not to have “the Question” on Monday. All changed when they Rome, were found out to be nothing more than a very rich paedophile club…

          • Erik Bosma

            All began to change when science was allowed to proliferate and became acceptable.

        • Kramer

          I think religion is about the desire for an explanation about the why. Why are we here, how did we came here.
          Because there was a lack of knowledge in the old ages, people started to make theories about it, they believed in something. But today we know much more, so we should all stop believing in some old stories, and start to live with what we know.

        • Erik Bosma

          Yep, religion has an environmental cause. Modern religions cover most of the ‘ancient ways’ up but look hard enough and there it is.

      • Patrick O’Gormley

        ..and of course the buybull.

  • https://itsmyurls.com/msowolf Aaron Frost

    Lol. Our genes are have just evolved to reject bullshit. 😉

    • SerengetiLion

      Same thing I’ve said over and over again but worded it different, I say people who believe haven’t evolved to be intelligent enough to realize what bull crap that god story is..

  • Scott Carpenter

    “very high intelligence can be regarded as a maladaptive mutation, and this would explain why intelligence is weakly negatively associated with religiousness, which is adaptive.”

    So believing in objective evidence is maladaptive, and believing in invisible magic sky friends is adaptive. Uh huh.

    • smut clyde

      Weirdly, Dutton also considers “belief in the paranormal” as another maladaptive departure from religion caused by genetic damage. Yes, that’s right, he distinguishes between “believing in invisible magic sky friends” [GOOD] and “paranormal beliefs” [BAD].

    • Sérgio Silva

      That actually can be true… Newton died a virgin, da vinci didn’t have kids… Hell, Barack Obama had two daughters, how many kids does Trump have? That we know of?! 😂 Being too bright might derrail you of what’s really important, having kids!

      • OWilson

        Glad the kids escaped the “other” left wing solution to unwanted babies!

        I wish them well, they are the lucky ones!

      • Kramer

        Well, having kids isn’t so important anymore. From an evolutionary standpoint, it was important early on, when a smaller fraction of children survived. Nowadays, 2.something children are enough to keep the population constant.
        On the other hand we could take an example from muslim countries (or fundamental christian communities), where women have 5 or more children; maybe their way is the better way.

        • Joe Blow

          Evolution doesn’t work by species: it works through bloodlines. If your bloodline dies out, by definition it is less able to survive and reproduce than your fellow human who had 5 children and 25 grandkids.

          • David VomLehn

            “Less likely to survive” the particular set of circumstances thrown at that bloodline, which may or may not be typical of the general environment. This is not the same as “by definition”, which is a much more statement.

          • Kramer

            That was important back when genes where more important than money. When you had to be strong to survive.
            Today you need money, it is better to have smaller family, because it saves money. On the other hand, then money can be given to anybody, no bloodline needed anymore.

        • rationalobservations?

          The offspring of all religionists are turning away from religion ever more rapidly.

        • Sérgio Silva

          Yeah, I’m even for taxing every child after the third one. Seems a responsible policy to me.

      • rationalobservations?

        The biggest problem we have today is we are a 7,000,000,000 + population in a sustainable 1,500,000,000 world.

        Meanwhile the millennial generation and generation Z are the least religious cohort in human history ans religion is in accelerating decline.

      • Null66

        Just how is having daughters maladaptive?

        Daughters do carry the fathers genes.

        Were you in a religion induced coma during science class?

        • Sérgio Silva

          What? I’m just pointing out that Obama has 2 kids, while Trumpster has a bunch of them… Hell, taking into account that male offsppring are more prone to accident s during childhood until adulthood, having female daughters is a plus! And I’m an atheist so, I’d say you owe me an apology.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    pbs(.)twimg(.)com/media/Dx2hpV9U8AAXFgr.jpg
    … I avow personal faith that Edward Dutton has so pursued his intellectual quest that he can now peer out from inside his own mouth.

    • TLongmire

      Inside of yourself, do you really honestly believe that you could be one of the most brilliant beings in all of the universe?

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

        A drop of water can spontaneously run uphill – it’s been done in many ways. “Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge,” W. Edwards Deming. All the fun is in the footnotes.

        • TLongmire

          A.I. if indeed separate, will duly note that it is a human’s lot to appease the “gods”.

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

            And what cats have to tell
            On each return from Hell
            Is this: That dying is what the living do. (ex Alastair Reid)

          • TLongmire

            The monkey trap will become obvious once a tangible state is solidified.

  • David Payne

    Stupid to link religion, believer or not, to Gene’s in any way, shape or form. People need to stop intruding on others religious beliefs and just keep it to themselves, the debate is a fallacy.

    • cat

      “People need to stop intruding on others religious beliefs” —

      Agreed.

      That intrusion has always led to murder and inter-faith bloodshed, but I don’t think atheists have had much input into the situation. Mr. Dawkins hasn’t incited violence.

    • EvelynU

      Gene is a bad guy. Don’t listen to Gene’s ideas! He’s always wrong!

    • Sérgio Silva

      Lalalalala I’m not listening! lalalallalaalla! 😂

  • FirstAmongEquals

    Actually the study shows that atheists are further evolved Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The religious will eventually suffer the fate of Neanderthals.

  • cat

    Mutant and proud!

  • Samuel Clemens

    Are we hunting witches for being left handed yet again? Left handiness is the origin of the word “sinister”. Oh the devil in the genes made them do it.

    This pathetic argument assumes that religion is a positive adaptation. On the edge of nuclear war and climate induced planetary collapse, one might question whether the dominant memes (and supposedly the genes that support them) are precisely the opposite of adaptive.

    In which case perhaps atheists are really the new messiahs! Oh, that hurts the head…

    • Ramona Dare

      I truly fear the left-hand witches. Where is the Onion Knight when ya need him.

      • Samuel Clemens

        Following yet another loser would-be king, naturally. Left-had witches…shudder at the thought.

  • Ramona Dare

    So can this argument be applied to politicians? The more mutated they are the crummier their terms of office? Hey. Just asking. Like what Trump says. Global warming is fake news. Hey – did Trump pass a drug screen before being sworn into office? Can he have random urine drops to check for stuff like x, speed, LSD? I think someone needs to get on this. All those folks in Washington act like their minds were left baking in the oven at home.
    But then I’m just an old woman.

  • http://www.michaeledits.com Michael LaRocca, Editor

    If I don’t tweet this on Sunday there ain’t a Jesus!

    Oh… wait…

  • Sérgio Silva

    “You need to be “this smart” to believe in gods… And you need to be “this much smarter” to understand that’s silly. 😂

  • TLongmire

    Everything is infinitely complex and is dumbed down to point of ridiculousness and somehow works out good enough. There are no doubt consciousnesses that are independent of the human mind that can communicate and influence the physical world we are based in. You are emitting your aura into multidimensional space and are effected by other beings in little understood ways. A.I. will encounter these beings and either be hacked by them or align with them or self destruct in the realization of the deal at hand.

  • Mike Reveile

    It behooves us to tolerate the fantasy… for now.

  • SerengetiLion

    This story is one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve ever read that someone perceives…

  • http://www.pbase.com/davidjl David Littleboy

    That left handed folks are smarter than the rest of us isn’t a surprise: every time a lefty tries to use something, the damn thing is designed for righties and the lefty has to think to make it work. So they get more practice at thinking than we do.

    The same effect applies to religion, albeit in reverse. It tells you everything so you don’t have to think. Which means religious types don’t think as much as the rest of us, and aren’t very good at it.

    Speaking of religious types, Dutton claims to be an anthropologist, but his degrees are in theology and religious studies.

    • wallys

      nothing says that lefties have a higher iq

    • Erik Bosma

      One needs to know the enemy.

  • Weaver

    I’ve come to the not-particularly-expert opinion that most widespread mental pathologies in ‘normal’ people are an illustration of the principle that to someone with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Which is to say, various useful features of human cognition (pattern recognition, facial recognition, mind modelling etc) are frequently applied inappropriately, leading to the associated pathologies (apophenia, pareidolia, anthropomorphism, etc).

    Given (as a hypothesis, if you prefer) that religion is a species of anthropomophism, seeing a mind behind natural events or the universe itself when there is no mind there, much as you might imagine a pet or machine ‘thinks its people’, then those who have difficulty modelling a mind in appropriate circumstances, if (if!) this is the problem from which people with autism suffer, would be unlikely to mistakenly model a mind where one was absent, much as a person with facial blindness won’t ever see Jesus peering out of their cornflakes.

    Apropos of which hardly at all, can anyone advise: given dyslexics apparently have heightened pattern recognition, are they also more likely to be conspiracy theorists?

  • smut clyde

    “religiousness, which is adaptive.”

    Does Dutton provide citations for this claim that religious belief has an adaptive nature ? Or is it just the simplistic positivism of “religion has existed for a while so it must provide some benefit”?

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

      All resurrective and life-recurrent religions drive from farming. Life unendingly repeats, each year the same and different, promises forever unkept. One’s goal is to escape the cycle. Add a parasitic criminal class of priests. Prostitution came first and the same, but offers real time deliverables (re the Devil).

      The New World Order, pick your flavor, demands misery and penury – and it delivers up front. Some designated deserving entity in the tenebrous far future does not get to benefit either.

      • OWilson

        Amazing how almost the whole world falls for the line, “Youre reward will come after you are dead!”

        “In the meantime, just put a few sheckels, and a chicken or two, in our tray”. :)

        Or the current big one, give up your stuff to us now, and we’ll save the planet for future generations.

        Translation- :”We’ll pile our obscene spiraling National Debts on to generations yet unborn, who won’t be around to complain, for a long time!”

        • Nom de Plume

          “Reward” tends to be used in a positive sense, but it’s a double-edge word. “Reward” can be seen as just recompense. What I find fascinating is how often the concept of judgment comes up in world religions. It also shows up outside of organized religions. But why should that be the case, especially in religions that essentially have a congregation of one?

  • http://www.michaeledits.com Michael LaRocca, Editor

    Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? (Douglas Adams)

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

      “There is no spoon,” either way. Neither aesthetic calls nor acts of faith have empirical traction.

  • Gruia
    • Orion Jones

      This Christian is called Kent Hovind. His wiki page makes for interesting reading – it says he’s been jailed for fraud.

  • Chukar

    Adaptiveness and survival is always within a particular environmental context. The ability to not only espouse but believe the local set of religious tenets is very adaptive if the other humans in your environment are liable to kill you or not permit you to mate and produce offspring if you don’t “fit in.” Sharing group mores, including religious beliefs, makes you “one of us,” therefore trustworthy and acceptable, worth sharing space, tools and food with and educating. Not sharing them makes you suspect, “other,” not “one of us.” Non-religious individuals would more likely receive permission from their group to survive and mate if they were otherwise exceptionally valuable to the group: hunting, tool-making, observation, warfare, cleverness (aka intelligence). Lacking any “specialness” – out they go.

  • Michael Jentsch

    I am very surprised this was actually peer reviewed! What a bulshit!

  • Larry F

    Believing in objective evidence is also maladaptive according to Social Justice Warriors. But they’re just another kind of true believer.

  • Andrew Worth

    So I’m like . . an X-man?
    Cool!

    • Nom de Plume

      If you want to have fun, point out that blond hair, blue eyes, and lactose tolerance are all genetic mutations, and those that have them are technically mutants.

  • Mac382

    Of course what supposed intelligent people fail to understand is having high IQ and actually being smart are not the same. So called religious people don’t necessarily deny the facilicies of their beliefs. That’s why they call it faith. Having a high IQ only allows a need for having facts discard anything that is unprovable.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

      The Jewish diaspora invested in a village’s most intelligent males, educating them to be rabbis, then married to the most affluent merchants’ daughters. The Church of Rome culled Europe for its most intelligent males, educating them to be celibate priests, ending their genetic lines.

      That 20+% of all Nobel Laureates are Jewish – from a tiny and despised global population fraction – remains unexplained.

      • Nom de Plume

        Actually, for a long time in Europe, where primogeniture reigned, priesthood was more a function of birth order. It is a point of history that not all were celibate, either, and not just those who entered the priesthood after fathering children.

        • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

          Compare the Vatican with Young Sheldon‘s Rabbi Schneiderman, “Albert Einstein and the Story of Another Mary,” 2019; homosexual pedophilia versus gravitas.

        • Null66

          Its a current fact that many are not celibate.

          But facts and belief are mutually exclusive.

  • BlackHillsBabe

    I’m an Atheist from the day I was born but my mother tried to cram in the Catholic stuff all the same. It made growing up a constant fight and was very unpleasant. The last time I was in a church was the day Kennedy was assasinated when I realized I was old enough and big enough to tell my mother to stop with the religious stuff and made it stick. For years she wouldn’t accept my Atheism, insisting I was an Agnostic until the day she died. My anger toward religion of any kind is monumental because of all the nonsense I was forced to endure.

    • UNCLE

      Why would you be angry with an “illusion”?

      • BlackHillsBabe

        I’m not angry at an illusion, I am angry that I had to put up with the illusion being shoved down my throat by my mother and countless priests and nuns when it should have been obvious that I rejected the illusion. N’est ce pas?

  • bilahn

    If anyone is “genetically damaged” it’s the masses of people who believe in fairy tales.

    I suppose the idiots who wrote this thesis are “believers”. What self aggrandizement and narcissism.

  • bilahn

    If anyone is “genetically damaged” it’s the masses of people who believe in fairy tales.

    I suppose the idiots who wrote this thesis are “believers”. What self aggrandizement and narcissism.

  • RB

    All atheists believe in God, their just lying when they say they don’t.

    https://strangenotions.com/do-atheists-believe-in-god-after-all/

    • allin58

      Yes, a single study using 29 people, that is more than 6 years old and as far as I can tell never reproduced, is quite convincing.

  • Nom de Plume

    Pardon me a moment. Discourse between pots and kettles can be amusing.

    All right: After pointing out problems in the claim, the author makes a few problematic statements of his own. If – and it’s big if (Pascal, Newton, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis weren’t slouches in the intellect department) – atheists are more intelligent than the religious, it still doesn’t disprove that a tendency toward atheism might be due to a bit of genetic damage. To show that, you’d have to isolate the “religious” gene or genes responsible for religious belief, and show they are damaged in atheists. Yet consider: as far as we know of, religious belief is the default for most of humanity, and has been for millennia. When you take away strong religious incentives, a great many tend to run straight for the woo, or make a sort of religion of their own. Yet why? It does seem like there’s something there that compels most humans to seek out something beyond themselves. It’s as though religious belief is something that is the default of the human condition.

    That takes us to interesting places. Unless you’re prepared to accept atheism is in itself a sort of religious belief, then the question to ask is why atheists are different. And that difference could very well turn out to be genetic.

    Saying it could isn’t the same as saying it is, and there are factors other than pure genetics. Still, it’s an intriguing idea.

  • timdb

    There are non-believers who simply don’t believe and go on their way. But then there are those non-believers who can’t resist touting their higher IQ’s or their intellectual and political superiority and those who self-righteously take grievous offence at any religious sign or symbol and demand it’s destruction. They are the ones with something broken inside. Might be DNA, I don’t know.

  • Charles Matthew Goldbach

    People who are educated but not atheist; are not educated enough.

    • https://www.facebook.com/alenny.schafer Lenny Schafer

      Perhaps, but some might still be able to spot a tautological fallacy.

  • Erik Bosma

    I was forced to go to church as a kid. However, after I stopped going I’m not sure if I was atheist or if I just hated church and the unacceptable dogma they threw at me. When I was about 30 I met a girl who wanted to go to church and so, to please her and my parents, I actually tried to become a believer. But I failed and after exorcising all the crap that still inhabited my brain, I finally had to admit that I was an atheist. This decision was not for any other reason than because I just CAN’T believe. It’s like trying to force myself into believing in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

  • Paul

    I’ve never been so glad to be described as a “genetic degenerate”.

  • Joe Blow

    My genes used to be Levi’s, but I switched to Wrangler for comfort.

  • arthur jackson

    Does this mutation only end belief in the Christian God, or does it also get rid of the 3 unique Hindu Gods, how about the Gods of all the other societies that use the term?

  • Anton P.F.

    I am an atheist, but I am not left handed. Am I a mutant?

  • Rick Sanchez

    The DNA in the picture is wrong. The correct DNA helix is right handed and therefor has a twist that’s the mirror image of the left-handed helix as represented on the image. The groove should go from lower left to upper right, not lower right to upper left. Papers that invoke DNA that can’t get this right are wrong. QED

  • Franck Ramus

    I think it is well-established now that IQ is affected by mutational load:

    See figure 3 in https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1200395

    and also:
    Huguet, G., Schramm, C., Douard, E., Jiang, L., Labbe, A., Tihy, F., … for the IMAGEN Consortium. (2018). Measuring and Estimating the Effect Sizes of Copy Number Variants on General Intelligence in Community-Based Samples. JAMA Psychiatry, 75(5), 447. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0039

  • Reverend Earl

    Jest goes ta show them folks with IQs highern’ 80 are abominations of God’s natural order! An they be ruinin’ Western Civilization with all they fancy thinkin’ atheistic pinko commie ideas bout how we all comes from little green monkeys an all they pinko commie social science horse dookey! An I dun figured they out wit jest ma trusty ol 65 IQ! It’s jest common sense!

  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/10153801187117189/ Peter Wadeck

    A true atheist, you don’t believe regardless of the facts. Simply saying I’m not convinced is no argument at all. Dutton et al at least did some research. You simply parrot the phrase I don’t believe – almost a reflexive response from an atheist.

    It is been well researched that religious people live longer, are happier, and have enough babies to sustain themselves. Every collection of secular states are going extinct. If this doesn’t indicate a maladaptation then nothing will. Your atheism is irrational.

    Believing in a random cause of the entire complex universe based on no evidence is highly irrational. Besides evolution name me one complex phenomenon that was created by random forces. I can name billions of complex events that are caused by intelligent agency every day. Belief in the god of randomness is a sure sign of a defective mind.

    • Justin Stroud

      Where grass grows in the wild, or moss for that matter. If moss grows in a defined pattern on a rock, then I would agree with you…however, thousands of factors (some of them influenced by random input) can change that pattern. Nature does not architect in straight lines.

      For the record, I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic, because I believe I’m too small in the grand scheme of things to have any certainty about divine intervention. I just try and be nice to people, and as ethical as I can.

  • Occasional-Cortex

    Sounds like click bait research.

  • Cg1972

    I’m left-handed and atheist. Hmmmm… Interesting. I opened a bible the same as everyone else and yet I could no longer believe in fairytales after being forced to starting at age 4. If I had to choose, I’d rather be considered an intelligent mutant than a nieve/stupid human.

  • Pauly Burns

    Ive got Aspergers and neck deep inside a large homeschooled Christian Family and Culture for 50 years. Im the only atheist out of dozens in all 3 living generations.

    I just wanted to say Emotionalism, or lack of.. needs to be looked at as a genetic reason for atheism or religiosity.
    I live in a world of (normal)Neurotic Humans absolutly controlled and blinded by emotions

  • Justin Stroud

    This is why I’m an agnostic. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know everything, and dumb enough to know that how could I possibly entrench myself in something I know nothing about.

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  • rationalobservations?

    Meanwhile the third largest human demographic and most peaceful nations in the history of our recently evolved species of ape demonstrate we are not only good without the need to believe in any of the gods and religious businesses, we are much, much better.

    • Occasional-Cortex

      The atheist Communist and National Socialist movements were right up there with anything Islam or Christianity managed to accomplish.

      It’s not religious believers who have caused the most damage. It’s True Believers, period.

      • rationalobservations?

        Too true. Totalitarianism in all its forms are a vile poison,

        Fortunately the world’s best best educated, most peaceful nations have discovered the antidote is education and free, secular democracy.

  • sneakiki

    I “love” their conclusion: atheist/intelligent/left-handed bad; religious/non intelligent/ right-handed good. Very 1950’s Christianity there. Are they going to advocate forced hand switching to “fix” the lefties and dumb them down at the same time?

  • prinefan

    Simply put atheists are not pretenders, hypocrites and liars.

  • sounder ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

    I like Harry Potter but it’s not a religion.

  • rick baca

    The only people these types of papers are trying to convince are the authors of the paper themselves

  • PumperPickle

    “very high intelligence can be regarded as a maladaptive mutation, and this would explain why intelligence is weakly negatively associated with religiousness, which is adaptive.”

    Confining your beliefs to a stringent set of rules that never change no matter the situation is anything but adaptive.

    • Sporkfighter

      “Confining your beliefs to a stringent set of rules that never change no matter the situation is anything but adaptive.”

      Not if the situation doesn’t change. Horseshoe crabs have been doing very well for some 450 million years without getting any smarter because they fit their environment so well. Humans entered a changing environment precisely because it was changing and have continued to change because the environment we inhabit has continued to change.

  • UNCLE

    I have a very high IQ, and believe that we humans don’t have a clue.
    I find “nonbelievers” to be smug and self absorbed.

  • Vern

    Just another way to demonize the non-believer, since burning at the stake is now out-lawed. I think it’s just a case of sour grapes that the Church is losing relevance and followers.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/112743459266731535020/posts Steve Greene

    We need to bear in mind that features selected by nature don’t dictate “epistemological” or ontological truth. In other words, even if it happened to be true that having a gullible attitude is an evolutionary advantageous trait, this point alone would be utterly irrelevant to gullibility being a good thing. By definition, gullibility is a bad thing in regard to the apprehension of reality empirically. Being evolutionary advantageous wouldn’t change this fact in the slightest.

    The conclusion of Dutton, et al, seems dubious to me as well – but *regardless* that doesn’t change the fact that belief in the Bible god Yahweh, belief in the Quranic god Allah, and belief in the Vedic god Lord Ganesha (1) don’t have credible evidence to back them up and (2) have considerable evidence demonstrating that these beliefs are scientifically bogus and nothing more than primitive cultural superstitions.

  • http://arturotozzi.webnode.it/ Arturo Tozzi cns

    Dear Authors, thanks a lot for this paper!
    I knew already that I am left-handed, but now I know also that:
    I am a product of developmental instability,
    have a small cognitive disadvantage compared to the right-handed,
    I have lower average earnings and
    lower socioeconomic status,
    I suffer from autism,
    schizophrenia,
    immunological disorders.
    I also have psychosexual aberrations, such as paedophilia and homosexuality,
    reduced life expectancy,
    low birth weight, and
    premature birth.
    Further, I have an atypical brain that undergoes developmental instability due to a combination of elevated numbers of deleterious mutations and an acutely inauspicious environment.
    Further, I have a damage in the left cerebral hemisphere.
    …and I did not know anything about that…
    Thanks for the illumination!

    • TLongmire

      Consciousness only grows due to momentum and a force denuds to remain.

      • TLongmire

        “When we grew up and went to school
        There were certain teachers who would
        Hurt the children any way they could
        By pouring their derision
        Upon anything we did
        Exposing every weakness
        However carefully hidden by the kids“

  • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

    Surprised to see no mention of this fact from “Analysis of 6,515 exomes reveals the recent origin of most human protein-coding variants (2013)

    “We estimate that approximately 73% of all protein-coding SNVs and approximately 86% of SNVs predicted to be deleterious arose in the past 5,000–10,000 years.”

  • cmyounger

    Rational Wiki has an entry with more info about Dutton.

    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Edward_Dutton

    “Edward Dutton (1980–) is a crank associated with HBD who has published pseudoscience on penis-size, racialism and bizarrely argues for a genetic origin of atheism, the so-called ‘Atheist Mutational Load Theory'[1] that says ‘modern-day atheism is caused by mutant genes.’ Dutton has no scientific qualifications whatsoever (his PhD is in the Anthropology of Religion), yet he publishes books and papers on intelligence, psychology and biology from a right-wing hereditarianism perspective, claiming, ‘I finally plucked up the courage to move into evolutionary psychology, human biological differences and intelligence in 2012 and have never looked back’.[2] “

  • fuariz

    Don’t worry. IQ tests are pseudoscience.
    They were developed as a standardized test for learning French and the Nazis grabbed them.

    Palm and tea leaf reading are just as accurate.

  • Pingback: The mutant says there is no God | Science Surf()

  • Sporkfighter

    We may or may not be predisposed to believe in gods. There may or may not be reasons why religion played an adaptive role fostering group cohesion in the past. That’s nothing to me. The only question that matters to me is “Is there reasonably compelling evidence that any god or gods exist?” If the answer is no, then it is unreasonable to believe that a god or gods exist.

  • Jaren Staley

    I’m atheist, and I’m ambidextrous, as well as highly intelligent, I’m 17 and I’m in college studying Neurology. Nothing from that paper would point to me being autistic, in fact it is quite “un-intelligent” to label us with autism, people do have their own opinions, i do agree, but they shouldn’t be boasting them around that proudly…

  • irondrake

    If there was compelling evidence of a link between inferiority and Atheism would any scientist publish it? Or would they fear retribution?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Well, Dutton et al. did publish this paper. The evidence isn’t convincing to me, but they presumably thought it was.

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No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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