Liberal Creationists Are Not Very Intelligent

By Razib Khan | July 7, 2010 3:17 am

A comment below about intelligent people who believe in dumb ideas made me want to revisit the Creationism demographics in the GSS. More on point I wanted to look at the relationship between IQ and Creationism crossed with demographic variables. I used the WORDSUM variable as a proxy for IQ (the correlation is ~0.70). WORDSUM scores range from 0 to 10; 10 being a perfect and 0 being not so perfect. To get a sense of the range, here are mean WORDSUM scores by highest degree attained, constrained for the years 2004 and later:

Mean WORDSUM
No High School Diploma 4.57
High School Diploma 5.91
Junior College 6.29
Bachelor 6.82
Graduate 7.73

I decided to limit the year to 2004 and later because to explore Creationism I want to use the variable EVOLVED, which was asked in 2004 and 2008. I selected EVOLVED because the sample size was not that small, nearly 1,500, and, the response is dichotomous. Here’s what EVOLVED asked:

Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals. (Is that true or false?)

Querying Americans about human descent from animals primes them to be a bit on the Creationist side. True and false come at at about 50:50 for the above question. Below is a table where the columns have mean WORDSUM scores for non-Creationists and Creationists, and the rows indicate the particular demographic. I have put in bold those variables where the horizontally adjacent cells are outside each other’s 95% confidence interval. Additionally I constrained the sample to non-Hispanic whites (so the N is closer to 1,350).

Accepts Human Evolution Creationist
No College Degree 6.14 5.95
College Degree 7.43 6.96
Liberal 7.36 5.84
Moderate 6.25 5.78
Conservative 6.42 6.48
Democrat 6.9 5.84
Independent 6.13 5.92
Republican 6.54 6.35
Bible is….
Word of God 5.03 5.93
Inspired Word 6.71 6.45
Book of Fables 7.11 5.88
Protestant 6.61 6.21
Catholic 6.35 6.08
No Religion 6.8 5.31
Confidence in existence of God….
Atheist and Agnostic 7.13 6.87
Higher Power 6.74 5.66
Believe Sometimes 6.8 6.06
Believe With Doubts 6.52 6.06
Know God Exists 6.49 6.18

Male 6.51 5.8
Female 6.82 6.4
Age
18-34 6.1 6.03
35-64 6.79 6.29
65 and older 7.25 5.89

First, I have no explanation for the age differences. Second, notice that liberals and Democrats who are Creationists tend to be kind of unintelligent. It’s not surprising to me that those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God but are not Creationists are less intelligent than those who are (the two ranges were almost outside of the 95% confidence interval). I suspect these are individuals lacking in the faculties with which to make any inferences at all from their putative beliefs, or, those who regularly get confused on questions because they have minimal comprehension of complex grammatical constructions. In my opinion something similar is going on with liberals and Democrats who are Creationist, though there is a subtle difference. In this case their social-political milieu would tolerate acceptance of the scientific consensus, but they go with their common sense gut. I have minimal experience with politically liberal Creationists of late, but when I was younger I knew a few, and their opinions were generally inchoate and vague due to an indistinct comprehension of the basic abstract issues. In other words, these were just not the sharpest tools in the shed.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis, GSS
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  • Michael Fish

    America has some catching up to do. There would seem to be far too many universities tolerating creationist courses. Would be funny if not so serious.

  • http://www.nicky510.com Crow

    Or they’re still early on in the maturation phase:

    http://www.nicky510.com/comic/jumbo-sized/

  • aromero

    So the general trend is that well educated liberal democrats that do not believe in God tend to be the smartest people??? That’s not exactly a news flash. The sad part is that the opposite group, uneducated conservative republicans who believe in God, might have some trouble understanding the results.

  • Jumblepudding

    liberal creationists=people who made that movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?

  • Katharine

    I think this just kind of says that whether they’re liberal or conservative, creobots are idiots.

  • ToneDeF

    As my mother was an immigrant from Germany and my father got his high school diploma only after joining the army, vocabulary wasn’t strongly emphasized in my household growing up. Instead, they stressed math and science, along with a foreign language. As a result, I have historically done significantly better in Math and Reasoning in standaradized tests than in vocab. So for me, I have issues with basing IQ only on a vocab test (and yes I see the link to the official study, just giving my personal view).

    Perhaps this falls out in a large sample size and is why you dropped hispanics, but this may also be some of the differences seen in, for example male & female or age groups.

  • Brandon

    I’m way more interested in the age differences and intelligence numbers between the evolutionists and creationists than I should be, especially for the people in my age group (18-34). I wonder how many people in that group are from the “creationism alongside evolution” in schools generation that I narrowly avoided.

  • Allen

    I would like to know more about your definition of liberal, moderate and conservative creationists.

  • Katharine

    Allen, I think in this case it’s self-defined.

  • http://wingnuts.battletothedeath.net Fritz

    I’m going to have to say… So what?

    Creating tables like this doesn’t necessarily provide any useful additional analysis, but it can certainly be a polarizing tool to say “look at the elitist intellectuals who think they’re so much better than we are”.

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

    some of these comments are worthless. no value to add. might just close this thread.

    I would like to know more about your definition of liberal, moderate and conservative creationists.

    people defined themselves as liberal, moderate or conservative in the GSS.

  • Tom

    This is the second “Gene Expression” post I’ve seen recently that specifically picks on religion. Posts like this bother me because of their unthinking arrogance.

    I’m appalled at the arrogance of people who assume that their knowledge encompasses all known fact, and that anyone who espouses religious faith is automatically an idiot. It seems that the more intelligent someone is, the more blind they are to their own bigotry.

    It’s obviously true that unintelligent or ignorant people take more things on faith. When you think about it, that’s obvious. People without the faculties to analyze their beliefs won’t question it; they’ll just accept what they’re given by their parents and schools. Likewise, it’s natural that people who do have well-developed critical thinking skills will question everything, including the origins of the universe.

    However, I don’t see religion and science as enemies. Far from it: anyone who is honest with himself has to admit that we don’t know everything. Man seems to have an innate need to give meaning to the universe; every culture on the planet has come up with their own mythology to explain the world. There’s no reason to assume that the current concepts put forth by science won’t be replaced in another century by something even more fantastic.

    Assuming it doesn’t cause you to blow yourself up, along with your neighbors and friends, I don’t care what someone believes: reincarnation, pan-theism, or even that our brains are computer programs created by trans-dimensional aliens.

    But the one thing that’s not acceptable is to belittle anyone simply because they don’t believe what you do. The only people who’ve truly got it right are the ones who are smart enough to stand up and say “I don’t know”.

    This article doesn’t strike me as coming from that kind of person. Instead, it seems to have been written by a man who is trying to justify his own belief in nothing.

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

    so i let tom’s comment through because i wanted to respond to this:

    Posts like this bother me because of their unthinking arrogance.

    au contraire! i’m all about thinking arrogance. the rest of the post is a mindless brain fart. lol.

    (i got a link from huff post, probably a lot more gas where this is coming from)

  • Tom

    Well, so long as you’re willing to admit to the arrogance part. ;-)

    I’m not here from the Huffington Post. I’ve been reading Discover on and off for years, and I have the RSS feed in my daily list. I just get tired of the idea that religion is the last politically-correct thing to pick on.

    Well, as long as your religion is not Islam. Those crazies carry bombs.

    (Yes. The irony was intentional. Please don’t send me death threats.)

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

    i pick on a lot of things fyi. but you need to get your terms clear: i’m picking on creationists. you don’t do yourself, or religionists, any favors in eliding the distinction between the two categories. seriously.

  • dan

    The most arrogant thing I can possibly imagine is a group of people, presumed to be so special, that they require an imaginary, all powerful creator watching over them as their existence is simply too important to be ignored by such. And if “you don’t know” then why are you even considering a creator as a possibility? It’s not a debate if you have no evidence – it’s just….nothing. Tom, Razib’s pretty strict with the commenting – surprised he didn’t just ban you;)

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

    tom is very special :-) anyway, i think i might have to close this thread. thought ppl might be interested in how dull liberal creationists are (far duller than conservative creationists), but ppl want to talk about polarization and picking on people.

  • Katharine

    Razib, is the liberal creobot vs. conservative creobot difference in their wacky beliefs an issue of conservative creobots believing it because of ideology and liberal creobots believing it purely because of being stupid?

    Regarding Tom’s utterly idiotic post:

    “I’m appalled at the arrogance of people who assume that their knowledge encompasses all known fact, and that anyone who espouses religious faith is automatically an idiot. It seems that the more intelligent someone is, the more blind they are to their own bigotry.”

    Er, no, I don’t know any fellow atheist who’s claimed to know everything. Speaking for myself, I’m an atheist and I certainly don’t claim knowledge of all known fact. (Yet.)

    “However, I don’t see religion and science as enemies. Far from it: anyone who is honest with himself has to admit that we don’t know everything. Man seems to have an innate need to give meaning to the universe; every culture on the planet has come up with their own mythology to explain the world. There’s no reason to assume that the current concepts put forth by science won’t be replaced in another century by something even more fantastic.”

    I count five tropes of idiotic anti-scientific argument in this paragraph. See if you can find them.

    “But the one thing that’s not acceptable is to belittle anyone simply because they don’t believe what you do. The only people who’ve truly got it right are the ones who are smart enough to stand up and say “I don’t know”.”

    Shorter: ‘DON’T CRITICIZE ANYONE, NOT EVEN PEOPLE WHO ARE CRITICALLY WRONG, THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO ARE RIGHT ARE THOSE WHO KNOW NOOOOTHING’. Get off the patchouli.

    “This article doesn’t strike me as coming from that kind of person. Instead, it seems to have been written by a man who is trying to justify his own belief in nothing.”

    Belief in nothing? I can’t speak for Razib, but I’m an atheist and I certainly don’t believe in nothing. I believe in being kind and just and wise and a good person and smart for the sake of each of those things, not because some imaginary sky fairy’s going to send me to some imaginary very warm dimension after I die if I don’t. In fact, I think it makes me a better person than anyone whose morals are solely founded on fear of punishment.

  • Tahmina

    Liberal creationists, eh? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. It wouldn’t surprise me if these “liberals” are indeed just a bunch of libertarians trying to sway the results ;)

    @ Tom’s comment: I don’t see how picking on creationists equals picking on religion. To believe in God or a higher power is one thing, but to take the Bible literally and completely disregard irrefutable scientific evidence in a zealous fervor means that you lack perspective and deserved to be picked on… my respect for a person takes a deep dive if he/she professes to be a Creationist. But, then again, I might just be an arrogant liberal atheist.

  • Katharine

    (by the way, I’m a liberal, so don’t assume I agree with Razib on most things.)

  • Katharine

    I’m also curious at what happens when you throw race, education, and income into the mix.

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

    in their wacky beliefs an issue of conservative creobots believing it because of ideology and liberal creobots believing it purely because of being stupid?

    yeah, that is my best guess. wasn’t explicit about it, but thought it was clear.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if these “liberals” are indeed just a bunch of libertarians trying to sway the results

    why? libertarians are even more secular than liberals on average from the data i’ve seen (and i’m speaking as one).

  • bob sykes

    Most of your categories display no significant statistical difference. It looks like the Liberal/Democrat/College category is driving the other significant differences. Can you test for this?

    Also, anecdotal “evidence” on college graduates and faculties suggest that the real issue is not evolution v. creation but Larmarckianism v. Darwinism. The great majority of graduates and faculty members believe in some sort of evolution, but my impression is that very few accept Darwin’s theory of natural selection. That is, they are all environmentalists who insist on virtually infinite plasticity in human characters: eg, the blank slate.

    Most are not aware of the difference, so I don’t know how you would test it. But if you could, it might provide some interesting results.

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

    ok, too much spam is coming in not even addressing the post but taking objection to the fact that i believe some people are stupid (i was even polite and said “not intelligent”). i’m closing this STUPID thread.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

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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