Even Smart People are Intellectually Lazy

Razib Khan has put up a set of graphs mapping verbal intelligence to various beliefs and demographics. For instance:

Verbal fluency and beliefs about the Bible

That ‘non-believers’ (as I’ll call them) are smarter than believers is already well-known, I think, so what struck me about this is that the non-believer’s position is the least motivated of all.

Although I’m a Christian, I’ve never thought it made any sense to say the Bible (or all of it) is literally the word of God. Why would God write things like, “Hi, it’s Luke here,” or write psalms in His own praise? It’s a lazy belief that is at least intelligible because it’s simple and Christians (like most people generally) aren’t thinkers.

But what’s the deal with “the Bible is a book of fables?” The Bible no doubt has some fables in it; it also has some law codes and oral histories and royal chronicles and poetry and various other things. So “the Bible is a book of fables” is at least as stupid as any other view on that chart, but there’s doesn’t even seem to be any reason for anyone to hold it except… anti-religious spite?

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12 thoughts on “Even Smart People are Intellectually Lazy

  1. I assume it’s chosen because it’s the only option which allows one to deny that the Bible was divinely inspired. The options are lazy in the first place, which is a general problem with polls (though, as we’ve noticed with Jesus mythicism, I’m sure there is a tendency towards lazy solutions to these questions among the non-religious as well).

    • You’re right—I’m sure the pollsters deserve much of the blame. Still, people accept the terms. Whenever I take fill out multiple choice surveys on my beliefs or personality, 75% of my answers are some variation on “none of the above” or “pass,” and I’m always mildly surprised that I seem to be an outlier in that regard.

  2. “That ‘non-believers’ (as I’ll call them) are smarter than believers is already well-known, I think”

    Really? I’m not convinced that studies that purport to show this don’t have flawed methodologies behind them, due to inherent biases on the part of those doing the questioning and analyzing the results. (e.g. using education levels as an indication of intelligence, which doesn’t necessarily correlate; just because, for example, one may find a higher proportion of those with higher education, holding atheistic beliefs, does not necessarily in and of itself, establish a direct correlation between intelligence and religious belief, because higher education is not an automatic indicator of higher intelligence, and moreover, is atheism not itself a form of faith, as distinguished from true agnosticism?)

    I should think, in both groups, believers and non-believers, that one would find a range of intelligences, and as a result, I incline towards skepticism of such findings.

    As you say, even smart people can be intellectually lazy, indeed.

  3. Will has asked me to weigh in with an intelligent comment. So here it is: 8==================================D

  4. Just kidding. I am not surprised that non-believers are on average smarter than believers. There have been very intelligent believers like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Belloc, Chesteron, Lewis, and Tolkien. Notice one thing: one of those men was an atheist and two of those men apostasized shorty before returning back to the Faith. There are some very intelligent contemporary Christian thinkers as well, like the men of Chronicles, the Orthosphere, and of Touchstone Magazine.

    That being said, I will agree that the average Christian is far less intelligent than the average Freethinker.

    • See, I don’t know about that; while it is true that an intellectually-minded Freethinker has probably thought and dwelt more on metaphysical considerations than the average Christian, there are intellectually lazy atheists, too. Vox Day has done an excellent job, IMO, of showing the lazy thinking of many atheists, at his blog.

      • It’s partly just a matter of cultural fads and influences. Christians were a major force in 19th-century universities in Japan, for example, so you’d probably find that in 19th-century Japan, Christians were the ones with well above average intelligence.

  5. “Intelligence gets in the way, it’s wisdom we should admire.”

    That sounds like dum-dum talk, Sis 😛

  6. “I asked Patriactionaries in general, Svar. But thanks for your thoughtful, well-reasoned contribution. ”

    It’s an honor.

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