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Does it matter if atheists are smarter than believers?

News just in, guaranteed to stir smug nods from non-believers and incite irritation among the devout: intelligence correlates negatively with religious belief. You may have seen similar - or contradictory - reports in the past. That’s because scores of studies have asked if religiosity is associated with intelligence. But a just-published meta-analysis in Personality and Social Psychology Review considered the evidence from 63 different studies.

Overall, the meta-analysis establishes the existence of a “reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity”.

Ricky Gervais, enthusiastic atheist and lampooner of mumbo-jumbo. Smart guy. Funny too. Wikimedia commons.

University of Rochester psychologists Miron Zuckerman and Jordan Silberman, together with Judtih A. Hall from Boston’s Northeastern University, gathered 80 years of published studies that estimate correlations between religious belief or behaviour (such as attendance at religious services) and intelligence.

By intelligence, they mean analytic intelligence, also known as the g-factor, which captures the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience”. Only two of the 63 studies found statistically significant positive correlations between religiosity and intelligence, whereas 35 showed significant negative correlations.

Intelligence linked more tightly to religious belief than religious behaviour. While some studies showed that smarter children were less likely to believe, the pattern was weakest among school-age subjects. The links grow stronger in adulthood and remained strong at older ages. Intelligence at one age also predicted religiosity some years later - an additional indication that intelligence shapes religiosity.

Here, then, is one of those thorny issues, guaranteed to stir circular discussion. It confirms what many atheists and agnostics have always felt - that the mere flexing of one’s intellectual fibres, particularly when accompanied by the scientific method, leads a great many smart people from the path of religious belief.

And yet the finding, and the very act of me writing this column, drips with confrontational implications. Does the fact that non-believers are, on average, more intelligent than believers also imply that the religious are all low-g? Or that believers are inferior?

Of course not. The ranges overlap, and many very smart people are, or profess outwardly to be, believers. And I’m sure most people know some rather dull atheists or agnostics, too.

It’s what you do with it

There’s a cringe factor at play here, too. Many people who flirt with unbelief can’t quite bring themselves to accept that the vast majority of humanity who profess a belief in one or more deities are somehow missing the obvious fact that gods don’t exist.

This - the very embodiment of humanist humility - probably keeps a good chunk of non-practising folk from admitting - even to themselves - their absence of faith.

That same unwillingness to call believers dumb, even implicitly, underpins the cringe many secularists experience at the term Bright - an adjective turned into a noun by a vibrant community who organise around their naturalistic worldview. Prominent Brights include atheist pin-ups Dan Dennett, Margaret Downey, and sceptic James Randi.

Daniel Dennett, my own favourite contemporary thinker on atheism and secularism. Wikimedia commons

Richard Dawkins - another Bright - gave atheist intellectual superiority a fine point in The God Delusion. I’ve long supported Dawkins, excusing his haughtiness as old-school Oxbridge irascibility.

But his clumsy recent tweets about the state of science in the contemporary Islamic societies show just how obnoxiously patronising his view of religious people has become. Perhaps those who doubt but can’t bring themselves to admit that believers are wrong or ignorant, are timid? But perhaps they are wise?

What CAN we learn

Beyond the posturing or smug self-assurances, can any good come from considering the links between intelligence and belief? I believe that it can. In understanding how those associations arise, we learn about the nature of intelligence, the nature of belief, and - just maybe - how to build a world that transcends ignorance, nepotism, exploitation and mumbo-jumbo.

Education, particularly in the sciences, tends also to diminish belief. One can see why some big religious institutions, with the most to lose from the progress of secularism, proudly foster spectacular ignorance like Kentucky’s Creation Museum. That is not to say that all religious outreach propogates ignorance, but only that many organisations - historic and contemporary - do a pretty good job of it, and seem to benefit directly as a result.

The new meta-analysis by Zuckerman, Silberman and Hall does a thoughtful job of considering the processes that might cause the association between intelligence and religiosity. They discuss three main suites of ideas, none exclusive of the others, underlying what might be quite complex dynamics:

  • Intelligent people are more likely than their peers to defy convention and conformity. This makes them resistant to religious dogma and to the social pressures that bind people together in professed belief.
  • Intelligent people adopt analytic thinking styles. Last year I posted about how a few simple exercises in analytic thinking can erode belief. Folks who score lower for g tend to rely more heavily on intuitive thinking styles, which tend to suit religious learning.
  • Religion confers on adherents benefits such as building secure social attachment, mandating self-control and building a sense of self-worth. On top of that it can provide rules by which to navigate difficult social and moral waters: monogamy, loyalty, commitment. People who do well on intelligence tests tend also to find these areas easier to navigate unaided. Nobody does so perfectly, of course, but perhaps intelligent people have less need, on average, for religious belief and practices.

That said, perhaps the high self-confidence and self-esteem that often accompany intelligence give people a confidence - often misplaced - that they can navigate life’s trickier passages without assistance, supernatural or otherwise.

As a not-entirely-on-topic treat for anyone patient enough to reach the end of this article, Tim Minchin’s animated movie, Storm, explores pseudoprofound mumbo-jumbo of all types.


This post is, as always, a mere taste of the material I’m reporting on. If this question interests you, I do recommend you get hold of the meta-analysis, which contains a very full discussion of the complex issues underpinning the religiosity-intelligence association.

Join the conversation

188 Comments sorted by

  1. Rusty Yates

    logged in via Facebook

    Looks like the only way to cure religion is to cure stupidity.

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    1. Mitch Dillon

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      and what was the religious significance of the battle of Lundys Lane Dale?

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    2. Dan Jensen

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "Evolution" is a word, the definition of which has evolved. I'm an atheist and I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but science is not just about "facts". It is about imperfect models. That's okay. And it's okay to "believe" an imperfect, evolving model. A perfect idea is an idol, a God. One who "knows" something to be absolutely true might as well be a theist.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dan Jensen

      Dan, a nephew of mine is taking the IB instead of the HSC. They have a compulsory subject called "Theory of Knowledge". He was given an assignment essay: "Can Evolution really be classified as 'science' on the same level as Physics'? The correct answer is 'no'. The top marke was given to a very smarty kid who argued 'Evolution' was as much historiography as it was science. VERY cluey kid.

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    4. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dan Jensen

      No Dan. "Evolution" is a change in a species over time. And the fact that species evolve is a fact that cannot be disputed (unless you are a creationist, but no-one cares what they believe). Every biologist in the world does 'know' that evolution occurs. It has nothing to do with belief or theism, but with evidence.

      If you want to talk about models etc, you are now talking about models that attempt to explain how and why evolution occurs. That's what the theories of evolution are about. They are not theories that suggest that species evolve - that is not in dispute because we can observe it happening. And in science, when you make an observation, you attempt to explain that observation with a theory.

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    5. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I am quite sure the author scours through research papers hoping to find some way to denigrate the male gender and religion, as most of his articles do one or the other, or both.

      However, the author must have inadvertently failed to mention this research that has received considerable publicity.

      “In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era.”

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/people-getting-dumber-human-intelligence-victoria-era_n_3293846.html

      The Victorian era was quite religious, and when the author inadvertently fails to mention such research, I think the author is biased.

      I wouldn’t rely on the author for anything at all.

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      The drop in IQ is easily understood Dale ... that'd be the rise of US evangelist protestantism... 10% would be down to Billy Graham all on his own.

      OK we could probably shave a couple of points off for Twitter and Facebook. A couple of points for Faux News .... it's amazing it's dropped a mere 14 percent all considered...

      What a crock!

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      While Social Psychology is known as the tabloids of academia, you aren't holding a trump card with the "Huffington Post"!

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    8. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      A lot of conjecture and made up stories Peter O.

      Your normal posts.

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    9. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, the speed and reflexivity of your counter-conjecture is VERY telling. Let's see what the data says. You might not like what it says one little bit. But you did ask.

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    10. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Thompson

      You want something a little more scientific?

      “Dysgenic fertility means that there is a negative correlation between intelligence and number of children. Its presence during the last century has been demonstrated in several countries. We show here that there is dysgenic fertility in the world population quantified by a correlation of − 0.73 between IQ and fertility across nations.”

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289607000463

      But the most important thing is to try and denigrate religion as much as possible.

      Wouldn’t you agree?

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    11. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      THE very interesting statistic is IQ by discipline in academia. At the top is Maths, then Physics. Biology is way towards the lowest. Higher than Biologists IQ are Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Economics, Philosophy. THEOLOGY.
      Biologists are just above Psychologists, Sociologists, who are above Media Studies, and the dumbest of all, Education.

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    12. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to David Thompson

      Scientists have a problem, which is called a “budget”.

      Only so much can be discovered by a scientist, until their “budget” runs out.

      This survey of education is quite revealing, where only 5% of teaching time was being spent teaching science.

      http://education.qld.gov.au/mastersreview/

      Perhaps all the teachers had become religious?

      We should leave that for an evolutionary biologist to decide, and then tell us what to think.

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    13. Dan Jensen

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike, if you define "evolution" to be the fact that species change, that's fine for you, particularly if you live in the 18th Century. Of course many *creationists* acknowledge that species change, though they dispute ideas such as the assertion that all species descend from a single ancestor. These days, when most of us use the term "evolution" we're referring to the principle of "natural selection." Of course there are genuine disputes among biologists with regard to what natural selection consists of, and that's okay.

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    14. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dan Jensen

      Dan, indeed there is no necessary contradiction between Evolution and Creationism, Intelligent Design, and so on. Evolution is not concerned the beginning or the end, but with the journey.

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    15. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dan Jensen

      Dan

      It's not me who defines evolution as the process of species changing over time - it's science. And since I wasn't around in the 18th century, I am not sure what your point was.

      And if "most of (you)" are referring to the process of natural selection when you use the term evolution, then you are misusing the term. "Natural selection" is a theory OF evolution - an attempt to explain how and why species change over time.

      You need to understand this, because this is a fundamentally important and basic principle of the science of biology. "Evolution" is the observation - it is the change in the inherited characteristics of a species over time. "Natural Selection" is a theory - it is an attempt to explain the observation.

      And yes, there are definitely disputes among biologists with regard to natural selection - but that is the case with all theories. That's just science.

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    16. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      "....indeed there is no necessary contradiction between Evolution and Creationism, Intelligent Design, and so on..."

      No Dan. There definitely is a contradiction. Evolution is the observation of the change in species over time. It is based on evidence and reason. Creationism and (un)Intelligent Design are religious dogma that have no place in any rational discussion.

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    17. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Precisely Mike ...one of the more comforting consequences of having an omnipotent benevolent supreme being on tap is that there is always the hope that no matter what we do, how we bugger the planet up, the supreme being could just fix it up on a whim ...and besides ... if it is being buggered up - that must be His will innit?

      God gives hope - even where none is justified.

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    18. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Mike, How very convenient of you to omit my reasoning in the next sentence.

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    19. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      David, there was nothing 'convenient' about my 'omission' because it was irrelevant. Everyone (well, except for believers in creationism and ID) know that evolution is an on-going process. We don't always have to explain first principles you know.

      I would counter by asking why you would even raise those two dogmas in the context of a discussion about science, since they are completely irrelevant to the issue?

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    20. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Believers in a God say that life was created by a God.

      Followers of the theory of evolution say that life was created by evolution.

      The real answer could actually be somewhere in between, but the real answer may never be found anyway, and it all becomes rather academic.

      The topic would be on whether the author is carrying out bigotry, prejudice, bias and discrimination and also creating myths and misinformation by stating that believers in a religion are less intelligent than atheists.

      I could mention several reasons why people could become less intelligent, none of which would be connected to religion.

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    21. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      No Dale. No-one who 'follows' evolution claims that life was created by evolution, Let me say this again. Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of a species over time.

      And life was not 'created'. It developed from non-life by a process that we don't fully understand. But rest assured - we do know it wasn't created.

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    22. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      If “evolution” is a change in species, then most religious people would agree with that I would presume, but abiogenesis is just one hypothesis after another, none of which have ever been proven.

      Science is no closer to knowing “why” life exists than religions.

      But back to the topic, and the author has never in any article had one good word to say about religion, nor about the male gender.

      I would think the author is attempting to use science to pursue his own prejudices, which do definitely appear to be religion and men.

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    23. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale

      I know this has been explained to you before. Evolution does not explain the origins of life on this planet, you are referring to Abiogenesis. This hypothesis has yet to be empirically proven, although there is considerable evidence of life resulting from chemical reactions in places such as hydrothermal vents.

      Evolution is the process by which life on earth reached the diversity of life as we know it to be today. It is a description of how life changes from one generation to the next. This is a proven theory by both fossil records and the study of adaptations of life in closed systems such as Darwin's work in studying the diversification of animals in the Galapagos Islands. Such adaptation helped to lead to the discovery and understanding of DNA.

      The rest of your comments devolves into your persistent misanthropic opinions of human beings which reveals your lack of understanding of reason and evidence compared to myth and superstition.

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    24. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Actually Mike I'm a very keen barracker for evolution ... wear the club colours and all ... and I don't have any issue at all with life being a self-organising process - essentially chemistry.

      Where I have my issues is with existence rather than life. My big issue isn't to do with life and the wonderful complexity of it but why there are chemicals in the first place - what on earth is matter and why is any of it here... why would a universe exist, let alone a stack of them?

      That is probably unknowable. But it's not all about us I'm sure. And, in the end, it probably doesn't matter.

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    25. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Was that a bad pun in the end Peter - it probably doesn't 'matter'? You are well known for them, so I will give you the benefit of any doubt.

      Why is there matter etc? It's a good question, and one of millions of questions to which we don't yet know the answer. Is it unknowable? I doubt it, and we are getting closer to things like this every day (obviously!).

      But does it really not matter? I don't know about that one either. It could well be that if we solve the question about how matter and energy first came into being, we will be one step closer to being able to do it ourselves - which might have energy production implications. Just like fission and fusion were unknown and believed to be unknowable long ago, the more sercrets you know the more you can do with that information.

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    26. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale

      A couple of things. Science is definitely a lot closer to knowning 'why' life exists that religions. For example, religion knows nothing about why life exists, yet science can easily explain how the building blocks of life were formed.

      As to whether or not the author has ever had anything good to say about religion or men, that is immaterial. The real issue is, is what he says true or not? And to be frank I have a lot of doubts about these so called 'intelligence' comparisons, because tests for 'intelligence' are so full of holes you could drive a truck through them, and have so many cultural and other biases as to render them meaningless.

      But you can say one thing about religious belief. It may not indicate a lack of intelligence, but it does indicate an unwillingness to apply that intelligence critically.

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    27. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      The misuse of science to attempt to create misinformation is a very big issue within academia, or should be.

      Questions should very much be asked why the author only presented partial information regards intelligence, and were they attempting to denigrate religions and to spread misinformation by doing that.

      Based on his previous articles, my verdict is that the author will attempt anything to denigrate religions and also the male gender.

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    28. Bruce Johnson

      Chaplain

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the quantity of knowledge equates to intelligence where as it is more how we can analyse and use that knowledge. Today we have a great deal of stored knowledge however relatively few who can use it well. There have been studied that have suggested that we are less intelligent then in the past. I would add however that most casual conversations are not analytical and are largely short motherhood statements and short rebuttals that rely on our faith in our sources rather than the content itself. In the past people could spend a lot of time dismantling ideas and rebuilding them.

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  2. Christina Williams

    Teacher

    By intelligence, they mean analytic intelligence, also known as the g-factor, which captures the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience”. Only 2 of the 63 studies found statistically significant positive correlations between religiosity and intelligence, whereas 35 showed significant negative correlations.

    I love these analytical probes... and the word "religiosity" well... that is telling in itself. Enter…

    Read more
    1. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Christina Williams

      Actually Einstein disclosed his rejection of a personal god, calling a belief in one as 'child like'. And I seriously doubt that the last words people say are 'Oh my God'. As for a 'trend' to be an athiest this is just insulting. I would say that people who are atheists now have the confidence to speak out and tell the truth about their beliefs, or rather, lack of.

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    2. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Rebecca Graves

      Absolutely. While I was aware that I simply could not believe in any religion by the age of 12 (although my doubts started well before that age), I did not 'come out' until my mid 20's. Also, like Dawkins, I only became actively vocal about my atheism after 9/11 - which was the catalyst for my rejection of all the Abrahamic religions and their regressive influence in secular societies.

      As for the intelligence factor - anecdotally, I have known many intelligent religious people. I often listen in to John Clearey's radio show on the ABC - and marvel at the mental gymnastics they use to attribute depth of meaning to the old and new testaments.

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  3. Baron Pike

    logged in via Facebook

    Are Muslim scientists dumber than Christian scientists? No, there are just more Muslims with fewer scientists per capita.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Baron Pike

      It's been more than a decade since I studied the history of Islamic Science, but even then, Dawkins was spot on. Unless there's been a scientific revolution in the Muslim world over the last decade or so.

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  4. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "It confirms what many atheists and agnostics have always felt – that the mere flexing of one’s intellectual fibres, particularly when accompanied by the scientific method, leads a great many smart people from the path of religious belief."
    Rob do you have the data for the relative IQs of those who on the one hand, do use the scientific method, versus those who do not, such as Communications, Cultural Studies, Social Psychology, and so on.
    "Education, particularly in the sciences, tends also to diminish belief."
    Do you have the data comparing those studying Education and Social Psychology, versus the IQ of those studying more methodologically rigorous subjects, from Economics to Physics?
    I think THESE results would be much more interesting and telling than atheists vs believers.

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  5. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "The Brights"!?
    Oh dear god. How nauseating.

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  6. Charles Kwong

    Consultant

    I remember not that long ago in the US, tests concluded that the blacks are of lower IQ than the whites, and then half a century late, we have a black president from Harvard. Ah psychological tests... what would they test next.to attract attention...

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    1. Katja Petrovic

      Psychologist

      In reply to Charles Kwong

      Of course now we know that black people may have lower IQs as a group because they have been a discriminated minority and have been denied the same rights to education and intellectual development.

      I'd like to know if Charles is suggesting that religious people are a discriminated minority?

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    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Katja Petrovic

      Maybe all the samples of believers are black folks?

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  7. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Perhaps in the end it doesn't take much thought at all to be an atheist.

    It simply means that you don't 'swallow" the mumbo jumbo that religion in all it's forms promulgates.

    Heaven, hell, angels, devils, thrones, virgins et al are a great story, but just that.

    It doesn't take DEEP THINKING to dismiss the fairy tale, just rational thought.

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    1. Dan Jensen

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Precisely. All it takes is a failure to subscribe to one particular variety of nonsense. An atheist can buy into all sorts of baloney. This has been demonstrated.

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  8. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    There are no smart-arses in heaven Rob Brooks. There's something to ponder.

    Intelligent curious people tend to ask why something happens ... they try and grasp causality - in science, history, everywhere. And they keep at it.

    Others are less curious and are satisfied with a series of "explanations" - all boiled down to god did it.

    Not sure that's a mark of intelligence or a lack of obsession myself.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Hey look supps .... I have been de-expunged... my blind faith in moderation and submission to TC's strictures and precepts is restored.

      Please ignore the outrageous comments in subsequent (earlier?) posts ... I was possessed by demonic forces no doubt.

      I reckon we need a third umpire ... maybe that snick-cam thing.

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    2. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Don't worry, being possessed by demonic forces is not unusual so the Vatican chief exorcist tells us and it's treatable.
      For those who aren't sure, can cover themselves by telling it to shove off.

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  9. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    The Tim Minchin clip is worth several universtities science weeks activities!

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  10. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    Fellow suppositories!

    I have just had a comment expunged because I suspect the moderator didn't understand it... and it had a rude word in it so it must be offensive... standards infringed ipso facto... did anyone complain? Please let me know.

    This was the comment:

    "There are no smart-arses in heaven Rob Brooks. There's something to ponder.

    Intelligent curious people tend to ask why something happens ... they try and grasp causality - in science, history, everywhere. And they keep at it.

    Others are less curious and are satisfied with a series of "explanations" - all boiled down to god did it.

    Not sure that's a mark of intelligence or a lack of obsession myself."

    Now community of suppositories - do you feel your standards were infringed? Is your crop filling with the gore of outrage and indignation? Do you feel cheap and used?

    Mine is filling with the gore of disappointment actually.

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    1. Rob Brooks
      Rob Brooks is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Professor of Evolutionary Ecology; Director, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Having endured the interminable in-jokes of "The End", Peter. I have to infer that heaven is carpeted wall-to-wall with smart-arses of the Seth Rogan variety. Not a pretty place. I might even rather the traditional cherub-infested place, where soft-rock ballads, intrumentalised for harp, play on an endless loop.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Rob Brooks

      I have trouble with the whole notion of anything being eternal myself Rob, even bliss ... in fact maybe especially bliss.... even Mozart would get galling after a few millenia and then what's left? Let alone the place being chockers with comics - Canadian ones to boot.

      But given the sort of characters who reckon they've got a gold stamped invite to eternal bliss I think I'd be quite happy for them to keep it really - sounds more and more like some North Shore gated community full of tories and wowsers ... the other option looks far more interesting.

      I suspect that Lucifer only plays French pop music... Plastic Bertrand incessantly at 10,000 watts...eeeergh ... Never know... I might get to like it.

      Far better to spend eternity learning to sing along with something loathesome than to become bored with the sublime.

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  11. Michael Field

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    These discussions are always pretty frustrating, usually because each side of the argument thinks in quite different ways so there's a lot of talking at cross purposes. Add the fact that there are many different sides within each side and the discussion can seem pointless. I personally find Dawkins obtuse - a man of narrow and limited 'intelligence' in the sense that I would use the term (Hitchens' phrase for Chomsky - 'robotic logic' - partly captures it) - but I'm sure he scores superbly in an IQ test. One problem is that so many religious people find the need to answer literal minds like Dawkins' with literal explanations when the mode of thought within which they think and feel religion is not entirely or even mainly literal.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Field

      John, I re-read some Chomsky recently (non-linguistics stuff), and my god is he DULL. He is uninquisitive, deceitful, and totalitarian. Dawkins' writing on religion is autistic.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      David!

      Fresh from implying that folks who cannot read are dumb or inferior you then run off to trample on another marginalised mob.

      Autistic - like spastic, retard, cripple, downie - is not a term of abuse or denigration to be applied to something you don't like. It is a medical tragedy and - had you had any connection with it - you would not use the word in such a fashion.

      This violates my sense of community standards. Seriously.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to David Thompson

      If you want to watch REALLY high powered atheist intellection tackle religion, read Peter Brown, who is so very similar to Dawkins - both English Protestant boys, educated at the finest English protestant boarding schools, attended Oxford at the same time. After you've read Brown, Dawkins reads like alley cats in heat sound. Dawkins in Religion for Dummies.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, actually, I got this usage from YOUR own postings.

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    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, yet you are just fine to chuckle away at folks with low IQ!

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Chuckle? Mois? No not chuckles fellow suppository... sympathy and understanding to the greatest possible extent ... I just won't vote for them.

      PS my use of the word "autistic" is quite precise and specific - not used as a term of abuse or denigration. If I'm using that word then I'm using it to describe a particular behaviour - remote, detached, self-absorbed ... not as a synonym for dumb, stupid or clumsy.

      If you read it as a term of derogation - or anyone else read it that way - then I most unreservedly apologise for my clumsy expression.

      I believe (there's that word again) that there is a lot more autism (to varying degrees) amongst us than we recognise, and that some deeply thoughtful and talented characters have varying degrees of behaviours that would see them slotted into the autism spectrum albeit at the lower end, being still socially functional. The world of mathetics and science is chockers with 'em. Some of the best we've got.

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      And it is precisely about a member of the world of science I used the word!

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    8. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Yes and you used it as a term of derision and scorn... unless you are saying his writing is withdrawn, isolated, detached, insular, self-absorbed or the like ... it is the meaning of the term that should be precise and it should be used scientifically - not that the target of the abuse must be a scientist, as you well know.

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    9. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Yes and you used it as a term of derision and scorn"
      Oh Peter, how you clutch your pearls at "derision and scorn", while you post only sweetness, light, and honey, right?

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    10. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Not at all David - I'm quite happy to throw a right hook or even go the gouge in a close fought clinch.

      But I don't use tragic medical conditions as a term of political debate.

      This stuff ruins families, destroys lives and breaks hearts and hopes David. It is a powerful word for a lot of us - please use it carefully.

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    11. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Well Peter, to the extent I have - unwittingly - hurt you, I unreservedly apologise.

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  12. Anne Powles

    Retired Psychologist

    As an athiest I do find it easy to believe that active thinking tends to lead to not accepting belief without proof.

    However being intelligent is not necessarily the main thing about being a well rounded, contributing human being. There are many other qualities held by some of the religious and some of us athiest that are very valuable in the community. For example capacities to love, share and give to others do help the world go round (in a metaphorical sense only).

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    1. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anne Powles

      Whilst that might be true Anne, the capacity to love and have compassion etc are completely independent of religious belief. There are many religious people who love - and many who are hateful bigots. Same goes for atheists.

      The biggest difference is that I haven't seen too many atheists blowing up people or buildings in the name of atheism.

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  13. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    Very telling, that not poster has called out the author for the obvious. That is, his heading also asks "Does it matter if whites are smarter than blacks"? It seems that sort of racist discourse is OK if conducted under the cover of abusing "believers".

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Perhaps that might be an answer to the question "does it matter". Perhaps not. The data are so much more telling than believers vs believers, why not go for it?

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to John Phillip

      Well most followers of religion just accept the teachings of men and book thousands of years old. They tend to do so without much thought to content, but basically hooked on the idea of life after death.

      That glorious end (or beginning) is probably worth swallowing all the other stuff between the pages.

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  14. Malcolm Nearn

    logged in via LinkedIn

    It is a worry that Julia Gillard, a professed atheist, was so unpopular and that the next Government will be led by church-goers. Are we choosing stupid leaders?

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      You're just trying to confuse me now Ms A... and I'm very prone to confusion in the midst of election campaigns....

      I'd have another one of my baseless hunches that Ms Gillard was far too smart - and worse - showed it.

      Kevin is smart too - but considered harmless by most ... certainly smart enough to keep his smartness under his hat - possibly it's the Tin Tin fringe... or maybe they just find his dirge-like delivery reassuringly calming.

      But of course with Tony there is a stabiliser built in... any time he's in danger of looking smart, they just wheel out Barnaby Joyce and the menace of intelligence is crushed at birth.

      I wonder if Gough Whitlam would even get preselected these days... unlikely actually. No longer the country of my birth.

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    2. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Malcolm Nearn

      We don't choose any leaders. But the representatives that we do choose seem to settle on the avowedly religious as their leaders.

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Greg Young

      Except JG of course......look how she fared.

      I hate it when good deeds are equated to being christian.

      If I do good things it's not being christian, it's being "nice".

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    4. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Whitlam would definitely not be selected - too in your face smart and that wife of his - way too tall and intimidating than any woman has a right to be.

      Gillard unsuccessfully tried to hide her intellect.

      Abbott - no need to hide anything - what you see is what you get.... unfortunately.

      Rudd, yeah that innocent TinTin thing works well in spite of words like 'specificity' and you don't find those in the bible either, far too sciencey.

      And now scientists are claiming people with above average IQ's are less likely to be religious - well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Scientists need to research on why 'intellect' has become a dirty word. I could simply say that no one likes a smart-arse, but that's just my opinion.

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    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      "Whitlam would definitely not be selected - too in your face smart and that wife of his - way too tall and intimidating than any woman has a right to be."
      Clearly, the Westies of Liverpool didn't think he was too smart.

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    6. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Gillard proved to be not too smart, while Tony Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar.

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    7. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to David Thompson

      "...while Tony Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar..."

      Shhh, Oxford are trying to keep that under wraps.

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    8. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Good point, but JG certainly seemed enamoured of Christian policy isses on matters such as religious teaching in schools, gay marriage etc. She certainly did not govern like a secularist.

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    9. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to David Thompson

      Are you still pushing that line., The Rhodes scholarship is not an academic award and being smart is only one of many criteria for it.

      "His (Rhodes) will outlines four criteria to be used in the election of Scholars:

      •literary and scholastic attainments
      •energy to use one's talents to the full
      •truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship
      •moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings."

      http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/rhodesscholarship

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    10. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      And sorry Ms A, even though I have no intention voting for his mob, but Tony Abbott is the most intellectually-inclined, and [close to] most able in that whole Parliament. Have you read "Battlelines"? OTOH, I imagine Gillard's intellectual life is spent between reading TMZ and playing "Pull My Finger" with Johno and the CFMEU boys down the boozer on a Fridee night, standing on her head, skulling a Bundy 'n Coke cackling "Pig's Ass, Kevin, you mincing poodle".
      Intellectually, Gillard makes Pauline Hanson sound like Susan Sontag

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    11. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg Young

      I was profoundly deflated by Gillard's fickle commitments to secularism and godlessness myself.

      When she first stabbed Kevin in the arras I was hopeful that the rise to power of an fanatical childless unmarried athiest would see an era of brutal repression of religion and odd thinking in all its forms ... perhaps the imposition of something akin to an athiest sharia ...

      Week after week I waited ... for news from Penny Wong that the monasteries would be forfeited to the state ... that all church lands would be covered by Native Title at least - but nothing... I was looking forward to some Cranmer-style bbqs ... warnings to NZ to abandon their god fearing forelock tugging on pain of invasion.... parliament opening with a shortened Black Mass, presided over by Peter Slipper in a black hood .... all came to nought - buckled at the first hurdle .... like I said, deflating.

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    12. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Greg Young

      Greg, good luck convincing folks that a Rhode Scholarship is an irrelevant consideration when comparing political leaders. The four criteria you just posted only blow Gillard completely out of the water, compared to Abbott. Which might explain is success in getting rid of her. ;)

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    13. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, you DO know that the Divine Ms Wong is a stark raving Christian Believer, Prayer, and Churcher, don't you?

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    14. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Yes I'd heard that actually David .... but look just between you and me --- we know that she can try and suck up to god all she likes but that because of her "lifestyle choices" she is forever condemned to burn in eternal hellfire... no matter how much time she spends on her knees begging forgiveness.

      But even if she did turn over a new leaf and get herself hooked up to a decent god-fearing fella the odds are still stacked against her. She's foreign and we know there won't be any of them in our heaven, not even Cabinet Ministers.

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    15. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter that's pretty unfair. She may be foreign, but there is still room for South Australians in Heaven. Ask Cory.

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    16. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      And you do know that Kevin Rudd is a stark, raving believer, and sent his kids to their private schools, chapels, and all. And that Rudd was the first sitting Prime Minister to arrange his first post-election photo-op outside his Sunday church service.

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    17. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'm given to understand that not all of them are serial killers and/or Parliamentarians

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    18. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Actually, I'd say The Divine Miss Wong is not "foreign". Yes, she was born in Malaysia. But while her father was foreign, her mother was Australian. Mum and Penny returned to Australia - sans father (divorced) - when Penny was 8. Given those facts, and the most important fact - she now speaks with an Australian accent - the Divine Miss Wong is officially an Aussie sheilah.

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    19. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Greg Young

      Greg, I do not vote on who has, and who has not, been a Rhode Scholar. As I said, I am NOT voting for Abbott.

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    20. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg Young

      It's the incessant whining Greg. They'd need to be in some sort of sound-proof cherubic chamber to stop them bugging the heck out of all the other blissful smug bastards. And after Don Dunstan's shorts they have a lot of atoning to do collectively. And then Greg we come to this ongoing Christopher Pyne situation ... nah - eternal hellfire is too soft

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    21. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, d*mn you to the eternal flames for putting the image of Don Dunstan's pink shorts back into my head after decades of expungingment.

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    22. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      No we're talking religiously here David and in that context "foreign" means exactly that - different, not one of us, one of "them" ... won't be any of them in my heaven boyo .... homogenised like milk my heaven.

      And I am not alone. I have seen the Promised Land - at least artists' impressions created for Watchtower and the like - and at no stage have I ever seen a heaven chockers with Chinese... Jesus looks - well, like me actually, while his dad looks like he might have gone to Eton or Princeton or the like. There's even birds. But Chinese are scarce, which is curious given their numbers.

      Must be some cultural propensity to sin, or maybe god's punishing them for going over to the Reds....

      Either way, no matter how Christian they are on Sundays - not one of them - Government or Opposition - deserves a cool eternity for what they are doing to asylum seekers on the other six days a week.

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    23. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Does he have anything to hide is the question.
      He can't even keep a secret from what I read in relation to the secret ballot to decide the Frederal presency for the Liberals a couple of years ago.
      There was a good picture of him in the Age showing his ballot to Alan Stockdale, with Julie Bishop looking on, much to the chargrin of Peter Reith labelling him a "Labor factional thug".

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  15. Henry Franceschi

    Director, NCD Treatment Centers

    Loved the video clip, "Storm." Would that exchanges between scientists and the Storms of the world could be as witty as that.
    Dr. A-F

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  16. Jonathan Keith

    Senior Lecturer, School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University

    Hi Rob,
    I'm yet to read the paper but I'd be interested to know whether and how the confounding effect of culture is taken into account. Intelligence affects the cultural context in which individuals find themselves, not least because it influences educational and employment opportunities. Intelligent people are more likely to find themselves in contexts where they will encounter well constructed arguments for atheism, and ardent supporters of atheism. It would be difficult, but not impossible, to sort subjects into groups according to exposure to religious or atheistic beliefs, and interesting to know whether the association between intelligence and religiosity persists within those groups. Has that been done?
    Regards,
    Jon

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  17. Chucky

    logged in via Twitter

    One thing that isn't often mentioned, but seems relevant is that the correlation between atheism and intelligence is very weak, much weaker than many other factors. For example, Kanazawa found a difference of just two IQ points of atheists from the mean - which is less than the average difference found between identical twins. Although there is a difference, the difference is almost nothing, and irrelevant for practical purposes. In comparison many other social factors in the study were strongly correlated with atheism.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Chucky

      Most people have to think about why they are atheists.

      Christians, Muslims, Jews and others don't have to think much about WHY they believe, they just follow mum & dad and take it all for granted.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      It's also got a bit to do with what sort of things you have to sort out in life I reckon Stephen.

      If you're a peasant digging holes and waiting for rain then a workable answer to the problems confronting you is God's will ... just cop it sweet and hope.

      But if you are exploring how things work, why things happen, why does this do that... then "God's will" isn't an answer at all ... at best a proximal explanation. Doesn't get one very far though.

      Complex societies raise complex problems…

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Chucky

      Our scientist author has decided not to expand on the implications of his group giggle at "the believers". Does the giggling continue when he makes IQ comparisons of other groups - Aborigines, blacks, Jews, Chinese, and so on? Perhaps a Ravens Matrices and WASI V to folks leaving the Harlem Gospel Church, and say, er, St. Marks Darling Point?

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    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Few differences - one is born black, chinese, blue eyed or curly haired... this is who and what you are... But religion and belief is a choice - we are not "born believers" despite the efforts at infantile baptism and the like.

      Why do some folks choose to believe while other folks need to know?

      Can belief answer all questions, or in a complex world do we need facts and science, observation and analysis?

      It is the element of choice - not the accident of birth - that is significant.

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    5. Chucky

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I don't think atheists are immune from social and cultural influences. Our TVs and radio, and most of our popular culture is strongly secular. It doesn't take much thought or effort to go with the flow.

      As I say, in the few studies I've seen it's these social and cultural influences play a much larger role than intelligence.

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Chucky

      Don't think one can divide secular and godly so cleanly Chucky. True our culture - such as it is - is not overtly connected to one particular organisation or institution by and large but the moral and ethical frameworks we see in our soaps, watch in our movies (in particular) are in fact as ancient as the morality plays that gave rise to them. For thousands of years.

      Movies from the US are particularly interesting. How often does Bruce Willis die a futile, tragic failure? No - Good - goodies - the outsider, the individual triumph ... every time. Every CSI, every Dragnet, every conflict leads invariably to the same moral outcome - the triumph of good and the defeat of evil. Very comforting.

      See I'm not sure that's secular at all really ... that's a profound statement of hope and faith and belief... and all of it is profoundly moral, ethical and predicated firmly on our more or less understood religious traditions. The whole place reeks of god.

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, it is very easy to build your - very reasonable and justified - demur into the model. We could split out the 'natives' and 'born agains' for example. I'm sure Rob would find this a snitch. What giggles we could have at the dummies!

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    8. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      No, I've been reading Rob for a while now and I can't see him sitting in judgement with any degree of comfort. Nor do I find evidence of sneering or abuse of "dummies" as you put it.

      But there is a fundamental chasm between the worldview of science and a view that is content with received "explanations" from sacred texts. Some folks actually manage to straddle this chasm - like astronomer Paul Davies but he is not looking for descriptions of reality - those he finds himself - he is seeking a…

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    9. Chucky

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Let us see if I have got you right:

      You associate any statement of hope, or of moral value with religion. So when a movie, say, shows a murderer coming to justice, say, that's clearly promoting religious ideas.

      Even ignoring the fact that many of the things in the movie would be directly opposed to traditional religious values, such as sex outside marriage... Why?

      Why do you think that ideas of hope, morality and justice are incompatible with atheism?

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    10. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Chucky

      Nope ... missed by meters....

      Not "any" statement of hope or morality ... but a constant incessant repetitive reassurance of the triumph of good over evil, of law over disorder, of the individual over the world is religious - a statement of belief...

      Law and Order is the US book of common prayer.

      And they relive the eternal struggle every night before bed and the answer is always the reassuring same. Evil is vanquished - truth, justice and freedom prevail. So they can all sleep soundly - but with a Glock under the pillow just in case.

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    11. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I've been reading for a while also, but perhaps a bit closer than you have. Surely we should question, for example, is this correlation also causation? OR, perhaps there might be more significant causative factors revealed in other differences in the two samples, rather than just their relationship with a deity? All's well in the worlds of science and chuckles, right?

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    12. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      I think it's got more to do with some folks "need" for a relationship deity ... that for some folks they believe they can lead their entire 21st century complex suburban lives based on a literal direction from a 2,000 year old book of severely edited words from the divine. Not that they do of course - it's invariably edited highlights since the shortage of decent sedimentary outcrops put an end to god's stonings of a saturday for collecting firewood on the sabbath.

      Not all folks - not all believers…

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    13. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Chucky

      I don't see m uh reference to after-life, gods, virgins and angels on teev much these days - except for those American bible-bashers who practically reach out from the screen for a grab at your wallet.

      No-one is immune from social and cultural influences - going with the flow is why they equate religion and sheep.

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    14. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, one thing I learnt in an unergrad historiography course about historical "facts" was to 'look at the historian first, then think about why he has CHOSEN the facts he has to make his history'. Among upper middle class white male academics from certain nations/cultures with extremely problematic realities - past and present - I have discerned an undeniable pattern of unreflexive deflection of those 'problematic realities' elsewhere.
      And two of the most fraught of those nations/cultures are full of white upper middle class male academics who deflect onto two groups: "believers"; and the "white working class".
      You're a cluey guy. Read through the words what I am really saying. ;)

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    15. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, your last paragraph struck me as being the best argument I've seen in favour of Atheism. I was brought up in an extremely religious household, and was a non-believer at a very young age. What defined my childhood was an insatiable curiosity to know those answers to practical questions, and religious beliefs simply did not satisfy, anymore than asking my parents why we had to go to church and perform all these pointless rituals, and being told, "because I said so".

      Religion kills curiosity, it is about absolutes, it is the ultimate "because I said so", the "I" being a fictional character made up by men, often ancient men, but every now and again a more modern version, eg: Scientologists.

      Religion, like so many other ideologies, is all about power, control and money. All of them! (now there's an absolute for ya)

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  18. Pat Moore

    gardener

    "Believers" is a bit ambiguous? The fire and brimstone fascist demand for unquestioning faith, obedience and threatened punishments for disobedience typical of the fundamentalist versions of the three Abrahamic patriarchal religions engender a childlike dependence upon an angry, jealous, tribal megafather. The fear of retribution for transgression serves to keep these enslaved minds away from curiosity and chain-breaking enquiry....the Tree of Knowledge (of the binary sorting of the 'sheep from…

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  19. Lynne Newington

    Researcher

    Without reading through all the comments, I'd like to say there's been more integrity in some atheists than there has been with those who are connected to religion it can certainly blurr the intelligence beyond comprehension.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Actually, Lynne, you are not in a position to make such assessments. If you were, you'd be eating the author alive.

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    2. Lynne Newington

      Researcher

      In reply to David Thompson

      I'd like you to tell me why I'd be eating the author alive.
      My comment was made in all honesty, maybe we're coming from different perspectives.

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  20. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    Correlation - causation, ho hum. I have to say I am hardly impressed by the list of the brightest people Professor Brooks has trotted out. James Randi? Seriously?

    Happily the supreme Darwinian theorist, Jesus Christ (his work on fig tree selective pressures is still admiringly cited by the cognoscenti) predicted all this:
    "Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.""

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  21. Stephen Nicholson
    Stephen Nicholson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Town Planner

    Like the idea of making sweeping generalisations, but then getting yourself out of trouble by saying there are exceptions – I might try it too. Not so impressed by atheists taking on the same smug air of superiority that used to be the hallmark of many Christians. Maybe we’re all alike.

    I’m one of those believers, obviously with a low intellect (but please don’t tell anyone). I don’t mind a debate of ideas and knowledge, but I found the article superficial, and most of the comments off target…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Stephen Nicholson

      No-one (I assume) doubts the existence of Jesus,( nor Mohammed ) -
      they are as you say historical figures.

      Where the leap of faith comes is to say he is the son of "god".

      I get the same sense of peace you find in religion from music.

      There is no fundamental proof god exists - lots of heresay and blind faith. That's fine by me - believe in what you like, but don't judge and don't preach. And don't use ancient texts to tell others how to live.

      Please do it quietly.

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    2. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Stephen Nicholson

      You are entitled to believe in a religion if you so choose. However, by positing that the Abrahamic religion of Christianity is the one true religion displays a bigotry towards adherents of other religions as much as it does towards atheists and agnostics.

      A god or gods cannot be proved nor disproved. Therefore this line of reasoning, that the New Testament "is a record of the journey of ongoing discovery of the character of God, and of our need for God in our life journey", remains merely your opinion. Hindus, Buddhists and many others would disagree with you.

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    3. Stephen Nicholson
      Stephen Nicholson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Town Planner

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Thanks for telling me not to preach or judge. Hang on, you just did that yourself!

      We seem to agree that we can't prove or disprove who Jesus is.

      Does that mean we ignore him, or question further? To ignore something you can't currently answer is not good historical or scientific methodology.

      Jesus of Nazareth is the only major religious leader who claimed to be the son of God. Easy to dismiss, if it wasn't for his enduring impact on lives since. Particularly for those who lived at the same time.

      I find it strange that people so quickly dismiss him.

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    4. Stephen Nicholson
      Stephen Nicholson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Town Planner

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna

      Its fine if others disagree with me. I disagree with some others.
      Its okay to describe my reasoning as my opinion.

      As long as we are prepared to consider what others say without blocking it out because of preconceived positions. I try to listen and understand, not just block with glib putdowns. (I'm not saying that is what you did.)

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Stephen Nicholson

      No proof whatsoever that Jesus is the son of god. he may have said it, and many others living at the time may have said it, but that don't make it so.

      Joseph Smith of Mormon fame made many claims about himself and his relationship with god. Mormons probably believe them, but are they true because he and his followers say so?

      And so it is with many religions and their founders/leaders - outrageous claims ( ala Scientologists) and specious arguments.

      If you dismiss one you dismiss them all.

      I'm not judging nor preaching, and when you can give me incontravertible proof there is a god and that Jesus was his son, I'll be there on my knees in front of the altar.

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Stephen Nicholson

      Actually Christ also said he was the son of man, and as the author of the Lord's Prayer started of with "Our Father", not "my" father.
      Hint, hint!
      Sometimes it would be better if that concept of a "Higher Intelligence" would have people seeking signs of it, instead of retreating into superstition and the supernatural, so as to avoid using any intelligence at all.
      Not sure who or what that sort of "worship" is aimed at.

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  22. Warren Mills

    Director

    Dear Rob

    You and the writers of the meta-analysis could have saved yourselves a lot of time and effort if you had only read all the literature relevant to the discussion regarding faith and intelligence and reflected on the words of St Paul; "for the message of the cross is foolishness to those wha are perishing". ! Corinthians 1:18-31.

    Of course those who are intelligent by their own reckoning will consider others who define intelligence differently, to be less intelligent.

    Faith demands…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Warren Mills

      This is great news for you....if your faith sustains you through life then religion is a wonderful thing for YOU.

      You may live the life of the scriptures and bear no witness to hypocrisy, but so many of your ilk do - that is the tragedy, because so many suffer as a result.

      I do not have that faith in an omnipotent being who created the world and the universe etc etc.

      You are able to have your view, and I mine.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I lost interest in Christianity when I realised that we had strayed from the true path of righteousness by a selective application of God's Law.

      A close reading of Deuteronomy and Leviticus will show just how far we've slid.

      Woolibuddha is chockers with folks collecting firewood on a Sunday... flagrantly!!!! They drive around with box trailers full of logs. We have folks picking fruit from their orchards from year two rather than the Lord's approved four year withholding period. Yet we…

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Agree PM.........mind you I have a crisis of faith - faith in humanity to ever be sensible and learn to get along.

      Some might say that is a Christian tenet, but I'd rather view it as simply as the way to go. I mean we are all in this world together, and we may just all go out together the way it's going.

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  23. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    (I apologise for the length of my post, which reflects the richness and complexity of the many points raised here. I also trust that this discussion attracts the attention of Graeme Smith who raises similar questions in another blog in connection with the source research to which Rob refers).

    Professor Brooks's question is a good one and his treatment of it reasonable and even generous. However, he doesn't address the controversial question of the complex indices that might feature in a discussion…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I suppose among the "faithful" there are many versions of GOD and/or the CREATOR.

      But IMO the vast majority of religious folk who believe in monotheism (Christian, Muslims, Jews) believe in a GOD who would be a "person" rather than a spirit or ethereal being.

      I'm sure when most religious monotheists picture their god, they imagine a person-like image who is in "heaven" dispensing judgements and the like.

      I would also venture to say that most Christians and Muslims have a relatively simplistic view of their religion in terms of what is good and bad, right and wrong, true or false etc.

      I doubt there would be much deep thinking into the philosophy of religion and whether there may be any inconsistencies within it.

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      It would be hard to find anyone, who coming to the limit of their knowledge nevertheless did not project something into the darkness of their ignorance, thus making them religious.
      When they project evil into that ignorance then they worship evil.
      When they project good into that ignorance then they worship good.
      The world of science is, by definition, not the world of ignorance.
      The major problem for the religious comes when they deny the knowledge of others and seek to extend their ignorance…

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to James Hill

      "The world of science is, by definition, not the world of ignorance."

      Bit black and white there James ... be nice all that certainty and knowledge but part of the process of creeping forward scientifically is that very projection into darkness (nicely put by the way). A "leap of faith" if you like.

      There's also the disturbing phenomenon of the well-intentioned ignoramus - who oblivious to their ignorance and the impossibility of their quest, goes off and does it anyway. To wit: here's some…

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Science means knowledge, ignorance means.....
      Sometimes we need to get focussed.
      (While non-scientists, floating in a world of speculations and indefinites, might easily imagine that the whole universe is equally non-material, as long as some sucker on the outside keeps pumping in the nutrients)
      If we can't measure it, it's unknowable?
      How reasonable.

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to James Hill

      I think your use of the word "worship" is overwrought and has too much of the religious about it.

      "all that is evil fears the light" - again sounds great but really means nothing. Just hyperbole. To equate evil with darkness and goodness with light is again going down that quasi-religious path, and endeavouring to set polar opposites with word pictures.

      "the truth will set you free"......again hyperbole - sounds good though. Set you free from what - darkness?

      We need a little more than scriptural truisms.

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      As you wish, Stephen, but since we are talking about science and religion then perhaps looking at "Worship" from a scientific, psychological perspective rather that narrow religious one, will reveal more of a truth about the phenomenon.
      (As Christ suggested?)
      Anciently, people would placate frightening forces of nature over which they would otherwise have no defence or control, by attending to the unseen source with demonstrations of "Worship", which according to the priestly "logic" would be…

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    7. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      This exchange is still deeply entrenched in Christian God-Talk and, at that, literalist quotations, especially from James, of the fundamentalist Protestant variety. (I'd prefer Kentucky moonshine to their religiosity, m'self)

      There's no evidence, for instance (from John Carroll recent sociological work on Mark's gospel: 'The Existential Jesus') that Jesus even thought of himself as The Christ.

      And as for 'worship': half of Christianity rejects it as a suitable term through which to address…

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    8. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      In the beginning there was the word, and the word was "God".
      Did I get that right, or am I asking the wrong person in you, Michael?
      Those proto-protestant ( made their own moonshine , too) Celtic Christians, of Book of Kells fame, who taught your ancestors, Michael?, to read and write, were a little bit "literal" weren't they, and not without "opposition" to their inconvenient "literalist quotations", (Literalist Quotations: not exampling, there, the typical victim of "contagious" Jesuitical sophistry…

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    9. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      I can't pretend to understand your post, James. You're obviously outraged about something but, sorry, your repetitions don't make sense to me. I can't think I've offended you, unless your urbanity is a mask for some pretty reactionary Sydney evangelical Calvinism.

      Rob Brooks asked at the commencement of this conversation whether it mattered if atheists were smarter than believers, and my point, which I obviously didn't make clear enough, was that religion is much more than a matter of belief…

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    10. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Too "literal" for you Michael?
      Too much Jesuitical sophistry has addled your pate, and confused your critical faculties?
      That is clearly the object of that intellectual contagion.
      "Oh please don't take the Bible too literally, it is much more complicated than that, and besides, if we had had our way you wouldn't be troubled by reading or writing at all, you dear little lambs, so easily led astray, from our fatherly, pastoral care?"
      So, regarding, the church led, "Biblical" (as in the prophecy…

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    11. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael

      You claim:

      "I then offered a remarkable example of this from the life of Albert Einstein, who regarded himself as a scientist as well as religious."

      This is simply not true - any study of the history of Einstein reveals that the closest he came to religion was that of an agnostic. This simply because he was too humble a man to claim complete atheism. He did not follow any religion, not even Judaism nor regularly refer to religious text as being any more than, " a collection of honorable…

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    12. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      'And as for Peter, he falls yet again into Einstein's trap door of linking causality with religion, which my definition will have nowt to do with...'

      WHAT???

      I'm quite happy to make any mistakes made by Saint Albert but if you are saying that your jesuitical school of christianity manages to dodge the confusion by ignoring creation?

      That's a roast dinner without any parsnips. Maybe without any lamb either... certainly no gravy.

      Explaining creation - that's the whole business isn't…

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    13. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      It would be easy and tempting, but incorrect, to regard Einstein's agnosticism as evidence that he was an abject secularist.

      In anticipating Ms Arthur's farago, I showed that the two phenomena were not necessarily reconcilable, for it is as clear as it is incontestable that he did not belong to or endorse any religion in the sectarian sense but that his knowledge of quantum physics gave him an appreciation of the mystical which drove him to carefully and deliberately differentiate his views from…

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    14. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael

      Einstein, like any good scientist, has the integrity and honesty to admit when and what he does not know. This does not in any way prove even a possibility of a god as described in any of the Abrahamic texts. Any study of said text reveals a god that could only have sprung from the imagination of primitive and scientifically illiterate tribesmen.

      Nor does appreciation of the numinous prove an Abrahamic god, it is simple awe as the more one understands the universe the more we need to learn. Whether we primates can ever attain such knowledge is debatable. Such knowledge whether discovered and understood or not will not prove the existence of the Abrahamic god - this is why Einstein clearly and unambiguously declared he did not believe in a personal god and favoured Spinoza's god as nature - the entirety of the universe, including we simple primates as a part of nature.

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    15. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Thanks, Dianna. Your premises are exactly similar to mine. Where we part company is when you incorrectly assume that I offer Einstein's experience as evidence for the existence of a God, whether Abrahamic or not. In fact there are several religions, mainly non-Abrahamic and Eastern, and in particular Hinduism and Buddhism, that do no such thing.

      Sure Hinduism has gods, so to speak, but they occupy no special place equivalent to the Abrahamic faiths (nor indeed do they have a heaven and a hell…

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    16. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Do not put words in my mouth, Mr Furtado.

      Nowhere have I stated that "good actions do not depend on such experiences but are a natural and random result of behaviour that cannot be forecast or predicated on some prior experience or exposure". A classic straw man argument, which you then claim as my fallacy.

      When I did reference "good actions" (your words) it was in conjunction with a naturally evolved ability to cooperate, a trait not exclusive to humans but a successful survival strategy observed…

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    17. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yes poor Einstein... he must feel so cheap and used ... not enough that the life's work of this gentle pacificist captured forever by a mushroom cloud but now even his curious atheism is hauled in as evidence of god. Perhaps this is the fate of great men - to be torn apart and applied to suit all causes.

      Not really fair Mr F ....

      I'd like to get back to this business about jettisoning Genesis - metaphoring it ... turning it into a fable. So no real explanation of why ... someone - something did something and we're here ...

      Takes the notion of God's Word down a peg doesn't it? Starts to fall down on the basic requirement of any decent superstition throughout history ... the who, what, when, where and why.

      I turned my back on this business an eternity ago and am woefully out of touch ... what do intelligent christians still believe Michael.... or is the whole credo rather blurry of late?

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    18. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Let's see now: which quotation from Einstein and the world of metaphysics that I offered, Dianna, did you class as an usurpation and misconstruction of Einstein's trenchant atheism? "The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer" — Albert Einstein in Goldman, 1948, Atheism, p. vii.

      My position, Dianna, is that of an agnostic, i.e. a searcher. But you evidently are sure in your understanding of this complex man that he was an atheist? My position canonises…

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    19. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Oi! Michael ... do not let your silvered tongue run off like that ... ending apartheid bloodlessly - really? Not how I recall it at all.

      Soweto leaps to mind... Robben Island ... ANC's MK - Umkhonto we Sizwe ... the spear of the nation ... launched by Mandela in 1961 ... declared a terrorist organisation by the USA ...killed about 130 people all up I think... Estimated deaths at Soweto alone - 700 ... Lots of blood really...

      I am not at all averse to the Martin Luther King view of the…

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    20. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      PS - Please don't think my manner implies scorn or derision of your views Michael. I am not a proseletising atheism ... but I have been sitting here trying desperately to recall the Nicene Creed and wondering how much of it still stands as the core of christian belief. Very little I suspect.

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    21. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Come now, Peter. My references to Tutu and King had nothing to do with the various readings and disagreements about the liberationist texts in the US and South African contexts. Granted that there is a dialectical materialist interpretation, as well as a progressive economic liberal one (and many others including a fundamentalist white-supremacist-Calvinist-racist one) why cannot there be a liberationist one?

      These matters, like all matters creedal, go to eschatology: why am I here/what is the…

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    22. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      And yes; you are right and I don't take it as an affront! In the more thoughtful and reflective Churches, for instance, both in the Catholic (Roman, Anglo-Catholic and US Episcopalian) and Reformed (Uniting Church) traditions very few assent to the Nicene Creed because it was such a politically expedient and dialogue-stopping imposition!

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    23. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Mr O, I too have been contemplating just what remains for the contemporary Christian to believe in. Just a step further and there is little to differentiate between a Christian and the average agnostic.

      Mr Furtado

      I am not ignoring you - just see no point in discussing with you any further your belief that Einstein was religious. I understand you want him to be (religious), just as I'm sure you wish that Jesus was the son of a god, however there is little evidence (such as you've proffered is highly subjective) for the former and none for the latter.

      I also understand why you, a clearly intelligent man, would resent the implication that believing devoutly in a religion would indicate a lack of critical thinking. I do understand such belief requires mental gymnastics that may be useful, for example, in offsetting Alzheimer's if little else.

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    24. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      To your opening remark: the Christian Gospels and science itself, are full of paradoxical understandings that emphasise the importance of scepticism (e.g. 'Lord I believe; help thou then my unbelief' Mark 9:24), a skill and attitude sadly unknown to fundamentalists, both scientific and religious......the former incapable of understanding subtlety and the latter stricken with faith-based blindness.

      Your closing insult betrays your ignorance and prejudice on several counts....

      *towards the disabled…

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    25. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Mr F

      I have a different interpretation to Einstein's consideration of the cosmos than you.

      However, where you completely insulted me was at the end of your first diatribe on Einstein:

      "Granted that non-religious persons are not immune to such good actions, the legacy of history still points embarrassingly in the other direction."

      Everything else you have written has been mere window dressing.

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    26. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      So, granted that a searching attitude is the true disposition of all intelligent and questing people,

      a. what is your interpretation of Einstein?

      b. where precisely, with examples if you please, are the secular atheists who have had the vision and mission to extend their largesse to the poor?

      c. in what fanciful and demented alternative universe have I spoken out against women having control over their bodies and what impulse, inimical to the proud and equal status (to men) of the women…

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    27. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      As an atheist, Michael, I think your arguments are somewhat diminished by referring to my supposed "blind faith".
      As I argued the case originally, every person comes to the boundary of their ignorance and then makes a wilful decision about the possible nature of what occupies that unknown, and then acts upon that decision for good or bad.
      Not too difficult a proposition is it?
      God, evil or indifferent?
      All predicating the consequent behaviour, including even just thinking about it, to which you appear indifferent, yet the volume of your pronouncements indicates otherwise?

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    28. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yes, Dianna, in complete agreement concerning Michael's statement.
      Making judgements, ascribing evil to that which he does not know, and being therefore by such action a worshipper of evil?
      Just as easy to ascribe good intentions to the actions of others, but then we get to the "literal" meaning of "Judge not, lest ye be judged and found wanting".
      What did Christ mean by that?

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    29. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world, made a very good attempt to die poor, and not much of a believer?
      In a possible answer, Michael, to your question to Dianna about secular atheists directing their largesse to the poor?

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    30. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      Welcome back, James. I cant pretend to understand what you've written, even on a reading of this post, so I concede yet again that I may have got you wrong. As it is I'd need the equivalent of the Rosetta stone to decipher your meaning in order to treat you with the justice and respect that you deserve. I'm sure its profound: a riddle, indeed, wrapped up in an enigma....

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    31. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      I'm still trying to work this post out, James. Generous indeed that you have come to Dianna's support in this her hour of need! It means, I fondly imagine, that she doesn't have to be on her knees to invoke the intercession of St Jude, the Hope of the Hopeless, to answer my questions :)

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    32. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      Yes, indeed. I agree that he was a great man. I lived in Dunfermline for three years while studying in Scotland. He was regarded as great, though not perhaps in the way that that secular saint of the Scots, Rabbie Burns, who is my hero par excellence, demonstrated.

      Philanthropy (and he unequivocally excelled in it) is not perhaps the unmitigated gift that it initially presents. His Wikipedia entry, for those who don't know the man and his immense contribution to the material largesse of the United…

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    33. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael

      Not being blessed with your excess of time, I will be delaying in my replying to your increasingly defensive claims.

      Reply I will.

      As for James, he knows I can take care of myself, but like many people can see bigotry for what it is and like many people will make a call on it - part of the "largesse of secular atheists".

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    34. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Then there is hope for you yet Michael, having been exposed to the bracing intellectual air of the country that gave us the 'People of the Covenant', who hastened the parting of the head from the body of the king who thought he could impose a foreign religion upon them.
      Not a scholar like his old man.

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    35. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Ah, artful Dianna! We now stoop to personal judgments: "excess of time", "defensive claims" and, indeed, "bigotry"! How exactly might you know or is this another leap into the imaginative abyss?

      If only you knew how truly smart and brave I think you really are and the hair's breadth of difference there exists between us on most matters, which the glue of intellectual honesty (and human kindness) could so easily repair.

      Poor Rob Brooks must be rueing the day that he raised his fascinating question only to discover some in the scientific and religious camps still entangled within the rust-encrusted barbed-wired nineteenth-century mindset of Nietzsche.

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    36. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to James Hill

      Thanks, James. This one I fully understand. I've always been committed to secular pluralism, having been born and raised in the world's largest secular democracy, with no experience of the murderous one-upmanship, on both sides, of the European Reformation (though a history of equivalent Hindu-Muslim bigotry and bloodshed to replace it with has enabled me to sniff out a sectarian at ten paces).

      Indeed, as a passionately-committed republican (like most Dunfermline supporters and many others with…

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    37. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      A time and a place for everything, but those "People of the Book", readers of it as they were, came from the era of the Thirty Years War in Germany, whence came the ( mercenary) soldiering skills of the Covenanting Army which defeated Charles, on the side of the English Parliament.
      The War of the Three Kingdoms, sorry, can't give you the author, lays it out in detail.
      Charles' son took his revenge on the covenanters in the "Killing Times", where a confession to having been a covenanters brought…

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    38. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      MLF

      This is all I have time to write - suffice to say, I resent your inquisitional attitude - guess one can take the man of out Catholicism, but not Catholicism out of the man. Therefore, I am writing under duress.

      >>> So, granted that a searching attitude is the true disposition of all intelligent and questing people,

      a. what is your interpretation of Einstein?

      He was one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

      b. where precisely, with examples if you please, are the secular atheists…

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    39. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I'm sure you will score brownie points for your faux sympathy for Rob Brooks.

      You wonder why I accuse you of bigotry?

      I have already provided evidence of your own words, but nevertheless will repeat them here:

      "Granted that non-religious persons are not immune to such good actions, the legacy of history still points embarrassingly in the other direction."

      Try the same sentence with a change of social group:

      "Granted that homosexual people are not immune to such good actions, the legacy of history still points embarrassingly in the other direction."

      Capiche?

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    40. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Thanks for the posts, Dianna. To take your points:

      1. You 'resent' my 'inquisitional attitude' because 'one can take the man of out Catholicism, but not Catholicism out of the man. Therefore, (you are) 'writing under duress'? Do you mean you would be under less duress if you could take the Catholicism out of the man? Hmmm.......And this syntactical slip-up from someone who comments negatively on my style of writing?

      2. Granted Einstein was one of the greatest thinkers of our time, your answer…

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    41. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      MLF

      Ever heard of "Live and Let Live"?

      This was the motto of the Gould's League for bird lovers. A member as a very young child, it taught me a great deal about life and respect for others. I did not spend Sunday's behind the stone walls of a church, I roamed freely around the country town in which I lived. These experiences also taught me to be true to myself. That I may contradict myself, I take on board - show me a human who is not contradictory and I will show you someone who is brain dead…

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    42. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Your question: 'Ever heard of "Live and Let Live"?'
      My answer: Yes, and its my position in this conversation. I am pleased and humbled to know that it is also yours.

      Your remark: 'This was the motto of the Gould's League for bird lovers. A member as a very young child, it taught me a great deal about life and respect for others.'
      My response: Impressive! I am delighted to learn that you respect people as well as birds.

      Your claim: 'I did not spend Sunday's behind the stone walls of a church…

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    43. Warren Mills

      Director

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dear Dianna

      I must commend your remarkable faith in the good nature of your fellow atheists, but of all the recent statements made by the "brights" I have yet to read one making any sort of a statement as generous toward other points of view as yours. Can you give me an example of such defence of religious people or even if you quote such a magnanimous statement from any of the popular atheist writers for me please?

      By the way, I am a bit confused by the equivocation expressed in the link you provided regarding the harmfulness of religion . Perhaps you don't regard, Jesus to be religious? I am sure you would support him as he made by far the clearest statement regarding the need for pro-active altruism. As you will recall, he was killed by the religious elite for being a subversive heretic who claimed to be able to forgive sins. It would be very helpful to me and I imagine, many others, if you would just clarify which aspect of religion you find to be so obnoxious please.

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    44. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Warren Mills

      Warren, I waited in vain for Dianna's reply to your excellent post. However, I fear the problem with it, and en passant in this debate, is the extent to which the human Jesus has been obliterated by divinised versions of him.

      I think also that another problem with this article is that the author's pith is in his postscript, in relation to which he provides no reference while excusing himself with the kind of escape clause that let's down those who offer unrestrained endorsement, when all he does…

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    45. Warren Mills

      Director

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Thank you Michael

      I am puzzled by the lengths that the Brights go to to demonstrate that bigotry is based on ignorance. It seems to me that the thing they hate most is the idea that they might be accountable to someone other then themselves.

      If only one of them would have the grace to study how come so many of the social conventions we enjoy were initiated by people motivated by fear and superstition V conventions initiated by intelligence alone. Oh! I remember, no grace.

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  24. Bruce Johnson

    Chaplain

    I think that the concept of religious is too broad to get any meaningful conclusions. There are people who are religious and have never analysed and perhaps through fear refuse to look analytically at exactly what they believe. There are others who form their beliefs in a quite analytical way. So for example I may have started with what I would now regard as literalist views however through reason have come to a different view. An example of this is how I see writings as "Word of God". Given the…

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    1. Bruce Johnson

      Chaplain

      In reply to Bruce Johnson

      Please excuse my ipad. Intent was to write it does not have to be literally true to push us toward a better understanding of god. In essence I am acknowledging the difficulty of god to communicate with physical beings and the concept of progressive revelation or as I call "bump theology".

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