So, who are the smartest scientists?

The paper below is a curious one. The authors seem to be making mountains out of molehills.  There IS for instance a correlation between IQ and conventional religion but it is slight  -- unlikely to be of any practical importance and probably artifactual anyway.  See here

But the thing which amused me most was the claim that social scientists are more religious.  I spent many years teaching the social sciences in Australian universities and during that time  went to a lot of conferences both in Australia and overseas  -- where I met many fellow social scientists.  And it is true that most social scientists are religious, but the religion is Leftism. Anybody who can still believe in socialism after all the socialist disasters of the 20th century is in the grip of deep faith.  I think I only ever met three Christian social scientists.  So I would have thought that social scientists were the LEAST religious academic group as far as conventional religions are concerned.  So the study below would seem to rely on some very strange sampling.  Journal abstract included below

SOCIAL science professors at elite institutions are more likely to be religious and politically extreme than their counterparts in the natural sciences, argues a new paper. Why? Natural scientists are just smarter.

“There is sound evidence of a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity and between intelligence and political extremism,” reads the paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion which examines existing data on academic scientists’ IQs by field, and on religious beliefs and political extremism among science professors in the US and Britain. “Therefore the most probable reason behind elite social scientists being more religious than are elite physical scientists is that social scientists are less intelligent.”

The paper, written by Edward Dutton, adjunct professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Oulu, in Finland, and Richard Lynn, a retired professor of psychology from the University of Ulster, in Northern Ireland, who is known for his work on race and IQ, continues: “Intelligence is also a factor in interdisciplinary differences in political extremism, [with] physicists, who have high IQs, being among the least extreme and lower-IQ scholars being among the most extreme.”

In an interview, Dutton said social scientists aren’t stupid, or necessarily extreme in their politics or overly religious. But, statistically speaking, they have lower IQs than their colleagues in biological and physical sciences and are likelier to be extremely conservative or liberal or religious, or both.

Dutton said that there are many similarities between political extremism and religious fundamentalism; in other research, he uses the term “replacement religions” to describe the phenomenon.

“[Physical] scientists are overwhelmingly atheist,” Dutton said. “This is predicted by their high IQ, which allows you to rise above emotion and see through the fallacious, emotional arguments.” Arguments about God are all emotional arguments, he added.

The paper is a meta-analysis of existing data showing several things: that natural scientists have higher IQs than social scientists; that low intelligence “predicts” political extremism and religiosity; and that physical scientists at elite institutions are less likely to believe in God or be politically extreme than their counterparts in the social sciences.

The connection between all three research areas has never been made until now, Dutton said. But — in just one example of potentially problematic methodology — the logic can’t be extended to academe in general. Several studies cited in the paper drawing from a wider mix of colleges and universities than simply the most elite show that life sciences professors are more likely to attend church than their peers in the social sciences, not less. The paper assumes this is because professors at elite institutions are smarter than their peers elsewhere.

The researchers also use IQ as the sole measure of intelligence (they mention Howard Gardner’s multiple forms of intelligence, but argue that they could also be considered personality traits).

The researchers acknowledge some of their limitations, including that some older data in the analysis involve a very small sample size. Dutton and Lynn say that future research involving larger academic samples would be “extremely useful” in exploring these areas in greater depth.

Dutton said he knew his paper would upset some readers, but that he invited feedback from fellow scholars. The point of research, even when controversial, is to “get closer to the truth of human life,” he said.

Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion. 2014 Volume 10, Article 1

Intelligence and Religious and Political Differences Among Members of the U.S. Academic Elite


Many studies have found inverse correlations between intelligence and religiosity, intelligence and political conservatism, and intelligence and political extremism. Other studies have found that academics tend to be significantly less religious and more liberal than the general population. In this article, we argue that interdisciplinary differences in religiosity and political perspective among academics are predicted by interdisciplinary differences in intelligence between academics. Once personality factors correlating with religiosity have been substantially controlled for, physicists, who have higher average intelligence, are less religious than are social scientists, who have lower average intelligence. Physical scientists are also less politically extreme than are social scientists.


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