Thursday, November 11, 2021

Theism And Intelligence: Is There A Negative Correlation?

 In my previous post:

 From a Dec. 2000  article ('The Paradox of the Intelligent Believer'), appearing in the Maryland Mensa magazine M-ANATION, I concluded there is no genuine "paradox", i.e. that a segment of Mensa members - for example - are strong God believers. I wrote:

It would appear that the "intelligent believer" is not really a paradox when viewed in the context of brain-personality types. Several conclusions would seem to follow:

1-Intelligent believers have a greater right-hemisphere dominance than intelligent atheists/agnostics/skeptics.

2- Intelligent believers have a greater need for emotional affinity and this is satiated in religious rituals/services

3- Intelligent believers are not necessarily "gullible" - but with (relatively) less left-hemisphere influence are less likely to critically analyze or appraise religious doctrines, dogmas, beliefs for logical consistency or degree of probability.

4-Intelligent atheists/agnostics are  very likely to exhibit strong left-hemisphere bias and be governed much more by thought/logic than feeling. This could be due to a paranoid brain architecture.

5-One's religious beliefs - or lack thereof - cannot be used as any objective indicator of intelligence.

This leads into yet a new and more vigorous recent debate started by Mensan Phillip Power, in his article:

Intelligence and Unbelief (

Concerning whether religious belief (namely theism)  and intelligence have any relation whatever .  His piece launched a series of response letters on the pages of the Mensa Bulletin  over the last few months, the most recent (October, p. 9, 'Brainwaves') of which I will reference in this and a later post.  Anyway, according to Phillip Power, contesting the claim that God belief is irrational:

So, what is irrational about a belief in God that these people of profound intelligence seemed to miss? What specifically about believing in God does not follow strict logic? It’s easy to say no rational person would believe in God but much more difficult to provide what about God’s existence necessitates irrationality. It’s an absolute philosophical fact that one cannot prove that God does not exist. That does not mean that God necessarily exists, but it does mean that providing a specific object of irrationality in one’s belief in God is tenuous at best.

At a granular level, claims of irrationality come down to which premises people are willing to accept and which they are not. These premises are not so much in the domain of the intellect as they are the will. For example, Aristotle’s logic in his proof of God is unassailable, and his conclusion follows necessarily. So, if one wants to reject God’s existence in the face of that argument, they are left rejecting his premise: That all effect has a cause.

The reason people of profound intelligence don’t always find theism to be irrational is because there is nothing inherently irrational about it. There are perfectly rational proofs for God, but those who are capable of understanding the logic don’t have to accept the conclusions if they simply reject the premises

 The general problem with Powers' argument is that he uses "God" as a blank term - or catch all term.  He also claims "there are perfectly rational proofs for God" - but which God is he talking-writing about?  Is it the Christian God (if so, how defined?), Yahweh - the Jewish deity?,  Allah - the Muslim God?    Without knowing the general nature of the deity or theist creation it makes no sense to claim one can "prove" its existence. Further, one can't assume one's audience knows which God is being claimed to have been proven.   This is why philosopher Joseph Campbell once wrote:

"God" is an ambiguous word in our language because it appears to refer to something that is known. But the transcendent is unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent, finally, of anything like the name of "God". God is beyond names and forms."

Well, if "beyond names and norms" it means it cannot be argued about, and certainly not proven.   French philosopher Jean- Luc Marion goes even further, always writing  GOD  in his assorted discussions to indicate no human has the mental capacity to define, describe, prove or even imagine the underlying entity - assuming it exists.   For this reason in my book Beyond Atheism - Beyond God (2013) I introduced the "god concept".   I took pains in Chapter One to point out the "beyond" in the title does not mean beyond knowledge. Rather, it means beyond any capacity for human thought at all. 

Basically, when people use the word G-o-d they’re not talking or writing about an actual entity but a limited construct or ideation configured as a noun, which we call a God concept. Further, because it’s limited by content and comprehension, i.e. by finite minds with finite intelligence which can’t grasp all aspects, then all such concepts must be relative and subjective. This means that the Jewish concept of Yahweh, the Muslim concept of Allah and the Christian concept of the Trinity all stand in the same epistemological relation.  From an informational point of view, none can be selected as “true” to the exclusion of the others.

This is completely analogous to there being inadequate information to distinguish one religion’s claims as true to the exclusion of all others. In the case of individual religions and religious traditions, the embodiment of the respective truth claim is found in a sacred revelation, or holy book. For example, the Holy Bible for Christianity, the Talmud for Jews, the Koran for Muslims and the Upanishads for Hindus, each proclaims inherent truths. For many of the respective faiths’ followers, these inherent truths are also absolute in the sense they dare not be contradicted.  But then they are based on dogma, not science, and the term 'hypothesis'  - based on a guess - is erroneous.   

In order to convincingly make an argument about a God concept, then, one must first admit its relative and limited nature. To further take it out of the "clouds" and set it on Terra firma, we would also like to have a physical - as opposed to supernatural - scaffold.  If this is possible we might offer a workable "God concept hypothesis" - even if we cannot prove the underlying entity exists.

If there is a credible "God hypothesis" - say that might satisfy a physical scientist and unbeliever --  it must have scientific inputs, especially from quantum mechanics and acausal determinism, e.g.

A Look At Quantum Acausal Determinism - Its Roots...

The one which most conforms - i.e. based on the physical realm and not supernatural-  has been proposed by physicist David Bohm. Such a full integration  (of quantum mechanics and consciousness) by Bohm provided a putative basis for a holistic quantum consciousness which he referred to as the holomovement.  It is also ideal because its basis is precise and mathematically sound.  Thus, Bohm first appealed to hidden variables in consonance with his stochastic interpretation of quantum mechanics (SIQM) such that the applicable uncertainty principle could be written:

(d p)( d q)> h/ 2π

Where p, q denote two hidden variables underlying a sub-quantal indeterminacy relation.  From this Bohm developed a predicate for distal, non-local action which he called the "quantum potential" - which drives the action of the holomovement, i.e.

VQ=   {-ħ2/ 2m} [Ñ R]2 / R

For a wave function U =  R exp (iS / ħ ),  where R, S are real.

If one then applies Bohm's model to physical reality it is possible to show the relation of explicated individual forms to the universal aggregate, or holomovement, e.g.



The relation is holographic in the sense that each of the individual forms ('waves") contains the information of the entire holographic field. The explicate order of material forms-objects is transitory, while the base Dirac Ether is permanent or "eternal" - as the implicate order. This base reality is the holomovement which enfolds the explicate order within itself. 

The beauty of this model -if one were to adopt it, say Mr. Power- is that it could easily be used to show an esoteric form of Christianity called Gnosticism.  That is,  the holographic nature allows each explicate to be an infinite reflection in its own right. To fix ideas, as theologian Elaine Pagels notes in her own book, The Gnostic Gospels, p. 29:  

"Gnostic teaching...claimed to offer to every initiate direct access to God."

In other words, no intermediary (e.g. "Savior") was necessary.  Indeed, for many  Gnostics each could claim being an  incarnate manifestation of the divine -  as much as Jesus. This follows, indeed, if there is a genuine holographic relation between explicates and the implicate order.

But I am not sure Power would even go along with this, first because his God has not been proven (besides, we still don't know which God it is, though we can assume Catholic-Christian) and second he'd likely adopt the Pauline approach that the Gnostics were "blasphemers".  This is given they identified as Christs in their own right, given the connection to the single, unified divine energy.  In his conclusion Power writes:

It’s neither correct nor helpful to frame theism and atheism into a paradigm of intelligence values. It shows an ignorance of religions and those who believe in them — and those who don’t — and seeks to absolve people of their beliefs by reducing their choices through determinism. Intelligence doesn’t confer prudence, wisdom, or infallibility, as hard of a truth as that is to accept for those of us who have been blessed with it. No, in the end, intelligence only allows us to process information more effectively, and it is our will that determines what our mind is given to process.

The problem, again, is that his definition of theism is vague and the respective "God"  unspecified.  This leaves open the point I made that we are actually not debating belief in God but a particular God concept. And I'd argue further that some subset of these concepts would definitely be regarded as irrational by any critical thinker. So on a deeper level there may well be a paradox at work - say if certain people of high I.Q. believe or accept nonsensical God concepts that clash with logic and reality. In this case the solution proposed by letter writer A.B. Di Cyan might be of value (Oct,. p. 9, Bulletin).  He writes:  

 "If Powell wanted an experiment, he should compare belief versus non belief in two samples, one indoctrinated at an early age  and another given no indoctrination pro or con."  

This makes sense, particularly to test belief in an outlier, illogical God concept. In this case we might expect higher I.Q. to correlate with more scientifically or mathematically based concepts such as David Bohm proposed (though he really doesn't call it a God concept).  Conversely, we might find lower I.Q. correlates with illogical or irrational God-concepts especially those that are almost totally anthropomorphic.  (Though a hard core Xtian apologist like Power could claim an intelligent person's will might be broken by indoctrination to accept primitive and irrational bollocks.)

 In any case, the jury is still out and the debate continues.

No comments: