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20 March 2007 @ 07:12 pm
Mean IQ vs Religiosity, by country.  
Color me unsurprised.

The graph shown above relates the arithmetic mean IQ measured in various country's populations, to the fraction of each country's population that believes religion is very important.

The green diamonds represent individual countries; the yellow line is a linear regression (y = mx + b), calculated by the least squares method. The United States data point is circled in red.
http://paulsen.home.netcom.com/iq_vs_religiosity.htm
 
 
Current Mood: cynicalcynical
 
 
 
[ein od milvado]: mirabile_visuprezzey on March 20th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
You do know that mean IQ is 100 in every country because IQ tests are calibrated to the population?

*checks link*

Oh. PISA scores. Then why don't they write PISA scores, not IQ? I guess it's because their target audience doesn't know what PISA scores are; "IQ", in contrast, is flashy and mediaworthy. Great.

(I'm very skeptical toward PISA tests... I think they measure work morale much more than actual intellectual performance. But that's because I had the opportunity to see how the tests are conducted >;] )
Art Blacklederhosen on March 21st, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
I think the moral here is not so much "religious = dumb" as "be sceptical of IQ data".

According to that site, the source for the test scores is a book called 'IQ and the Wealth of Nations. There are some massive flaws in the methodology used to derive those scores, as discussed in the Wikipedia article. Among them:

- "For 104 of the 185 nations, no studies were available. In those cases, the authors have used an estimated value by taking averages of the IQs of neighboring or comparable nations. For example, the authors arrived at a figure of 84 for El Salvador by averaging their calculations of 79 for Guatemala and 88 for Colombia... Kyrgyzstan's IQ is estimated by averaging the IQs of Iran and Turkey, neither of which is close to Kyrgyzstan – China, which is a geographic neighbor, is not counted as such by Lynn and Vanhanen."

- "To obtain a figure for South Africa, the authors averaged IQ studies done on different ethnic groups, resulting in a figure of 72." [From comments elsewhere in the article, I think this was a non-weighted average.]

- "For People's Republic of China, the authors used a figure of 109.4 for Shanghai and adjusted it down by an arbitrary 6 points because they believed the average across China's rural areas was probably less than that in Shanghai."

- "Studies that were averaged together often used different methods of IQ testing, different scales for IQ values and/or were done decades apart. IQ in children is different although correlated with IQ later in life and many of the studies tested only young children. A test of 108 9-15-year olds in Barbados, of 50 13-16-year olds in Colombia, of 104 5-17-year olds in Ecuador, of 129 6-12-year olds in Egypt, of 48 10-14-year olds in Equatorial Guinea, and so on, all were taken as measures of 'national IQ'"

It's very difficult, if not impossible, to find a culturally-neutral way of testing IQ; given how closely culture and religion are tied together, you'd want to be very careful to eliminate cultural effects before declaring a relationship between religion and IQ, and it doesn't seem as if the source did that.
Evil Geniusevil_genius on March 21st, 2007 07:40 am (UTC)
I think the moral here is not so much "religious = dumb" as "be sceptical of IQ data".

Then you, like so many, have missed the point of the article entirely.
Art Blacklederhosen on March 21st, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC)
What point is there to an article based on bad data? Other than, perhaps, one about the credulity of its readers?
Evil Geniusevil_genius on March 22nd, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
"There is no greater mistake than the hasty conclusion that opinions are worthless because they are badly argued."
-- Thomas H. Huxley
Kenneth Cavnesspublius1 on March 22nd, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
I think that a greater mistake might be the conclusion that an opinion is inherently worthy because it was badly argued... ;-)
Evil Geniusevil_genius on March 22nd, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
Daaaa.
Evil Geniusevil_genius on March 22nd, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
More to the point. There is a party in this thread making the claim that this argument is not well supported, and thus wrong.

No one here is making the argument that because the argument is poorly supported it is correct.

So my quote was relevant to the discussion. While Yours was simply pure snark.

Way to contribute :D
Kenneth Cavnesspublius1 on March 22nd, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
I really didn't have time to contribute more than snark till I got home, though I hope you aren't laboring under the misapprehension that your comments have been devoid of snark.

I think my problem with this study is twofold. First, very, very few studies happen in a vacuum. Someone has an idea, they go off and collect and arrange data in a certain way, and see if it seems to fit their initial hypothesis. It seemed to me -- especially in your explanatory comments -- that you were disingenously claiming that this data completely speaks for itself, and it's saying, well, nothing at all other than the tautology that it says what it says. Which, if that were all it was, wouldn't really be of much interest to anyone. Clearly, it has an interest to you. What that interest is, you seem to want to hold close to your heart. And since this is your journal, you're welcome to it, but I'm sort of interested in what conclusions you drew from it, if you'd care to share.

Second, there's some disingenuity to the report of the study, mainly because it seems to be conflating IQ with something I'm not familiar with. IQ is supposed to measure APTITUDE -- that is, the ability to learn -- rather than knowledge itself. One could (perhaps mistakenly) easily make the claim that this study is calling a large number of people who strongly believe in religion to be breeders of morons. Which is a pretty strong statement to make; I don't say whether that's correct or incorrect, but I'd need some pretty strong evidence for something like that to be believed, by me at least.
Art Blacklederhosen on March 23rd, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
There is a party in this thread making the claim that this argument is not well supported, and thus wrong.

No, actually, there isn't. Since there seems to be some confusion here, I will restate my position:

1. The article you posted purports to demonstrate a negative correlation between IQ and religious beliefs.
2. The IQ data on which that analysis hinges is grossly unreliable, even beyond the usual limitations of IQ testing.
3. Therefore, the article does not in fact contain any reliable evidence for the existence of such a correlation.
4. Therefore, people who believe in an evidence-based approach to the world should not be influenced by such an article.

I have never said that the article's conclusion is incorrect, only that it is unsupported, and that skeptics is not a place that should give a free pass to unsupported claims.

When those claims are accompanied by sloppy science - as discussed above, and in the post currently sitting in the moderation queue - then the science deserves smacking down in itself, regardless of whether the conclusion it points at happens to be correct.
Art Blacklederhosen on March 22nd, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
"Any subject is welcome, as long as you can provide valid arguments for your claims, and preferably link the other members to a reliable source that backs up your argument."

- this community's info page, emphasis mine.

Huxley's point was that we shouldn't assume a theory is wrong because one of its proponents does a bad job arguing it. But we certainly shouldn't be swayed towards that theory by a bad argument, either.
Kenneth Cavnesspublius1 on March 22nd, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)
That sounds pretty, but exactly what did you mean by it?
Evil Geniusevil_genius on March 22nd, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
The flaws in most every form(if not every form) of mental aptitude testing(IQ, PISA, or otherwise) are fairly common knowledge. So lederhosen's commons are preaching to the choir here. But more importantly they are irrelevant to the point of the article.

The conclusion drawn wasn't "Smarter populations tend to not believe in religion" or that "black people are stupid and thus religions"(actually an argument made in another thread *headdesk*). You will note a complete lack of such language on the page. Nor is it purposefully implied either. The fact that many project that, and many other, personal prejudices on the article is interesting, but not appropriate.

The point of the article was merely to point out a, rather simple, correlative trend. That being that those populations who tend to score poorly on certain IQ tests. Also tend to rate religion as being 'very important' to their daily lives. That's all they said, nothing more. It's not a rule, or a law, but merely a trend present in this data set.
Is the data set flawed? likely. Is the study pathetically simplistic? utterly.

But I think few would argue with the conclusion(specious though it's methods may have been). It has been my anecdotal experience that education tends has an inverse relationship with 'religiosity' in populations as a whole. While I have met a few brilliant highly educated people who are devout believers. They are by far in the minority. On the other hand ignorant, uneducated, religious zealots are a dime a dozen.

At least in my opinion.
But I'm interested in hearing yours?
Art Blacklederhosen on March 22nd, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
The flaws in most every form(if not every form) of mental aptitude testing(IQ, PISA, or otherwise) are fairly common knowledge.

Fairly common, but people keep forgetting them and putting excessive faith in IQ scores all the same, leading to an awful lot of junk science.

That being that those populations who tend to score poorly on certain IQ tests. Also tend to rate religion as being 'very important' to their daily lives.

Actually, a lot of the data presented there isn't even based on what those populations did score; if you read up on how the scores from 'IQ and the Wealth of Nations' were calculated, more than half of them were given to countries for which no testing data was actually available, based on guesstimation.

Is the data set flawed? likely. Is the study pathetically simplistic? utterly. But I think few would argue with the conclusion(specious though it's methods may have been). It has been my anecdotal experience that education tends has an inverse relationship with 'religiosity' in populations as a whole.

You know what? I think that's probably correct. It matches my experience, and I can think of several reasons why that might happen. But none of that warrants pulling out specious data to support that belief; all that does is erode good scientific practice.

Part of the point of the scientific method is that we should be starting from sound data and using that to figure out how the world works, not deciding how the world works and then hunting for data to fit our beliefs.

When we implicitly endorse bad science along the way - and whatever you may have understood about the failings of IQ testing in general and this dataset in particular, you made no mention of it in your post - that's working against the very goals this community is supposed to embrace. Bad science does not get a pass just because it supports our prejudices.
sariputra on March 24th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
I see that this has been clearly discussed, but thinks for posting it as it was good skeptic practice.