Sunday, February 11, 2007

Agnostics are the most intelligent: If you ask me to say the first thing that pops into my head when I am asked about who's the smartest in terms of believing in God, I would answer atheists. But it turns out that I'm wrong. According to the General Social Survey, agnostics are the smartest:

Mean vocabulary score


Doesn't believe 6.52
No way to find out 7.24
Some higher power 6.96
Believes sometimes 6.02
Believes but doubts 6.42
Knows God exists 6.05


Doesn't believe 4.60
No way to find out 4.36
Some higher power 5.65
Believes sometimes 4.47
Believes but doubts 4.98
Knows God exists 4.90

I'm focusing on the white numbers when I draw my conclusions since sample sizes are small for blacks. Atheists don't even come in second: "some higher power" does. Those who know God exists are by far the largest group, but the numbers here tell us that uncertainty (or vagueness, as in "some higher power") increases with IQ. (I, myself, don't believe on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays).


  1. I've already looked at this question in the GSS. It turns out that half of those who report no belief in God (for this question), are actually religiously affiliated.

    Those are not atheists by my understanding - many say they are Christians.

    If you only look at those who answer this question and report 'no religion', atheists have slightly higher IQs than agnostics. (105 vs 104)

    Also if we look at the identical GODCHNGE question we get:


    110 is higher than any of the results from the GOD question.

    Though if you really want to stick it to those superstition deniers, we get this from the "do you believe in an afterlife" question:

    2: YES, PROBABLY 98
    3: NO, PROBABLY NOT 96

    Also RE: last weeks posts, I notice that no ARREST data exists for any of these questions.

  2. Here are my religion stats from the GSS (All whites only, except for Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists):


    CHRISTIAN 94 (46)
    - Protestant 97 (10,513)
    - Catholic 98 (4,710)
    - Mormon 104 (19)
    - Orthodox 87 (14)
    - Internon 100 (32)

    JEWISH 107 (433)
    - Orthodox 102 (14)
    - Conservat 107 (79)
    - Reform 107 (113)
    - Other 103 (51)

    NONE 101 (1706)
    - Atheist 105 (50)
    - Agnostic 104 (82)

    MUSLIM 86 (21)

    HINDU 90 (17)

    BUDDHIST 93 (22)

  3. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Not surprisingly, the smartest religious group (wordsum = 8.13), besides Unitarians, is people who were Jewish at age 16 (relig16(3)) but are nonreligious in adulthood (relig(4)).

    Jay Epst.

  4. Jason: Thanks for all these numbers and the fine-grained analysis. It's very interesting that, apart from Jews, the smartest group is Mormons. (Granted, the sample is small). It undermines the idea that anyone who believes such crazy stuff must be dumb. Evidently, Mormons are one of the few American groups with eugenic (or at least neutral) fertility practices: their intelligent members have as many kids as the dull ones.

    By the way, can you tell me which question has Mormon as an answer-choice? Did you use Demkid that asked in which Prot. denom. were you raised?

  5. Yeah, DENKID lists 4 LDS categories, along with 'Mormon' for a small total of 32 people.

    My impression is that the result is correct. I once used the Detterman equation to convert the 1990 SATs of various US religious groups (from here) into IQ scores:


    Unitarian 1,926 0.20% 1066 121

    Judaism 27,374 2.91% 1026 120

    Mormon 7,594 0.81% 948 117

    Afr Methodist 4,199 0.45% 749 108

    All 942,285 100.00% 904 115

    Mormons are smart. While the scores are higher than average overall, reflecting the elite college sample, groups generally stack in the same order they do at the mean.

  6. The top 5 and bottom 5 religion/SAT groups (white only):

    Unitarian 1073
    Quaker 1037
    Buddhism 1036
    Judaism 1030
    Hindu 1004

    Wesleyan 889
    Pentecostal 870
    Baptist 869
    Disciples of Christ 850
    Ch of God 842

    At the bottom is probably the Church of God or maybe the creepy Children of God, that uses sexual favors as a missionary device (Joaquin and River Phoenix were raised in this cult).

    The handful of Eastern religion whites also scored high in the GSS. Smart peole probably convert to those religions, but which religions are smart children born in? Unitarians? Do Cochran and Harpending have another group to explain?

  7. Anonymous5:18 PM

    The intelligence (or at least strong work ethic) of Mormons is obvious to anyone who's been in a medical school.

    As for Hu's SAT by religion data, they're wrong. See, e.g., here: . Unitarians actually score 1209.

    Jay E.

  8. No, your article is from 2002, the SAT scoring was changed in 1994.

  9. Anonymous7:16 PM

    > The handful of Eastern religion whites also scored high in the GSS.

    A lot of Eastern religion "whites" won't actually be whites. A Hindu from India, for example, would not classify himself as "Asian" since that refers exclusively to "East Asians" in the American context.

    Therefore, given a choice between 'white', 'black', 'hispanic', 'Pacific islander', 'mixed race', etc., our swarthy friend from Gujarat is going to call himself "white". It's not uncommon for this to happen.

  10. Anonymous5:26 PM

    a religious belief has nothing to do with a person's IQ. to be religiously affiliated, is affiliated with desire, not intelligence. forget the statistics, look at a chart of the top 20 of people who have scored the highest IQ universally, and historically; study them, and you will come to find out that just about half of them believed in some kind of mysticism. would they be more intelligent if they didnt believe in some kind of mysticism? doubtful. what makes a christian a christian is desire. what makes an agnostic an agnostic is honesty. what makes an atheist an atheist is denial.

  11. Anonymous1:47 PM

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