Are natural scientists smarter?

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 in the Interdisciplinary Journal on Research and Religion. The reason? Natural scientists are just smarter, it says.

“There is sound evidence of a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity and between intelligence and political extremism,” reads the paper, which examines existing data on academic scientists’ IQs by field, and on religious beliefs and political extremism among science professors in the U.S. and Britain. (An abstract of the paper is available here.) “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.”

There is more here, though I will note, without wishing to offend anyone in particular, that just about all of us are capable of being spectacularly dense, natural scientists included and these authors too.  I believe these correlations, to the extent they are true, are better explained by sociological factors than by IQ.  In the United States for instance various brands of humanities professors are in fact remarkably secular and I take this to be a stamp of a particular kind of affiliation to (and against) other social groups, not a sign of IQ in either direction.  Note also that political extremism has to select against low IQ at some margins, if only because the extreme doctrine involves a complicated ideological apparatus of some sort rather than just “folk morality.”

By the way, here is Dutton’s earlier 2010 piece “Why did Jesus Go To Oxford University?” (pdf), which suggests the smarter and more creative students are more likely to have evangelical religious experience.


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