December 9, 2011

Only 38% of Americans Think Some God is Behind Natural Disasters

I was reading a post from Austin Cline this morning about a 2011 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service showing that 38% of Americans believe that natural disasters are signs from some sort of god. While I was encourage to see that a majority (still only 51%) disagreed with the suggestion that a god uses disasters to communicate with humanity, I found myself focusing on the 38% who agreed.

In survey after survey, approximately 30% of Americans believe the most absurd things! And then an image flashed through my mind that looked much like this one:

IQ test graphThis shows IQ scores from the popular Wechsler scales, distributed just like they are in the population. You see, IQ and many other human traits are normally distributed. This means that they generally correspond to this shape and have the statistical properties it implies. For example, roughly 68% of the population falls within a standard deviation of the average IQ score of 100 (i.e., 85-115).

It is not my intention to imply that all religious people are unintelligent. That is not the case. There are plenty of brilliant believers and less intelligent atheists.

What I am suggesting is that once one remembers that there is great variability in IQ and other relevant traits, one might be somewhat encouraged to realize that only around 30-40% believe absurdities like this. It seems like it should be much higher.

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