Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Religion and intelligence

Edward Dutton has kindly just sent me a PDF of his 2014 book under the title above.  It is a very comprehensive and research-based treatment of its topic.  And I will mention his most striking finding straight away:  Churchgoers are just as intelligent as atheists.

The big problem with research in the area is defining religion.  There are all sorts of religions.  A major religion these days is "Belief in God only".  Does that count for anything? And what about Leftism?  It has many of the characteristics of a religon. Should it be included? So we cannot be too surprised to note that the various research studies show no uniform definition of religion. 

And even people of the same religion may have very different beliefs.  A Catholic who attends mass regularly will usually have much different beliefs than one who has not been to mass for years.  So direction of belief and strength of belief need to be sorted out too.

I can think of some solutions to those problems but none of the studies so far have addressed them adequately, as far as I can see.  But, out of what's available, the best indicator of religious belief would seem to be church attendance, or "religious practice" more broadly.  It too does of course have its weaknesses.  It is very well known that some people attend church for social rather than religious reasons.  They may even go just for the coffee and cake afterwards.  But there can surely be very few church attenders who are totally non-religious.  And when we think of religious people, it is surely churchgoers whom we are most likely to have in mind.

Table 7.2 on p. 180ff of Dutton's book gives the correlations between churchgoing and IQ.  Most are very low indeed and all but one are less than .20.  And a correlation of .20 reflects only 4% common variance between the two factors, so is negligible.

As it happens, the correlation with religious belief that Dutton tabulates are also low, though not as low as the correlations with religious practice.  The majority are in fact less than .20.

So the conclusion has to be that IQ is unimportant as an explanation of religious belief.

And if someone wants to get Marxist with me and say that I draw that conclusion only because I am myself religious, I reiterate  what I have often said before:  I am the most utter and  complete atheist.

Renewed requirement of work for food stamps produces predictable liberal backlash

There used to be a rule in place – part of the sadly abandoned movements toward welfare reform in the 80s and 90s – which required food stamps recipients to do at least some work in order to receive the benefits if they were childless and able bodied. That rule was suspended in most places since the beginning of the crash in 2007, but now that unemployment is allegedly back down to nominal levels and the economy is “stable” across most of the country, that exception is being rolled back. This, of course, has liberals up in arms. (WaPo)

    "The 20-year-old rule — which was suspended in many states during the economic recession — requires that adults without children or disabilities must have a job in order to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for more than three months, with some exceptions. Many states have begun to reimpose the federal rule as the economy recovers, with the largest group reviving it at the beginning of this year. As a result, many recipients’ three-month limit expires today, April 1.

    The change has reignited a fierce debate between conservative leaders, who say waiving the mandate discourages people from working, and their liberal counterparts, who say the three-month time limit ignores the reality that jobs are still hard to come by for low-skilled workers"

Ah, yes. Those hateful Republicans are at it again, trying to demonize and punish the poor. But while we consider this question, let’s keep in mind that an experiment in precisely such a change has already been rolling out in Maine. We talked about this last month when the Left was all aflutter over that state’s decision to require ABAWD (able bodied adults without dependents) to put in some work while remaining on the SNAP program long term.

    "In the first three months after Maine’s work policy went into effect, its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents plummeted by 80 percent, falling from 13,332 recipients in Dec. 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015"

There were plenty of job openings in Maine already and the result of that work requirement was a major savings for the taxpayer. As they found out, those who truly couldn’t work or needed to care for children were easily able to demonstrate that and their benefits continued uninterrupted. But a significant number of recipients were either able to find a job or, as it turned out, had been working under the table to avoid taxes and collecting benefits on top of that. Those individuals dropped off the rolls quickly.

As I noted last month, we can see the direct effect of going in the opposite direction on such policy by looking at New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has essentially thrown welfare reform into reverse.

    "The number of New Yorkers on welfare is reportedly on the rise, with about 13,000 more people being added to the rolls during the mayor’s first year in office.

    The New York Post is reporting that the cash assistance program swelled by 4 percent in 2014.

    According to an advanced look at the “Poverty and Progress in New York” report, the jump comes the same year the city added around 90,000 jobs"

When you remove work requirements entirely for the childless, able bodied recipients, there will always be some percentage who will seek to game the system for their own advantage. That’s just a fact of life. (And before you get your liberal undies in a twist, this applies across all demographic lines.) These programs aren’t “punishing” anyone or discriminating. They are providing an incentive toward upward mobility and ensuring that only those truly in need are drawing down resources from the system.



The Internet has brought an explosion of information to the general public across the globe. Unfortunately, much of the information we get from the Internet, whether it be by websites, e-mail, or on social media, is un-vetted and much of it is misleading and simply not true. Finding the truth can be a real chore sometimes, requiring hours of research and even then the truth may be illusive. Yes, the information flowing unchecked in cyberspace can lead to disagreements from time to time, but thankfully you can’t throw a punch, or pull a trigger, on the Internet.

Nevertheless, the Internet, through all of its medium forms, has provided a conduit for individual expression like never before in the history of man. Opinions, thoughts, beliefs, ideas and images flow freely to tens of millions of individuals in microseconds, every minute, every hour, every day. People of like mind can hook up at the speed of light and organize forums around either specific or general subjects or issues at will. The free flow of ideas, however flawed, is the very epitome of freedom. But what if someone could tamper with this free flow of ideas for a political agenda, or any agenda?

The growth of the Internet has also led to the formation of corporate giants like AOL, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Dell, HP, Microsoft, IBM and thousands of smaller companies. The corporate profits generated by the Internet are in the tens of billions of dollars every year.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of corporate giants, awash in cash, is the wielding of great financial and political power to manipulate and exploit the people they allegedly serve. We ran into that manipulative power just recently when we discovered that some conservative authors, including us, are being silenced by a tricky Google tactic (yes, Google) through their web browser, “Google Chrome,” by attaching a Security Alert to any website that doesn’t fit the Google liberal narrative. On the NewsWithViews.com website (http://www.newswithviews.com) Google has attached a Security Alert to over half of the authors that write for this conservative, on-line publication. In further research, we found that other websites offering a conservative point of view have also been targeted by Google Chrome’s Security Alerts.

Google’s Security Alerts advise the reader that the particular website they have logged onto may contain Malware and advised to go back to a “safe” page. The Alert is clearly bogus and obviously done for political motives in a highly charged presidential campaign season. Ironically, these Security Alerts only happen with the Google Chrome browser. We could find no such tampering with other browsers. Who controls Google Chrome? Google of course.

Now, if you are thinking that this is just an isolated incident, or an accident, or a coincidence, or a quirk of the Google Chrome browser, think again. The Google Chrome Security Alert suddenly appeared on multiple conservative articles a week or so ago, right after Donald Trump held up an article from the Newswithviews website and the website received over 3,000,000 hits in one day. One might ask, why would Google do this? The answer is simple and glaring.

The political ties to the Democrat Party of Google founders, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, including thousands of Google employees, is well known: From one source we learned that:

    “Few Silicon Valley companies have ever embraced a political party as passionately as Google has. Its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has been described as a "kind of guru" to President Obama's campaign manager, and Google employees emerged as the No. 2 donor to the Democratic National Committee in the last election.”

We were incensed that a major U. S. Corporation would use its power to tamper with free speech and more specifically attempting to silence our conservative articles. So incensed in fact that we penned a terse message to the Google Board of Directors, e-mailing it to their Investor Relations department


Waleed Ali has a good imagination

Waleed Ali is an Australian-born Muslim lawyer.  He is the go-to Muslim for the Australian Leftist media.  He has a long screed below about how weird Australians are.  They are weird because there have been a few media discussions about the right way to describe white settlement in Australia.  He seems to think such discussions are illegitimate.  Since there is disagreement about it, I would have thought such discussions to be perfectly normal. It is just one of the many things that arise for public discussion all the time.

And there is something to discuss.  Calling white settlement of Australia an invasion conjures up visions of an armed force arriving and doing battle with another armed force to take possession of territory.  But the white settlement of Australia was nothing like that.  The whites who arrived under Governor Phillip in 1788 encountered no systematic resistance at all.  Basically, the Aborigines just looked on in astonishment. There were one or two minor skirmishes after a while but that was all.  So calling the British arrival an invasion is misleading.  And why it is not sufficient to say simply that the British expeditioners "settled" in Australia escapes me.  That says nothing about who else might have been there at the time.

So if this passing topic of conversation has any implications at all I would say that it is just another instance of Leftists using misleading language and others insisting on greater  terminological accuracy.  All the vast implications for Australian souls that Aly writes about are just figments of his imagination. 

I grew up among working class Australians of the same British ancestry as mine and I can assure one and all that in that environment, on the rare occasions when it is mentioned, the topic of Aboriginal displacement evokes mild sympathy but absolutely no Angst.  Leftist might agonize but agonizing is what Leftists do

Leftists cannot cope at all with carefully expressed conservative thought.  Confronted with that, all they can do is stick fingers in their ears or run away.  So the focus of their criticism is always on  impromptu and less well educated  conservative utterances.  They reveal their own limitations in doing that. Waleed Ali does

This "lowest common denominator" representation of conservatives is a common Leftist strategy.  I wish I had kept a link to it but around ten years ago I saw a New York Times article about conservatism that was illustrated by a picture of a snaggle-toothed Appalachian.  You can lie with statistics but you can also lie with pictures.

And there is in fact an incontrovertible example of the NYT deceiving in that way. When the Trayvon Martin death became a great Leftist campaign, Martin was represented by a picture of him as a nice kid aged about age 11, rather than equally available pictures of him as the sneering thug that he later became.

Every country has its weirdness, its reflex points that trigger spontaneous, uncontrolled actions that look almost comically irrational to the observer. It's the kind of thing you can only comprehend once you know the anatomy.

Take, for example, the United States' permanent weirdness on guns. Viewed from Australia – a nation that embraced gun control with relative (though not total) ease after a single massacre – it's gobsmacking that repeated mass shootings seem only to entrench positions rather than inspire a solution.

It's only when you grasp how guns have become totems of individual liberty and a principled distrust of government – and that these ideas constitute nothing less than the country's very reason for being – that you can begin to make sense of the madness.

So, beneath every weirdness most likely is a revelation. Not about the substance of whatever issue is in play, but about the essence of the nation grappling with it.

For Australia, it's Indigenous history. The US may be caught in a cycle of tragedy and denial, but we simply do away with the cycle. For us it's a founding tragedy, then steadfast denial ever since. The specifics might change – terra nullius, the stolen generations – but the constant is a remarkable jumpiness at the very thought of facing the past. A jumpiness so powerfully reflexive, it doesn't matter how insignificant the stimulus.

This week it's a guide on "Indigenous Terminology" from the University of New South Wales. As documents go, it's resoundingly minor: an advisory list, likely to be read by very few people, that "clarifies appropriate language" on Indigenous history and culture. But that was enough to start the nation's most prolific outrage machines to humming.

"WHITEWASH", boomed The Daily Telegraph, taking particular exception at the guide's suggestion that Australia was not "settled" or "discovered" by the British, but rather "invaded, occupied and colonised". This instantly triggered the talkback reflex, with lines of angry callers – historians all, no doubt – venting with all the gusto Alan Jones or Ray Hadley could inspire in them. For colour, and certainly not content, Sydney radio host Kyle Sandilands joined the party, ensuring the meltdown covered all frequencies.

Where do you start? Perhaps with the Tele's remarkably sloppy allegation that "UNSW rewrites the history books to state Cook 'invaded' Australia". Of course, UNSW did no such thing. The reference to Cook is entirely a Telegraph invention. The guide talks of invasion but doesn't attribute it to James Cook, who had no army with which to invade. It's an extrapolation showing that not only does some editor or other know nothing about the history they're so keen to defend, but that they're also quite keen to rewrite the present.

Or perhaps you might begin with precisely which historical account does the rewriting: the one of "settlement" with its implications of an uninhabited continent, or the one whose language of invasion and colonisation implies the significant resistance of Indigenous people and the slaughter that flowed as a result?

All that history is well trodden. For now, it's the weirdness of this, and what it reveals, that interests me. Specifically: why is this hysterical response so entirely predictable? Why is it that the moment the language of invasion appears, we seem so instinctively threatened by it? This isn't the response of sober historical disagreement. It's more visceral than that. Elemental even. It's like any remotely honest appraisal of our history – even one contained in an obscure university guide – has the power to trigger some kind of existential meltdown. What strange insecurity is this?

An American observing this, perhaps even while carrying a gun, would be entitled to be bewildered. Theirs is a dark history too – one that encompasses indigenous dispossession, slavery and segregation – but it's a history they can hardly be accused of denying in the way we do.

Sure, indigenous American history is frequently ignored, but this is partly because it is buried beneath the sheer tonnage of black history that is so constantly rehearsed. There will be people in the US south who lament losing the Civil War, and who cling to the Confederate flag. But it's hard to imagine a public freak-out because a university wanted to discuss slavery. By now, slavery and its abolition are central parts of the American story. There might be varying degrees of honesty in the way the US tells that story, but it has typically found a way to incorporate its warts.

Why do we struggle so much more? Demography, sure. It's harder to brush aside the claims of 13 per cent of the population than the roughly 2 per cent of ours that is Indigenous. But it's also a function of national mythology.

The US is built on the idea of constant progress through individual liberty. It's a nation that is never finished, never perfect, but always being perfected. Its historical scars are therefore not fatal to its identity. Indeed, they are essential because they allow Americans to tell a story of their own perfectibility. In these hands, slavery is not simply a stain, but a symbol of how far they've come. So, in the process of acknowledging slavery, the US is celebrated, not condemned.

We're not like that. We struggle with our history because once we admit it, we have nowhere to go with it; no way of rehabilitating our pride; no way of understanding ourselves. As a nation, we lack a national mythology that can cope with our shortcomings. That transforms our historical scars into fatal psychological wounds, leaving us with a bizarre need to insist everything was – and is – as good as it gets.

That's the true meaning of the love-it-or-leave-it ethos that so stubbornly persists. We don't want to be improved in any thorough way, because for us that seems to imply thorough imperfections.

Instead, we want to be praised, to be acknowledged as a success. It's a kind of national supplication, a constant search for validation. And history's fine, as long as it serves that purpose. But if it dares step out of line, it can expect to be slapped swiftly with the Sandilands dictum until it changes the subject: "you're full of shit, just get on with life". Then we can be comfortable again.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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