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Discussion (43)¬

  1. Glebealyth says:

    Jesus & Mo . . . a.k.a. Dunning & Kruger.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This strip has something to say
    In its own unique way
    Not by logic or thought
    To figure out the lot
    Where action, reaction, is the only play.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is the use of an apple computer relevant?

  4. Shaughn says:

    Sure. That bite out of the apple caused a lot of religion.

  5. Morten says:

    An interesting question: does religiosity lower peoples intelligence – or is it the other way around – do people with lower intelligence tend to be religious??

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Whilst still being a good joke, this cartoon doesn’t have the ring of truth that is usually present, simply because uncertainty is not something one associates with the boys.

    Morten, I would assume that the deeper religion takes hold in the mind, the less curious the believer will be about alternative explanations, and the more likely to reject ideas that run counter to their beliefs.
    Without seeing the studies I’m confident that the believers will be below average in the sciences (‘cos Goddidit, no need for fancy learning) and will display a very narrow and one-sided knowledge of politics and social issues.
    In brief, the capacity to learn will be there, but the motivation to do so will be fettered by the anti-learning ethos of religion.

  7. Vinnie Vidivici says:

    “Hey, Mo! I’m tryin’ to think but nothin’s happenin’. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!”

  8. Acolyte, there are many times when top religious leaders have expressed uncertainty. For example, they spent a lot of time trying to decide whether Jesus was a man and god united, or a man and god separately but together, the doctrine of hypostatic union. A truly idiotic debate about an imaginary person, but there you have it. Doubt and uncertainty, with tempers flaring, and some being kicked out of the religious club, over the answer.
    Of course that wasn’t Jesus himself expressing uncertainty, but I’m not sure Jesus himself ever expressed anything, given that he was most likely cobbled together from various previous religious figures.
    Anyway, I hope this puts your doubts to rest about the “ring of truth” author is displaying. I felt no such deficiency.

  9. 1happyheathen says:


  10. raymond says:

    I don’t think the message of this cartoon is valid. At all.

  11. cjsm says:

    Having been religious a couple of times in my life, my biggest problem was shutting my brain off. I don’t claim to be any sort of genius, but the nonsense you were expected to swallow — That is a big reason I left the church. And more education just pushed me towards atheism. Epicurus finished the job.

  12. HackneyMartian says:

    > Epicurus finished the job.

    For a terrific brief exposition of the god-free world of Democritus (the teacher of the teacher of Epicurus) and his fellow pre-Socratics, those present might enjoy the opening chapter of Carlo Rovelli’s ‘Reality is Not What It Seems’. The Christians burned all their books, but preserved Plato because he thought the universe has a purpose. Rather contrary to the idea that the monasteries preserved classical learning through the European dark age. (The whole book is a pop science classic, imho.)

  13. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin, I take your point, but the religious uncertainty was a result of one mob being certain of the ‘united’ theory and the opposing rabble being equally sure of the ‘seperate but one but seperate but one ad infinitum’ bafflegab.
    Am I certain about this? Not at all.

  14. Nitram says:

    Probably very late to the table with this, but I’m just reading “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. Interesting about the social evolutionary advantages of cooperation gained by belief in a religion, and hence their success.

  15. RevZafod says:

    To borrow a phrase from Tom Jefferson, I hold these cartoon truths to be self-evident.

    And to commenter Nitram, I’m also reading “Sapiens” now, and Harari is missing a category for me: atheist humanist but with great respect for other species and the planet we all need to survive. Not everyone fits neatly into one of his boxes.

  16. Laripu says:

    We don’t want to connect intelligence to religion because it feels too much like bigotry. But there are facts; what significance these facts have is unclear, because we know that correlation is not causation.

    The facts are as follows:
    1. Among very intelligent people, there are more atheists than believers.
    2. Among people of average and below average intelligence, there are more believers than atheists.
    3. There are many more people of average and below average intelligence than there are very intelligent people. Believers greatly outnumber atheists.

    These facts probably mean that evolution has favored religious belief. At some long stretch of pre-history, it must have had some survival advantage; and maybe still does. Maybe it improved the cohesiveness of tribal groups. Maybe it gave people some hope, allowing them to continue their miserable existences in the face of starvation, war, oppression, and inevitable death. Maybe it calmed the fears of the simple in the face of thunder and lightning. Whatever the reason, you don’t get a widespread trait over many thousands of years unless it somehow increases survival over its opposite.

    Maybe conditions have changed, and modern long-term evolutionary survival requires more intelligence and less belief. I don’t know, and I think I can’t know what the next 100K years hold for our species. Just as belief was once an evolutionary experiment, so non-belief is now. All I can be is myself: an atheist. I’ll never know how it turns out.

  17. Someone says:

    This is probably the most agnostic joke I’ve ever seen from this comic.
    Is that meant to be the point or am I reading something else into this?

  18. micky says:

    Laripu, are you saying that Religiosity is an evolutionary trait?

  19. Reid says:

    The fact is that the overwhelming majority of human beings were inculcated in faith and their religious perspective as they learned their language and with just as much conscious awareness; reason played no part and, by and large, neither did IQ.

    Religion has always been a cultural phenomena and it is the idiosycrasies & direction of the prevailing culture which has largely determined whether or not cultural outliers and general dessent is even possible. Most of us reading this now would have had a shortened life span and/or reduced mating opportunities if we held & expressed such views at any other place or time in history – a harsh reality that still exists for too many today

    IQ is not the only factor that facilitates the potential for disbelief but it is undoubtedly a significant one. Being born into a secular society is probably a bigger catalyst. The fact is that IQ levels are not evenly distributed amongst individuals nor amongst different populations & cultures: just consider how many apostates & those who question dogma have been culled in 1400 years of Islam? Now there’s a selection pressure for compliance & lower IQ if ever there was one.

    It is also true that rationality need play no part in reproductive success (other species don’t need it at all) and, in consequences, most of us, most of the time are quite irrational, particularly with regard to major life choices ……. Think not? Love, lust & passions are about as antithetical to reason and logic as anything could be. There are sadly vast numbers of people for whom religion and related cultural pressures provide some of the only brakes on excessively selfish & violent tendencies – you need only a passing familiarity with criminality to experience that at first hand.

    By definition, higher than average IQ people will always be in the minority and, in general, they will and do take to atheism like ducks to water – but those at the opposite end of the bell curve will not because they cannot and that is an unpleasant truth which precious few seem willing to discuss.

  20. jb says:

    I read an article once that asserted that in Japan belief in Christianity correlated positively with intelligence — i.e., that Japanese Christians on average are more intelligent than the average Japanese person, not less. The explanation given was that people of higher intelligence are more likely than people of low intelligence to explore novel ways of thinking about the world, and since in Japan Christianity is a novelty, with few traditional believers, Christian converts tend to be intellectual seekers, and as such tend to have above average intelligence.

    I have no other source for this particular story about Japan, so I can’t guarantee that it’s true, but it does demonstrate one way the naive argument that “our side has smarter people, so we must be right” can fail. There are other ways…

  21. Joshua, Skeptic of Skeptics says:

    So what happens if I have a full scale IQ of 134 (WAIS IV), was at one time super religious, devoted my life to mission work, etc., but am now an atheist? Oh, and I still don’t think that Christianity is entirely stupid, that some of it is actually compelling? While other parts are outright idiotic. This is why I don’t hang out with atheists. #dontfallintothebroadbrushtrap

  22. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Joshua, haven’t you just answered your own question? Obviously your intelligence led you to seeing religion for what it is resulting in your atheism.
    However, do you not see the hypocrisy in “This is why I don’t hang out with atheists. #dontfallintothebroadbrushtrap? Setting aside the simple fact that an atheist would/wouldn’t hang out with other atheists, you’ve just fallen into the broad brush trap yourself.
    That sort of misconception about atheists suggests to me that either your own disbelief is a recent thing or you haven’t met many atheists. There is also the possibility that you’re not being entirely honest about your ex-Christian status and/or your IQ, but I’m not cynical enough to accuse you of that.
    Not for the time being, anyway.

  23. DC Toronto says:

    Reid – in your last sentence – are you saying they can not accept atheism because of social pressures or because they lack the intelligence?
    Josh – was your statement “Oh, and I still don’t think that Christianity is entirely stupid, that some of it is actually compelling?” intended to be a question? Would you like me to answer it for you? Or is it a statement that your full scale IQ of 134 told you requires a question mark?
    I am more cynical than AoS about your honesty.

  24. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I might be prepared to give Joshua the benefit of the doubt regarding his honesty, but I do detect just a tad of that old Christian superiority in his ‘nym. Skeptic of Skeptics has a ring of King of kings about it to my mind.
    I could give that name a more charitable reading and interpret it as meaning he is suspicious of sceptics (UK spelling) were it not for his 134 point IQ; somebody that intelligent would not make such a basic grammatical error, and would instead call himself ‘Joshua, Skeptical of Skeptics’.
    If I were a dyed-in-the-wool cynic I might well be persuaded that we have ourselves another Epphy on our hands, just waiting for us to ask what parts of Christianity are ‘actually compelling’ so his mission can begin in earnest.

    Fuck it, I can’t resist. What are the compelling parts of Christianity, Joshua, and do any of the other major religions also have compelling factors?

  25. HackneyMartian says:

    I wonder if this effect is recent. Were the believers Erasmus, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Newton, Mary Wollstonecraft, Michael Faraday & Jane Austen less intelligent than Diderot, Hume, Gibbon or Erasmus Darwin? Perhaps cognitive dissonance plays a part: once you have to shut down some of your critical instincts to maintain belief, your intelligence suffers. As the knowledge produced by the culture you live in makes it harder to maintain belief, you have to shut down more. However, I know quakers and liberal muslims who I wouldn’t call in the least stupid (one has just gained a first in his first year of the Cambridge engineering degree).

  26. raymond says:

    Does New Delhi exist? How do you know?

    Does God exist? How do you know?

    Are most daffodils yellow? How do you know?

    Thanks in advance.

  27. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    1) Yes. Best damned restaurant within 50 miles of my house.
    2) Yes, but as I cannot offer myself as evidence of myself I can offer no proof.
    3) Yes. I created them to be like that.

    Are any or all of the above true? How do you know?

  28. Laripu says:

    Micky, to answer your question, yes, I believe the propensity to religious belief is such a widespread trait because for some long stretch of time it had some survival benefit.

    I think any trait humans share is either there because it had survival benefit, or is a consequence of something that had survival benefit. That also includes propensity toward violent anger, ability to peacefully cooperate, and atheistic disbelief.

    I widen survival benefit to include ‘group survival’ (i.e. cohesiveness) because for social animals, group survival has benefit for genetic continuity. Group survival may require the existence of contradictory traits. At some time in the distant past, violent anger helped against competing tribes, but the ability to peacefully cooperate was beneficial within the tribe. Tribes that had both were more cohesive and more likely to pass on the genes of member humans.

  29. HelenaHandbasket says:

    Author, I am conducting a study on people who used to be in religious cults (in real life Im a researcher). Would it be ok to post a link on this page at some point? It strikes me as a aplace where ex-cultists might foregather. No harm no foul if you feel it to be inappropriate

  30. Author says:

    Be my guest, HelenaHandbasket.

  31. Theovinus says:

    Some thoughts on intelligence:

    Intellect isn’t “always on” like, for example, muscular strength.

    Other influences affect beliefs and behavior. While we exert our minds to examine a contemplated legal contract or a technical task, we don’t automatically apply the same level of scrutiny to beliefs inculcated in our childhood by parents or other trusted adults. Or titillating gossip. Or evidence presented in an offensive style. Or assertions made by people we like or dislike.

    Demonstrably intelligent people say and do unintelligent things. Often. Thinking requires effort.

    Ironically, getting good at what we do doesn’t make us smarter. The more skill we develop, the less intellectual effort is required, so we use less. Does intellect atrophy?

  32. dr John de Wipper says:

    The more skill we develop, the less intellectual effort is required

    … as is well known from the Competence Matrix.
    X-axis: incompetent-competent
    Y-axis : unaware-aware.

    Any skill starts at the origin:
    – One is unaware of ones incompetence, or maybe even the existence of that specific skill.
    – Get aware of said skill, and realise ones incompetence.
    – Acquire the skill, and be aware of it.
    – Get the hang of it, it becomes routine, and one becomes unaware.

    unaware of uncompetense => (get knowledge about it)
    aware of incompetence => (learn cq train)
    aware of competence => (get used to it “without thinking”)
    unaware of competence

  33. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Dr John: unaware of uncompetense = irony 🙂

  34. dr John de Wipper says:


    No, it is just another way of saying “not knowing what you are missing”,
    formulated to fit the complete cycle.

  35. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Dr John, the irony I mentioned was your spelling ‘incompetence’ as ‘uncompetense’ when fomulating the competence scale.

  36. Son of Glenner says:

    AoS: Don’t be too hard on Dr John, who is not using his first language.

    How’s your Dutch?

  37. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    SoG, I wouldn’t normally mention that to a non-native speaker ( if memory serves I was the first miscreant to suggest that my fellow pedants give leeway to the non-native speakers here) but I thought the irony of the incorrect spelling of incompetence deserved a mention, especially as he had spelt it correctly several times in the same comment.
    How’s my Dutch? I’m fluent in Double Dutch, the single version not so much.

  38. dr John de Wipper says:

    AoS, SoG:

    AoS is entirely right. I blame myself a tiny bit for the mistake, but much more for not seeing it in proo freading (that IS intentional!), and even more for not even noticing it in AoS’s reaction. Bweh. Quite humbling.

    A propos Double Dutch: I AM a beer drinker, but I do not like Double very much. I am more into Triple, although I am also a big fan -and consumer- of Weizen.

  39. Son of Glenner says:

    Dr John: Is “Bweh” a Dutch word?

  40. dr John de Wipper says:


    No, it is the transcript of a sound of utter disgust; more or less the sound of someone vomitting.

  41. Son of Glenner says:

    Dr John: Enjoy your Weizen – may it never make you vomit.

  42. dr John de Wipper says:

    Tnx, – and your second wish is up until now being realised.

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    A conman, an egomaniac and a pathological liar walk into a bar. The barmaid says “What can I get you, Mr. President?”


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