Thanks for the adulation :-) As I pointed out, the subjects in my study came from a group which was already screened for intelligence. There was no control group from the rest of the university because the study was looking at intra-group rather than inter-group differences. All that can be answered from the study is what happens over time to intelligent people who hold evangelical-type religious beliefs in their early adulthood years. I didn’t mention that the group who went in the other direction (charismatic) also had non-rigid personality types. They, however, preferred conventional values, possibly because there were no challenges to these values from within their communities.
There appear to be many other studies which suggest that, in the wider population, those who hold fundamentalist type beliefs are less intelligent, or at least less educated, than those who do not. I suspect it is the educational factor which is the more important than the intelligence factor, although the two are highly correlated. Religious belief has markedly declined in developed countries other than the USA where educational levels in the whole population are much higher. Contrary to popular American belief, both the level and the participation rate of secondary school education in the USA is the lowest in the developed world (with the possible exception of bi-modal South Africa). Now that many of the OECD countries have reclassified their educational levels according to American practices it is now apparent that the US tertiary system is not the best in the world either.
According to the most recent OECD educational statistics Australia is at the top of the list with more than 80 percent of its population commencing US College level studies and 60 percent of them completing them. This compares to the 1970s rate of 10 percent and 5 percent respectively. The apparent rise in educational standard in this country is artifactual. In the 1970s US College level programs were rated as “secondary education” since the OECD guidelines were based on years of education, not the curriculum level reached. These days the University of Melbourne awards doctoral degrees for programs which are equivalent in level and content to those awarded as professional and honors Bachelor degrees in the 1970s. The gap between Australian and US educational level during the intervening 40 years has been consistent; it has simply been masked until now. The picture is similar for comparisons with other countries.
The reason why this situation has long been acknowledged outside the US, but not within it, is due to US economics, marketing pressures, national pride and both unconscious and deliberate suppression of disconfirming evidence. The myth of America’s worldwide educational supremacy has been maintained by the poor level of education in this country, especially education which emphasizes critical thinking. Circular, I’m afraid. The good news is that the recent OECD figures now confront Americans with the real situation and the existence of a problem. This is what is needed to effect a change in the system. I predict that the level of atheism in the US will rise as the real educational gap is corrected.
P.S. I don’t think I made it clear that it is the QUALITY of the education which is important, not just the “level”. What is necessary for belief examination is an emphasis on the critical evaluation of information. This type of education does not mix well with American’s current emphasis on multiple choice examination techniques. In fact, this type of examination actually encourages uncritical parroting.
Very interesting stuff. Thanks!