Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bibical Literalism and Denominations

Well this is provocative. Razib of Gene Expression has decided to examine a variety of data about various religious denominations to see if there is any relationship between the views on bibical literalism of each denomination and factors such as IQ scores and education. Here is the chart on education, using the demographic data from The Pew Religion Survey:

Razib notes that the R2 goes up to 0.81 (the measure of the fit of the curve, and thus the correlation) if you exclude Roman Catholics.

Razib does not think that education necessarily "causes" a reduced beleif in bibical literalism. Instead, her thinks that a different dynamic-focused on the education of the clergy, is at play:

What I think is going on is simply what we might term the Wisdom of the Crowds; people conform to the social and religious group which they identify with. Biblical literalism flourishes because most people trust pastors and parents who preach it. Similarly, a more metaphorical reading flourishes because authorities in other denominations reject fundamentalism. I do think that a deep reading of the scripture in their original languages as well as their historical context tends to erode a naive belief in the literal truth of the text. Mainline Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism has relatively high educational standards for its clergy and theological professionals. At the other end of the spectrum many evangelical Protestant sects have no such requirement. The Assemblies of God is a good example of this phenomenon, in this sect higher educational experience can even be perceived as corrupting. There is a reason for this perception: education, wealth and acceptance does corrupt and assimilate. Methodism for example was originally an evangelical reform movement within the Church of England, but over the generations it has become thoroughly mainstream and tainted by modernism.

Read it all here. (He also has a even more provocative analysis of bibical literalism and IQ here.)


Razib said...

minor note, correlation is r, not r-squared. in plain language if r-squared is 0.75 then 3/4 of the variation of variable Y can be predicted by the variation in variable X.

Chuck Blanchard said...


Thanks for the correction. I really enjoy your blog!

Katherine said...

The chart seems to indicate that Catholics like me are "stupid liberals"!!! We are far to the left on the Bibical literalism scale but not very high on postgraduate education! :)

Chuck Blanchard said...

Here is Razib's analysis of the Roman Catholic results: "I think cultural context is a big prior condition in these sorts of generalizations; about 1/4 of Roman Catholics today are Latinos who have only recently left a religious-monopoly society. In those societies the Church has a pretty strong grip on the supply of religious ideas, and its top-down structure tends to dampen the availability of Biblical literalism as a choice among peers. In contrast, American Protestantism is very schismatic, every mainline denomination has a breakaway fundamentalist equivalent."