a new study.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 11:41AM BST 02 Aug 2008
Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster
University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite"
considered themselves atheists than the national average.
A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly
linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.
But the conclusions - in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence
- have been branded "simplistic" by critics.
Professor Lynn, who has provoked controversy in the past with research
linking intelligence to race and sex, said university academics were
less likely to believe in God than almost anyone else.
A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent
believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK
population described themselves as believers.
A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the
American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.
Professor Lynn said most primary school children believed in God, but
as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many
started to have doubts.
He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics
believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a
matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general
population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have
shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."
He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in
the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.
But Professor Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and
Contemporary Society at Birkbeck College, London, said it failed to
take account of a complex range of social, economic and historical
"Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a
dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion
as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex
issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most
helpful response," he said.
Dr Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at Leeds
University, said the conclusion had "a slight tinge of Western
cultural imperialism as well as an anti-religious sentiment".
Dr David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London
Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true
experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and
religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains
that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater
ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly