Are Natural Scientists Smarter and Therefore, Less Religious?


According to one study, the answer is yes.

In a survey of IQ measures in “elite” institutions, researchers argue that physical scientists (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) have overall higher IQ’s than their social scientist counterparts. They then argue that the kind of reasoning in physical science is superior because of its reduced emotional influence.

“[Physical] scientists are overwhelmingly atheist,” Dutton said. “This is predicted by their high IQ, which allows you to rise above emotion and see through the fallacious, emotional arguments.” Arguments about God are all emotional arguments, he added.

There are very obvious problems in the research. First, it focuses on a particular sample of scholars where even if the data is true, science demands the method be tested to see if the conclusions are even valid. Second, the use of IQ as a measure of intelligence is suspect. Numerous papers have been published arguing the validity of IQ as a measure of intelligence or aptitude.

Finally, the claim that arguments about God are all emotional is made with no evidence to support it. It is hard to imagine that massive works of logic and reasoning about God such as St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, or Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, or the centuries of theological thinking are all emotional in nature. In fact, at one point theology was called “the mother of all sciences.” Therefore, this assumption perhaps reveals a hidden agenda that is ironically rooted in emotion. Similarly, Richard Dawkins likens theology to the study of leprechauns and that it has no business as a university discipline.

Research probes the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. It may be true that scholars of physical science have high IQ’s. However, it is an unscientific stretch to say that their reasoning is superior and such superior reasoning is why they are correlated with atheism. Good science means that we cannot confuse a correlation with causation. Thus, the research conducted here is unscientific and shoddy at best.

I Don’t Want Your Sex in a Religious College

No place is too sacred for sex not to be a point of controversy and contention. It is one of the most acute areas of tension among people with differing ideas about who ought to have sex, who ought to have sex with who, when and where people ought to have sex, using prophylactics, and so on. Part of this has to do with the two outcomes of unprotected sex that are likely: pregnancy and disease.

Other areas of controversy come from religious sources. Once religion enters the picture moral imperatives are not simply part of the social consequence of sex, but come from a divine source that defines the very source and purpose of human life itself. You can’t up the ante on sex any greater than eternal perfection.

Enter Pacific Union College where psychology professor Aubyn S. Fulton taught taught ideas about intercourse and homosexuality that were on the edge of, if not fully outside of, the church’s teaching. This teaching has led to discussions between Fulton and the administration about losing his job. Pacific Union is a Seventh Day Adventist sponsored college that offers “an excellent Christ-centered education.” The Seventh-Day Adventist position on same-sex unions is uncompromisingly clear: “Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world.” The position on pre-marital sex is just as clear: “Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is immoral and harmful.” Thus, the problem stems from Fulton’s personal position as confused with making student aware of the church’s position. The church here takes precedence over the individual given the mission of the college is one that builds awareness of the Seventh-Day Adventist understanding of a “Christ-centered education.”

There will always be a tension regarding religious doctrine and the academic freedom of the faculty in religiously affiliated colleges and universities. I argue that if there is no tension, then there can be no religiously affiliated college. In my dissertation I examined this tension both in the history of higher education and in the correlation of religious college mission statements, faculty handbooks, student handbooks, statements of faith, social contracts, etc. The interesting finding is that in almost all cases the religious college cited the tension with secularization as part of its mission. Further, the tension is also a source of identity for these colleges. Incidents such as these continue to make this tension apparent.

A private institution can circumscribe the boundaries of academic freedom as long as it is consistent with the institutional mission and the curriculum. Hence, accreditation is not an issue. Even colleges that are more strict in doctrine and faculty contracts than Pacific Union are accredited.

Maybe the prevailing question is at what point the religious college passes delivering a quality education to forming nothing but an indoctrination program. It is evident that the latter is falling out of its usefulness if religious education is to maintain any value at all in the world.

Being a Person, Having a Voice

Personhood is social, or it is nothing: “To be myself, I need you.” – Kallistos Ware of Diokleia

James Loder was my adviser and mentor at Princeton Seminary. His life’s work was to imagine how the Spirit of God grounded and transformed the human person – the human spirit. His radical vision was that the Spirit of God and the human spirit worked in a mysterious loop. It is in the intersection of the two spirits that human creativity is present and blossoms.

To be human is to be in a relationship. It is to have a face and to look upon others not with covetousness, jealousy, envy, pride and the like – but with charity and love. As we love others, we become more human. This is a theological lens for the experience of having that voice to speak the truth to others.

So we have here a boy with a learning disability. He is a person, but has no voice. But when the creative and self-transcendent truth of who he is in community with others blossoms, the blessings on those who gaze back at him are profound.

Each of us has a spirit. Each of us has a creative self always aching to be born new every day. When we experience our selves in the midst of others, we experience the truth of who we really are.

Bill O’Reilly’s Jesus and Bully Christians

Candida Moss and Bill O'ReillyWhy is so much written about Jesus every year? Most of what will ever be written about Jesus has been done. There are just not many directions left to go. So when popular books about Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Reza Aslan come out just several weeks apart, how are they selling so many copies?

Jesus sells.

Even if Santa and the Easter Bunny sells toys and candy, Jesus will sell you books, movies, and television advertising dollars. The brand of Jesus is massive and since it has no copyright anyone can plaster it on a book or movie title. The controversy alone will sell a few copies. Bill O’Reilly is not a biblical theologian, scholar, or historian. Reza Aslan is none of those, nor are either scholars of religion. Yet both have equal credibility in the marketplace of Jesus. At least Aslan seems to have written his book himself and enters it in a much larger academic discussion. O’Reilly had the assistance of Martin Dugard who is an author and a running coach.

So what happens when a scholar of the bible, biblical history, theology, or other disciplines challenges the assertions of Bill O’Reilly? O’Reilly invites her on his show so he can talk more about himself. Just minutes after his performance, menacing  self-professed Christians come out of the woodwork like carpenter ants eating their way through liberal scholarship.

Dr. Candida Moss, who is on the faculty of Notre Dame University, wrote a column that rightly challenges O’Reilly’s lack of methodology and paucity of evidence to support his assertions. O’Reilly’s assertion is that Jesus died because he interrupted the revenue stream to Rome. Moss offers another side to this interpretation:

Even if Jesus’s actions had been all about taxes, he died protesting a skeletal taxation system that privileged the rich. Wealthy citizens were exempt from most taxes altogether, non-citizens paid a flat-rate poll tax regardless of income, the property tax was 1 percent, and the money from taxes was used to build roads and fund the military. It’s not like the Romans did anything obscene like tend to the poor.

O’Reilly is a skilled rhetorician and, like Sean Hannity of the same network, employs a cookie cutter method that makes even the smartest people look like fools to his audience.  He sets his terms early, misdirects the subject, then forces that misdirection with continued dismissal and ad hominem – “pinhead” “loon.”

In an interview O’Reilly recently staged with Moss, he follows this pattern. He sets his terms and forces them to work for him and against the other person. O’Reilly dismisses her before we even see her.

This woman, Dr. Candida Moss who teaches theology at Notre Dame says that Jesus was a socialist and was disappointed in me for not highlighting his politics. – Bill O’Reilly

“This woman” is about as gendered a dismissal as one can hear. Here is a way to make this clearer. “This black man…” Her gender is irrelevant to her academic credentials and arguments against O’Reilly’s. Moss is also a full professor who teaches New Testament and Early Christianity who is in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame. There is a significant distance between her rank and that of an instructor or “teacher,” which as O’Reilly’s tone suggests is not all that credible.

By asserting his focus on history he dismisses her by saying she teaches theology. Therefore, what she has to say about his book is irrelevant. It does not matter at this point if he is a lousy historian, which the very words he uses about his book demonstrate, he is simply better than her.

Bill is also a lousy theologian and he knows it which is why he limits the terms to his “history.” Theological decisions have been made about the texts from writing to canonization to translation. It is quite laughable he goes on to say that Jesus cares about the soul not politics. How is that not a theological claim? Theology, politics, and religious structures were all combined for centuries before and after Jesus. You just can’t have a history about Jesus without making theological judgments. Bill’s theological judgments are weak, he knows it, so he dismisses it.

Nor did she ever say that Jesus was a socialist but for that of a retweet of Reza Aslan! But with Bill’s set up, Moss may as well have not been on the show. That one sentence quoted above is all that outlets like Town Hall need to work the conservative angles in order to keep the liberal-shaming engine running.

But it gets worse. It is the reaction and dismissive tone towards Dr. Moss that left me feeling disgusted and a bit ashamed. The amount of comments that dismissed her scholarship, demeaned her femininity, likened her to a sort of infection at Notre Dame, spoke as if she knew nothing about the bible, and so forth are troubling. Not just the amount, but the quality of these posts by those who profess a Christian faith is disturbing. No Christian should tolerate such transparent derision towards another human being with a different perspective.

As if this is not bad enough, the capper is likening her to a yeast infection.

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The rhetorical strategy of O’Reilly and his ilk is to fabricate “liberal” as some menacing evil. By leaving out details and dismissing others, they craft a narrative that is made virtually impenetrable by loud voices and media sales. The anti-intellectual mindset of the audience they continue to create only buttresses the defenses and gives just enough reason to wage war against other ideas and perspectives on just about anything.

In the end, to many, Bill O’Reilly’s Jesus is the only reliable picture of Jesus since all others come from the liberal academic society – a society that only has a political agenda.

And our society continues to get dumber and meaner as a result.

See also:

Creationism Will Never Be Science

Texas is back in the news as parties clash over teaching creationism along side of evolution in the science classroom. The creationism debate is not new for Texas. This goes hand-in-hand with the notion that we should teach the controversy. In principle this is a good idea. Science is not without controversies, nor is any academic endeavor. The goal in academic study is to propose ideas, test those ideas, and then allow your conclusions to go under the microscope of public scrutiny.

But there are certain facts about the world that are no longer under as much scrutiny because they are continually proven to be correct. That is to say, they continue to be powerful predictors of events. The speed of light is one constant as is the way the heart pumps or specific vaccines fight disease. There may be some controversy if you want to call it that, but that discussion is just the way science works. In science ideas are refined even if the basic principles are essentially the same.

Evolution works this way. Time and time again it has been one of the most powerful models to predict how populations of organisms develop and mutate. These are large populations over very long periods of time. Apes did not one day become Homo sapiens. This was a long process with different species and the genes that make us human beings “won out” in the end. The controversy in biology is as small as those who argue for a flat earth. Yes, there are those who still insist that the earth is flat.

Where is the controversy in science with respect to evolution? It is coming from a source outside of the scientific community, namely, a specific thread of Christianity in America. This is the pocket that insists evolution is not true based on a specific theological worldview that also insists on a specific way of reading the bible. Yet though this group comprises about 30% of Christianity and in some research even less, it has been the loudest voice in the effort to change the science curricula to pit God against evolution. This is true in the debates over textbooks in Texas as it has been a source of friction in Kansas for years. Kansas standards have gone through several changes since 1999 both excluding and including evolution in its science standards. That debate has slowed down in the past couple of years. Ohio is also not without challenges.


“The conclusions and tenets of evolutionary theory, while not declared as being unimpeachable, are nevertheless offered without any suggestion that there are competing scientific theories,” said one reviewer. He did not specify what those theories are.

He complained that “the theory that life most definitely emerged [from primitive organisms] is simply a foregone conclusion.” – Dallas Morning News


“Both evolution and human cause of global climate change are presented in these standards dogmatically,” Willard said. “This nonobjective, unscientific approach to education standards amounts to little more than indoctrination in political correctness.” – Fox News


“What we’re looking for in the policy is to create an environment where we can identify and discuss and debate openly, honestly, sides of controversial issues and the strengths and weaknesses of scientific issues or debates,” said Kelly Kohls, School Board President. – WDTN


(Gov. Bobby) Jindal also said he has no problem with creationism being taught in public schools as long as a local school board OK’s it. Since the state is committed to national academic standards, he said, as long as schools are teaching evolution they should be allowed to teach other theories as well. “What are we scared of?” he said. “Let (students) debate and learn … give them critical thinking skills.” –

Is creationism actually science? Science is about forming testable hypotheses. I make an educated guess and then I test it. I make conclusions and others will try to do the same thing to see if it works. Even if self-interest moves the data around, the end result is usually a solid theory that is reliable and flexible enough to account for other data about the world.

A theory is not a guess. It is a way to explain reality and understand new facts about it. Until a theory is debunked in the same way it was discovered, it will stick around for quite some time. If that happens enough and we get enough data, voila: the cure for polio, the invention of the microwave, the suspension bridge, rocket propulsion, and even nuclear weapons. We can’t test to see if creationism is an accurate predictor of biological events. We have to rely on an untestable premise of faith.

Hypotheses are not faith. This does not mean that faith is somehow “less than” hypothetical testing in science. What it means is that we cannot pit the two against each other in a classroom because they are two very different ways of looking at the world. Faith can predict true results as the lives of the saints and the presence of miracles over millennia suggest. I am not one to dismiss all of these events as hoaxes or delusions. But none of these are testable in the same way that evolution is.

This is why Texas and any other school board is leading us down a misguided and dangerous path that will confuse our kids. Our students will come out of science not understanding science and go to church without understanding the purpose of faith. Faith is vital to religion because it is not to prove facts about the world. It’s function is to grow in the love and likeness of God. This is my theological worldview through the lens of Eastern Orthodoxy. It is not the business of a public school to confuse a faith that is my responsibility to teach my kids.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Adjunct Full Time

A well-known secret in higher education is that full-time tenure-track positions are dwindling. Many of the seats that we have filled with full-time faculty will not be re-filled when they are vacated in the next 20 years. What universities will need to do is hire more part-time faculty to fill that void. Currently, 38% of the teaching labor force in higher education is made of part-time professors. From the AAUP:

The growth of part-time faculty has often come at the cost of stable employment for those who seek full-time careers. Institutions which assign a significant percentage of instruction to faculty members in whom they make a minimal professional investment undercut their own commitment to quality. Academic programs and a tenure system are not stable when institutions rely heavily on non-tenure-track faculty who receive few, if any, opportunities for professional advancement, whose performance may not be regularly reviewed or rewarded, and who may be shut out of the governing structures of the departments and institutions that appoint them.

If you want to be an adjunct teacher at a university or college, make sure that you are prepared to understand what is involved. These are positions not designed to provide a full-time wage or anything in the way of benefits. Here are practical reasons not to avoid becoming a “full-time” adjunct or part-time professor.

You Are Expendable

Part-time faculty are cheap. Because of rank, the wages per credit-hour taught can be less. The institution does not need to pay out fringe benefits like health insurance or retirement matching. And because most adjunct work is based on course contracts, teachers don’t really have to be fired – they are simply not awarded a new contract. In other words: Do not expect stable employment; you are expendable.

You will get the lovely moniker of “second tier faculty” which is a nice pat on the back for all those hours you spend with students. You may find yourself isolated from the institution and connected mainly through email and learning management systems such as Blackboard or Canvass.

Welcome to flexible production of labor.

You Are Cheap

I can’t imagine doing adjunct work to make a living. I would have to pull about 50 credit hours a year to pull that off at $1,000 a credit hour. If we take that and subtract about $1,500 per month for private insurance and taxes that leaves me with $32,000 as a net wage or let’s say $2,600 for rent, gas, utilities, and in my case child support. Then I have to eat and I have no retirement or savings. I also have some loans I need to pay off. Forget car payments. My car had better be indestructible.

All of this financial stress is for taking on at least twice the teaching load as a full-time, salaried member of the faculty.

It Can Kill You

This goes beyond the huge healthcare expenses that you will incur beyond your $900 premium if you are single without dependents. The amount of stress is astounding and stress kills.

What I just figured above, and I think it’s about right, is about a 40 hour work week if you spend 10 hours a week per course to be just over the poverty level in a town like Pittsburgh. This is the ideal. The reality is that adjunct work is contract based and there is no guarantee of any stable income source that will get you that many credit hours per year. You have to work between more than one institution where if you aren’t online, you will need even more transportation costs and higher auto insurance premiums among other things. Forget vacations too. That is 10 hours per week, every week, for 52 weeks out of the year.

This was the case for one woman’s situation in Pittsburgh. a 25 year teacher, Margaret Mary lost her below poverty wage job as an adjunct with Duquesne University. With no unionization and no security, there is no protection for labor:

While adjuncts at Duquesne overwhelmingly voted to join the United Steelworkers union a year ago, Duquesne has fought unionization, claiming that it should have a religious exemption. Duquesne has claimed that the unionization of adjuncts like Margaret Mary would somehow interfere with its mission to inculcate Catholic values among its students.

This would be news to Georgetown University — one of only two Catholic universities to make U.S. News & World Report’s list of top 25 universities — which just recognized its adjunct professors’ union, citing the Catholic Church’s social justice teachings, which favor labor unions.

The system is not set up for part-time faculty to be anywhere close to full-time faculty. However, this will increasingly become the primary teaching labor force in higher education among all institution types in the next 20 years.

Unless you have a job that will give you benefits, vacations, a retirement plan, and some security in your life, use that graduate degree to teach part-time as a part-time gig for fun, the experience, and another source of income. Until the system shakes out and labor has power, it looks bad to be a full-time, part-time college teacher.

The situation looks bad for education because it might just be that our part-time teachers are better teachers. But with the current labor practices as they are, stories like Margaret Mary’s and this will be more commonplace:

This, too, is part of the adjunct lifestyle:  even though I have theoretically landed work at two schools for this fall, I never stop looking.  I never am set. None of the jobs that I have are guaranteed to be there next year, and one of them is so far only for this coming fall.  I still hope and still peruse the sites for permanent jobs in my area of specialty.  Heck, I don’t even care if they’re tenure-track, but just permanent.  Something that I can plan my life around more than a nine-month academic year at a time!

Is Higher Education Too Snobbish?

I have had the privilege of earning degrees from private, religiously-affiliated institutions. I would not trade my education for any other experience higher education can offer. The curriculum for each followed about as traditional a sequence of the liberal arts dating back to the latter half of the 19th Century. This is the kind of education I want my kids to have. All things being equal I would hope all people could benefit from such an experience.

But with tradition can come a snobbishness towards innovation.

Innovation means change. Change hurts no matter the outcome. Change in the traditional liberal education can strain the system because it can uproot the core tenets of that education. Uprooting education from that core can disrupt, in Burton Clark’s terms, its organizational saga.

Does it matter where students participate in that tradition?

Yes. If we look at the surge in private higher education in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union dozens of private institutions emerged. However, without any regulation these institutions were literally diploma mills. Student would graduate with diplomas that, unbeknownst to them, were completely useless and without any merit. There is a moral danger in education if an institution sells a degree to a student that will offer no real opportunity for upward mobility in either the job market or in education itself.

However, for-profit education isn’t going anywhere and will continue to produce graduates and will continue to improve its legitimacy in higher education. No matter how much our old brick and mortar institutions resist and fight that intrusion, it is far past the tipping point.

Companies such as Blackboard, Pearson, and Coursera will continue their push in the very systems of traditional education. Sungard has done this to the point of building institutional infrastructure. We cannot leave out the massive influence of the publishing and textbook industry. For-profit threads have been in the very fabric of higher education for quite a while.

These influences are almost like a growing virus. The student may be largely immune to that virus as they have been exposed to it their entire life. The faculty, on the other hand, is not only susceptible to that virus, but also acts like white blood cells seeking to attack it from the inside in order to protect the system.

Higher education needs to continue to study why students, and their parents, are becoming immune to for-profit influence in higher education. While students want to be a part of an organizational saga, the cost of that membership can determine if it is worth it. The patterns of how students choose their post-secondary education are changed. All the while cost for a for-profit education is now going down.

The attitude of “we are better than they just because we are” or relegating students who select a for-profit institution to a second-class tier is the kind of snobbishness that higher education cannot afford.

I said above that change hurts. In fact, that is not completely true. As the Buddha taught so very long ago, change is necessary. What hurts is resistance to it. Finding the balance between the traditions of the past that work and the changes in the present is, as it always has been, the challenge.