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Intellectual Inferiority of Christians?

June 2, 2014

The fact that the Shroud of Turin . . .

Joe Marino spotted this interesting article, Are Christians Stupid?,  by George Yancey (pictured) in Black, White and Gray hosted in the Evangelical Channel of Patheos.

imageI will soon have a research article (Coming out this year in the Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion) that provides some evidence about the unreliability of cognitive ability tests to make assertions about Christian intellectual inferiority. What I did was look at one of the tests suggesting that Christians have a lower level of cognitive ability than the irreligious – a study done by Robert Altemeyer in his book The Authoritarian Specter. He gave respondents a series of statements and asked them whether they agreed with those statements. He wanted to see how well his respondents were able to assess if there was sufficient evidence to support the assertions in the statements. He used 20 statements but on 4 of them religious individuals who had “authoritarian” . . . tendencies tend to make incorrect assessment of the evidence presented in these statements. The four statements are:

1. Just because many religions in the world have legends about a big flood, that does not prove the story of Noah in the Bible is true.

2. The accounts of many people who nearly died, who say they traveled through a dark tunnel toward an all-loving Being of Light, proves the teachings of Christianity are true.

3. The fact that archaeologists have discovered a fallen wall at the site of ancient Jericho does not prove the story in the Bible about Joshua and the horns.

4. The fact that the Shroud of Turin was scientifically shown to have been made in the Middle Ages indicates it is a fake, not a miraculous impression made by God.

Yancey goes on to say:

I am not surprised that Christians are less likely to correctly interpret these statements since a correct interpretation of these statements would challenge their epistemological presuppositions. But as I was reading this research, it occurred to me that none of the statements Altermeyer used would challenge the epistemological presuppositions of atheists or agnostics. If Altermeyer’s work is an example of the type of research used to indicate the intellectual inferiority of Christians, then such research is incomplete unless the irreligious also face the same level of intellectual challenges provided to religious Christians.

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  1. John Klotz
    June 2, 2014 at 6:27 am

    I find the inconsistency of the statements confusing. The issues addressed can be more subtle.

    The ubiquity of flood legends doesn’t prove that Noah’s flood saga was true. It is however, powerful evidence that a flood episode occurred in the Middle East – the “Cradle of Civilization”), it was wide spread and caused devastation. There is, I believe archaeology to support that.

    As to the Shroud. I believe that Carlos Evaristo’s landmark book on the Shroud’s history with the Savoy’s is the final nail in the coffin of Carbon dating. It was repaired.

    There were repairs and the bishops at times clutched in their mitts that corner which became the C14-Raes areas.

    The use of the Shroud in this study, unrelated to the issue of the age of the Shroud, is a scientific tragedy. It’s like asking people if they believe the moon is made of green cheese. (It’s not). It also indicated we still have work to do.

  2. Hugh Farey
    June 2, 2014 at 9:34 am

    “The fact that the Shroud of Turin was scientifically shown to have been made in the Middle Ages indicates it is a fake, not a miraculous impression made by God.”

    This statement begins with a highly disputed premise, which is followed by a sensible inference, and then a non-sequitur. What is a stupid Christian to make of it?

    If it is “a miraculous impression made by God” then he could have made it appear scientifically to have been made in the Middle Ages, even if it was authentic. In fact, now I come to think of it, that seems much more plausible that the Soviet plot theory.

    • PHPL
      June 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Bonjour tres cher Hugh,
      You have still not received any reply from the laboratory regarding Stephen E. Jones’ fraud theory ?
      Cordialement
      Patrick

      • Hugh Farey
        June 2, 2014 at 1:35 pm

        Alas, no. Perhaps they have been waiting for more specific evidence, but nothing has yet been forthcoming.

  3. Louis
    June 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

    1) Anyone who has read Julius Wellhausen knows that the Bible, particularly the OT, is a composite, a couple of strands telling the same story in different versions, which were woven together around 500 BC, some even say 200 BC. Being so, it was inevitable that elements from surrounding cultures crept into the text. Even the great (Protestant) scholar William F. Albright of Johns Hopkins knew about that. The best (Catholic) scholar to consult today is Joseph Blenkinsopp, his essay can found in the “New Jerome Biblical Commentary”, edited by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Raymond E. Brown and Roland E. Murphy. If it depends on Finkelstein (secular Jew), most of it is myth. What can be said with certainty is that we still have a long way to go.

    https://www.academia.edu/4700001/What_do_we_know_about_the_Bible_An_interview_with_Joseph_A._Fitzmyer_SJ.

    2) The so-called after-death experience is still very controversial. We still do not know enough about the mind-body problem. Not everyone sees an all-loving Being of light, which goes to show that whatever people “see” are products of their unconscious. We cannot live in a world of make believe, where it feels nice to think that in the end what is left of us is not eaten by worms or consumed by flames. The topic goes much more deeper than that, it involves all living matter, inanimate matter, the universe as a whole. Cosmology is the biggest challenge.

    3) There was a tendency to exaggerate in ancient times in the region. It may have been due to an attempt to boost morale after the Babylonian Captivity, but that does not go to say that the authors were lying.
    4) It it not true that the Shroud has been “scientifically shown to have been made in the Middle Ages”. The C14 dating is controversial, the BM authenticated “Piltdown Man” and the Geological Survey of Israel is known to have authenticated forgeries. Scientists are not infallible, that is why one theory is always discarded in favour of a new one, which is in turn forgotten to make way for another one.

    It is always better to look before leaping.

  4. anoxie
    June 2, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Be stupid, be stubborn : C14 = raw data.

  5. Louis
    June 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Or raw material that was incorrectly processed.

    • anoxie
      June 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      … and never released.

  6. Louis
    June 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Yes, that’s right. The entire process began and ended badly.

  7. daveb of wellington nz
    June 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Applying the same logic I have come to the conclusion that those claiming cognitive expertise lack the necessary cognitive awareness in the designing of cognitive awareness tests. It is clearly agenda driven, “either / or ” questions faultily structured admitting no other alternatives, constrained by an inadequate understanding of religion as if evangelical literalism was the only option of those attached to religion, and with no real cognitive challenge to the irreligious. They are of the type “Have you stopped beating your wife? Answer: Yes or No!” The moon is not made of green cheese. It was placed there by alien aardvarks!

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