Intelligence, education, and the Bible's message


We often read that god’s message about his existence and intentions are clearly stated in scripture, and it’s there for all to see. If that’s true why do some of the most intelligent, educated groups in the world not get this message? Does intelligence and education create skepticism? Are the messages in scripture formulated for certain human characteristics, and that makes them less convincing to those with certain other characteristics?

Some stats on religious belief among scientist, and on countries with a high educational level.


As a scientist, I will remark that scientists are just as stupid and screwed up as everyone else. We happen to be highly trained in very narrow fields, and like to offer our opinions on a wide variety of other things in which we have no formal training, and about which we’ve never thought particularly deeply. Just like your Uncle Frank who shows up at Thanksgiving and pontificates about everything from history to politics to religion and society as if he knows something, but really is just another crackpot who sits around at home in his underwear and thinks fluoride in the drinking water is a conspiracy.

To put it another way… I know some scientists who are religious, others who aren’t, but for those who aren’t, it’s not because they really have a cogent thought in their head about God, it’s because it’s easier and more convenient to be irreligious because then you can drink too much on Fridays and Saturdays, sleep in on Sundays, live with your boyfriend/girlfriend without being married, and not have anyone tell you that maybe there is some objective norms of morality to which we should be held. Just like everyone else. It’s very convenient to believe there is no God - as CS Lewis said, it’s a great wish-fulfillment fantasy. Dress it up however you want with whatever so-called rational skepticism you please; for all practical purposes it boils down to the same old things - laziness, selfishness, self-righteous ignorance. Scientists have the same foibles as everyone else.


Spectacular post.



some scientists become logical positivists - that is, if they can’t prove something they believe it doesn’t exist/cannot be true. logically there are plenty of flaws with this position
it is clear with some commentators eg Richard Dawkins that he has issues with religion that he cannot see. IMO some of the comments about religion in general he makes are as daft as some of the things he criticises:confused:
it has to be said that things that Christians etc come out with do severely affect their credibility with those who are scientifically trained
I could give you many examples
however on this sort of forum my comments would not last long I suspect
that is one of the issues a scientist would have in fact - free flow of ideas and free discussion are not allowed


My experience is that the hyper-skeptical atheistic scientists are not really that common. There are some, yes. And particularly some high profile ones. There are also some very ardent atheists in the softer academic disciplines too. University philosophy, history, and English departments are full of 'em.

I had the opportunity to speak with a guy named Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 1996. He’s another of these guys who thinks that religion is basically superstition that gets in the way of us leading peaceful, fulfilled existences, and is outspoken about trying to get more rational (i.e. non-religious) thought going on in society (in Britain, at least). When I met him at a conference he was all into this series of philosophy tracts, Philosphers in 90 minutes. Specifically he was raving about “Spinoza in 90 minutes”, and how Spinoza must’ve been a great guy because he was simultaneously excommunicated by the Christians and the Jews or something like that. Meanwhile I know that a good Christian theologian (or a good rabbi) could make short work of Spinoza, who was basically a pantheist, and probably not the best guy for the atheists to stand behind anyway. I guess my point is that, Kroto may have discovered Buckyballs, but a trained philosopher he ain’t, and neither am I, but there I was, a lowly graduate student able to see right through the bull this big-name guy was shooting. Same with Dawkins, I suppose. Once upon a time he was a biologist. I haven’t met him in person, but I suspect there’s not much beneath the veneer of pop philospher, and anything he says is pretty much ancillary to the entire history of philosophical and theological discourse.


My other observation on the hardcore atheist scientists like Dawkins is that they really play up the boogeyman of “fundamentalists” especially in politics. I guess they would rather have the atheist fundamentalists running the show versus the Christian fundamentalists. I personally think the ideological atheists have a bad record when they’re in charge, but Dawkins et all will of course disavow any intellectual link to the likes of Chairman Mao or Pol Pot. But I think they are amping up the rhetoric because they’re sick of being perennial losers who haven’t made any serious inroads into the popular imagination.

This is not a new movement. The strong atheist postition has been around for a long time. I think it was quite in vogue in 19th century Europe, but it really has never filtered down much since then. People are less adament about the good old-fashioned organized religion, true, but they are abandoning it more for a do-it-yourself, make-up-your-own-rules sentimental spirituality, which the atheists find just as absurd.


Dawkins et al have a ready audience of not too gifted fans to play to as well. And when they roll out the hackneyed arguments about religion being the cause of all the wars they don’t get any disagreement from their acolytes. The funny thing is that their followers actually as near as damn it worship them anyway - they repeat the words of their “prophet” and when Dawkins starts to campaign for animal rights, they start to campaign for animal rights too.


I find the opinions expressed and facts wrongly quoted here on scientific issues eg about biomedical issues would put off some people with a scientific background. When people make erroneous claims about technology that are not questioned because they support Church policy, that creates the impression of a group of people who value dogma (on the secular sense of the word) over facts.


that creates the impression of a group of people who value dogma (on the secular sense of the word) over facts

Well, there is also another way of looking at it, Jack.

“Facts” (in the scientific realm anyway) don’t always stay the same. (We don’t have ‘four humours’ of the body but try telling that to somebody in the year AD 1200, for example).

Also, in the end, when it comes to religion, one can have facts but there will come a point where one has to take those facts ‘on faith’. (To an extent, this is true in science as well. One cannot ‘prove’ the ‘big bang’ since there is no eyewitness to the event and there could be other explanations, so if one does hold to this theory, one takes it on faith).

We do not know everything about medical science and what we do know can ‘change’ and is often disputed (does an infant feel pain in utero? some say yes and others no).

I still like the aporism, “Keep an open mind–but not so open that your brains fall out”.


well that interpretation isn’t tenable in some cases
medical science progresses but the understanding of the pro-life lobby doesn’t
since understanding will develop, doctrine should develop and people shouldn’t make dogmatic statement
it can be seen for example that the Church has not said when ensoulment occurs
I have not heard a convincing explanation for assuming that a zygote should be treated as a soul considering the high number of zygotes that don’t implant or get aborted early on in the first trimester


I disagree with your fundamental hypothesis, that “most” intelligent, educated gropus in the world do not get this message.

Where intelligent, educated people do not “get” the message, the root is the sin of Pride.


it can be seen for example that the Church has not said when ensoulment occurs
I have not heard a convincing explanation for assuming that a zygote should be treated as a soul considering the high number of zygotes that don’t implant or get aborted early on in the first trimester

“ensoulment” occurs when the sperm and ova meet and a new human being is ‘conceived’; that is why the documents (which I know you have seen many times on other threads) speak of the dignity of life “from conception to natural death”.

The number of zygotes which do not implant or otherwise have absolutely nothing to do with ‘when’ ensoulment occurs or why a zygote should not be treated as a soul.

Does a zygote, all things considered, in the natural course of biology, go on throughout the pregnancy and result in a birth?

Suppose that zygote has a birth defect but manages to implant etc. and be born. Is the child less than human because of the defect? No.

Suppose the zygote implanted but somehow the pregnancy involved a termination, perhaps by incompetent cervix. Does that fetus then become ‘unsouled’ because of the termination?

So then why would any ‘natural’ as opposed to artificial or manmade complication, which resulted in the unfortunate termination of the pregnancy, make the fetus, at any stage of its development, from the first union of sperm and ova forward, “lack” a soul?

Perhaps because I am a mother myself, and had the joy of pregnancy three times, and perhaps because I am the mother of one disabled child, I understand not just ‘theoretically’ but ‘practically’ pregnancy, from conception (yes, this can be ‘felt’) to birth. The child is as real to me, as uniquely human in its new DNA, from the second that conception occurred.


“ensoulment” occurs when the sperm and ova meet and a new human being is ‘conceived’

well what you say contradicts other documents from the Holy See I have read, tantum ergo


Why do you think I put the term you used into brackets?

“Ensoulment” is a conception (pardon the pun) that most attribute to Aquinas, who is a Doctor of the Church but not the Pope. Thus, he may be in error on a given point. I am not aware that the Church’s teachings such as Humanae Vitae refer to this ‘term’ which in any case was never a dogma.

The documents of the church such as Humanae Vitae point out that human beings are human beings from conception to natural death. The fact that the biology of what conception is was not so well understood in the 13th century does not mean that the Church erred in accepting what was considered definitive medical knowledge. In so far as what was the definitive field of knowledge, the Church opted for the ‘earliest’ possible definition of life, unlike those who argued that life as such ‘began’ only after birth, or even after the child was ‘weaned’, for example.

Of course, if you’d like to post the documents you have read (which I presume will be authentic and authoritative Church teachings and not merely writings of theologians, even excellent ones), you’re more than welcome to do.
After all, before 1928, penicillin (as Fleming developed it) may have been isolated or unknowingly used, but it was not in any sense ‘available’. A physician treating somebody in even 1900 for a condition which could be cured now by penicillin is not to be blamed that he didn’t use it **then **.


Ypu are making a big mistake here, of accepting Dawkins’ definition of faith as “beleif without evidence, even in the teeth of the evidence”. Actually the Christian understanding is that faith is a combination of loyalty and trust. We must not adopt a too pragmatic, utilitarian attitude, though we can seek our own interests to a very large extent. Faith distinguishes my relationship with the Church from my relationship to Barclay’s bank - I am loyal to Barclays since I have banked with them since childhood, I trust them to hold my money, but I don’t have faith in them because I know none of the board personally, and ultimately the relationship is one of mutual self-interest not of love.


The statement was not “most intelligent, educated groups …”, it was "some of the most intelligent, educated groups in the world do not get this message?

In these groups there are fewer religious members than the general population. This means that fewer of them are getting that message the original post referred to.

Does intelligence and education cause an increase in the sin of pride? That seems unlikely, since these characteristics are usually associated with an overall improvement in general health.


One can improve one’s general health 'til the cows come home, but pride is a sickness of the soul for which intelligence and education are not the necessary cure (though they can contribute to it by growth in knowing the necessity of humility).


I had a friend that was a Nuc Scientist for Westinghouse. His faith in God would put most people that claim to be believers to shame. His faith and that of his family were inspirational to many.

Many in my family hold advanced degrees and we are all of us are Catholic. This is just personal in our case but we aren’t uneducated fools.:shrug:


No doubt there are those. The original post did not say all or most, just that the percentage was very different from the general population, and that’s an interesting why.


My high school science teacher was one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known. And he showed me it was more than possible to be a scientist and a believer at the same time.

The problem is, scientists have been taught to seek proof to prove theories. When it comes to religion, there is no proof. So some scientists, or learned people, will automatically discount religion because it is not provable.

This is lazy. And IMO, it’s only excersing half of our humanity. Yes, science is very important to humanity. But it’s only half the story. Because just as important, and the other half of the story, is being able to believe without proof, to recognize and understand the truth anyway. It’s easy to say “can’t prove it, so it’s not so.” It’s hard to believe and try to discern the truth, recognize when something is speaking to you that you have no tangible proof of. And imo, we become more when we do make that leap of faith to believe in religion. A computer can be programmed for logic. It is human to believe.

I have a biology degree and all my school training in math and science taught me to think logically and how to find proof to validate theories. And that’s how I approach a lot of things in life. However none of that has ever interfered with my ability to believe in God and make that leap of faith to believe in what I could not prove nor see. The two do not put me at odds with either side.

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