Mailvox: on the distribution of atheist intelligence

Kaneadvice fails to recognize how sampling bias will tend to skew the statistical results:

Every commenter who knows how to use the GSS has been able to disprove the claim of atheist over-representation among the low-IQ population…. Why did Vox fail to conduct an accurate analysis? Was it primarily a cognitive or emotional failing?

Either way, I suspect Vox is smart enough to know he is wrong. Even if his emotions are driving him to go through rationalization gymnastics to justify his faith in theist superiority, the part of his brain that is still thinking logically knows that he has been proven wrong.

I am not wrong. The claim of atheist over-representation among the low-IQ population has not been disproved at all. As it happens, there is absolutely no contradiction between the chart I posted and the charts posted by those who have failed to understand it or recreate it. I charted apples, they charted oranges. It’s actually rather funny that they have had such a difficult time recreating my charts, considering that not only the data, but the second chart I posted, was literally right in front of their eyes. But let’s see if any of you can spot the obvious source of the problem with their critique of my intelligence distribution charts.

What we have here on the left is a normal intelligence distribution chart. I didn’t create it, I didn’t cherry-pick it, and it is literally the first chart to appear when searching “intelligence distribution chart on Google. It’s a standard bell curve.

Now let’s look at the chart on the right, which was produced by indpndnt, who couldn’t recreate the results of my charts despite putting considerable effort into it. What is the obvious difference between these two charts? They both peak at 100, but both lines on indpndnt’s chart clearly overweight the right side at the expense of the left side, especially in the case of the blue God=1 line, which represents the “I don’t believe God exists” answer. Why does it do so? The answer is very simple. I’ll give you one guess.

Can’t figure it out? The answer is that the GSS results are heavily biased towards high intelligence responders. Of the 9,920.5 responses tabulated with the default weighting, 420.8 were in the highest category and only 169.3 were in the lowest. This is not consistent with what we know of intelligence distribution in the general populace. Neither indpndnt nor Daniel Haas noticed this high-IQ bias nor took it into account, and so their results are naturally skewed by it. The consequence is that the legitimately higher percentage of atheists in the highest-IQ category creates an exaggerated effect when the comparison is made to the total number of respondents rather than as a percentage of distinct IQ categories. This is not to charge them with being intellectually dishonest, however, as it is apparent that they simply failed to observe a problem with the dataset. They are not superintelligences, after all.

Even if we simply chart all 9,920.5 responses without regard for religious belief and we exclude the 65- category because there is no corresponding 135+ category, the high IQ bias of the GSS bell curve is apparent. At (114-86) it is +12 percent, at (121-79) it is +40 percent, and at (128-72) it is +28 percent. There are 300 excess 121+ respondents, 13 more than there are total atheist respondents.

Given this statistically significant sampling bias towards respondents of higher intelligence, it should be obvious that the only legitimate way to calculate the intelligent distributions is to utilize the percentage of respondents within each separate category. That is exactly what I did: 8.5 percent of 169 respondents is manifestly a higher percentage than 6.4 percent of 420.8 respondents. All the critics have managed to show here is that 27 is more than 14.4, which is true, but also happens to be irrelevant. The claim stands.

As for the difficulty they had recreating my charts, I will simply show a screen capture of the chart produced by the very GSS site at Berkeley from which I took the data. This is the original chart with the zero column removed for the sake of clarity.

And below is the exact same chart with the non-atheist categories grayed-out and my Calc chart superimposed on top of it. Look familiar? The only difference is one of scale; my X-axis maximum was 7 percent compared to 100 percent for the GSS chart. Given the observed nature of the GSS bias towards higher IQ respondents, the use of percentages rather than numerical totals is more likely to be a statistically credible method than the one utilized by the critics.