Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Lovely commentary here from Keith Burgess-Jackson, also known as The Anal Philosopher:
Is there any evidence that religious people are less intelligent than nonreligious people? I’ve never seen any. Some of the greatest thinkers in the history of humankind have been devout theists. Thomas Aquinas was a theist. Isaac Newton was a theist. RenĂ© Descartes was a theist. Immanuel Kant was a theist. William James was a theist. Ludwig Wittgenstein was a theist. What are we to say of these people: that they’re stupid? But we know on independent grounds that they were the opposite of stupid. They were fabulously intelligent. They were brilliant. I’ve been teaching philosophy of religion for more than twenty years. I can assure you that theists hold their own in intellectual contests with atheists. If they didn'’t, or couldn’'t, there would be nothing for me to teach. Read some Aquinas if you don’t believe me. He'’ll run intellectual circles around you. In my discipline, philosophy, there are as many theists as there are atheists. The ratio of atheists to theists may be higher among philosophers than among people generally, but if the hypothesis of stupidity is correct, shouldn'’t the ratio be extraordinarily high in a field such as philosophy, which attracts people of such impressive intelligence? Shouldn'’t it be extremely unusual to find a theist in a philosophy department? I can assure you that it’'s not. Many of the best philosophers in the world today are theists: William P. Alston, Peter van Inwagen, Marilyn McCord Adams, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Philip L. Quinn, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne. See here. They work not just in philosophy of religion but in epistemology and metaphysics. They are as hard-headed, rigorous, and intellectually demanding as anyone, anywhere, in any field.
I've said it here before, but I'll say it again. Political divisions are not about smarts. It's about where you locate transcendent authority. You can only have two choices: a transcendent God or yourself. But there is a problem with the second choice. If it's true, then there is no such thing as choice. Nevertheless, there are many smart and decent people who take the second choice and then erect very elaborate theories on it. Because they are smart, and because this second choice *appears* to place few if any obligations on its adherents, others find those theories attractive.

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