Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 392–403 | Cite as

Why is Intelligence Negatively Associated with Religiousness?

  • Edward DuttonEmail author
  • Dimitri Van der Linden
Theoretical Article


We present three models which attempt to explain the robust negative association between religion and intelligence: the Irrationality of Religion Model, the Cultural Mediation Hypothesis, and the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis. We highlight problems with each of them and propose that the negative religion-IQ nexus can be understood through substantially revising the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis. We argue that religion should be regarded as an evolved domain or instinct. Intelligence, by contrast, involves rising above our instincts. It follows that an inclination toward the non-instinctive will thus be an aspect of intelligence because it will help us to solve problems. Thus, intelligence will involve being attracted to evolutionary mismatch, to that which we would not be instinctively evolved to be attracted to. It is this, we argue, that is behind the negative religion-intelligence nexus. We respond to potential criticisms of our model and we examine how this model can be further tested.


Religion Cultural Mediation Hypothesis Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis Evolutionary mismatch Intelligence 



We would like to thank Michael Woodley of Menie and Curtis Dunkel for their helpful comments on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ulster Institute for Social ResearchLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Education and Child StudiesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamthe Netherlands

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