Authors of article on IQ, religiosity and crime retract it to do “a level of vetting we should have done before submitting”

The authors of a paper that some critics have labeled white supremacy in academic robes say they will be retracting the article because some of the data they’d used for their analysis were “highly questionable.” 

The January 2020 article, from a group led by Cory Clark, of Heterodox Academy and New York University, was titled “Declines in religiosity predict increases in violent crime—but not among countries with relatively high average IQ.”  

Appearing in Psychological Science, the flagship publication of the Association for Psychological Science, the paper argued that:

Many scholars have argued that religion reduces violent behavior within human social groups. Here, we tested whether intelligence moderates this relationship. We hypothesized that religion would have greater utility for regulating violent behavior among societies with relatively lower average IQs than among societies with relatively more cognitively gifted citizens. Two studies supported this hypothesis. Study 1, a longitudinal analysis from 1945 to 2010 (with up to 176 countries and 1,046 observations), demonstrated that declines in religiosity were associated with increases in homicide rates—but only in countries with relatively low average IQs. Study 2, a multiverse analysis (171 models) using modern data (97–195 countries) and various controls, consistently confirmed that lower rates of religiosity were more strongly associated with higher homicide rates in countries with lower average IQ. These findings raise questions about how secularization might differentially affect groups of different mean cognitive ability.

The authors, who included Roy Baumeister, a prominent but controversial Australian social psychologist, were for their conclusions before they were against them. 

But as a chorus of criticism of their work mounted — such as this post by statistician Andrew Gelman — they said, they reanalyzed their sources and decided that some were not reliable.  (The supplemental data materials are available for anyone who wants to go through them.) As one Twitter user wrote: 

Clark and her colleagues yesterday tweeted about the decision:

The journal so far has not issued any statements about the article. On Monday, Stephen Lindsay, the editor-in-chief when the article was published, tweeted:

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5 thoughts on “Authors of article on IQ, religiosity and crime retract it to do “a level of vetting we should have done before submitting””

  1. I live in Minnesota, not far from Lake Wobegon, “… where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

    Garrison Keillor

  2. A comment on Andrew Gelman’s post:

    Basically, I think the Clark et al. article was/is an attempt to legitimize the “national IQ” dataset they rely on, which is derived from an online compilation by some race-IQ fan that attempts to update Richard Lynn’s total-crap national IQ data from decades past. None of the very obvious criticisms of this dataset that could be made are in the Clark et al. paper.

  3. Wasn’t social psychology supposed to reassess its underpinning points of reference and derived dogmas before making anymore sensational sweeping conclusions based on shoddy single-study papers in poorly refereed journals?

  4. Oh yeah that’s right during the scientific and industrial Era Christians didn’t invent anything at all? Might want to check the patent office. They didn’t come with freest and greatest country in the world either I suppose. These studies are ridiculous and are the reason government funding should not be allowed in science otherwise the findings always reflect ideology and not science.

  5. I wish the post would have given the authors more credit for doing the right thing. Journals and authors are very reluctant to retract articles and many equally flawed articles are still not retracted because authors refuse to admit their mistakes.

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