On July 29 the Christian News Network reported on a psychology class being taught at Ohio State University. According to the report, the school’s Psychology 1100 class included an online quiz which contained this question:
Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125. Which of the following statements would you expect to be true?
* Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian.
* Aine earns less money than Theo.
* Theo is more liberal than Aine.
* Theo is an atheist, while Aine is a Christian.
The report states that, according to the school, the correct answer is the first one. It is not difficult to decipher the implications of this question/answer–Christians have a lower IQ.
An anonymous student told Campus Reform about this quiz item and he was also quoted in the Christian News Network story saying, “Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity. If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.” That, of course, would be what neutrality means, right? Not judging or belittling or promoting any one religion over another would be what one would expect in an environment that promotes tolerance and understanding, right?
Now, OSU does have a policy that prevents discrimination on the basis of religion, amongst a variety of other things including “gender identity or expression [and] genetic information….” (See the previous four posts for my comments on this issue). And I am certainly not suggesting that this quiz item was part of some nefarious scheme by anyone at OSU to insult Christians or Christianity. Having said that, can you imagine the uproar had this question used Democrats and Republicans instead of Atheists and Christians? How about homosexuals and heterosexuals? Pro-choice versus pro-life? African-American and Caucasian? What if it had said Atheists and Muslims? I don’t think it takes a whole lot of creativity or mental gymnastics to conclude that the reaction would have been swift and severe. Had any group other than Christians been the group insulted by this question there may well have been someone fired over the incident.
Hemant Mehta, in a blog post on Friendly Atheist, wrote of the question, “it just strikes me as a horribly written, too-simplified-to-be-useful question.” Mehta quotes Kaitlyn Schallhorn of Campus Reform stating, accurately, that the question may have been created by a teaching assistant rather than a professor. No doubt. The problem is, Mehta has zoomed in the fact that it is a lousy question, one that would never be permitted in legitimate psychological study while neglecting the content of the question. He is right about the question but, again, had the question been reversed and Aine-the-Atheist been the one with the lower IQ I doubt Mehta would quite so dismissive of the question.
Mehta suggests what he calls a “simpler solution” rather than getting worked up over the question: “Toss the question and have a discussion in class about how to properly interpret studies.” That would be wise, yes. It may also be a good idea, particularly given that this is a psychology class we are talking about, to have a discussion over why the question is so poorly worded and what impact such an assertion could have on the group being maligned by the implication as well as anyone who believed it to be true. Mehta ended his post with this statement: “There’s no reason to jump to the conclusion that it’s somehow evidence of anti-Christian discrimination.” Maybe not, but it is certainly evidence of the double standard that exists in so many places in the United States when it comes to tolerance and respect for Christianity as opposed to tolerance and respect for almost any other belief or position.
Perhaps more concerning than the fact that a teaching assistant (probably) created this question and it made it into the hands of students taking the course is the statement made by an unnamed Ohio State administrator. This individual, according to The Daily Caller, said that the quizzes are created by graduate assistants and are “typically fashioned based on textbook material” (emphasis mine). See all of the “imagine if it was…” examples above and try imagining any college or university utilizing a textbook which asserted such a thing. Imagine any textbook publisher even publishing such a thing!
All told, this incident will soon be forgotten, and it probably should be. But do not forget that the reality is this: the tolerance so loudly championed by most in this country seldom extends to Christians or Christianity. They want you to believe they are tolerant, but don’t expect it to be true.