Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Religion damages society? Take 2

The short & clever comment award goes to K-LO at NRO:
HEAVEN HELP US [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
No, wait. I guess that won't work, according to this study: "Widespread Belief in Creator Increases Crime, Death & Disease."
Thanks to the miracles of a TECHNORATI search, here are links to some other blogger's comments on Gary Paul's article "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look" and the corresponding TIMES article.
Besides using TECHNORATI searches, people have found my blog by following a Blogsnow search of blogs linking to the TIMES article. There are currently 260 blogs listed, with yours truly at #2 chronologically.

Following links from a related TECHNORATI search, I found Uncommon Descent, which noted that Mr. Paul is a palaeontologist and pointed me at this transcript:
GREGORY PAUL: Being a palaeontologist, I've for many years had to deal with the issue of creationism verus evolutionary science in this country.

The United States is pretty much the only prosperous democracy where religion is still highly popular, with about two-thirds of the population absolutely believing in God, and creationism being very popular in among half of society.

In all the other prosperous democracies religion is much less popular now and evolution is highly accepted. So it's an issue, it's a problem I had to deal with.
Based on that interview, I'd say that Mr. Paul has an axe to grind! Now it becomes obvious why he spent so much of his article on evolution versus creationism. The interviewer, Julia Limb, also talked with a Melbourne professor of sociology, who provided some counterweight:
JULIA LIMB: But Gary Bouma, who is Professor of Sociology at Monash University in Melbourne and an Anglican priest, says the research is flawed.

GARY BOUMA: This kind of argument goes around and around and of course it comes up again now in the context of the "intelligent design" debate when he is deciding to, as a palaeontologist to make a contribution, but he doesn't stick to his field of palaeontology, he goes into the field of what I would call sociology without preparation or evidence or discipline and make some assertions about it.

JULIA LIMB: And Professor Bouma questions Mr Paul's spin on the data he's compared.

GARY BOUMA: He hasn't provided the argument about how it is that religion might explain this kind of association, why it is that more religious country would be more prone to the kinds of social disorganisation that he mentions, such as a high murder rate and a high teenage pregnancy rate.

I'm sorry, the causes for those things are much more likely to be found in other explanations than religious ones.

I totally agree with the Professor Bouma!

[Update 9/29, 12:00] Also check Joseph Farah's commentary at World Net Daily. (Hat tip to Hit & Run)

[Update 10/4, 3:00] Kenny Pierce pointed me to the excellent statistical review at Magic Statistics, "From our bulging How not to do statistics file."