September 29, 2005

Again, bad studies

Okay, so the study on religion and societies ills (my entry here) is hardly to most outstanding item of scholarship. I hear you, Jill.

Instead, let's look at it this way...


  • The US leads the industrialized world in teen pregnancy, child mortality, inequality of income, foolishness of our elected leaders, and violence.
  • The US also leads the industrialized world in religiousness, in the fraction of people who claim to lead a religiously ethical life, and the fraction who claim to make their lives a "shining example" of such choices.
  • There is a disconnect between these facts.
  • There might be some correlation between them, that is, perhaps, religion is not a useful/positive trait at some point in a society or culture's development. Or what people think is "religion" is something perverted to serve the upper-class, or similar.
  • There might not be a correlation between them, that is, the two are either wholly independent, or are caused by some further underlying cause. Let's look at those possibilities:
    • Independent...hmmm...okay, I suppose that leaves us with the null result. The US is highly religious and highly messed up, but they're not connected at all. Could be true, but looking at what the "religious right" wants, or how tightly the religious impulses of the US tie to policy (just think of teen pregnancy, religious groups push "just say no" which certainly could have a different effect than "just say safe sex"), it doesn't feel reasonable.
    • Underlying cause. Okay, there's a lot of theory can go into here. Those in power use religion to hold onto power. People aren't genuinely religious, but are hooked instead to the power dynamic. Or a Marxist take. The ruling class still has more power in the US, therefore they keep the population drugged with theology. Or any number of other theories.

  • This study/paper implies a strong connection between religion and social ills. Though the methodology isn't so hot, can we rule out the conclusion? I'm not sure. We might be able to, perhaps even by a statistical arguement. The US is an extreme outrider on ALL of the distributions. Maybe there's evidence for an additional variable?

Posted by duver001 at September 29, 2005 3:35 PM