Saturday, May 28, 2011

Atheistic Gaiaists

Half Sigma, a long-time critic of what he terms the Gaia Cult, contends that the enfeeblement of Christianity in the West has created a religious vacuum that said Gaia worship has increasingly come to fill:
Christianity has been disproved by science, thus some new religion is forming to fill in the void. The human brain is very unhappy unless there is something supernatural to worship.
An atheist himself, HS apparently presumes those of a similar mind on spirituality are similarly antagonistic towards people who promote "green" living:
I observed an atheist rally in DC once, and the people in attendance didn’t strike me as at the Mother Nature worshiping types.
I'd intended to look to the GSS for an empirical take on this, but was disappointed by the dearth of relevant questions in the survey. Well, the 2010 data are now out, and include a new module on the environment.

The following table shows the percentages of people, by theistic confidence (or lack thereof), who show an affinity for the tenets of Gaia worship. For the sake of consistency and ease of viewing, some of the questions have been inverted so that it is always the case that higher percentages indicate greater Gaia worship. To avoid racial confounding, only non-Hispanic whites are included:

Firm theist
Almost everything we do harms the environment
Worry about human progress harming the environment is not excessive
The world cannot support its current rate of population growth
Is willing to pay more in taxes to help the environment
Willing to decrease one's own standard of living for the environment
Protecting the environment is one of the most important things we can do
Threats to the environment are not exaggerated
Decrease own driving for environmental reasons
Global warming is "extremely" dangerous for the environment

The trend is clear and consistent--atheists make the best Gaiaists. As belief in God goes up, adherence to the beliefs of the Gaia Cult go down, with the only real aberration being agnostics' assigning relatively low priority to protecting the environment.

When it comes to Gaia worship anyway, the words "secular" and "right" don't make such strange bedfellows.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Save your sermons for someone who's afraid to love

At a post on Secular Right in the context of the recent apocalyptic predictions by radio broadcaster Harold Camping, Razib muses on the consequences of nerdish supernatural belief on larger society. He mentions how even as a kid he could scarcely identify a spiritual bone in his body:
I have never really believed in the supernatural. As a small child I knew I was supposed to believe in the supernatural, but I honestly had a hard time taking any of it seriously. I have normal human instincts, like getting “spooked” in the cemetery…but my own personal experience with friends visiting cemeteries at night for fun and laughs as a younger man is that actually opening yourself to the possibility of the supernatural naturally changes how you view “creepy” background events (my friends who believed in ghosts were really easy to scare, it was quite fun!) Most of my friends might assent to the proposition that there probably weren’t ghosts in cemetery X, and that that ghosts may not even exist, but most of them did not dismiss out of hand the very possibility of the existence of ghosts. I did.
Since both audacious and epigone are in the name, I won't shy away from comparing myself to Razib here.

I never believed in the existence of ghosts or other supernatural agents, but for as long as I can remember I've always wanted to seek them out and prove myself wrong. As early as first grade, I regularly watched Unsolved Mysteries and other shows dealing with the paranormal in a "serious" way, hoping to find that my skepticism was ignorance. I watched the segments about the supernatural with fondness, figuring that if spirits from beyond this world existed, that really meant God could exist, too. And if God really existed, why would I be afraid of anything? What happens to me doesn't matter. It's not in my hands, because I'm lying in the hands of God.

I never found the stories very compelling, however, and was unconvinced by putative evidence for the existence of the supernatural. More tragically, the gruesomely natural segments about murderers breaking into people's houses at night and killing them scared the piss out of me to the extent that I would regularly sneak into my parents' room and sleep on the floor at night when I couldn't get the intro music and the scary images that followed out of my head (they'd throw me out whenever they heard me crawling in, but oddly never seemed angry in the morning if I'd arrived stealthily enough the night before).

Anyway, conversely my thinking was* that if there is no supernatural, there's probably no God, either. And that means someone could come in an axe me for whatever reason and that'd be the end of it. You're born, life sucks, and then you die. If I wasn't vigilant enough, I'd be one of those who'd die a young and painful death.

* I'd say my thinking is still this way, if not for the fact that I'm, uh, not exactly vigilant anymore, playing lots of risky sports, getting myself into some extremely contentious situations when it isn't necessary, and never locking the front door or either garage door. The latter isn't worth chancing when the result of a misplaced key is having to find a non-destructive way in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

World peace and hair bands

Bruce G. Charlton, a votary of the late Father Seraphim Rose (who I imagined looked something like this, but who actually looks like this), notes his commentary dating back to the early eighties that appears prescient today:
Never has there been more talk of “peace and security” than today. One of the chief organs of the U.N. is the Security Council, and organizations for “world peace” are everywhere. If men do achieve finally a semblance of “peace and security,” it would seem to contemporary man to be a state like heaven on earth – a millennium. The practical way to do this is to unite all governments under one. For the first time in history such a ideal becomes a possible goal of practical politics – a world ruler is conceivable now. For the first time, the Antichrist becomes an historical possibility.
Those are phrases I recall hearing more in my childhood than I do today. Maybe it's just that today I actively avoid the intellectual spots where they're common currency, whereas in the past my volition was still in its adolescence. Google's Ngrams viewer is the place to go to find out:

Without being aware of the larger context in which Rose was writing, the phraseology appears to have been old hat at the time, already on the way out. These grand ideas took form following WWI and as WWII reached its apex, they reached theirs.

That is not to insinuate, however, that Father Rose's concern about a rising one-world system as the "religion of the future" is easily dismissed. In a forthcoming publication, BGC argues that political correctness resides at the heart of this secular religion. Fortunately, he is not alone in having identified this destructive force, which has been part of the Western lexicon for the last couple of decades now:

The first step to combating the beast is to confront it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Women have a little less sex and a couple more partners than they did 20 years ago

A year ago, I looked at the number of sexual partners American men have had over the last couple of decades to see whether or not a trend towards greater sexual promiscuity and general activity, as the Game narrative contends is the case, would be empirically detectable. The data, however, reveal that it has been steady state over that period of time.

This came in the wake of having found it to be clear that men with fewer partners (but at least one, obviously) are the most procreatively successful. I'm skeptical of the conceptualized alpha-beta dichotomy, but when it comes to reproduction, the betas are coming out on top. I've also attempted to measure alpha traits by race, finding a far higher percentage of alpha traits among black men than among white or Hispanic men, and have shown that men who say they would suffer in the place of their lovers (surely a beta move) have more children than men who say they would not (why suffer for a girl when I can just as easily find another one?)

I'm certain I'd planned on doing the same for women, but as I was entering my late-twenties at the time, senility must have kicked in and kicked it off my mental to-do list. Through the miracle of fish oil tablets and yoga*, it found its way back on that list, slated for completion rather than misplacement this time around.

The following graph shows the percentage of all women aged 21-45 by the number of different partners they've had through the course of their adult lives. It's a bit difficult to decipher at first blush, but the ranges are mutually exclusive so that in each year the total percentage of all women falling into one of the six categories based on number of partners comes to 100:

There is an evident decline in the number of women sticking with a single partner over time, corresponding to increases in the percentages of women reporting no and 6-10 partners. Excepting a seemingly random spike in 1996, the trends are pretty continuous. The decline in the number of women with a single partner is presumably a result of the decline in marriage rates over the same period of time, with women who would've married in the past engaging instead in a series of monogamous relationships, or forgoing sex entirely.

The next graph shows the frequency with which women aged 21-45 have had sex over time:

There has been a gentle decrease in the percentage of women having sex at least once a week, as indicated by the light blue and red lines, and a corresponding increase in the percentage getting freaky less often than that. As women have more sex when they're married or in a relationship than when they're not, the decline in marriage rates predictably seems to correspond with a decrease in overall female sexual activity.

In summation, the story over the last couple of decades for women in the US is a slight increase in variety and a slight decrease in frequency.

For objections about the reliability of the data, see here. The consistent discrepancy between male and female self-reported numbers indicates that at least one sex persistently fudges the figures. Veracity may be couched somewhere in between, or simply come out of the mouths of men. Unless the argument is that there has been a change in the degree to which women low-ball and/or men overstate the numbers over time, though, that question is irrelevant to what is reported here.

If anything, I'd guess the female tendency towards understatement is declining, as the social stigmas (especially those of a religious bent) surrounding more active and wide-ranging sexual behaviors of all kinds have been relentlessly whittled away.

GSS variables used: SEXFREQ(1)(2)(3-4)(5)(6-7), NUMMEN(0)(1)(2-5)(6-10)(11-19)(20-250), AGE(21-45), SEX(2), YEAR

* Okay, I'll confess to having only done a yoga routine once in my life (albeit in the last year!), finding it far too slow and light for my tastes. Resistance? Hell yes. Isometrics? Sure. But let's confine stretching to the first three minutes, please!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cremation, politics, and religiosity

A month ago, Agnostic looked at the burying of the burial as conventional postmortem send off in the Great Britain and the US. Cremations were rare on this side of the Atlantic through the sixties, and only began increasing after 1970 (when about 4% of the deceased were incinerated). The popularity of cremation grew steadily from that point on, though, and today for every two corpses lowered into the ground, one is lowered into the flames. He noted:
Since the UK has been secularizing for much longer and at a much greater intensity than North America has, it's no surprise that they've already reached about saturation level, while we still have a ways to go, especially in America. See this map of US states by cremation rates, which looks very much like a map of traditional vs. progressive values.
Indeed it does.

Admittedly I hadn't given it much thought, but I've never had the sense that the question of whether to bury or to cremate was influenced much by political orientation. For the most part, though, the map seems to suggest it, though a geographic divide mitigates that somewhat, with the nation's newest states tending to embrace cremation the most.

Fortunately, a writer for the Scripps Howard News Service has provided state-level rates for 2006. A state's cremation rate and the percentage of its electorate that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 is a moderate but non-negligible .41 (p = .00).

Many Christians believe the deceased will rise again at the Christ's second coming. The gospel of John (5:28-29) explicitly says as much:
Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Consequently, I wondered if religiosity might be a bigger influence on the question than political orientation is. I doubt most sincere believers have consciously thought about the state of their physical bodies at resurrection, to the extent that they think actual flesh and bone will be resurrected at all, but the general tendency for believers to think of life as sacred presumably has spillover effects into areas like the question of how to put family members to rest when they die.

Comparing the percentage of a state's residents who say religion is "very important" in their lives with its cremation percentage yields a strong correlation of .70 (p = 0):

As structured religiosity is pretty close to being an antipode of progressive values, it looks like Agnostic nailed it.

Parenthetically, if you're worried about spending the afterlife in the inferno, it might be wise to instruct those close to you to burn your remains when you're pushed off mortal coil so Mephistopheles won't be able to have at you down the road.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More social justice, please

There probably isn't a phrase that gets under my skin more than "social justice" does. It's wielder gives me an immediate impression of being pretentious, supercilious, accusatory, and self-promoting. And the future promises more of it than even the present does. It's frequency has been doubling every decade for the last three, and it's apex is in the future, not in the past:

The contemporary manifestation of "social justice" must have Thomas Aquinas spinning in his grave.

Monday, May 09, 2011

IQ Wars: McCain voters win

The 2010 GSS data have been released. As Inductivist noted, this is a fun time for quant bloggers. There will be a lot of sifting through special modules for the 2010 battery of questions, but of broader interest are converted IQ averages of voters in the 2008 election. With the post-racial man who putatively put together an autobiographical masterpiece on one side and milfy trailer trash on the other, the last Presidential election should've added an exclamation mark to the trend towards higher IQ Democratic voters and lower IQ Republican ones, yes?

No. Converting the white mean on the wordsum vocabulary test to an IQ of 100 with a standard deviation of 15, the following table shows the average IQ of voters categorized by who they voted for, and then further broken down into groupings based on sex, race, party affiliation, and age (n = 921):

Voted for...
McCain's edge





The sample sizes for non-whites who voted for McCain were simply too small to even be considered mildly suggestive and are consequently not included. Of the 351 respondents who report having voted for him, a whopping five are Hispanic, three are black, and two are Asian.

It's not especially surprising that among all voters, McCain supporters have an IQ edge, since despite all the Senator has done to dilute their population share, whites are the only ones who vote for the GOP. More remarkable is the IQ parity among white Obama and McCain backers. That Obama won the $200,000+ income category has been pointed out by Half Sigma as evidence that smart whites are increasingly finding the Republican party repulsive, but Obama's edge among this affluent group was only 52%-46%, nearly identical to the nationwide popular vote (52.9%-45.7%). The partisan divide among wealthy whites mirrors that of the rest of the country.

Traitorous Republicans and Democrats are both revealed to be less intelligent than their truer compatriots, hardly constituting a novel observation. The spread among independents does come as a bit of a surprise. I'm not sure how to account for it. Maybe the "independent conservative" members of the Savage Nation explain the variance.

McCain's IQ advantage is maintained across the generational spectrum. The Obama youth are more vociferous than they are intelligent. Funny how the McCain advantage is slimmer on each end--among kids full of quixotic notions and the elderly who are losing the ability to digest complicated and detailed information, turning instead to presumed probity and aesthetics to guide them--and thicker among the stone cold middle-aged realists!

Notice how even though the white average is set at 100 and NAMs are included in these figures, the racially inclusive averages are at or above 98, which is generally considered to be the nation's mean IQ. Eligible voter participation rates and IQ correlate at .65 (p=0) at the state level, and both educational and income profiles show the average voter to be considerably more educated and wealthy than the average residents of the most educated and wealthiest states.

Parenthetically, the converted IQ average for third party voters (n = 30) is 105.6. That's fairly predictable, since merely seeking these candidates out requires some degree of intellectual curiosity.

GSS variables used: PRES08, RACECEN(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16), SEX, AGE, PARTYID(0-2)(3)(4-6), WORDSUM, BORN(1)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Scientific literacy by church attendance

In the comments of the last GSS science module post, the question of scientific literacy by attendance at religious services was brought up, the suggestion apparently being that while it's not surprising that believers are less knowledgeable than non-believers are, actual adherence to a religion's requirements and the social implications of belonging to a church select for people more knowledgeable than the average self-described theist, a default category that is defined more by exceptions to it (ie atheists and agnostics) than what it actually describes.

The following table shows differences in responses, by frequency of church attendance (for whites only), to the science module of items deployed by the GSS during 2004 and 2006 (except for the last 3 questions, which were asked in 1993, 1994, and 2000). Attendance is broken up into four groupings: 1) Those who never attend (19.7%), 2) those who attend less than once a month (32.6%), 3) those who attend at least once a month but not every week (21.1%), and 4) those who attend at least weekly and sometimes more frequently than that (26.7%). Some of the questions are inverted from the GSS for viewer ease so that in all cases, the higher the percentage, the more knowledgeable the group is. Green indicates the best performance on the question at hand, black the second best, orange the third best, and red the worst:


Astrology is not scientific65.2
The benefits of science exceed the harms77.4
Understands the need for control groups in testing82.4
Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability93.7
The earth's core is very hot
Not all radioactivity is man-made84.7
Father, not mother, determines a child's sex70.1
Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves78.4
Electrons are smaller than atoms76.3
Antibiotics do not kill viruses60.6
Continental drift has and continues to occur96.1
Humans evolved from other animals76.0
The earth revolves around the sun79.7
It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun77.6
Respondent will eat genetically modified foods73.5
The north pole is on a sheet of ice66.4
Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten48.9
Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death74.5
Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer65.1

Unlike when political party affiliation, race, sex, or belief are considered, no clear trend emerges here. To help facilitate in comprehending the table, I assigned three points to the group that scored highest on a question, two points to second, one point to third, and nothing to last for each of the 19 questions considered. Here's how the totals shake out:

Less than monthly -- 36
Never -- 29
Weekly or more -- 28
Less than weekly -- 21

Among those who are presumably serious in their beliefs (attend at least monthly), those who make it a point to attend at least weekly appear to be more knowledgeable (and probably also more conscientious) than their less disciplined believers. As the commenting impetus to this post suggested, among believers, those who attend are distinct from those who express theism but stay home on Sunday mornings.

Astrology is a pretty conspicuous enemy of (and threat to?) Western religious institutions. Unsurprisingly, people who spend the most time at those institutions are the most skeptical of astrology.

Again the large disparity in responses on the issue of evolution appears. If someone professes that humans did not evolve from primates, it's a better indication of his religious beliefs than it is of his scientific literacy or his level of general intelligence.

The question on continental drift follows the same pattern as the one on evolution, albeit less pronounced. The same thing showed up when theistic confidence was considered. I've never really thought about it, but I suppose young earth creationist types believe the continents were configured at creation just as they are now. Or maybe they've undergone a bit of microdrifting, but not any macrodrifting!


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Women lie more about sexual activity now than they did in the past?

Roissy recently referred to a study conducted nearly a decade ago finding that the male-female discrepancies in self-reported numbers of sexual partners are not equally the fault of each sex, but instead primarily the result of female understatement:
A lot of bloggers like to use GSS (General Social Survey) data to track changes in society’s sexual behavior. Many of these bloggers have found in this data evidence that American women are becoming less slutty in the past ten or twenty years. This does not jibe with my personal experience, so I knew something was amiss. I mused that perhaps American society is bifurcating into two female camps, with the urban blue state camp waving the banner of Team Slut and the religious red state camp hoisting the flag of Team Prude. Since there are more red state godly girls than there are blue state heretic hos, I figured that would account for the overall trend toward less sluttiness.

But studies like the above point out a real problem with sex survey data like that found in the GSS — women just aren’t going to tell you the truth about their sex lives under most normal circumstances, even when anonymity is guaranteed. And that may be the real reason why the GSS gurus are finding chimeras of chasteness that don’t really exist — the data are corrupt.

I'm not sure if this is specifically directed at me or not--Roissy has noted some of my empirically-backed skepticism of the Game narrative in the past, and as far as I'm aware, there aren't many other bloggers tracking sexual activity over time via the GSS. Assuming it is, it doesn't address what I pointed out the data suggest--namely, that sexual promiscuity has essentially been steady state for at least the last 20 years. Unless the insinuation is that women dishonestly understate more today than they understated in the past--a counterintuitive assumption given the perpetual media push towards an ever greater mainstreaming acceptance of female promiscuity--if anything, the finding that women are the less noble sex when it comes to answering anonymous survey questions honestly suggests that female sexual activity might actually be declining slightly, as a recent survey of young adults found.

Roissy might counter that the whole survey business is irredeemably corrupt. That's a difficult charge to positively disprove, but there's no compelling reason to believe it, either. Perhaps there is a steady modal number of sexual partners men have felt compelled to report having had that has no bearing on reality for at least the last few decades, and similarly a steady modal number of sexual partners women feel compelled to report having had that bears no relationship with their actual behavior, but where's the evidence for this? And it's not just self-reported survey data that reveal steady or reduced levels of sexual promiscuity--data collected by the CDC indicate the same thing.

I think Roissy is making the good the enemy of the perfect--of course self-reported data are not going to be entirely accurate. But in the case of sexual behavior, contemporary self-reports are probably, if anything, more accurate than self-reports in the past were, as the social stigmas surrounding sexual behaviors of all kinds have been relentlessly whittled away. Correspondingly, the shame women feel for past sexual behaviors has likely been, if anything, similarly whittled away.