Tricky Stats

One of the letters in this weeks New Scientist reports the reassuring facts that, despite the antics of various school boards and the attempts of numerous kook religion sites, Creationism is in decline. This is good news, and personally I would like nothing more than to think it was true – in fact if you base your analysis on my personal experience, then hardly anyone believes the creationist nonsense.

Sadly, I am not (yet) fully convinced that this is the true description of the world.

Now, the letter in NS helpfully produces some figures to support its claim. This is nearly always a good thing but this time it seems to be a touch confusing. Look at this:

Since the 1980s in the US the fundamentalist opinion that Adam and Eve were created a few thousand years before the pyramids has held fairly steady at between 43 and 47 per cent, with the lowest value occurring in 2007.

OK, it seems reasonable to take from that sentence the idea that creationism fluctuates around 45%, give or take 2%. While it is reassuring to see creationism is at its lowest last year, that is not really a decline.

Interestingly the numbers are compared with:

The number believing in human evolution under the guidance of God has stayed between 35 and 40 per cent.

The number agreeing with the scientific consensus that evolution occurred without a god has risen from 9 or 11 per cent at the end of the 20th century to a high of 14 per cent in 2007.

Sadly, this is less reassuring. I am not sure how three effectively stable sets of numbers can be used to show creationism is in decline. Equally, (admittedly ignoring the variation with the start figure of proper evolution) the numbers all show basically the same variation. Going from 11% to 14% is not a significant change when 47% – 43% is described as “fairly steady.”

As far as I can see, from the three sets of figures here, the numbers are all basically “steady.” All have about a 5% spread which seems to fluctuate. This is, in itself, not a downward trend for creationism.

Can anyone else show more positive figures?

Equally lacking in comfort to the rational is the information that, in the worlds only superpower, a nation with the ability to destroy every living person:

Remarkably, the number taking the Bible literally has steadily sunk from about 40 per cent in the 1970s – nearly matching those who then favoured the Genesis story – to between a third and a quarter.

So, at best, 25% of people still take the Bible literally. Wow. Scary wow.


Once again, I am trusting that something isn’t a spoof site. I am none too confident but conservapedia seems authentic. I mean it’s not THAT funny, if it’s a joke.

“A conservative encyclopedia you can trust. The truth shall set you free.”

Well, OK, that bit’s funny. It suggests legions of dodgy door-to-door salesmen trying to flog “untrustworthy” conservative encyclopaedias.

I have to share some of the gems, starting with its atheism entry:

Atheists often equivocate that they actually have a lack of belief in any God, as opposed to having the positive belief that there is no God. This equivocation stems from the fact that if they hold positive beliefs, then their worldview can be categorized as a religion.

(As I suspected, my standard Chambers dictionary defines equivocate as “to use doubtful words to avoid answering a question.” I am lost as to why they use the word here but I guess there is not yet a working conservictionary.)

See what I mean? It’s not really funny. But it can hardly be serious.

Don’t make me spell this out AGAIN….. (Bah, too late, I am wound up and impelled to do it.)

I am pretty positive that the coffee cup I am drinking from is not embedded in my PC’s hard drive (although the PC’s random behaviour might raise this as an acceptable explanation).
In fact, I could admit to being fully positive about this belief. But I am not going to build a religion round it.

I tried to find a topic to look. I was distracted by the debate over the front page Bible quote. It is indeed quite hard to understand why “Conservative” necessarily equals “Christian”. I guess Liberation Theology never made much headway in the MidWest.

It is interesting that the christian right seem able to hijack both Christianity and political conservatism to create a truly mind-numbing worldview. I would have to question my own bigotry if I found myself seeing all Christians as right-wing bigots and all political conservatives as fundamentalist nutters. But these people just seem to want to lie invitations to kneejerk bigotry on a plate. (Labelling theory in action, for any sociologists?)

When I say “mind-numbing worldview,” I am confessing my own inability to even focus on the rest of this stuff for more than a minute or two. Otherwise it brings on almost a panic attack relating to the future of the survival of the human race.

I can handle argument with people who disagree with me. That’s how we learn, surely, by questioning our assumptions. The Socratic dialogue, and so on. I would welcome reading arguments that were coherent and thought out and might make me reconsider my kneejerk “progressive” assumptions.

But there seems to be nothing there except repeating ideas that have handed down from one set of bigots to another, without any brain tissue being engaged at all, and with the folly getting concentrated over time.

There was supposed to be some sort of progression for our species, by the 21st century, surely? “Surely?”, she rages incoherently, shaking her fist at non-existent deity, in a Homer Simpsonesque way. Bah.

[tags]atheism, conservapedia, learning, logic, religion, religious-right, right-wing, society[/tags]