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Belief in Evolution vs. National Wealth

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Graph by Tony Piro. Please keep it mind that it shows a correlation, not causation.

It is a very similar curve to that found in a Pew survey of 45,000 people globally (and includes Africa).

In his book, The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris offers a commentary on the U.S. as outlier:
“While most developed societies have grown predominantly secular, with the curious exception of the United States, orthodox religion is in florid bloom throughout the developing world.

Religiosity is strongly coupled to perceptions of societal insecurity. In addition to being the most religious of developed nations, the United States also has the greatest economic inequality. The poor tend to be more religious than the rich, both within and between nations.

And on almost every measure of societal health, the least religious countries are better off than the most religious.” (p.146)

But there may be more to it. Americans believe all kinds of crazy stuff, and it begs the question whether it correlates with insecurities as well.

In a class I co-taught with Larry Lessig, we used a pre-print of Posner’s book, Catastrophe: Risk and Response, which relates the following statistics on American adults:
• 39% believe astrology is scientific (astrology, not astronomy).
• 33% believe in ghosts and communication with the dead.

Ponder that for a moment. One out of every three U.S. adults believes in ghosts. Who knows what their kids think!

People’s willingness to believe untruths relates to the ability of the average person to reason critically about reality. Here are some less amusing statistics on American adults:
• 49% don’t know that it takes a year for the earth to revolve around the sun.
• 67% don't know what a molecule is.
• 80% can't understand the NY Times Tuesday science section.

Posner concludes: “It is possible that science is valued by most Americans as another form of magic.”

opacity, Jun Seita, manuelm, dsyzdek, and 21 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. jurvetson 33 months ago | reply

    Bhanu_60: It's not kooky. Just like the chickenosaurus

    Screen shot 2011-06-07 at 12.34.12 PM

    Dave - Ha! And you're betting that he does not read much online.... ;-)

  2. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Good one, I wanted to tell Dave the same exact thing... about his brother-in-law:) funny:)

  3. Bhanu_60 33 months ago | reply

    Wonder when they r going to create the chickenosaurus?

  4. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Modern world: reading the book already:)

  5. Bhanu_60 33 months ago | reply

    :) You mean Kindle or something?

  6. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Nope, old-fashioned way:) tired of looking at electronic screen... evolution is a scientific fact, still...and IF humans are a hybrid between evolved monkeys and some factor X which is alien race in fact... it might be all depends... I love Lucy:D... but it might be a reason why we are "radiant mankind" in disguise:) work in progress...

  7. Astrocatou 33 months ago | reply

    "IF humans are a hybrid between evolved monkeys and some factor X which is alien race in fact"....
    ?
    I think that was "Planet of the Apes"...
    Where did you read this theory...?

  8. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Not really:) maybe we are not even evolving forward but backwards...where we came from in the first place...life is full of paradoxes:)

  9. Astrocatou 33 months ago | reply

    Hi
    Just curious as it was a pretty strange idea..

    As far as evolving backwards....that makes some sense to me..!
    Seems like monkey business is increasing...:)
    There is actually some serious consideration that we "started off" here via a meteorite landing in our primordial soup.

    Sort of like when milk turns into yogurt.

  10. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Actually, lately my reading goes backwards: dreaming up some idea twist first and books come thereafter:) anthenas I guess:D someday there will be a book...

  11. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Factor X is just that..."black box" no answers to why or how...like quantum computation...reached human boundary condition...you can let it happen and let it be...rationalizing it meaningless...mystery...harmless enigma.

  12. vennettaj 33 months ago | reply

    scientology comes to mind :p

  13. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    Vennetaj, ideas come in clusters: cinderella with ugly sisters...this one is really ugly:D

  14. vennettaj 33 months ago | reply

    yeah...other religious believes look mild in comparison :) even though i don't know that much about their practices..

  15. solerena 33 months ago | reply

    :) oh, good for you:) neither do I...

  16. KadoKeshi 33 months ago | reply

    "Believe" in evolution? Evolution is a scientific theory (and not a hypothesis). You either accept it or not accept it.

  17. Olli1999 32 months ago | reply

    I find it interesting that other wealthy countries with deeply rooted religious views (Kuwait, Indonesia, etc.) are missing in the graph. I bet they were outliers in the graph, too.

  18. jurvetson 32 months ago | reply

    Yes for Kuwait, no for Indonesia (not that rich). If you look at the Pew chart that is in my first comment above, you'll see Kuwait as an outlier. Indonesia is "on the curve".

    You can look at the original Pew data here. On p.52., for example, you can see that 77% of Indonesian Muslims think that men and women should be allowed to work in the same workplace, and this is the highest percentage of any Muslim nation surveyed. Malaysia is opposite, with 80% of Muslims saying they should not be in the same workplace.

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