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Belief in Evolution vs. National Wealth

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.”

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Uploaded on July 19, 2011