Quick Quiz O’ The Day: What do you get when you marry an abysmal knowledge of history, a sublime narcissism, an ignorance of the nature of evidence, a perverse hatred of religion and a mania for scientism proselytization?
Answer: Chris Mooney (Richard Dawkins would also have been accepted).
Mooney is a far-left numerologist who is ever highlighting occult patterns in numbers (which only “researchers” can see) which “prove” that those to the right of Mooney are blighted, benighted, and bamboozled. It’s a sad show, but sadder is that he finds a steady audience—mainly those raised to have high self-esteem.
His latest effort to show his self worth is in Mother Jones, in an article entitled “Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All.”
Hey, Mooney! Where would science be without Christianity?
Oh, never mind. There’s no use asking a man impervious to evidence. Indeed, what follows below nearly useless; nevertheless, I provide it as a public service to the few curious left in our culture.
Mooney, relying on peer-reviewed research, claims, “higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation” but only “when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education.”
Uh oh. “Controlling for” is tell-tale that statistics are happening, that data has been massaged, perhaps even tortured.
First, the researchers looked at the raw data on patents per capita (taken from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s data) and religiosity (based on the following question from the World Values Survey: “Independently of whether you go to church or not, would you say you are: a religious person, not a religious person, a convinced atheist, don’t know”). And they found a “strong negative relationship” between the two. In other words, for countries around the world, more religion was tied to fewer patents per individual residing in the country.
Hey, Mooney! Are the number of patents per capita a measure of innovation or legal strangulation? After all, in these once United States we now allow patents on software—software! And how many companies exist just to buy patents in order to sue “infringers”? And aren’t the number of patents more a function of the corporate-bureaucrat arms race than the religious beliefs of their filers? And thus the “strong negative relationship” can just as easily be stated: As Religion Decreases, Legalism Increases?
Ah, skip it. Facts like this are like BBs on a rhino’s hide. Anyway, the “researchers” knew their data in raw form would never fly, so they started controlling “for no less than five other standard variables related to innovation”. They then took the residuals—the residuals!—from this regression and made this plot (taken from Mooney’s piece):
Everything about this plot depresses me. First, it is built on the leavings of a highly questionable statistical model (applied by reflex). Second, these wee dots give the appearance of precision which does not exist. The “religiosity” for an entire country, garnered by small samples, is really representative of the entire population?
Hey, Mooney! Are all religions equivalent?
Hmm, well we know how he’d answer that. So back to the dots, which again are partly “residuals” from an ill-conceived model, partly “religiosity”. The things “controlled” for—“population, levels of economic development, levels of foreign investment, educational levels, and intellectual property protections”—are scarcely identical in each country, and neither can they be measured to equal precision. Yet the plot pretends they are.
Ideally, the plot should never be made, for it is a farce. But if one were in a situation where the criticisms above held (for real, actually quantifiable variables) then the thing to do is to size the dots to indicate uncertainty. Since these are part-residuals, part-survey, the dots would be quite sizable, maybe something like this:
Pretty hard to posture and pontificate over a plot like this. But Mooney (and the researchers) conclude, “Religiosity stifles innovation, but at the same time, innovation and science weaken religiosity.”
Rot. The plot equally “proves” that lack of religion emboldens lawyers, or increasing government encourages legalism. That the authors never see this is also proof of their anti-religion bias.
Thanks to the reader whose name I lost for sending this in.