Class - Applied Statistics

# Correlation of Non-Procreative Sex & Lack of Traditional Religion

Gallup has published two new polls. The first estimates the percent of those desiring non-procreative sex in each state. The second guesses the percent of non-affiliation with traditional religion (Christianity). We can learn some simple statistics by examining both together.

The first poll is “Vermont Leads States in LGBT Identification“, which is slightly misleading. Vermont comes in at 5.3% sexually non-procreative, but Washington DC is a whopping (and unsurprising) 8.6%. South Dakota is the most procreative (relatively speaking) state at only 2%.

This assumes, as all these polls do, that everybody tells the truth. That’s a suspect assumption here—in both directions. People in more traditional places might be reluctant to admit desiring non-procreative sex, while those in hipper locales might be too anxious. So, there is a healthy plus-or-minus attached to official numbers. Gallup puts this at +/- 0.2 to 1.6 percent, depending on the sample from each state. But that’s only the mathematical uncertainty, strictly dependent on model assumptions. It does not include lying, which must bump up the numbers. By how much nobody knows.

Poll number two is “The Religious Regions of the U.S.“, which is “based on how important people say religion is to them and how often they attend religious services.” Make that traditional religious services. The official religion of the State is practiced by many, though they usually don’t admit to that religion being a religion, and those who say they don’t attend services may still dabble in yoga, equality, and so forth. This makes the best interpretation of “not religious” as used in the poll as “not traditionally religious”, which is to say, not Christian (for most the country). The official +/- are 3-6%, depending on the state.

Here is what statisticians call a correlation:

A glance suggests that as traditional irreligion (henceforth just irreligion) increases, so too does non-procreative sex. But there is no notion of direction of cause. It’s plausible, and even confirmed in some cases, that lack of religion drives people to identify as sexually non-procreative. But it’s also possible, and also confirmed by observation, that an increase in numbers of sexually non-procreative causes others to abandon traditional religion.

Now “cause” here is used in a loose sense, as one cause of many, but a notable one. It takes more than just non-procreative sex for a person to abandon Christianity, and it takes more than abandoning Christianity to become sexually non-procreative. And, indeed, the lack of cause is also possible. Some sexually non-procreative remain religious, and most atheists are not sexually non-procreative (but see this).

All this means is that imputing cause from this plot cannot be done directly. It has to be done indirectly, with great caution, and by using evidence beyond the data of the plot. Here, the causes, if confirmed, are weak in the sense that they are only one of many. Obviously some thing or things cause a person to abandon traditional (assuming they held it!), and some thing or things cause a person to become sexually non-procreative. Religion and the presence of non-procreative sex are only one of these causes, and even not causes at all in some cases.

The best that we can therefore do is correlation. We can use the data to predict uncertainty. But in what? All 50 states plus DC have already been sampled. We don’t need to predict a state. We do not need any statistical model or technique—including hypothesis testing or wee p-values—if our interest is in states. Any hypothesis test would be badly, badly misplaced. We already know we cannot identify cause, so what would a hypothesis test tell us? Nothing.

Now states are not homogeneous. New York, for instance, is one tiny but well-populated progressive enclave appended on a massive but scarcely populated traditionalist mass (with some exceptions in the interior). If we assume the data will be relevant and valid for intra-state regions, then we can use it to predict uncertainty.

For instance, counties. If we knew a county’s percent of irreligion, we could predict the uncertainty in the percent of sexually non-procreative. Like this:

That envelope says, given all the assumptions, the old data, and assuming a regression is a reasonable approximation (with “flat priors”), there is an 80% a county’s percent sexual non-procreative would lie between the two lines, given a fixed percent irreligion. This also assumes the data are perfectly measured, which we know they are not. But since we do not know how this would add formally to the uncertainty, we have to do this informally, mentally widening the distance between the two lines by at least a couple of percent. Or by reducing that 80%.

Example: if percent irreligion is 20%, there is less than an 80% chance percent non-procreative sexually is 2.1-4.2%. And percent irreligion is 40%, there is less than an 80% chance percent non-procreative sexually is 3.1-5.2%.

These probabilities are exact given we accept the premises. We can already see, however, the model is weak; it does not explain places like DC. How would it work in San Francisco? Or Grand Rapids, Michigan?

### 12 replies »

1. This reminds me of the well-known study

“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”

by Gregory S. Paul.

It showed that adherence to traditional religion is strongly correlated with measures of societal dysfunction, for example rates of murder, suicide, teenage venereal diseases, abortion, etc. In all measures except one, the degree of religious observance was correlated with higher rates of societal decay; the exception was charitable giving.

2. Sheri says:

Lee—You’ve proved that statistics can say anything you want to be true.

The only thing we can say with certainty is LGBT was ALWAYS A CHOICE, never were people “born” that way. That’s been a LIE from the beginning, dragging false “science” in to hide the fact that this was what a person chose. It’s all very, very dishonest. That in itself tells you the activity is not moral or right. If you have to lie to sell something, that something is wrong and bad.

3. Ken says:

Most won’t notice this but reconsider the following statement by Briggs regarding the survey figures regarding non-procreative:

“This assumes, as all these polls do, that everybody tells the truth. That’s a suspect assumption here—in both directions. People in more traditional places might be reluctant to admit desiring non-procreative sex, while those in hipper locales might be too anxious. So, there is a healthy plus-or-minus attached to official numbers. Gallup puts this at +/- 0.2 to 1.6 percent, depending on the sample from each state. But that’s only the mathematical uncertainty, strictly dependent on model assumptions. It does not include lying, which must bump up the numbers. By how much nobody knows.”

Notice anything there, or elsewhere thru-out the essay?

The error estimates of the non-straight respondents are questioned (and rightly so).

But not a peep about the uncertainty in the “Christian” numbers. Those figures are more or less simply accepted.

Anyone who’s observed so-called “Christians” in action for any length of time cannot escape the rank hypocrisy and overt evilness by so many of them. Which raises what should be an obvious question, why not also distinguish between the genuine and fraudulent?

Whatever the percent, or fraction of a percent, of uncertainty in the non-straight figures, the proportion of self-proclaiming Christians who routinely do evil is higher by orders of magnitude relative to the non-straight subgroup — easily tens of percentage points and undoubtedly overwhelming the non-straight figures by a wide margin. When the larger group is larger by orders of magnitude, it doesn’t take much of a minority of that group to overwhelm the other, external, group that’s already tiny by comparison.

That makes the entire analysis even more ridiculous, as if it weren’t ridiculous enough already.

What’s better, a society with overtly honest LGBTs (or whatever) who abide by basic customs & courtesies and law in their interactions among other citizens (whose “sinful” behavior, if you believe that, only affects them), or, a group of homogeneous “Christians” attesting to the same basic values but also containing a sizable proportion of ‘holier-than-thou’ evangelizing hypocrites whose misbehavior the rest of the group feigns ignorance?

The first is a society in which a kind of honesty prevails, the other something along the lines of what’s observed in the behavior of North Korean citizens who assert the way things are [even when they aren’t that way at all] — and make no mistake, some/many church congregations present every bit as much the posturing & hypocritical facades of their dysfunctional congregations as North Koreans do of their society (one can at least, to a point, forgive the N. Korean citizen so engaged in such posturing as their behavior ensures survival/avoidance of horrific torturous death while so many in free societies act similarly out of selfish, often petty, convenience).

Rev 3-15 I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. 16 So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth!

Clearly, honest ice cold extremists may have much more than an edge over luke-warmers.

4. Michael 2 says:

Responding to Lee: “adherence to traditional religion is strongly correlated with measures of societal dysfunction”

How can it be otherwise? Traditional religion defines function and dysfunction! Without traditional religion (by which I presume the author means Judeo/Christianity) adultery goes away as a dysfunction and becomes a reproductive strategy; one of many such things. Murder simply becomes a way to eliminate competition and thus is another reproductive strategy. In Sociology there is no crime; there is only power. Do I have the power to compel you to do something or not do something else?

The more meaningful correlation is “self” or selfishness. Persons seeking non-reproductive sex are, in my opinion, ignoring reproduction. Pleasure is the goal: Drugs, drinking, sex, aggressive noises occasionally mislabeled “music”.

Ultimately it is all reproductive forces but misdirected. Your instinct to provide for a family becomes diverted into a video game without responsibility. Your instinct to start a family is diverted into LGBTQIRSFORM1040 without responsibility.

5. Joy says:

I agree with Ken and Michael 2! at the same time so that makes me purple!

6. per says:

Ken,

The entire notion of quantifying traditional religiosity is absurd. Even if religiosity had precise definitions, the role of lying and misunderstanding would make the measurement even more ridiculous. Briggs did not have to mention it, because it is obvious and he has written about it before. The mention of sexual honesty seemed to me just enough to make the graph or analysis obviously absurd.

7. I guess we can suppose that “non-procreative sex” refers to sexual activity for purposes other than procreation. For example, a couple who confines their coitus to times of the month where conception is unlikely to occur is engaging in non-procreative sex, by definition.

8. JH says:

Lee Phillips, it is clear what the survey question is. When LGBT issues arise, some people can only think of sexual activities, and forget that LGBT people are also human beings. Perhaps, seeing LGBT people via their sexuality is a form of “re-purposing” (a word used by True Faith). Re-purposing with a purpose.

——

These probabilities are exact given we accept the premises. We can already see, however, the model is weak; it does not explain places like DC. How would it work in San Francisco? Or Grand Rapids, Michigan?

I sure hope that the numbers spit out by a computer program are accurate. The money is on what and why the assumptions/premises are appropriate or acceptable for the data.

Basically, no inference made in this post is reliable. It also seems that Briggs is trying very hard to show his prejudice.

9. Michael 2 says:

JH writes: “When LGBT issues arise, some people can only think of sexual activities”

Perhaps there’s a clue hidden in the presumed meaning of the letters: L (Lesbian), G (Gay), B (Bisexual) and T (Transgender). The first three are defined by sexual activity and the fourth by sexual parts or mind. That’s the short version. Several longer versions exist and sometimes I change the ordering of the letters since there’s no reason for “L” to always be first. It would be rational to put them in alphabetical order: BGLT but then it sounds too much like a sandwich.

Clearly then, “some people” understand language in a conventional manner.

This commenting on the obvious is echoed by Lee Phillips, who writes “I guess we can suppose that ‘non-procreative sex’ refers to sexual activity for purposes other than procreation.”

So it seems.

10. Michael 2 says:

Ken asks “why not also distinguish between the genuine and fraudulent?”

Because in matters of religion, only God can succeed. In today’s United States, if you claim to be something then challenging your assertion is seldom permitted. A man claiming to be a woman might be genuine, might be fraudulent, how can this be determined? It cannot; in part because “man” has no definition neither “woman”.

Whichever religion is dominant in a region is likely to attract fraudulent subscribers for various reasons particularly where prestige, power or money is involved. A recent phenomenon seems to be the advent of fake atheists.

Somehow that brings to my mind the subtle difference between always telling the whole truth versus not bearing false witness.

11. Michael 2 says:

JH writes “I sure hope that the numbers spit out by a computer program are accurate.”

They will be what they were told to make. Computers are deterministic engines, not creative, not oracles, not seeing the future.

12. acricketchirps says:

Man, nothing like a bacon, goat, lettuce and tomato on toasted rye.