Abstract Argument (v. 1)

Abstract Argument — By on March 31, 2007 at 1:01 am

This series presents an abstract from a journal article as a proposition for debate. Knowledge of the article itself is not assumed and is not required to participate in the discussion. Any points within the following abstract are open for consideration:

In the United States, religious attendance rises sharply with education across individuals, but religious attendance declines sharply with education across denominations. This puzzle is explained if education both increases the returns to social connection and reduces the extent of religious belief, and if beliefs are closely linked to denominations.
The positive effect of education on social connection is the result of both treatment and selection: schooling creates social skills and people who are good at sitting still. And, people who are innately better at listening have lower costs of both school and social activities, such as church. The negative effect of education on religious belief occurs because secular education emphasizes secular beliefs that are at odds with many traditional religious views.

From: Education and Religion (2001) Edward L. Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote



  • Ludwig

    “The negative effect of education on religious belief occurs because secular education emphasizes secular beliefs that are at odds with many traditional religious views.”
    Indeed. And while religion may consider this a negative,the fact is that people are better served by an education that teaches them to deal with the available evidence from a rational perspective,instead of appealing to magic to explain the various aspects of the world. The reason why secular SCIENCE is at odds with “traditional religious views” is simply that those view WERE IN ERROR.

  • J. J.

    The reason why secular SCIENCE is at odds with “traditional religious views” is simply that those view WERE IN ERROR.
    Yes, and science has never been in error.
    Okay, now this is the point at which you sputter “…But, but….but science is SELF-CORRECTING!”. Fine, so now you expect me to be a true believer in things that could be “corrected” tomorrow, instead of principles which have lasted thousands of years and never been overturned.
    It seems to me that science has become far more of a religion for its “true believers” than even for the traditional religionists of our day. Let’s face it, if your front yard is the world of science, what you know is about one blade of grass. Perhaps the greatest scientists ever would amount to a 2×2 piece of sod. If choosing a life philosophy based on things you could never possibly understand just because some gurus of a movement “said so” isn’t a religion, what is?

  • Ludwig

    “Okay, now this is the point at which you sputter “…But, but….but science is SELF-CORRECTING!”. Fine, so now you expect me to be a true believer in things that could be “corrected” tomorrow, instead of principles which have lasted thousands of years and never been overturned.”
    This is a joke right? You mean for instance the thousand years old principle of the small,flat world at the center of the universe? Thats not been overturned by advances in human knowledge? perhaps you didnt get the memo. Or the biblical principle of the divine rights of kings…miss those do you? Really the things you guys say sometimes…
    “It seems to me that science has become far more of a religion for its “true believers” than even for the traditional religionists of our day. Let’s face it, if your front yard is the world of science, what you know is about one blade of grass. Perhaps the greatest scientists ever would amount to a 2×2 piece of sod. If choosing a life philosophy based on things you could never possibly understand just because some gurus of a movement “said so” isn’t a religion, what is?”
    Well it seems to me that you dont know jack from crap…but thats rather self evident from the first part of your post. The beauty about science is that you dont need a Guru to tell you whats what…oh sure you can take scientists at their word if your lazy…or you can do what they suggest,…find out for yourself,do the reasoning and see if anything is missing and who knows,maybe even expand of what had been discovered before. if you ask me,it beats parroting the scriblings of some anonymous yahoos from way back when all the way over there whom for all you know might have been smoking their epoch’s version of crack when they jotted down their thoughts about the world and its origins.
    quick question; If you see a man you know kill another,is your first thought that it was some sort of a demonic apparition that either took on the shape of your would be acquaintance through a supernatural feat or maybe possessed him outright? and if not,why not? If you rely on “God” magic to explain the world,where do you draw the line and how?

  • Ludwig

    Oh and incidently,self correcting does not mean that science turns on its own head every now and again…usually it means a minor and sometimes even major alteration in our understanding of a given phenomenon but that still continues along the same general lines. For instance,our understanding of gravity has changed considerably from the time of Newton,where gravity was thought to be a force that pulled objects down whereas we now know that its actually a bent in space that attracts objects toward its center…think of a piece of paper that you shape into a cone witht he pointy end down….anything you place into the cone will immediately fall towards the small end of the cone…but our deepening understanding of the conept did not alter the theory of gravity to the point where it was believed objects would now begin to fall upwards…science,especially in fields that have been around for a long time,rarely makes dramatic turns and virtually never reverse themselves…if they did,it was bad science to begin with…or a religious belief trying to pass itself off as science…

  • http://catlitter-mrtinkles.blogspot.com/ Chris

    Interesting topic for debate!!!
    Ludwig….
    …Since when was the “earth is flat” belief a religious one?
    ….and where in the bible does it talk about the “divine right of kings”?
    The first was a general belief based on what people could see “with their own eyes” up until we had the technology to explore the world sufficiently and discover we had been wrong. In effect it was a scientific idea that was falsified by further observations.
    The second was a (mostly) medieval political idea that attempted to justify absolute rule from the bible by reading it in a way never intended by the writers. You may as well say that eugenics was the fault of Darwin (unfortunately some DO say just that)
    And as for your illustration of gravity you actually make JJ’s point for him/her…
    …Newton would never have talked in terms of gravity being a force that pulled things down….!!!I guess you must have picked that up from someone who only had a passing knowledge of Newton’s law. But a fair chunk of the population WOULD only have a passing knowledge!
    …and the illustration of the piece of paper…I guess you are referring to Einstein…at best that is only a very approximate description for anyone who hasn’t been educated to that level…i.e. 99% of the world!!
    And that’s now been superseded in any case…frankly, there isn’t a nice simple illustration that would help you understand quantum gravity or string theory…the vast majority of people have to take the scientists on “faith”.
    Now for gravity…that doesn’t matter (as long as I’m not an astronaut who finds out – too late – that the scientists were wrong) but it becomes important if they pass judgement on those things that cannot be tested by science…e.g. the existence of God etc.
    And so JJ is quite right, it would be foolish to choose a life philosophy because (for example) your Biology professor claims that science has disproved God.

  • Ludwig

    No one here has said anything about the exiatance of God…or Gods for that matter. Science has always been silent on the question of the supernatural,simply because there is no known way of telling a supernatural event apart from a natural one. But seeking a magical explanation to a phenomenon when a mundane one will suffice is both foolish and counterproductive. There is no known event of this universe that does not have a non magical explanation attached to it…some explanations are not as obvious as others and require some imagination but none of those explanations require ANY “faith” because all of them can be falsified and that makes them science and thus reliable…whereas magical explanation are unreliable because no one can ever predict them or even understand them…even the people who advance the magical explanations dont even know what they are actually saying…mostly they are parroting the words of people who came before them.

  • http://pdb.homelinux.net Paul

    What an interesting debate topic! Wouldn’t it be absolutely fascinating if someone actually discussed it!?!
    I don’t see where it follows from this summary of their statistical analysis that higher education leads to reduction in the “extent of religious beliefs”. Even if “extent of religious beliefs” is related to denominational choice, denominational choice cannot be explained by educational level alone, nor can it be explained by religious participation alone. If either of those were the case, the correlation between aggregate denominational education level and aggregate denominational religious participation would also be positive, not negative.
    Any offers of a better explanation for the contrary correlations? I’m a bit stumped. My sketches indicate that denominations vary by a differing characteristic baseline religious participation for a given education level, then as education level is increased, religious participation in each denomination increases as well, giving a set of parallel lines (or long, narrow clouds, since we’re looking at distributions). This seems much more difficult to explain than the simplistic science vs. faith “hypothesis” this abstract presents.
    (Side note: Was this paper peer-reviewed? It looks like they are only baiting the kind of discussion shown in the comments so far. I’d be interested to know what is presented in the rest of the article, as opposed to just the abstract, but I won’t pay $5 for it.)

  • kj

    “But seeking a magical explanation to a phenomenon when a mundane one will suffice is both foolish and counterproductive.”
    Ludwig, your statement is only valid if one can reasonably assume that supernatural forces (I’m assuming your good faith in using the word “magic” merely as a convenient synonym, rather than to demean belief in the supernatural) are highly unlikely to act in the natural world. If it is taken as a premise that the supernatural may indeed be in play, then seeking a supernatural explanation is not after all foolish. And, as you attest, “Science has always been silent on the question of the supernatural”; so, on what basis are you making that rather large assumption? That sounds like a leap of faith, given (as you say) no scientific baccking for it. But, if one believes that both the natural and the supernatural CAN act, then why is it foolish to assume that in a given instance the supernatural COULD have acted?
    You say “There is no known event of this universe that does not have a non magical explanation attached to it…some explanations are not as obvious as others and require some imagination but none of those explanations require ANY ‘faith’ because all of them can be falsified and that makes them science and thus reliable.”
    Maybe you didn’t say quite what you meant, but the notion that a specific scientific explanation (whether “imaginative” or mundane) can be relied upon because it’s falsifiable is… problematic. The notion that heat was caused by an invisible substance called caloric was falsifiable, but not reliable. We now believe it was utterly false, and so it HAD to be taken on faith, since there was obviously no bulletproof evidence of its truth.
    In any case, even if all KNOWN phenomena had a known and understood naturalistic cause (a premise I would not grant), the belief that all not-yet-known phenomena would similarly have naturalistic explanations might be statistically reasonable, but not logically evident; God (or whichever supernatural force you could believe in) might just be holding his/her/its best cards for the last round of betting. So, if you believed in the necessity of naturalistic explanations, you’d just be, well, taking it on faith.
    “mostly they are parroting the words of people who came before them” Well, now, there’ve been a few Christian (and other religious) philosophers possessed of insight and originality, I’m pretty sure, and a few scientists without them, so I don’t really know how useful that assertion is as evidence for naturalistic causation.

  • Ludwig

    kj
    Which brings us back to my earlier question…if you deal in supernatural explanations,how do you decide which event is explained naturally and which is explained supernaturally…what are the markers of a supernatural event? How does one teach supernaturalism?…who is an expert on the subject? what are the mechanics of the reasoning behind supernaturalism? how do you recognize them? if your answer is because X book or Y scroll says this and that than how do you account for the fact that thousands of documents make supernatural claims many which directly contradict each other…the supernatural account for the creation of the world for instance in Judeo-christian tradition is vastly different from the account of the algonqin,the australian aborigenals,the mayans and the Norse…they all differ to the point that they only point in common is that they invole the earth in some way. So it means that they cannot all be true at once…which then leads to the question…how do you tell with any accuracy which account is true?…Supernaturalism teaches nothing…it explains nothing…it advances no part of human knowledge…it cant be relied upon or predicted in any way shape or form…its only mild advantage is that it provides a quick answer when you re stupmed but only a very follish man would consider that a merit.

  • apprentice

    Paul,
    I absolutely agree it is an interesting topic.
    They are working with data that is faily well known and supported. The group that attends church the least (by far) are high-school drop-outs. The group that attends the most are holders of BA/BS degrees. Education beyond a BA/BS degree tends to reduce religious attendance, but not by very much.
    At the same time, ‘denominations’ with the highest average levels of attendance are groups that maintain high levels of tension with the world, like Baptists, Mormons, and the numerous non-denomiational churches throughout the country. ‘Mainline’ groups (the paper cites in particular the Episcopalians) have much lower levels of average attendance, and tend to have higher AVERAGE education levels among their members.
    You are right that no single explanation can explain the difference. They essentially argue (1) that denomination choice depends on depth of belief. So, the Baptists, for example, get people with strong beliefs, regardless of education. While Episcopalians (or Congregationalists) get people with low levels of belief. Add the idea that (2) people with higher levels of education attend more regardless of belief level–that is, people with lower education drop out much more quickly–and you get the results.
    They cite some evidence to support the idea that more education is associated with lower levels of belief, but it isn’t necessary to get the reversal they are talking about.
    Everyone assumes that the answer lies in understanding highly educated people, but I wonder. The one group that really stands out are not the highly educated but high-school drop-outs. They have by far the lowest levels of church attendance. Perhaps by explaining their behavior we will get our answers.