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August 27, 2011

The liberal religious and astrology

Filed under: Astrology,Data Analysis,GSS — Razib Khan @ 11:51 pm

In the comments below a weird fact came to light: it does not seem that liberal/Democrat reduced skepticism toward astrology vs. conservatives/Republicans can be explained just by a secularization, and therefore diminished Christian orthodoxy. There are two reasons for this. First, on a priori grounds most people are religious, liberals and conservatives. The difference between the religious and irreligious on this issue would have to be rather large, and the different apportionment across ideology to be striking, for it to drive the division which seems so robust. Second, within the results it seems rather clear that the gap between liberals and conservatives is most evident amongst the religious of both! In other words, secular liberals and conservatives tend to agree (and be skeptical) in relation to astrology. While religious conservatives are skeptical of astrology, as one would expect from orthodox conservative Christians, religious liberals are not. The table below shows some results.

Astrology is…. Very scientific Sort of scientific Not at all scientific Protestant Liberal 5 31 64 Conservative 5 18 77 Catholic Liberal 3 35 62 Conservative 6 25 69 No religion Liberal 6 22 72 Conservative 9 31 60 Atheist & agnostic Liberal 7 19 74 Conservative 3 22 75 Believe in higher power Liberal 3 26 71 Conservative 3 31 66 Believe in god sometimes Liberal 1 28 71 Conservative 19 18 63 Believe in god with doubts Liberal 3 29 68 Conservative 3 20 77 Know god exists Liberal 6 35 59 Conservative 6 21 73 Southern Baptist Liberal 11 33 56 Conservative 7 16 77 United Methodist Liberal 4 13 83 Conservative 4 23 73 Episcopal Liberal 4 23 72 Conservative 5 16 80 Bible is Word of God Liberal 8 41 51 Conservative 6 22 72 Bible is Inspired Word of God Liberal 5 28 67 Conservative 5 21 74 Bible is Book of Fables Liberal 3 23 73 Conservative 8 21 71 Humans developed from animals Liberal 4 25 71 Conservative 8 25 67 Humans did not develop from animals Liberal 7 37 56 Conservative 5 16 79

Observe the huge ...

August 26, 2011

Republicans more skeptical of astrology than Democrats

Filed under: Astrology,Data Analysis,GSS — Razib Khan @ 9:30 pm

Someone on twitter was curious about GOP attitudes toward astrology. I left the party breakdown out of the previous post because ideology accounts for most party differences. In other words, conservatives are more skeptical of astrology than liberals, and Republicans more than Democrats, but the second result just seems to emerge from the Republican’s greater conservatism.

Astrology very scientific Astrology somewhat scientific Astrology not scientific Strong Democrat 6 31 63 Democrat 7 30 63 Lean Democrat 4 28 67 Independent 7 37 57 Lean Republican 3 26 71 Republican 4 21 75 Strong Republican 4 20 76

Why are independents so gullible? It probably has to do with their lower average intelligence (this goes for moderates too). So I simply limited the sample to those with at least bachelor’s degrees to control for intelligence:

Limited to those with college degrees or more Astrology very scientific Astrology somewhat scientific Astrology not scientific Strong Democrat 3 21 76 Democrat 4 17 79 Lean Democrat 2 21 78 Independent 4 22 75 Lean Republican 1 9 90 Republican 0 11 88 Strong Republican 1 10 89

The distinctiveness of independents diminishes somewhat, but Democrats with college degrees or more remain more gullible than Republicans with the same (the difference remains if you control for sex by the way).

The less intelligent more likely to accept astrology as scientific

Filed under: Astrology,GSS,Social Science — Razib Khan @ 12:00 am

Over at Culture of Science Sheril Kirshenbaum posts a figure from the NSF displaying what proportion of those without high school educations and those with college educations accept the scientific status of astrology. It’s pretty clear to me that this is the ASTROSCI variable from the General Social Survey. It asks:

Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific?

It’s also nice that this question was only asked in the latter half of the 2000s. So it’s timely in terms of demographic breakdowns. Speaking of which, here are a whole host of classes and their attitudes toward astrology’s scientific status:

Very scientific Sort of scientific Not at all scientific Male 5 26 69 Female 5 30 65 Age 18-34 8 34 58 Age 35-64 4 26 70 Age 65- 4 24 72 White 4 25 72 Black 11 38 51 Hispanic 8 40 51 Extreme liberal 7 31 62 Liberal 5 30 65 Slightly iberal 4 28 68 Moderate 5 34 61 Slightly conservative 5 25 70 Conservative 6 19 75 Extreme conservative 6 18 76 No high school diploma 9 41 50 High school diploma 7 32 62 Junior college 4 28 68 Bachelor 2 17 80 Graduate degree 1 13 85 Atheist and agnostic 6 23 71 Higher power 4 28 68 Believes in god sometimes 7 24 70 Believe in god, but with doubts 4 27 69 Know god exists 6 30 65 Protestant 5 27 68 Catholic 5 31 64 Jewish 6 16 78 No religion 7 28 65 Bible word of god 6 31 64 Bible inspired word of god 5 28 67 Bible book of fables 6 25 70 Human beings developed from animals 6 28 66 Human beings don’t develop from animals 5 26 69

But what about intelligence? To look at that I used the WORDSUM variable, which is a 10-question vocabulary test which has a 0.70 correlation with IQ. Below are the attitudes toward astrology by WORDSUM score (0 = 0 ...

February 7, 2011

Offense, superstition, and magic

Filed under: Astrology,Religion,Superstition — Razib Khan @ 11:34 am


One of Zach’s friends found my attacks and dismissal of astrology objectionable. He states:

But seems like i picked one post, which was very under researched and the gentleman had strong… no very strong views- quite offensive to some of us- but he didn’t care. Anyways, i tried my best to reason out- but got no direct response to my question/points- rather an abrupt and ridiculous statement and a threat of being banned from his site. Sure, your playground- you decide. Doesn’t mean you become right. , you can’t thrust your thinking on others.

Of course I didn’t respond to his questions. Why should I? I operate with a scientific framework. Real science. Not fake science like astrology or Talmudic analysis. I don’t get into discussions about the validity of Creationism, geocentrism, or, astrology. I understand that a large proportion of the world’s population find astrology plausible, and perhaps the majority of educated Indians. Since most people are stupid, I’m not outraged or shocked by this. And most Americans would presumably accede to the incoherent details of the Trinitarian formula. They don’t even know what they’re acceding to according to surveys. Such is the way of the world. In any case, within the context of South Asian culture the plausibility of astrology makes eminent sense. But, I don’t particularly respect aspects of South Asian culture which I find offensive (caste) or distasteful (superstition like astrology, or excessive religious enthusiasm and identification). South Asians who find astrology plausible have to understand that to someone like me their respect for astrology is as funny as a primitive with a bone stuck through his nose. Some of this is just cultural priors which aren’t even grounded in concrete belief. Many secular Jews who are atheists continue to tell me that Talmudic scholarship required some brain power and was of substance. I dispute this too.

Idol worshipers

More seriously, the debate over astrology doesn’t have great consequences in the West. It’s marginalia. But the idea of what causes offense is a serious issue. Every society has its shibboleths. The sensitivity that we Westerners show toward sexual assaults on women or discussion of the Holocaust seems ludicrous to some non-Westerners (I have had multiple discussions with immigrants who have a hard time grasping how Americans conceive of and react to rape). But there are real consequences of offense in a multicultural society. Some Muslims in Europe are clearly trying to silence people in regards to offensive speech because they’re a prickly lot. Consider this: I consider Islam as pagan and idolatrous a religion as that of the Canaanites who revered the statues of Baal. When Muslims hear this they sometimes become angry and think I’m being blatantly dishonest to offend. But I’m not. The Hajj is clearly a repackaging of old pagan superstitions into Muslim garb. Muslims will disagree about this, but I have reasonable grounds to stand when I make this connection as an outsider. I am both offensive, and, I am honest about my genuine beliefs More broadly my explicit atheism and rejection of Islamic identity despite my family background rubs many Muslims the wrong way. The most amusing case occurred at a party in college. A long-haired young man was very high on marijuana, and we found out that we shared a surname. His father was from Pakistan (his mother was a white American). When he found out I was an atheist he tried to illuminate me on the spiritual and glorious values of Sufism. He wasn’t quite offended, but even in his drug-induced haze he was somewhat affronted by my unequivocal rejection of ancestral superstition.

February 5, 2011

Superstition vs. myth

Filed under: Astrology,Culture,Superstition — Razib Khan @ 10:40 am

I want to enter into the record something: I do not think that we should be restricted to considering only what is “True.” Myths, stories, and hopes, are important, even if they’re not necessarily empirically sound or rationally coherent. For example, economists have made a good case (to my mind) that focusing on Christmas gift-giving leads to “deadweight loss”. But, I think it is instructive that all societies and cultures have such festivals. I believe that evaluating the efficiency of transfer of gifts on an individual level misses something critical about the collective coordination of the “season.” You may not get the optimal Christmas gift, but you feel the “spirit” leading up to that momentous day as all those around you are rising up in synchronous expectation. I suspect economists are missing the ends of the season here. It is not about the transfer of material goods and services to increase individual utility, it is about a collective reorientation which can not but help affect the sense of well being of all.

But there are genuinely destructive myths, those which I term superstitions. Chinese “traditional medicine” for example is problematic because of the need for animal body parts, which leads to an illicit trade (not to mention the probable lack of efficacy of many of the “cures”). The application of feng-shui to city planning strikes me as less fundamentally pernicious, but it is still an inefficiency which I think can not be justified in a society characterized by as much deprivation as modern China. Similarly, astrology as “entertainment only” strikes me as a harmless amusement. I have never accepted the validity of the practice, so I was never concerned with friends and acquaintances wished to “read my signs.” But, the utilization of astrology to determine marriageability or political schedules strikes me improper use of what should be fun & games.

In defense of barbaric superstitions

Filed under: Astrology,Culture,Primitive Beliefs — Razib Khan @ 10:08 am

In the comments below some people are defending the “scientific” bona fides of astrology. People are free to believe what they want to believe. I understand that the superstition of astrology has deep roots in South Asian civilization, and some people feel emotionally attached to its defense. Never mind such worries! The superstition of astrology has deep roots in the West and in China itself. In fact, in its rudiments it is likely found in all complex societies (e.g., the Maya are a New World case). So my criticism is a criticism of the primitive demon-haunted mentality. People see the stars, feel awe, as they should. Unfortunately they derive primitive inferences from them which an earth-bound ape would.

This is the last word on this issue. I am not tolerant of an “open minded” discussion of astrology as to whether it is a science or not in terms of its predictive power. I’m as interested in the validity of ‘bone pointing’.

(And yes, if you keep talking about astrology I will ban you. I’m not interested in incentive cognitive effluvium)

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