PEL on Scientism

“…[scientism] is contributing to a growing trend on the left, quite as ferocious as anything on the right, toward anti-intellectualism and bigotry, and that it is at bottom incompatible with the principles of a humane, open, and free society.” Partially Examined Life on Scientism.

I used to discuss this a lot back at the old blog. (Sadly I was unable to export the posts in a fashion so they could be imported here). I’ve not talked about it in a long time simply because at a certain point it becomes uninteresting. Most people engaging in scientism simply don’t have much of a mind to even bother attempting to understand why philosophers ask the things they do. Often their view of philosophy is pretty distorted.

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Stats on LDS Retention

Just a short post as I’m planning a longer post on this topic at T&S next week. A few people were mentioning Jana Riess’ talk at the UVU Mormon Studies conference last week. She posted a bit on it at her blog.

While I don’t really disagree with most she says, I do want to raise an important point. We have to be careful comparing statistics from different surveys. Typically they are apples to oranges comparisons with different methodologies – especially in terms of how they decide how to deal with getting diversity into their polls. So, for instance, a poll of 20,000 Mormons might seem like a huge sample size, it wouldn’t be terribly representative of American Mormons if it mainly consisted of people from Rexsburg and Provo. Getting both a representative sample and and sufficiently large sample size is difficult.

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Mormon Millennials Becoming More Republican

Somehow I missed that UVU (just a few blocks from work) was having a religious liberty symposium this week and a Mormon studies conference. The symposium included some big names like columnist Ross Douthat. Alas work would have kept me from going anyway. But I am sad to miss it as some of the talks sounded quite interesting.

I really need to make it more of a point to get out to some of these things – especially when they are so close by. 

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New Atheists and Mormon Moderates

Over at BCC Jacob Baker put up a paper tying New Atheists with the John Dehlin style of Mormon critic. While I’ve not yet read the paper, it seems interesting. I admit up front I’m pretty skeptical of the thesis but want to read it through before commenting.

The basic issue is a quote from notable New Atheist Sam Harris on how religious moderates are unwilling to accept that so much of their religious texts are antithetical to their moral intuitions. That is by simply picking and choosing the passages to follow, they ignore the danger the texts have. The typical counterpoint to this are writers (also atheist I believe) like Robert Wright who think religions modernize when they choose what passages to privilege or ignore.1 To them this is a natural part of religion that the Harris type of critique miss. Wright often directly engages the New Atheists on these issues. Wright often actually sees retrenchment of fundamentalism a backlash to New Atheist like attacks on religion.

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  1. Wright’s The Evolution of God in part is an extended argument along these lines. Although Wright’s discussed them in many articles and podcasts.

Why Mormons Accept Cruz

The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog has an interesting story up on religious freedom and last night’s caucus vote in Idaho and Utah for Ted Cruz. I think it gets a few things wrong. Effectively it is asking why Mormons voted for Cruz, who isn’t exactly a religious freedom champion when they opposed Trump.

The problem is that this election cycle is a perfect example of having any good choices. Thus any choice you make is bad. A vote for Katich at this stage is really a vote for Trump. There’s no way Kasich can win. Exactly why he’s still in the race is not at all clear. He should have left long ago if he cared about the danger of Trump.

Cruz is a very bad choice too for a slew of reasons. I suspect there’s actually a fair bit of sincere support for Cruz for various reasons in Utah. I think it incorrect, but at this stage I think it doesn’t matter. Trump is a huge threat for both the Republican Party as well as the nation. Most of those supporting Trump are either severely projecting onto him what they want him to be like or just don’t care. That is they think a vote for Trump will shake up politics. (It will, but not likely the way they want) Cruz at this stage, as bad as a candidate as at least many Utahns might think him to be is the best chance of stopping the greater threat of Trump. Beyond that the next best bet is to vote for Clinton. It’s worth noting that Utahns in general are not fans of the Clintons. This was the one state where in the 90’s Bill Clinton actually came in third. But I think many people see Clinton as a lesser threat than Trump.

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How Religious?

Pew has up an interesting graph on how religious various states are. Surprisingly Utah ranks 11th. Unsurprisingly the areas near the Mississippi delta are most religious. Having lived there I tend to think the way the religiosity there is manifest isn’t necessarily healthy. Although I’m sure some might say the same about here in Utah.

Most of the statistics aren’t new. It seems that only a small group outside of the key Mormon constituency are that religious. Of course most of us likely know very religious non-members. But there is also a pretty strong secular aspect to Utah that I think those living here note.

Pew on Religion 2014

I was so busy this fall that I never got to comment on the latest Pew data on religion. While I missed the discussion back in November I hope people won’t mind me taking it up now.

The main, if unsurprising, conclusion Pew gave was that the US was becoming less religion. This is largely due to the rise of the Nones who have been increasing in number since the mid 90’s. Among those who are still religious though (about ¾) Pew notes “there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment. Indeed by some conventional measures, religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.” 

The interesting drops are those who believe in God dropped from 92% to 89% from 2007 to 2014. Those certain God exists dropped far more sharply from 71% to 63%. A lot of this is again tied to the rise of the Nones. Pew has their population rising from 16% to 23%. Which is quite high.

Now I’ve argued that a lot of this shift of the Nones is largely people with loose commitment to religion who in the past would have said they were baptist and perhaps attended the occasional event. While there was a use for some loose commitment (or at least telling people they were committed) now there just isn’t that ground.  

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Religion and the Poor

Tyler Cowan posts a link to an interesting paper on religion.

What is the role of religious institutions and religious workers in the racial earnings gap in the United States? In this paper we explore the relationship between childhood exposure to religious density, as measured with the number of religious workers at the state level, and the labor market outcomes of the worker thirty years later. We use data that spans over fifty years to identify changes in earnings due to early exposure to religion: our first source of identification uses changes in these two variables within states, and our second source of identification uses states’ differences by following workers who moved to a different state. Our results suggest that living in a state with a an extra clergy member for each 1,000 habitants increases the earnings of black workers by 1.7 to 3.6 percentage points relative to white workers.. In addition we show that this relationship is robust to different measures of exposure to religious density, and that these estimates increase to 7.6 percentage points when the change on religious density is defined exclusively increasing an extra black religious workers for each 1,000 habitants. Finally, we estimate a series of robustness tests that suggest that these results are not due to spatial sorting across states, nor to secular time trends associated with changes in labor market outcomes for black American workers.

 It’d be interesting knowing how religion affects wages independent of race.

Musings on Science, Religion, Phenomenology and More