Bruno in the Science v Religion Debate

Where should Giordano Bruno be placed in the science vs. religion debate of the late renaissance?

“No scientist, to our knowledge, ever lost his life because of his scientific views, though, … the Italian Inquisition did incinerate the sixteenth century Copernican Giordano Bruno for his heretical theological notions.”

Bruno is interesting but he’s really best seen as part of the resurgence of the paganism of late antiquity rather than as the rise of science.

Diet & Fallibility of Science

Razib has an interesting post on diet and the fallibility of science. I think the thing about nutrition for those of us who looked into it is how little science there was behind most recommendations over the decades. The way the media tends to report on nutrition and early studies doesn’t help. I think that one of the reasons why people have become far more skeptical of science goes back to the horrible recommendations on diet from doctors. Especially in the 70’s and 80’s. Doctors of course often have very little training in scientific thinking.

There’s a lot that’s confusing about the relation of diet to various pathologies. Razib mentions heart disease going down while obesity has gone up. There are other oddities to. While there are lots of claims out there – especially regarding theories like high fructose corn syrup versus sucrose – most have weak evidence. The strength of the evidence often isn’t apparent in most reports on the studies.

What’s most interesting though is how moralizing discussion of diet becomes. Razib gets at this in his post.

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Subjective Evidence

I came upon an interesting Mormon epistemology post Dennis Potter over at UVU wrote last year. Dennis always makes me think even when I don’t agree with him. (I still think his work on Mormon theodicy back in the 90’s is among the best things written on the subject — I wish he or others had continued with it.) Now Dennis is definitely coming from a particular stance. He left Mormonism a little over a decade ago and now self-identifies as an atheist. Still this really is an interesting post and continues several ideas he was thinking about back in the 90’s. It also relates to where I plan to go with my set of posts on Mormon ways of knowing. So it’s worth discussing.

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Mormon Youth and Retention

Someone mentioned to me that John Gee had done a post on youth retention last year. Unfortunately while the studies are very interesting the numbers are fairly dated. There were some big shifts in the late 90’s that persisted over the next decade or so. The rise of the Nones and the drop in sympathy for religion in the young comes after most of these studies. Still they are interesting.

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How Successful is Mormon Retention?

I mentioned in yesterday’s post the high rate of believing Mormons in colleges.1 I thought today I’d touch on a few other demographic issues that I know get confused a lot. First off I wish we had as much data for other areas such as Latin America. I know there are a lot of stories that retention in these areas are much worse. Perhaps corresponding to poor conversion practices back in the early 90’s roughly akin to the infamous baseball baptisms in the American northeast in the late 60’s and early 70’s.2 For American retention there remains a view that retention is quite poor. I don’t think this is really that accurate.

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  1. 8.1% of students who said they were religious rather than spiritual or secular were Mormon.
  2. In both these cases Mission Presidents were more concerned about high baptism statistics rather than real conversions such that many people were baptized to increase statistics but who probably were not really converted to the gospel. This seems to occur every few decades although hopefully we won’t have a repeat again.

“Elites” More Religious?

I was looking up the ARIS self-identification survey on Mormonism for a side project and came upon a related study on the “professional elite” and religion. These “elite” are people with advanced degrees (i.e. beyond a Bachelor’s). What was quite interesting is how much more religious this group is than the general American demographic.

For instance from the 2008 survey while 70% of Americans believe in a personal God a surprising 73% of elites do. While that’s not a huge difference I’d have fully expected the number to be significantly smaller, not larger. Fully 85% of elites had some sort of religious initiation ceremony while only 71% of Americans did. 86% of elites had a religious marriage while only 72% of general Americans did. 28% of elites attend church once a week and 44% at least once a month. Contrast this with 18% and 42% for regular Americans. 70% of elites versus 45% of Americans go a few times a year.

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