[extropy-chat] The Bible Belt Paradox

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Tue Jan 16 20:25:20 UTC 2007

MB wrote:
> Like all such surveys, though, I have questions.

Yes, the points you raise are important. Badly worded questions, biased
samples of people and too sensitive questions like the traffic ticket one
can mess up the study in tricky ways.

GSS consists of contacting randomly selected US residents and asking them
a huge battery of questions about everything. It produces a wonderfully
broad dataset where you can check the link between hunting and vocabulary
scores, but it is not as exact as a study properly designed to find out
why people are fundamentalists. I think with some work I could improve my
data analysis to get rid of a few likely biases, but it will never be as
good as a real study. Which might again miss a lot - study design is very
hard to do, and the woolier the subject the harder it is to ask the right

So we should not believe these findings too much. They are just the first
step in someone's research.

> Considering that many of the fundamentalist communities are rather
> tight-knit, I
> wonder what kind of overlap one has in these "murder" numbers? I mean, if
> a church
> family was killed, then everybody in that congregation and probably
> several
> neighboring ones knows the same family.

This is true, but given that they only sampled around 10,000 people out of
the entire US population it is unlikely they accidentally got several
people in the same congregation. This of course requires that the sampling
is indeed random; in this case I would believe it.

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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