Believing in Evolution or Not….and the Stupidity Impact Factor

Proportion believing Humans evolved from other species: 2006-2010 GSS

Some of the atheist blogs have their dander up about a new really bad Pew survey showing that only 3% of the goofball activists attending some weirdo Christian conference believe in evolution. I’m sure they just misunderstood the question or it would have been 0% at that conference. In the real world, things are bad enough–but predictably, sectarian Protestants are at the bottom of the heap—only 23% believe in evolution. Notably, another reason why the conservative Christian classification system needs to be done away with is that Moderate Protestants (Methodists, Disciples, Lutherans, Reformed and such) are significantly better off than sectarians, and significantly worse than Liberal Protestants, non-Christians, and non-religious folk. About three-quarters of liberal, nones, and non-Christians believe in evolution (still low), but only 46% of moderates understand science. Notably, 63% of Catholics believe in evolution.

Taken together, about 29% of Americans are Liberals, non-Christians, or non-identifiers—while about 27% are mouth-breathing sectarians.  Given the relatively equal distributions, and the middling value of Moderates, Catholics, and non-denominationals (at least averaged together), it seems reasonable to construct a ratio score to measure the impact of various religious groups on national stupidity. I call this the Stupidity Impact Factor, computed as the ratio of the proportion of non-believers in the population who hail from a particular religious group, divided by the groups overall proportional distribution. For example, 2.5% of people in the GSS who don’t believe in evolution are non-Christians, and non-Christians make up 5.3% of the sample. Hence, the Stupidity Impact Score for non-Christians is .47. Since this is less than 1, we know that adding more non-Christians to the population will reduce stupidity. In contrast, nearly 42% of Americans who do not believe in evolution are members of Sectarian groups, which gives them a Stupidity Impact Factor Score of 1.57—the more sectarians we have, the dumber we get.

Stupidity Impact Factor Scores for US Religious Groups


2 Responses to “Believing in Evolution or Not….and the Stupidity Impact Factor”

  1. James Sweet Says:

    Stupidity Impact Factor — love it!

    I do have to say, I don’t think 75% of non-crazies believing in evolution is all that low. It’s a little low, but… I have my “20% Theory”, which is that for any question which requires some non-trivial conceptual understanding of a non-obvious concept, in any survey a minimum of approximately 20% of the respondents will get it wrong. Maybe because they aren’t paying attention, maybe it is ignorance or just plain ol’ stupidity, or maybe it’s some bizarre ideological thing…. but for any concept that requires real understanding — whether it be evolution, how long it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun, etc. — I just expect 20% to get it wrong.

  2. sherkat Says:

    It’s simple, and potentially heavily uninformative…but because of the distribution of beliefs and of identifications, it does a pretty good job measuring the relative contributions to stupid….

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