Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Age of the Earth and Unemployment

Over at datechguy blog is a discussion of the candidates for the Republican nomination for President.  He considers all the talk about those "fundamentalists" questioning evolution who are running.  Datechguy, who is not a Protestant Fundamentalist, and who is not a Governor Rick Perry fan, wonders about the focus in the media and elsewhere on issues like how old the earth is.  Succinctly:
Unemployment is 9.1%, the economy is in the tank and you’re worried about a candidate’s position on how old the planet is?
He links to a Bill Keller column in The New York Times, in which Mr Keller mentions his angst about these people with strange religions.  The column is titled "Asking Candidates Tougher Questions About Faith".
We have an unusually large number of candidates, including putative front-runners, who belong to churches that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans.
Mr Keller needs to get out more.  Mormons are suspect?  Maybe in terms of if they are a branch of Christianity, but in my experience they are just neighbors or coworkers or a college roommate.  Baptists?  Sure, they think they are the only ones who are going to be saved, but so what?  A lot of us think we have found the truth, including a whole bunch of seculars.  So here is the kernel of Mr Keller's concern:
It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history — in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as “the reality-based community.”
So, we are back to the age of planet earth, or the universe perhaps.  I have always been puzzled by folks on both sides of the argument who are not prepared to acknowledge that if the universe was created, rather than erupted spontaneously, that the creator would probably have given it some pre-history.  Put another way, did all those trees in the Garden of Eden lack tree rings?

Another way of looking at it is that I have, in an infinite number of universes, written this particular blog post and in an infinite number of universes I have not.  Or, maybe this is the only universe there ever was or ever will be.  Who will explain it to me?  Who will show me the link from this universe to the next?

Which brings us back to today and the 9.1% unemployment rate (and all those folks who have stopped looking for work)?  And, in a scientifically based world, what is the scientifically based answer to fixing the economy?

Last night I asked our waiter at the Olive Garden, a man with an Economics Degree, working at State Street Bank, as well as waiting our table, if he thought Lord Keynes had the answers.  He demurred and claimed to be with the Classical School.

If F A Hayek is right and Lord Keynes is wrong and we continue down the path of stimulus we are in deep trouble.  And if Lord Keynes is right, is the stimulus we need the size of what finally got us out of the Great Depression, in 1942 and 1943?  How does workplace regulation, safety and environmental laws, impact the growth of business?

We have the Chicago School and we have Robert Reich, who wrote The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, which I read about ten years ago.  Where is the agreed science?

To complicate the issue the sociologists have recently weighed in.
While religious service attendance has decreased for all white Americans since the early 1970s, the rate of decline has been more than twice as high for those without college degrees compared to those who graduated from college, according to new research to be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"Our study suggests that the less educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labor market," said lead researcher W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.
Wait, isn't it supposed to be the poor and ignorant who are the religious?

It only gets worse—and I note that these are sociologists and thus we are dealing with correlations and not necessarily causations.
Indeed, the study points out that modern religious institutions tend to promote a family-centered morality that valorizes marriage and parenthood, and they embrace traditional middle-class virtues such as self-control, delayed gratification, and a focus on education.

Over the past 40 years, however, the moderately educated have become less likely to hold familistic beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college-educated adults.  During the same period, wages have fallen and rates of unemployment have risen markedly for moderately educated men, while wages have remained stagnant for moderately educated women.  For the least educated—those without high school degrees—the economic situation has been even worse, and they have also become less likely to hold familistic beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college-educated adults.

Because less educated whites are now less likely to be stably employed, to earn a decent income, to be married with children, and to hold familistic views, it makes sense that they also do not as often attend services at religious institutions that continue to uphold conventional norms, Wilcox said.

"While we recognize that not everyone wishes to worship, and that religious diversity can be valuable, we also think that the existence of a large group of less educated Americans that is increasingly disconnected from religious institutions is troubling for our society," said Andrew Cherlin, co-author of the study and a professor of sociology and public policy at the Johns Hopkins University.  "This development reinforces the social marginalization of less educated Americans who are also increasingly disconnected from the institutions of marriage and work."
To me that seems to be saying that there is a correlation between stable families, jobs, education and religion.

As Columnist Walter Russell Mead notes in his blog, this is turning things on their head.
The stereotype, held apparently by none other than the President of the United States, is that religious people are less educated and less affluent than cosmopolitan and sophisticated seculars.  The bitter clingers handle snakes, guns and Bibles in West Virginia; the seculars discuss literature and economics at swank parties in Georgetown.

In fact, some recent research reveals, it is almost the other way round.  According to the American Sociological Association, the uneducated and the poor (often of course the same people) are dropping God like a hot brick; the ‘bitter clingers’ are increasingly better educated and more affluent than the unchurched.

As far as I can see, this is bad news for everybody.  Atheists and agnostics like to think of themselves as smarter than the God-bothering trailer trash on Tobacco Road, and deeply dislike the thought that they are losing the argument among the most intellectually qualified and best prepared; religious people have to be concerned for the future of religion when whole social classes are dropping away.

It is also very bad news for the poor.  The rich can actually get along without much religion; one of the nice things about being rich is that money can frequently shield you from the consequences of a weak character and bad decisions.
On the other hand, the "left" can take comfort in the findings of Scientist James Q Wilson, where, in the latest issue of City Journal he looks at crime rates (which are going down during this economic downturn).  He also brings in the above mentioned American Sociological Association paper.  Both suggest that culture is a factor to be considered.

As Professor Wilson goes through the possible reasons for the recent decrease in crime the one at the end of the list, which may be most convincing, is eugenics.  Now in this day and age, after the German experiment in eugenics in the late 1930s and the first half of the 1940s we don't use that term, but that is what he is talking about. We are wiping out millions of Black and Caucasian babies before they are born and before they can grow up and begin a life of crime and procreate more like themselves.

In his final paragraph Professor Wilson says:
Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and tested theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it.
Maybe "science" isn't the total answer.  But, I am much, much more interested in the economic views of the candidates than I am in their views regarding how old the earth is or if evolution explains everything.  And, in truth, I am also very interested in their views on Israel and the Jews and others who live there.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit for the link to datechguy.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In the military Mormon Chaplains are classified with the Christians, as opposed to the Jews, or as an independent group.
  Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts there was a chance he would have run for Governor, but the Democrats voted for another.


JoeS said...

"delayed gratification" is a "virtue"?

And I thought it was merely a sign of advanced age.

C R Krieger said...

That too.

Regards  —  Cliff