Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dishonesty in the Baylor Study

Several months back Baylor university did a study which had several interesting findings. One of their claims was that about 94.8% of people believed in God. This was done by running an essentially valid survey and asking a question, number 26.

26. In your opinion, does each of the following exist?
God -------------- Absolutely, Probably, Probably Not, Absolutely Not.

We see from page 27 that the given definition for Atheists: "Atheists are certain that God does not exist." - Apparently only people who answered "Absolutely Not" to that final question are atheists.

This seems like a rather minor nitpick, but I think it's an extremely valid one. A good number of people from the "distant God" category are really atheists in the (non-belief in gods sense of the word). Saying that their findings of only 5% is boon to the religious is wrong. Self declared atheism previous registered at 2% then 3%. It raises a question of how many of these distant God people answered "probably not" to that question, and were still promptly tossed into the theist categories.

The Stephen Colbert / Richard Dawkins piece (airing shortly after the Baylor study hit the waves), we see that Colbert cites this 95% stat and Dawkins states his view on the subject. The irony is, given Dawkins view, he would be a theist in the Baylor study. The Baylor study claims there is a boon to religion in today's culture. However, this is mostly because they willfully shoved anybody who wasn't an unabashed strong atheist into a theist group... shouting "Look Ma, Religion."

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