Ireland, the UK, evolution, wealth and belief

There was a good graph out this morning on belief in evolution versus GDP in various nations, interesting how the US is the biggest outlier in the data set by a significant margin. Also interesting is the UK compared with Ireland; the UK is pretty much bang on the trend line and Ireland shows a significantly higher degree of scepticism at about 10% lower in terms of evolutionary belief, now what does that tell you?

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  • Excuse my ignorance, but ‘outlier’? The nearest I recall from that is French for tool. Niall Fealty? Nepotism at Slugger>?

  • It’s an interesting, but somewhat misleading graph. Why not a straight-line fit? The formula seems to have been deliberately chosen in order to hide the fact that Turkey is also an outlier. It also implies that belief in evolution goes below zero at some positive value of GDP, which is nonsensical.

    Leaving aside the arbitrary fit line, it does have some interesting data. Note the position of Austria and Switzerland, for example.

  • earther

    The question is vague. But it isn’t “do you believe in evolution?”

    I don’t belive in evolution. Yet I would without a doubt have answered “yes” based on my interpretation of the question..

  • Niall Fealty

    As I understand it the straight line fit wouldn’t give an accurate indication of the trend, which seems to be that as GDP increases the belief in evolution increases at a logarithmic rate, most likely due to external influences and systemic restrictions on the data. Charting the data in a different format may give a straight line and show Turkey to be anomalous as well.

    I think the main problem with the chart is that it’s been done in the fashion of scientific data analysis, whereas the data being used is more qualitative than quantitative. But as you say, ignoring this it says a lot about the relationship between relative wealth and opinions of science (in fact the inaccuracy of the trend line says a lot about the complexity of the relationship too)

  • nightrider

    I suspect there would be a large disparity between states in the USA
    Doonesbury had a take on this recently:

    The affluent,liberal, educated NE states would be much more rational and pro-science. The poorer, southern bible belt much more ignorant.

  • Niall,

    It’s not logarithmic, it’s inverse-linear. And it’s an assumption that the graph maker has imposed on the data, not something that is obvious from the data itself.

    There’s nothing inherently misleading about plotting qualitative data on a graph, so long as the source of the data is clear. I would be more worried by the fact that only “rich” countries were surveyed.

  • SK

    “It’s inverse-linear.”


    It’s been a while since I did statistical analysis, but I’m fairly sure you’re wrong. It’s a non-linear exponential function.

  • SK, there’s no exponent in y=A(1-B/x).

  • Drumlins Rock

    the colours and font are pretty.

  • SK

    I think that’s supposed to be y=A(1-b)^x,

    Otherwise the equation doesnt match the graph.

  • SK, please put the formula into a graphing calculator before jumping to conclusions. Aside from a factor of 100 (for the percentages) it’s correct as stated.

  • SK

    “SK, please put the formula into a graphing calculator before jumping to conclusions. Aside from a factor of 100 (for the percentages) it’s correct as stated.”


    I did, and it is. I stand corrected.

  • Zig70

    Statistically the analysis is kak, scientifically speaking. The error is huge. It is more, what I’d call a shotgun graph.
    The only analysis you could give is that the US and Turkey points need more attention. Even though I wish it were true, this proves nothing. Sadly in work i don’t seem to earn more than my religious zealot counterpart, if only it were that easy.

  • Mick Fealty


    If you can’t stand the statistical heat, get out of the kitchen. I thought it was an interesting idea that would make a good conversation so I gave him a schtart!

    Not that I entirely follow that conversation so far you understand!!! But I’m hoping Niall does…

  • I agree with Andrew Gallagher’s first comment.

    It reminds me of a graph that somebody tried to present once which showed a straight line when ice cream sales were plotted against road deaths.

    However, just looking at the figures, there might actually be a rationale for the correlation. If you plotted a graph between wealth and religious strength, would you get similar results? I suspect that you would. With the exception of the USA, which is still a very religious country, secularism and increasing wealth have tended to go hand in hand.

    Unfortunately, that still would not prove very much because it says nothing in answer to “why?” For statistics like this to be credible, you need additional data to show a proper link between cause and effect.

  • Drumlins Rock

    you cannot serve two master, either God or money, as the good book says. GDP should not be the main basis for success.

  • Greenflag

    ‘you cannot serve two master, either God or money,’

    Yes you can and particularly if you happen to be a bankster or a politician – That’s how they get elected . Promise the peons a happy ever after life for remaining poor and obeying their masters and then grabbing as much loot as you can when elected to power .

    Just look at the USA Senate and Congress . Is there even one or two of them not a ‘millionaire’? And they all believe in a God or at least say they do .

    Even a Mormon has a better chance of being elected President of the USA than an ‘outed’ atheist .