Gene Expression

Below I pointed to the rise in acceptance of evolution among the young, in particular the 18-30 cohort. There were some natural questions about other correlated demographic variables (I did point to data suggesting that this is not simply a byproduct of increased secularity of the young). Naturally one wonders about the impact of education. There’s a problem with this: people who are 22 are far less likely to have graduate degrees than people who are 40, because most people are just finishing their undergraduate degree at this age! The comparison isn’t fair (additionally, the reduction in the proportion of high school drop outs over the generations probably has changed the type of person who does not receive their diploma).

But what about intelligence? The WORDSUM variable in the General Social Survey has a vocabulary test where people receive a score based on the number correct out of 10. I separated the scores into three classes, 0-4, 5-7 and 8-10. Roughly, dull, normal and bright. I then split them by age groups, 18-29, 30-44, 45-60 and 60+. I again looked at the four evolution related variables, EVOLVED, SCITEST4, SCITESTY and CREATION. The results below.

0-4 5-7 8-10
Human Beings Developed From Animals (True)
18-29 59.1 63 65.1
30-44 53.2 52.1 57.4
45-59 32.4 43.5 66.4
60- 31.1 30.9 66.6
Humans Evolved From Animals (Definitely + Probably True)
18-29 53.4 53.6 75.9
30-44 38.9 42.3 63.9
45-59 37.8 41.8 67
60- 34.4 32.7 48.6
Humans Developed From Earlier Species of Animal (Definitely + Probably True)
18-29 49.2 52.8 63.8
30-44 42.6 38 56.5
45-59 40.4 38.5 63.6
60- 27.3 32.2 51.5
Man Has Evolved, + Man Has Evolved, God Guided
18-29 61.8 61.4 75.3
30-44 47.8 43.6 65.7
45-59 57.2 45.1 67
60- 48.2 48.6 57.9

Not surprising that the dull are more Creationist than the smart. If one just looked at the first variable one might assert that the anti-Creationism of the youth is a function of the successful brainwashing of the dull in the public school system, but it doesn’t seem to hold for some of the other variables. Overall no surprise, and it looks like a general trend is for the smart and the young to reject Creationism. Because of the sample sizes and contradictions in the magnitude of the trends I am not comfortable going any further than this.


  1. #1 abb3w
    August 14, 2009

    Words C and J are sufficiently difficult that only about 1/4 of the population answers correctly, and words G and H only a little over 1/3. However, E and I are over 3/4, A and F over 4/5, and B and D over 16/17. Thus I usually divide 0-5, 6-7, and 8-10 myself, since there are six words which a correct answer might be “expected” correct.

    However, I’m mostly playing with the GSS as an educational toy.

  2. #2 Matt Springer
    August 14, 2009

    Are the actual words themselves available? I imagine not since that could contaminate future data, but I’ve always been curious where I’d rate.

  3. #3 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 14, 2009

    Another pattern to note is that it looks like smart old people are slightly more accepting of evolution than dumb young people. It looks to me like age is less of a predictor than WORDSUM but I haven’t crunched the numbers to confirm that.

  4. #4 razib
    August 14, 2009

    Are the actual words themselves available? I imagine not since that could contaminate future data, but I’ve always been curious where I’d rate.

    you mean the details of the questions?

    replace ‘EVOLVED’ with the other variables in the query to get.

  5. #5 razib
    August 14, 2009

    It looks to me like age is less of a predictor than WORDSUM but I haven’t crunched the numbers to confirm that.

    yes, but even so, the average intelligence isn’t getting any higher, but older cohorts are dying off….

  6. #6 Divalent
    August 14, 2009

    hmmm… perhaps non-believers (evilutionists) are more likely to be smitten by God, leaving the older cohort more creationist. (Proof of Gods existence? :)

    Actually, an interesting “quirk” in the data is the 30-44 yo smart group: they are consistently more creationist than the older or younger “smart” cohorts ahead or behind them. Any theories to explain that? (The Reagan years? The peak of the Christian Right movement? The Clinton years?)

  7. #7 razib
    August 14, 2009

    divalent, gen-X are the most republican generation politically i believe….

  8. #8 Divalent
    August 15, 2009

    “gen-X are the most republican generation politically i believe….”

    But are the differences in 1) Republican “smarts” vs Ind&Demo “smarts” on the issue, and 2) the excess Repubs in gen-x, sufficient to account for a 5-8 point difference?

    OTOH, could be a bit of that plus a bit of noise.

  9. #9 Matt Springer
    August 17, 2009

    Sorry, I was hideously unclear. I was curious as to whether the words used in the WORDSUM vocabulary test are available. Quick Googling doesn’t turn up anything.

  10. #10 not a gator
    August 17, 2009


    There may be a connection flowing from the Republicanism, ie, being immersed in only certain news sources might tend to bias one. This could explain the anomaly in the Gen-X group where the middle group believes evolution LESS than the lower group.

    Alternatively, this cohort may be more creationist, leading to more Republican party affiliation b/c it confirms their beliefs. I know an older Gen-X who while prolly not a cretinist is a conservative Cat’lic who thinks Reagan “saved America” and is rather anti-abortion. Strong religious belief thus steering towards the ‘values’ party. (“Values” to them, naturally.)

    At first I thought the bump up in cretinism was due to Jesus freaks (former druggies) but of course these were boomers and hence in the wrong cohort. Perhaps some expert will saunter by to explain the Gen X anomaly. (My uncle is Gen X and right wing/religious but I always assumed that was just because he was a raging dick.)

  11. #11 Will Corwin
    August 18, 2009

    The assumption that religious belief and political belief must have some sort of connection or any sort of connection is wrong. The lack of belief in any deity came way before the discovery of America and Asia for that matter. The only reason for a larger percentage of atheists in the democratic party is because of where the majority of atheists are in the country. If someone is born in New York or Boston he/she has a very different religious experience in his/her childhood than if he/she was born in texas.

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