Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

John over at Stranger Fruit has posted an infogram from Science, which ranks 34 countries acceptance of evolution. I have hijacked it below:

i-0619ce8e49c9b15ddebf3fc09da5b047-figure.gif

John notes that only Turkey has beaten us in evolutionary ignornace. But I immediately was struck by how similar this list looks to one I posted about last week regarding the happiest countries in the world! To summarize:

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
125. India
167. Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
177. Zimbabwe
178. Burundi

Here’s a graph of the countries’ Happiness Rank vs. Acceptance of Evolution (note: there were 5 data points I couldn’t verify and those countries were omitted.)

i-bb5fe7cf66ab8850ca5596117be5c83c-happy.bmp

UPDATE: From Pharyngula:

I’m sure you can all guess what the number one biggest obstacle to accepting evolution was.

“The total effect of fundamentalist religious beliefs on attitude toward evolution (using a standardized metric) was nearly twice as much in the United States as in the nine European countries (path coefficients of -0.42 and -0.24, respectively), which indicates that individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views.”

The number two problem?

“Second, the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states–the “red” states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of “creation science”. There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform.”

Comments

  1. #1 Jeremy @ What Now?
    August 10, 2006

    Not to quibble with statistical terminology, but you rather clearly demonstrated that there IS a correlation. There may not be CAUSATION, but there is definitely CORRELATION.

    I suspect, however, that more modern societies are likely to both (a) have happier people because of the modernity and (b) teach evolution. I seriously doubt that happiness is caused by a belief in evolution.

  2. #2 Shelley Batts
    August 10, 2006

    I don’t think its clearly demonstrated at all—I just plugged in the numbers into Excel. Its easy to argue that the ‘happiness index’ is biased in one way or another, thats why I was being cautious. Because I certainly know the difference between causation and correlation; and i’m not even going to assume that my number-plugging suggests a definitive correlation, let alone a causation. (I blasted the media for this very thing a few days ago).

  3. #3 Blas
    August 10, 2006

    Can you please explain a bit how much acces to education people have in US?. How can it be that most do not believe in evolution?.
    e.g. if you ask in your university, will you get the same results?

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    August 10, 2006

    Oh Blas, it is truly shameful isn’t it?? Yeah, I’m sad to report such a pathetic finding. But, no, at the university level (at least any worth its salt) the acceptance rate would be much, much higher. The issue is that many people in America adhere to religion first, and fact and common sense second (if at all). Many religious leaders (uh, and I’m talking about right-wing Christians here) still preach that god made the earth in 7 days and that it is only several thousand years old. Yes, Blas, some people REALLY believe that. And evolution has become evil in their eyes; many in the science community see it as a “culture war” between religious bias and blindness and, well, science. The anti-evolution movement is called Intelligent Design (but I called them IDiots). Pharyngula does a great job debunking their silly theories and generally putting them in their place. I’d recommend checking it out, if only for the humor value.

  5. #5 Deepak
    August 11, 2006

    Only thing I will add is that while Indians are very unhappy, we do just fine when it comes to evolution. For years I didn’t realize that there was such a thing as a “debate” on evolution. Mendelian inheritance and Darwin’s theories just made so much sense when we were taught those (I think it was 8th or 9th grade).

  6. #6 RPM
    August 11, 2006

    What happens when you plot the percentage of pirates in each country? Sorry, but the graph reminds me of the Global Temp vs. Pirates graph from the Flying Spaghetti Monster webpage.

    P.S. It would be better if you had the raw happiness scores rather than the rankings.

  7. #7 Shelley Batts
    August 11, 2006

    There is a positive correlation of % pirates and happiness of course! And an even strong one with % parrots. :D

    I agree about the raw happiness score, but the happiness map and rankings by Arian White are now gone off the internet. I think its because he’s publishing it in Sept, so he took it down. So it was hard enough just finding the rank (I had to use a cached internet page, the 5 I couldn’t verify weren’t on the page due to alphabetical order!)

  8. #8 Kagehi
    August 11, 2006

    Sad thing is, some people over one Pharyngula have set up graphs of suicides, violence and a number of other things in the past, they show the identical correlations. It starts to get real hard to argue that literalism and religious obsession “can’t” have any correlation to how screwed up the country is and the number of insane problems they have. For that matter, I suspect, you would probably even find the same correlation between extreme religion, instances of poverty by percentage of population and prevailence of some diseases, and that this is likely to be true across the board, with only a slight discrepency, as a result of better medicine of techology in some places. I.e. Plotted on a line, the US would “probably” show a spike, but not one sufficient to invalidate a general downward trend. But that is just a guess, based on the apparent trends. The fact that this has only started to be true in the last 50 years or so, roughly when people started to question the value of “science” as “useful”, instead of supposedly “corrupting our nations values” or “denying religion”, is also fairly obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention.

  9. #9 Jim
    August 16, 2006

    If you really want to ask an interesting question about these graphs you would probably start by noting how the “happy” countries are also all small and relatively lightly populated. Until you get to Malaysia at #17 you are dealing with countries that range from underpopulated to really, really damn small.

    Maybe the thing that makes people unhappy is proximity to other people?

  10. #10 Hegiko
    August 18, 2006

    Small countries and homogeneous populations yield greater happiness. Multiculturalism with larger populations yields greater crime and less happiness. Just something that seems to keep popping up in the numbers.

  11. #11 Shelley Batts
    August 19, 2006

    Hmm, by that logic China would be the happiest place on Earth. (It isn’t.)

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