Some Kansas State University geographers have come up with some interesting maps of the US that purport to show the national distribution of the seven deadly sins. Obviously they can't gauge "sinfulness" directly, so they're using proxy data - such as STD infection rate to measure lust (above).
It's a fun thought exercise to assess the pros and cons of the various methodologies for measuring each sin. Consider greed, which was (as described in the Las Vegas Sun) calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line. How does that represent greed? Why didn't they measure charitable donations as a percentage of income, or lottery ticket sales? Ditto gluttony, which was calculated by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita - and probably says more about income than greed. Would the incidence of obesity have been a better measure, or not? I'd like to see the original paper, and what the authors have to say about their choices.
What isn't so fun? The likely response of the mainstream media to this provocatively titled exercise. Check out the intro to the Las Vegas Sun article:
The question of evil and where it lurks has been largely ignored by the scientific community, which is why a recently released study titled "The Spatial Distribution of the Seven Deadly Sins Within Nevada" is groundbreaking: Never before has a state's fall from grace been so precisely graphed and plotted.
The story appears intended to be tongue-in-cheek (it goes on to say "this is a precision party trick -- rigorous mapping of ridiculous data"), but it's also pretty darn irresponsible, because I can guarantee you that is not how the public is going to read it. And the NYT had nary a hint of frivolity in their blog post on it. Argh. Are we going to hear all week about how certain counties and states have been scientifically proven to be more sinful than others? I think I'd rather hear about swine flu.
Besides, they're missing the point. The big mystery is clearly how the popularity of Twitter is going to map onto these data, because remember, Twitter is making us evil.
I can't help thinking it would be fascinating to compare this data to the electoral maps-- which sins are more "red-state" or "blue-state"?
As a Mississippi boy, I have to express a moment of pride in seeing my native state is the only one with zero counties failing to peg the lustometer.
Though my second thought is that MS is also the only state lacking even one Planned Parenthood clinic to distribute free condoms...
Let us know when you have all the result sin....
Ian, if there is any possible pun in your vicinity, you will find it! :)
If people were less likely to take this seriously, it would be hillarious. As is, it's kind of scary.