The Selectively-True Scotsman

BillDo has been on a tear lately against surveys, seeing as how a few of them have been released lately showing that as it turns out, the Catholic rank and file are nowhere near as reactionary as the funny-hatted hierarchy, or as he would like.

I suppose he could have just pointed out that the Catholic church is not a democracy so sit down, shut up, and let the higher-ups tell you what God wants, but I suppose even he realizes that won’t go over well in the 21st century. So instead, he points out the differences between people who attend church services regularly and those who don’t. I guess this is like saying swing voters are more favorable to immigration reform and gay rights than people who consistently vote straight-ticket Republican, and therefore the GOP needs to double down on its anti-gay plaform planks to remain relevant. Or, to put it another way, I don’t know what his reasoning is.

At any rate, it’s clear that he doesn’t care for self-identified Catholics who don’t go to church every Sunday:

Whether someone who “attends Mass a few times a year or never” can be considered Catholic is debatable

(from here)

This takes on added significance when we consider that 4 in 10 of the Catholics sampled do not practice their religion (28 percent go to church “a few times a year” and 11 percent say they “never” attend). That these nominal Catholics are precisely the biggest fans of gay marriage is a sure bet, though the poll fails to disclose the results.

(from here.)

So take note, Christmas-and-Easter Catholics: you’re not true Scotsmen Catholics.

But wait, what’s this?

Catholics make up anywhere between 70 and 78 million Americans

70-78 million out of a population of 315 million is 22-25%, well in line with other surveys of American religion that I’ve seen. But shouldn’t BillDo’s number be 40% lower than mainstream pollsters’, since he doesn’t consider infrequent mass-goers to be True Catholics™?

Surely this can’t mean that he’s happy to count mere “nominal Catholics” when he wants to show off the size of his tribe. We know this can’t be the case because hypocrisy makes Baby Jesus cry. So there must be some other explanation, like anti-Catholic bias among pollsters or something.

Update, Mar. 25, 2013: Carmelita Spats tells me how she tried, and failed, to be excommunicated from the Catholic church, on the grounds that a) she’s an atheist, and b) she had an abortion. But apparently even that’s not enough to be taken off the rolls.

Both Parties Lie, Right?

So I made some comment about the Republican convention being based on a lie or something, and my interlocutor made a comment about how, well, both parties lie. Well, sure. But the Republicans are worse than the Democrats. And she said no, they both lie about the same.

And thus, me being the type of person I am (and that type is “anal retentive”. Or “obsessive-compulsive”. Or something along those lines. Supply your own wild-ass psychoanalysis in the comments), I went looking for data. is good, but they have an annoying tendency to provide nuance and context, rather than just boiling a statement down to a single icon.

WaPo’s Fact Checker is better, with its Pinocchio-based truth scale, but when I checked, there wan’t a lot of easily-accessible data.

Which brings us to PolitiFact. They have both a cutesy-icon-based measurement, but also a lot of data. Although they allegedly have an API, I wasn’t able to find details on how to use it, so I just scraped a bunch of their web pages and grepped out the information I wanted.

And since you’ve been patiently waiting for, like, four or five paragraphs for a chart or something, here it is:

Comparison of Politifact rulings for major US parties. Each bar represents the percentage of statements by that party that fall into a given category.

The data I used is here. There are separate sheets for Democrats and Republicans, with a count of how many statements each person or organization has made in each truth bucket (BTW, in case the phrase “truth bucket” becomes useful during this or any other campaign season, remember that you read it here first).

The first thing that jumps out is that, well, Republicans have fewer “True” and “Mostly True” statements than Democrats, and more “Mostly False”, “False”, and “Pants on Fire”. Which is kind of what I figured anyway, but it’s nice to see my opinion confirmed in chart form.

Anyway, often a person’s or organization’s page has a field that gives their political affiliation, e.g., Barack Obama is listed as “Democrat from Illinois”, while Concerned Taxpayers of America is listed as “Republican from Oregon”. I took the people and organizations listed as “Democrat from” or “Republican from” wherever, and discarded the rest.

Then it was just a matter of spreadsheetizing the data, and totting up the total number of statements by each party, counting up how many statements fall into each category, and, of course, endless fiddling about with fonts and column layouts.

The result is as objective as I could make it. You could argue that PolitiFact is biased for or against the party of your choice, but if there’s bias in the above, I don’t want to come from me.

Fact-Checking the BillDo

Recently, BillDo farted the following onto the intertubes:

Moreover, Jenkins wrote that “Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all allegations of clergy abuse.” In other words, almost all priests have never had anything to do with sexual molestation.

(italics in the original).

Just for comparison, the Wikipedia page for Crime in Detroit, Michigan, says that the murder rate there was 40.1 per 100,000 people in 2009.

Assuming that each murder was committed by a different person, this means that about one Detroiter out of every 2500 accounted for all of the murder in 2009. In other words, almost all Detroiters are not murderers.

So by BillDo’s reasoning, Detroit does not have a murder problem. Good to know. Presumably if I gave him a glass of water with only one part of arsenic in 750, he’d drink it.

The Pope’s Wrong Again, and I Have Data

The other day, on the occasion of World Youth Day, pope Benny gave a speech on the general theme of damage control:

Why aren’t kids interested in religion anymore? We used to be such friends, back when we controlled the governments and had thumbscrews, and before all that child-rape coverup stuff came out. Where’s everybody going?

Okay, that wasn’t a direct quote, just my paraphrase. Here’s something he really said:

As today’s “strong current of secularist thought” aims to marginalize God and create a “paradise” without Him, the Pope explained, “experience tells us that a world without God becomes a ‘hell’ filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope.

“On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits.”

That may be his experience — in fact, if we define “civilization of love” as “religious”, then he may in fact be right — but it sounded fishy to me, so I thought I’d dig up some numbers.

For starters, I found this table of religiosity, from a Gallup poll on religion and suicide. “Religiosity” here is based on whether people say religion is an important part of their life, whether they’ve been to a service recently, and whether they trust religious organizations.

Next, I found UN data on migration, available both as an attractive poster, and in convenient spreadsheet form. The part that interested me is column (6), which gives the net migration in or out of a country in people per 1000 population (that is, what proportion of the population emigrated or immigrated; I didn’t want to use raw numbers, because that would skew the data toward populous countries).

Anyway, to cut a long post short, the data I wound up with is here. And here’s what it looks like in picture form:

In case it’s not clear, the X axis gives Gallup’s religiosity, and the Y axis is the UN’s net migration. The green “correlation” line is a least-squares fit of the data points (ax+b, where a=-0.00102936 and b=0.433999). The US is in the middle of the pack, at 61,4. For some reason, Kuwait is up in the top right corner, above the “correlation” label, at 83,19.5.

I must confess that I’m surprised at how flat the least-squares line is. Given that religiosity is negatively correlated with societal health, I thought that people would be fleeing more-religious countries and moving to less-religious ones. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On the other hand, Joey Ratz’s pronouncement about how more secular societies are miserable hellholes where you can barely hear the constant gunfire over the screams of the rape victims, while more religious societies are paradises where birds sing to skipping passers-by and priests pee root beer, turns out not to be true either.

But I can see why he’d think that: he moved from a fairly secular country (Germany: 37) to a much more religious one, and they gave him a palace and a chauffeured car. So yeah, there’s that.

A Statistical Approach to Deranged Creationist Liars

Over at the Bad Astronomy weblog,
Blake Stacey
wrote the following,
which is reproduced here with permission:

Come on, we’re scientists, right? How about we break out the mathematics. Just for kicks, I’m gonna model Coulter as a Bernoulli process!

Continue reading “A Statistical Approach to Deranged Creationist Liars”