Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Solomon Scale (6 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
First, I am thrilled to hear the news about your neighbor! The angels in heaven are rejoicing over it! And it fits in nicely with this letter; it seems like He has thought this through.
I’m excited to write this letter to you! I have not been able to share these insights with many others, as most in my lab are atheists, and the Christian community is still skeptical this science and of me in particular. I’m glad that I have someone like you who is interested and can ask such good questions.
Last week I told you about the results of our paper. What excites me most about these results are their implications, some of which you have already guessed. I think this slipped past most people, because they might be very upset otherwise. It’s also interesting think about this in terms of eternity. Think about a normal person at 26.3S and -0.01S/year and no acceleration. Consider what would happen to that person if he continued along that track. In just 1000 years, he would be what most murders test at, 16.3S. After two, he would be morally equivalent to a dictator, 6.3S. Before three millennia come, he will have reached absolute zero. There will literally be no goodness in him at all. And what happens to a soul when it is utterly corrupt? Does it even remain human? Can something even exist without Goodness?
And on the opposite side, consider a reforming Christian. Let’s assume that the moral acceleration of true convert to Christianity we measured is actually true. Consider a perfectly normal person who truly converts to Christianity on his deathbed, dying at 26.3S with a velocity of -0.01S/year and an acceleration of 0.017S/month2. Where would he be after a millennium? His Solomon score would top 5000S. Can you even conceive of that? He would be thirty times more righteous than the current world record holder. That is the power of Christianity: not to make bad men nice, for any religion can do that; but to make Old men New.
I think this is what Lewis was talking about. There is a big difference between a murder and your friendly neighbor (~20). But that difference is miniscule when compared with the difference between even the most saintly on earth and one who has been accelerating for 1000 years. If God’s goal were to maximize the number of Solomons in the universe, then there is no means but Christianity that He should use. Certainly a billion people improving linearly in Islam is very good. But that goodness would almost be swallowed up by a tenth that number accelerating even within a thousand years, not to mention eternity.
And so we shall go on, approaching the likeness of God at ever increasing speeds.
Thank you for continuing this correspondence with me. I hope that is might continue.
Your loving grandson,
Jeremiah Paul
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The Solomon Scale (5 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
Of course I’ll finally tell you what I’m doing! The last letter was getting too long.
My study design is as follows. The experimental group is 5000 new converts from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Secularism (now that the Church of Secularism has been formally recognized). We also have control groups of equal size in each of the religions who did not convert. Our study enrollment is 60,000 people in total. Each subject will come in for testing on a monthly basis to testing centers across the country. We’ve partnered with networks of private test centers to save on cost and allow for a greater sample size; this ingenuity was one reason why I think we got funding. Though the big reason is the study design and power; one reviewer comment said that this was the best possible design short of randomly assigning people to sincerely practice another religion (something I did consider, but ruled out both for practical and ethical reasons).
We expect to have enough data to answer the big question: what is the ability of each religion to improve human goodness? We’ll be measuring the moral progress of each convert, and seeing if there really is a change, and if so, at what trajectory. We’ve gotten funding to track these converts for 20 years and to track their Solomon score throughout the time. The next 19 years of work will indeed be exciting, and will be one consistent publication I can count on each year.
Our first year results are intriguing. Our “Table 1” (the starting demographics), looked good. We did a good job at pulling from every demographic. Age, gender, race and even denominations within each religion were all well represented and in expected proportions.
The starting values alone were quite interesting. They showed that Lewis’ century-old guess to the starting nature of new Christian converts was correct. Of the 12 study populations, new Christians were by far the worst (19.7S). The other convert populations and controls are all nearly average (25.2S). It also seems that Christianity not only attracts the bad people, but is particularly good at calling the really bad people It also draws all the outliers; a large majority, (7/9) of the depraved (<10s)>
And I suppose in retrospect, that’s exactly what it claims to do. Jesus calls “not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” He ate with sinners and tax collectors. This goes far in explaining the ‘average’ similarity. Christians will indeed reform, and go from say 16S to 36S through the course of their lives, but the average in time will be 26S, making Christianity look “normal” when compared to the others.
Looking at the progress in each convert is very interesting. The first thing to note is that not all the converts were real. More precisely, two thirds of all converts to every religion do not change their Solomon score over the study period. There seemed to be a fairly sharp divide between the two; there were few people who made little progress. It seemed that there were those who made progress and those who didn’t. It’s also important to note that there were huge variations in month to month measurements in the new converts. Some gave in to temptations, some valiantly resisted. Overall though, there were two fairly clean categories in each convert in each religion when looking at the year as a whole.
Looking at what we called, “true converts,” in each religion the most significant finding is that the moral velocity of each religion is very similar: 0.1S/month or an average improvement of 1.2S/year. The outlier was Christianity. It showed a slower start than the others; the first month’s measurements showed an average velocity of zero. But by the end, it had produced the same 1.2S improvement. That is, Christianity was the only religion which showed moral acceleration (0.017S/month2). The major conclusion of the paper was this: converting to any religion will make one a better person, and by about the same degree.
These results are consistent with the typical experience and understanding of religion. It makes sense that moral codes improve moral behavior. And as a result, of all that was published before, our paper has provoked less anger than most Goodness Science.
I’m so glad that your neighbor’s health has improved. I’ll continue to pray for her soul.
In Him,
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The Solomon Scale (4 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
To answer your question: yes, I will finally start talking about me. And thank you for telling me how important I am; but remember that I am a scientist, and cannot but note that you are biased towards me. And I love it when you’re biased!
Firstly, no, the biggest surprise wasn’t the differences we found. It was just the opposite. The biggest surprise to people was the homogeneity of the measurements. There is very little difference between countries or races. Patriots and Racists from every nation and race reject the machine because it fails to show their superiority. Generationalists insist it is wrong because the Boomers were not shown to be better than Generation X. Classists dispute it because the rich are no better than the poor.
But the most intriguing result to date, and the one which has raised the most ire, is about the averages within religions. There are no significant difference between them. None. The world average is 26.30 ±0.33. Muslims are at 26.40 ±0.38, Catholics at 26.37±0.25, Protestants at 26.03±0.41, Hindus at 26.31±0.23, Buddhists at 26.41±0.17. Secular people land right in the middle at 26.30±0.51. Atheists are the only ‘religion’ which is not within the normal variation; they’re just barely below it at 25.95±0.21. Everyone, especially the Atheists, disputed this result. But it was Solomon himself who was the lead author on “The Goodness of the Religions – A Global Study,” and the science was bulletproof.
This homogeneity has led to attacks by the Universalitsts and Relativists that the religions are all the same. They say that the Solomon Scale finally proves what they’ve been contending all these years. I’ll admit when I first read the Solomon et. al. paper, it was hard to accept. I struggled with it for a long time. I found this data hard to reconcile with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive power of Christ. But since first reading it, I reread Mere Christianity. And I realized something. Lewis makes the clear and powerful point that Christianity is, as he puts it, “not about making nice men, but new ones.” Beyond this, he proposes a theory there what we can now test empirically.
He claims that Christianity is indeed the best way of reforming men, but to do a proper experiment, it must be prospective. A cross-sectional study tells you nothing about the long-term and individual moral trajectories of a group. I was inspired by his book to write a grant to evaluate: is Christianity any better at improving the goodness of a person than any other system?
You may ask how I can fairly evaluate this, being that I am emotionally tied to the answer. I’ll answer that I have faith in Christ, and that though I believe His work to be scientifically verifiable, it is not inconsistent with His character to work in secret. But my duty is first to Truth, His Truth, whatever it may be. Not to my theories or those of my favorite 20th century theologian.
My lab won the NIH grant to do this study. After seeing the great value of Goodness Science, they’ve eased up on the anti-religious prejudices that they once held (and probably gained a few Solomons in so doing). We are doing a prospective study of new converts to the major religions and will follow their Goodness over 20 years. We have completed the first year of the experiment, and our paper was just admitted to Science for publication. It was a great and humbling experience for our work to be so well received by the thought leaders of the day.
Love you,
P.S. I will be praying for your neighbor.
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The Solomon Scale (3 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
Sorry I was so brief in my last letter. I hope to make up for it in this one. Thank you for your prayers, I think the grant was written well. I got an insight at the end which I’ll have to credit to God by your prayers.
As I wrote to you last week, everyone does have a Solomon score at any given time. Last year (the 2042 results aren’t published yet), the world average was 26.3S with a standard deviation of 6.0; it’s pretty close to a normal distribution, though with many outliers (there are many who are very good or very bad). That means that 68% of humanity is between 20.3-32.3S, and 95% fall between 12.3-38.3S.
Criminals and bad men usually came out in the 10-20S range, normal people 20-40S, and particularly nice people sometimes make it to 50S. And then, every once in a while, we find an anomaly. A housebound old woman living alone got a 75S, a homeless man that scores 92S. Most publicly good people (pastors, doctors) turn out to be in the normal range, but I tend to expect outliers of them. I’ve heard of some pastors breaking 100S. The world record is a Chinese evangelist: 147S. In my own lab we recorded the lowest score on record, 0.8, from a popular religious leader. He has since joined the skeptics and believes the machine to be an “instrument of the devil.” When he shouted that, I felt the childish urge to shout back, “It takes one to know one!”
In addition to having a score, everyone also has a velocity. Some are increasing their goodness, in Solomons. Others are falling. We call this “moral velocity.” The scale shows that the world’s velocity is slightly negative (-0.02S/year). And some people are getting better, faster. Their moral velocity is increasing; they have positive “moral acceleration.”
I should mention at this point that there is another quite large group of dissenters to the machine who call themselves Hegelians, who argue that the machine must be flawed because it is self evident that humanity is advancing morally, never declining, never falling back. How they think that 10 years of measurements are at all conclusive one way or another is beyond me.
But if their assumption is right (I’m still withholding judgment), it means that what you’ve been saying to me all these years is exactly right. “When I was a child, we’d never…” or “Young people these day don’t have courage/discipline/piety that we used to.” If you’re right and if we extrapolated this 10-year average back to when you were a young woman 60 years ago, your generation would have been 1.2S better than ours, or 27.5S. But if you were better in your youth, you’ve slipped down with us; there are now no statistically significant moral differences between the generations. For better or worse, we have only ten years of data and we don’t have the data to support such conjectures.
Who knows? Maybe in 20 years, we’ll have enough data to prove you right! Thanks again for your prayers! Is there anything I can be praying for you about?
I love you dearly,
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The Solomon Scale (2 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
I got your letter and you are right. I forgot to talk about the kind of man Dr. Solomon is. He is an incredible man who loves God. I respect his work and his character. We stay in touch and have collaborated on a number of studies.
To answer your other question, the the machine was hailed with all variety of reactions. Most were skeptical of it until it started showing consistent and useful results. Goodness, it would soon be discovered, was not quite what everybody thought.
And yes. You are right. Every person in the world does have a goodness level, a Solomon score, at any given moment. Actually that’s not entirely true; some people have no recordable goodness. On young children and the mentally handicapped, the machine returns “error.” This was a great disappointment to many people, as they expected the children to be consistently higher than the rest of us. These “Innocents” are one of the many groups that still remain skeptical of the value of the Solomon Scale. Though in my opinion, they are naming the solution to their objection. Innocence is not goodness, it is innocence; the machine is a goodness machine, not an innocence machine. But that’s another debate.
But it does remind me of Dr. Solomon’s most recent work on modifying the machine to break out the individual virtues. His preliminary data shows that two people at 20S might be there by different means; one might be a courageous miser and the other a generous coward. But this work is still very preliminary; I’ll keep you updated in later letters.
Sorry I didn’t have much time for letter writing this week and rambled a bit. I had another grant to submit (please pray for me!). Next week I’ll have the time to answer your questions about the science itself.
With love,
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The Solomon Scale (1 of 6)

Dear Grandmother,
In your last letter, you wrote to me asking about the Solomon Scale and how it related to the research I am now doing. I am writing to you to explain the system, including a bit of its very exciting history. Since you left your chair at Harvard, I know that you have trouble keeping up in fields not your own; impenetrable writing is the rule in science these days. I do not fear that the science or math will be beyond you, for I know you are truly an educated woman in the truest sense; but I apologize in advance if I complicate it with Goodness Science jargon.
The story of Goodness Science started ten years ago. According to the father of the science, the scientist and theologian John Solomon, God spoke to him in a dream and told him to build a machine. He said that He wanted to show men their depravity, and that they seemed blind to all but numbers; so He would give Dr. Solomon the plan to build a machine to measure the goodness of a man. Like Moses building the tabernacle or Solomon the Temple, he followed this vision very carefully.
He completed it, and it looked like a hat and vest connected to a box. The subject would sit in a chair next to the machine, and relax. The machine would analyze the state of his soul based on the decisions he then would make in that moment. It would probe the soul and put it through 2.3 million moral tests (which was the minimum number for a consistent reading) to see what it would do in that moment if tested. He would be put through ten thousand temptations, prove his courage on ten thousand battlefields, be annoyed by his boss ten thousand times in ten thousand ways; he would be injured by his brother 490 times and then tested to see if he could forgive. It would then take into account the subject’s upbringing, his genetics, his mind and his intentions; that is, it would consider the raw material with which a man’s decisions were made. Finally, after all that happened in twenty minutes, the machine would read out an absolute score of goodness. The “Solomon Scale,” as it was called, was similar to the Kelvin scale in that both were based on an ‘absolute zero.’ A score of zero Solomons or 0S would mean a perfectly depraved human being.
I hope this clears up the early history of the story.
Your loving grandson,
Jeremy Paul

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