Sunday, March 7, 2010

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,
Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6 

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