Investigating Claims 


The current Skeptic magazine is featuring an article endorsing Gregory S. Paul's study of the effect of religion on society. This magazine is the publication of the "Skeptics Society," which says about itself,
 
Under the direction of Dr. Michael Shermer, the Society engages in scientific investigation and journalistic research to investigate claims made by scientists, historians, and controversial figures on a wide range of subjects. 
 
So, how about if we "investigate claims made by 'scientist'" Gregory S. Paul, and whether the Skeptics Society might have been wise to do that themselves. 

The extra quotes around "scientist" point to the fact that Paul is not actually trained in the field on which he wrote this "research." We need not re-write the story; I refer you to previous work on the topic:
 
• Scott Gilbreath broke the story in his blog, "From our bulging 'how not to do statistics file'," September 27, 2005. 
• He followed it up with "Mystery Man," September 28, 2005.  
• MikeGene at TelicThoughts showed the real quality of Paul's science here and here, both on September 30, 2005. 
• Verum Serum added this debunking on November 5, 2005.

You've undoubtedly noticed that this is all old news. To sum it up, Gregory S. Paul's research design was totally flawed, his statistical analysis was incorrect, and it appears he selectively sought out data that would support a pre-determined anti-religous conclusion.

A good dose of skepticism, coupled with some actual investigation before they parroted this piece, would have done the Skeptics Society some good. Michael Shermer has just published a book debunking Intelligent Design. He might have more credibility if he hadn't displayed this genuinely awful "science" as an example of what he supports.

Oh, and one more thing. The Skeptic article scoffs,

To this day, the belief that religiosity is socially beneficial is widespread in America, especially among politicians.

If you look at some real science--like the massive study on youth and religion headed by Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina (summarized here)--you'll find that religion is very definitely associated with societal health. Funny thing: it's true--even if some politicians believe it. 

Posted: Thu - September 21, 2006 at 08:34 AM           |


© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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