Daily Archives: September 25, 2009

Americans Who Don’t Identify with a Religion No Longer a Fringe Group

You’ve certainly heard of the ARIS 2008 survey from Trinity College. One of the more interesting aspects of the survey is the demonstration that there is a sex difference in patterns of religions identification. Below I give some links where this has been discussed, but I want to note that in many discussions one of the first things people say … quite reasonably … is that the differences seem small and potentially well within the normal sampling error of a survey.

The reason people think that is because they are accustom to survey data in relation to political polling where sample error is usualy 5% or 3% because of standard methodologies and sample sizes. The ARIS survey has a much lower error rate. The lower error rate does not mean the the conclusion is stronger than it might otherwise be. It means that it is less likely spurious than it might otherwise be. But, in this case, this certainly means that the differences between groups (mainly male vs. female) can not be written off as statistical artifacts. (Though they could easily be of little consequence. Or not.)

In order to help move this discussion beyond sample size questions, I am hereby reproducing salient portions of the Methodological Note for the recently widely discussed and blogged about survey “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population.”

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The meme of honourable death

The Anglo Boer War (in what is now South Africa from October 11th, 1899 to May 31st, 1902) was a turning point in European style military history. Previously, infantry would operate in large blocks that would move forward, turn and open or close ranks, and winning an infantry engagement would involve getting your columns around the side or back of the enemy’s columns, or simply overrunning them head on. This worked in part because although everybody had a firearm of some kind, the firearms held few bullets, took time to reload, and were inaccurate, and since they tended to be inaccurate, the soldiers were generally not trained to shoot as well as they might. So, a rifle was really a spear (with a bayonet attached, of course) that also made a lot of noise and fired a few relatively useless bullets. Previously, the cavalry was effective because it consisted of swordmen up on big and/or fast horses who could move quickly across the landscape and would wade into the enemy’s infantry slicing up the foot soldiers. The cavalry could not be stopped easily by the infantry because the infantry would shoot a relatively small number of relatively bogus bullets at the cavalry, knock a few guys off a few horses, then get ripped to shreds with the swords. The fact that the cavalry often consisted of members of the elite classes and the infantry consisted mainly of working class men made it all the more … Victorian.
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The Rundown on Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier (14,410 ft) has lately attracted a small amount of attention because of what is considered by some an increase in seismic activity there, so I thought it might be nice to get a baseline description of this volcano for those of you interested in such things. For scientifically accurate information and interesting discussion on the mountain, keep an eye on Eruptions Blog.

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