Discover more from Overcoming Bias
Last November we learned that the US public believes in God more than college professors, who believe more than professors at elite schools:
Almost a third answered "none" when asked their religion — more than twice the percentage found in the general population. Science professors were the least religious. Accounting professors were the most religious. More than half the professors at places other than so-called "elite" universities said they absolutely believed in God. About a third of the professors at elite schools took that position. … About 30 percent of community college professors considered intelligent design as a serious scientific alternative. Fewer than 6 percent of professors at elite universities took that position.
If all we know about a view was that professors held it more, and elite professors even more so, we would be inclined to favor that view. But other considerations can be relevant; if we knew elite professors favored increasing elite research funding, we might attribute that to self-interest bias. So should we favor elite professors’ views on God, or can we identify other relevant considerations?
Added: Tyler Cowen dares us to answer, so let’s list explanations of this correlation:
Information – Elite academics have better information and analysis.
Social pressure – Random variations in local social pressure are a generic explanation for all behavior differences.
Calm – Tyler says the academic neutral tone fits badly with charisma.
Unfeeling – Academics prefer explicit reasoning, and neglect our feelings, which some call our best evidence for God.
Safety – Anders suggests the safe cushy academic world doesn’t inspire fear, which inspires hope in God.
Contrarian – Academics distinguish themselves from others via differing beliefs.
Jealousy – God would be a threat to academics intellectual authority.
Mystery – God is too hard to understand for academics to make progress using him as an explanation for things.
In terms of what these theories suggest about what to believe: 1 favors no God 6,7,8 favor God, 4 is hard to interpret, and the rest seem neutral.