July 28, 2004

Re: The Fed Goes to Hell

Re: Diane's post about the ineffably stupid St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank study of the economics of hell.

The study's chain of reasoning is jaw-droppingly flawed, yes, and half the links seem to be utterly specious. The most offensive is the graph relating belief in hell to corruption. Let's look at it again, shall we?

First: Nowhere on the graph is the all-important caveat PERCEIVED. It's not a graph of actual corruption, just a graph of people's perception of it. That alone deserves a painful smack to the head.

Second: Is a model with a correlation coefficient of |0.34| even reasonable? I realize that economics modeling is an inherently fudgy endeavor, but... but... look at that plot! Do those data points look like a straight line? Or even look like they're correlated at all? Geesh!

Again, I don't have the time to tear the whole thing apart, but why is their theory of causation (belief in hell -> honesty) even reasonable? I find it much more reasonable to believe that cultures that have a strong belief in hard work, honesty, and reward would find religions with strong reward/punishment afterlives attractive.


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