Monthly Archives: March 2011

Danville trails committee formed

On Monday the Danville City Commission approved the formation of a committee that will investigate and give recommendations on how walking/biking/jogging trails can be incorporated into future city projects.

As someone who regularly bikes, walks, jogs, and “baby strollers” all over downtown Danville, I think this is a great step toward making our community a more friendly and accommodating place to live. I think that public trails are an important “quality of life” asset and I applaud the city commission for their decision on this matter.

My only recommendation would be to expand the mandate of this committee to include recommending proposals to create new trails and link them to the major sidewalks in Danville as well as those in Millennium Park, as opposed to the more narrow existing focus of simply looking for opportunities to enhance trails only when and where a specific city project takes place in the future.

Religion and 2012 GOP preferences

From a recent Pew survey:

Huckabee and Romney tied for first place among all likely Republican voters at about 20% each. But there’s a disparity between the two based on religious affiliation. Evangelicals and Catholics prefer Huckabee, but Mainline Protestants and “Other/None” prefer Romney.

In a similar vein, the poll also reveals that, regardless of denominational affiliation, those who are frequent church attenders (and therefore presumably more religious) prefer Huckabee while those who attend church infrequently or never prefer Romney.

The obvious explanation for these results is that Evangelicals are traditionally wary of Mormons and Mormon politicians, including Romney. Also, the perception is that Huckabee is more socially conservative than Romney, (although I personally think the differences are slim on that count) which may explain Romney’s support among Mainliners, unaffiliated, and less religious individuals. The irony is that, in their personal lives, I would describe Romney and Huckabee as both being equally strongly devoted to their particular Christian faiths. Apparently, Mainliners and less religious individuals don’t mind supporting a religious candidate… they simply appear less likely to support an Evangelical religious candidate. (Alternatively, perhaps they view Romney as a viable candidate, while still the lesser of two undesirable choices!)

I do not have an immediate explanation as to why Catholics would support Huckabee over Romney at such levels, though. Any ideas?

College students and perceived conflict between religion and science

The latest issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion includes an article by Christopher Scheitle which discusses how U.S. college students perceive the relationship between religious and science: do the two conflict or are they independent/complementary?

Only about 30% of college freshman see the two as conflicting. Interestingly, majors in the humanities and social science fields have the lowest rate of perceived conflict (26.1% and 27%, respectively), while business and education majors have the highest rate of perceived conflict (38.9% and 41.5%, respectively). Amongst these groups who perceive the two as conflicting, the majority report that they “side with religion” instead of “siding with science”. (Although those in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics fields are more likely to side with science when they see the two as conflicting.

Interestingly, by their junior year, 71% of those who “sided with religion” during their freshman year report that they have changed to perceive religion and science as independent or complementary. In contrast, only 46% of those who “sided with science” during their freshman year did the same.

By whatever measure, though, the majority of today’s college students view science and religion either as independent or as complementing one another.

The (in)effectiveness of punitive immigration policies

From The Christian Science Monitor:

The wave of immigration laws that has swept through states since 2006 shows few signs of letting up, with state legislators expected to introduce about 1,400 bills this year. Yet five years into this legislative surge, the toughest laws have not recast immigration in the ways that legislators might have intended. … The result is a legislative record from Arizona to Florida that hasn’t made much of a mark on illegal immigration, but has fueled a populist backlash against it.

Personality and religiosity

I recently came across this study which provides a meta-analysis of 71 different studies on the relationship between religiosity and personality. The main result was that two key personality traits, agreeableness and conscientiousness, are associated with higher levels of religiosity throughout 19 different countries. People high on “agreeableness” tend to demonstrate more selfless concern for the well-being of others, and are more trusting and generous. Those high on “conscientiousness” tend to have more self-control and are better at “task- and goal-oriented behavior”.

I wonder to what extent personality affects religiosity vs. religiosity affecting personality. On one hand, research tends to show that personality is fairly stable throughout one’s life, and that it is partially genetically inherited. This would lead to the conclusion that certain people are pre-disposed by nature (biological factors) to be more religious. On the other hand, religious individuals (especially born-again Christians) may argue that the born-again experience gives one a “new heart”, which presumably affects one’s personality in terms of being more generous and loving (agreeableness) as well a decreased desire to engage in deviant behavior (conscientiousness).

Or perhaps it’s both and they mutually reinforce each other?

The latest on Utah’s immigration legislation

In a surprising turn of events, the Utah state legislature passed a series of fairly centrist, immigrant-friendly bills that were signed into law by Republican Governor Gary Herbert. These include a guest-worker program and a guest worker parternship with the Mexican state of Nuevo Laredo. Most notably, these bills don’t call for a massive deportation of all undocumented residents, nor do they call for police to check the legal status of anyone they suspect in the country illegally. (Police are to check only if the individual is arrested on serious felony charges).

I’ve written previously about how when controlling for partisanship, Mormons have more liberal immigration policy preferences than other religious groups. In other words, even Mormon Republicans have less conservative immigration views, on average, than other Republicans in the United States. Also, this research study shows that Mormons are most likely to “follow the leader” and adopt the political policy preferences of the Church leadership when 1) there is an official endorsement of the policy by the leaders (which came only last year), and 2) when there is internal agreement among those leaders (which has been developing gradually over the past several years). Both conditions appear to be met on the case of immigration policy, and thus it makes sense that this was the result. As the Utah legislature is one of the most conservative in the country, however, I just didn’t expect that it would actually happen!

“Correlation is not causation”

I recently came across an advertisement insert in a magazine which was sponsored by the National Association of Realtors. The advertising pamphlet is entitled The Field Guide to the Benefits of Home Ownership. The first page presents some statistics which indicate that “students of home owners score better on academic tests and graduate at a higher rate”. The accompanying text reads: “one of the most important social benefits of home ownership is how it affects children and their academic achievements”.

I hesitate to accept the claim that children do better in school because their parents are home owners. I think it more likely that homeownership is an outcome effect of the same thing that leads to higher educational achievement for these children: a more favorable socioeconomic situation that they find themselves in. Parents with higher levels of education (which also predicts children’s educational achievement) also tend to make higher incomes and thus are more likely to afford to purchase a home.

Same goes for other claims made throughout the advertisement about the link between homeownership and being “more active and connected to their own families”, “happier and healthier than non-owners”, and having children that are “20% less likely to become teenage mothers”.