Evolution and Homicide

Evolution and Homicide July 22, 2012

Someone turned the point I made in my last blog post into an image. I will have to check the figures, but it looks about right. Thoughts?

HT Reddit

My first instinct is to doubt that there is a connection, that the correlation indicates causation. But it does not seem impossible to me that the entire culture of “culture wars” in which people learn to distrust their fellow human beings, suspecting that they are undermining the fabric of society and all that is good and true (by being evolutionists/Republicans/atheists/gays/Christians/Communists/Chick-fil-A customers/whatever else), fosters dehumanization of others to an extent that does indeed have an impact.

Or maybe it is the fact that some people are taught at home (or at church, by Rick Warren for instance) that if evolution is true, then we have no reason to be moral. When those people discover that they we lied to and evolution is indeed true, are they not likely to assume that the second part also applies, and that there is no reason to be moral? It becomes a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy

But then again, the correlation may just be a coincidence. What do others think?

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  • Elizabeth

    Maybe you need to bribe someone in teh psych department to do some causal statistical analysis for you.

  • spinkham

    Religiosity and general social dysfunction are highly correlated, and it seems that income inequality is one of the main drivers of both.

    My guess is that the lack of acceptance of evolution is itself a byproduct of the sort of conservative, literalistic, high certainty religion you often get in societies with lower socio-economic functioning, and not any sort of driver of societal trends itself.

  • Psiloiordinary

    Regression Analysis required.

  • Gary

    I don’t think there is a correlation, but who knows? I’d be interested in where India falls on the graph. Strong Hindu and Sikh traditions, untouchable tradition, lots of poverty, lots of good education, lots of knives (in Sikh turbans). I don’t know what their gun control status is, but they have lots of unrest near the Pakistan boarder, and Tamal civil war in the south. Does education (and belief in evolution) trump their religious beliefs. Does the Hindu religion coexist with evolution? Seems like their gun violence is religion against religion, Not individual against individual, Maybe someone that blogs from India could expand. I would suspect that their belief in evolution was high and their gun violence was low (if you throw out religion against religion). They don’t kill cows, but then again, Gandi was assassinated. I’d ask the same thing about Israel. All Israeli’s have guns, well educated, probably most believe in evolution. Yet it seems their individual on individual violence is low. Or does a common threat mitigate one-on-one violence? I would think belief in evolution is a minor factor compared to all the other possible factors.

  • Andrew_ww

    If anything this shows a lack of people believing in evolution (rather than fantasy aka creation aka magic) is the cause.

  • KL Onthank

    That graph above has wildly inaccurate stats for homocide rate. Here is something that is a bit better…

  • Caravelle

    If we want to find out more about actual causation (or whatever link there really is between those two things), wouldn’t it be relevant to know what those homicides are ? I don’t know whether those statistics exist but I would think homicides related to gang violence, or domestic abuse, or ideologically-motivated killings, or poverty-related murders, and so on would have different relationships to whether people believed in evolution; some of those could be tightly related to religiosity or culture-war mindsets, others might have a more distant connection via the economy and all, while others might have nothing to do with it at all. If the relative frequency of different motives for homicide varies between those countries it might reveal something significant.

  • Doug

    James, I think you’d have to work out how to discount an awful lot of rather more obviously relevant factors like access to guns, for this to look like anything but some rather aggressive point-scoring.

    • Doug, I thought it obvious that I do not think that failure to acceot mainstream science sends people on killing sprees. My point is that the evidence is the opposite of what it would be if those who blame murder on evolution were right. I do not think that is an inappropriate point to score, especially when so many peoe in my country take such claims seriously.

      • Doug

        Ok, but are people seriously saying that, or is it part of what Rick Warren claims is a misreading of a tweet?

        • Christian fundamentalists in the US say that all the time. That is why I assumed that Warren was simply using the standard language in the standard way. Sad but true, Doug.

          • Doug

            Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad to be living in the UK!! 🙂 Now all you need is a mythicist blaming Aurora on American belief in the historicity of Jesus.

  • Will

    Link between evolution and murder? Hmm.
    What proof do you have that there is any link.
    One could find hundreds of items from butter to
    Per capita expenditure on peanuts that could yield a
    correlation. I’m pretty sure there’s a link between murder and religious fundamentalism. This post is typical of a scientifically illiterate creationoid with a bogus argument attacking the central theory in the biological and earth sciences. Dude sell your car, buy a donkey, move into a cave, throw out your antibiotics turn off your electricity and teach your kids the earth iOS flat. Idiot..

    • So I think it is safe to say that you didn’t actually read the post, or at least not enough to figure out what point it was making? 🙂