“Majoring in the humanities and social sciences puts a damper on religiosity”

Saw this in the New York Times last Sunday.

Losing My Religion, November 1, 2009

MAJORING in the humanities and social sciences puts a damper on religiosity. Thank (or blame) postmodernism, the staple of humanities classes, with its notions of relative truth (opposed to religion’s absolute truth) and questioning authority. “These are arguments that students find persuasive,” says Miles Kimball, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. He and three colleagues analyzed data on the religious attitudes and observance of some 26,000 students across the country over six years.

How important do students think religion is in their lives? For scale, Miles Kimball says, if the difference between the religiosity of people living in the Bible Belt and those in the rest of the country equals 100, then the effect of majoring in a particular subject would be:

-47 Social science
-28 Humanities
-24 Physical science/math
-14 Engineering
-13 Biology
0 No college
+2 Business
+10 Other
+16 Vocational
+23 Education

Not surprising, though I didn’t realize majoring in social science made SUCH a difference (as opposed to humanities). Yep, if you take a postmodern perspective, you’re more likely to focus on social structures as ways of improving the world than on the divine or the spirit.

Also — no matter how many times I read it, I don’t get the thing about “if the difference between the religiosity of people living in the Bible Belt and those in the rest of the country equals 100, then the effect of majoring in a particular subject would be.”  It would seem that would mean that majoring in social science makes a person 47 points closer (i.e., further away from “100”) to the non-Bible Belt population. Anyway, doens’t matter — the scale works without that scale.

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One thought on ““Majoring in the humanities and social sciences puts a damper on religiosity”

  1. How ironic. The social sciences (political science, sociology, geography, etc.) should make one more attuned to the needs and diversity of people and how many of them are believers. Instead it has the opposite effect.

    Human beings want to be fair and we usually think the truth is in the middle between various points of view. But if you say a hamburger is made with ground meat and I say it is made with mud, the trick to making a good hamburger is not figuring out how much mud to mix in with your ground meat.

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