Claims about secularization and economic growth

Damian Ruck, the study’s lead researcher in the University of Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences, said: “Our findings show that secularisation precedes economic development and not the other way around. However, we suspect the relationship is not directly causal. We noticed that secularisation only leads to economic development when it is accompanied by a greater respect for individual rights.

“Very often secularisation is indeed accompanied by a greater tolerance of homosexuality, abortion, divorce etc. But that isn’t to say that religious countries can’t become prosperous. Religious institutions need to find their own way of modernising and respecting the rights of individuals.”

Alex Bentley from the University of Tennessee, added: “Over the course of the 20th century, changes in importance of religious practices appear to have predicted changes in GDP across the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean that secularisation caused economic development, since both changes could have been caused by some third factor with different time lags, but at least we can rule out economic growth as the cause of secularisation in the past.”

Here is the press release, here is the paper, via Charles Klingman.

Comments

'but at least we can rule out economic growth as the cause of secularisation in the past.'

Really, who cares about the Saudis and whatever piddling steps they are taking after growing so spectacularly over the last half century or so.

"but at least we can rule out economic growth as the cause of secularisation in the past." Witless remark of the week? Or is there too much competition?

Isn't this just looking at how the English speaking countries got rich and then generalizing? Might not work for Africa.

Excellent book on Africa is "Altered States" by Richard Dowden.

First, this isn’t looking at just English speaking countries... there are 103 counties in the series at various intervals.

However, this study is little better garbage if you plan to make inferences based on the methods.

Look at figures 1-3 and equations 7-12. Do any of those series look stantionary to any of you? Further we know from many prior studies that GDP levels are not I(0).

If there are either deterministic or stochastic trends in the data, then these kinds of estimators can lead to spurious results. The authors do not present any evidence on any tests for stationarity or co-integration. That already means we have no idea if any of the evidence in this paper is spurious or not.

Furthermore, the authors celebrate their use of mixed models (multi level models) with nested random effects. That’s all well and good except for the fact that they are specifically including lagged dependent variables in their models.

The random effect terms (see eq 7-12) capture the consolidated effect on the dependent variables of all unobservables that are constant over time. Because of this the model applies to all points in time and so the random effect term has a direct effect on the lagged dependent variable. This, the lagged dependent variables are not independent of the random effects and the GM are violated and the coefficient estimates are biased.

A good rule of thumb is never included lagged dependent variables in mixed models at all.

Unless I a completely missing something (I didn’t go over this with a fine tooth comb), I would give this thing an incomplete grade in as an econometrics 101assigment. Not sure how this made it through the reviewers.

@student - you nailed it to a "T". I understood I(0) to mean ON/OFF. And this: "the random effect terms (see eq 7-12) capture the consolidated effect on the dependent variables of all unobservables that are constant over time. Because of this the model applies to all points in time and so the random effect term has a direct effect on the lagged dependent variable. This, the lagged dependent variables are not independent of the random effects and the GM are violated and the coefficient estimates are biased." - is what I said: the study looks at what worked in the past--whatever that may be (you call it the unobservables)--and finds Granger causation of sorts. In the English-speaking world, that would be 'respect for property, secularization, good climate' and the like. All this from not reading the paper but your comments.

Bonus trivia: a paper by Brookings in the 1970s that I once read in the 1980s before I ever thought of living in the tropics, from a Jewish surnamed person, concluded the one variable that explains poor Third World economic performance is tropical diseases (e.g. climate). Years later Jared Diamond ran with this theme. They were right, I see now.

Well. The larger point is -

Modernity is based on the "idea of progress". Progress by definition is "linear".

Eg : Newton superseded Aristotle. Maxwell superseded Newton. Einstein superseded Maxwell....and so on.

Religion is messy, because unlike Science it deals not with facts but with "values". Values are not linearly "progressive".

You may talk of individual rights. I may counter that with the need for personal virtue trumping individual rights. You may argue for abortion rights. I may argue for the rights of the foetus.

Unlike Science, religions are many. And so are values. The Hindu idea of a "good life" is different from a Muslim's which in turn is different from a Jew.

No wonder this creates a disdain among those obsessed with Science and Progress for those who like discussing "values". It naturally generates a disdain for religion too. Which results in the so-called "secularization" phenomenon.

But should we "progress" at the expense of virtue? THis is a question "progressives" don't like. So they would rather have as few values as possible that they can define in "linear terms".

Eg : Liberty, Equality.

But what about virtues that defy linearity? And that can't be measured as easily. How about "Fortitude", "Sacrifice", "chivalry", "modesty", "kindness", "austerity"?

These words don't exist in the dictionary of progressives. They are NOT worth discussing because they defy linearity. So the only value you end up with is Per-capita GDP and ofcourse the GINI co-efficient.

That's progress for you. A value free society.

But why should we care for science? Why should we care for Progress? The very notion that "Science" is important is a value of sorts.

I would like to quote Mansfield in this regard -

""Science has an implicit argument that science is important; it is a grand project for making human life more reasonable, less customary, less concerned with ambition and greatness. In sum, science seems more democratic. It undermines all traditional elites, but quietly, implicitly, replaces them with a scientific elite hostile to all elitism except its own. Science democratizes everything but its own despotic self"

But Science unfortunately does need help from the world of "values". Eg : NASA needs funds from those "dirty", "irrational" politicians to function. The various AI labs need the investment from businessmen in Tech companies to sustain their operations

Despite this existential dependence on "Non Science" and the world of "values", Science can be very petulant, ungrateful kid! It owes no gratitude to the world of "values". Instead it merely sees the social support for it as the "duty" of the rest of society towards it. It is a different matter that this stance itself is a "value" of sorts. But not surprisingly it is the only "value" that Science heartily accepts!

After all, "Science" is good for its own sake. It can never be evil ;)

You have an interesting and in many ways admirable anti-materialism and monasticism. But it's simply not going to scale to 7 billion and counting humans. Those who decide the material world is essentially meaningless may be happier people, but there are very rare people and will be for a very long time.

That said, no harm in expressing it. Perhaps someday all of mankind will transcend their egos (maybe when uplinked digitally?), but it will take centuries.

Grrr. "they are very rare"

Actually the disdain for linearity and the idea of progress is not a marginal predilection. Many people share my views without being able to articulate it.

And the religion of "progress" has for some time now been turning imperialist by not restricting itself to Science but venturing into other areas. Eg : Politics, History.

In History it takes the form of WHig history

In Politics we are told about the virtues of "Democracy", "Equality" and "Universal adult franchise". Why? Because these fit the linear model very well. It is possible to define an "End of history" with these values.

But it is problematic, much to the annoyance of progressives. Eg: Lee Kuan Yew did a great job in Singapore while being undemocratic. There's "undemocratic China" that grew at a faster rate than any other country in human history for 3 decades.

What do you do with these inconvenient data points. There is a studied silence about them ofcourse, because they defy the linearity model, and make the "end of history" seem less plausible.

It seems to me you are mixing things up a bit. There's democratic/classic liberal/individualist progress leading to a hoped for 'end of history', and you put up some counters like Singapore and China. Fair enough. But do those places espouse the values and virtues you claim are superior to materialism and science? They do not.

My point is, your focus on nonmaterialistic values and virtues is admirable but not scalable. It's changing the subject to talk about undemocratic material progress in places like China.

They are two separate points I think you are making, and mixing. 'Science'/materialism vs higher values, and democracy/individualism vs authoritarianism/collectivism. Each is worthy of discussion.

Personally I am much more impressed with your espousal of higher values over materialism than I am of your espousal of collectivism over individual liberty.

I am making two different points. But not mixing them!

My point is the ideology of progress stems from Scientism. And this ideology has tried hard to inflitrate into domains other than Science. Politics being one fine example.

One manifestation of this "linear progress" obsession is ofcourse the fetish for democracy, universal franchise among other things. I pointed out how there are inconvenient exceptions to this fetish, which are conveniently brushed aside by liberals.

I don't think you can necessarily say that the political drive towards democracy/classic liberalism/individualism is driven by 'science' or 'Scientism'. Intelligent and egoistic humans can yearn for individual freedom and autonomy and voice (democracy) without any input from 'science'.

I think this discussion is missing the fundamental thing that sets science apart from all other disciplines: the ability to control nature.

Without science, we are doomed to live in a world where we can be destroyed by disease or famine or many others things at any moment. This is fundamentally at odds with the function of all life, and no conscious or unconscious being would tolerate it if they didn’t have to. Only with science has incremental progress towards controlling our environment been shown to be plausible. Thousands of years of prayer and worship never made a difference.

There are commenters like Hazel Meade and clockwork_prior (are our names correlated?) and sometimes msgkings who seem to think synthesis and argument and contradiction here in the blogging process in the comments section makes a good forum. Thus, inherently arguing against a linear process of discovery. How's that working out for you guys?

there are others like Rayward and Dick the Butcher who focus less on the process of blogging and more on reading comprehension. They are postprocess. I assume they find the arguments silly, or at least I do, but maybe I'm not as intelligent as the process people.

Meaningful exchange of ideas in the MR comments! Who knew this was still allowed!?!?

Right? We should do this more LOL

The Heineken Conundrum

"Unlike Science, religions are many. And so are values. The Hindu idea of a "good life" is different from a Muslim's which in turn is different from a Jew."

There is only one God. Satan, however, taught man that there is no real truth. One worships cows to get money, then worships an idol to get power, then worships a devil to have good harvests, then worships the another devil because it is popular. Under Satan's kingdom of lies, man is not only taught there is no truth, only appearences, he is also taught to prey on his brothers and sisters. Indian-Chinese-Japanese anti-Christian persecution is Satan attacking those who adhere to Truth and refuse to bow before him and live under his rule.

You're religious TR? I don't think I ever met a religious Brazilian. BTW, "Satan" is a Zoroastrian concept, and India has a bunch of these people.

Bonus trivia: Brazil has some of the worse internet in the world, relative to their GDP. It's horrible, about 2.6 Mbps, and you're lucky sometimes to get even that. Greece had such speeds around 2006, 12 years ago, and Greece is backward with the internet. The Philippines today (in Manila, not in the provinces) has around 5 Mbps average speeds (terrible latency however, but that's another story).

There are lots of religious Brazilian. Catholicism was the official religion for centuries. Brazil is now considered the Mecca of Christianism. It has revuilt the Temple of Solomon.
According to Prophet Bandarra, God chose Brazil to lead the world and defeat Gog and Magog. In many Brazilian cities, jnternet speed easily beats 15 Mbps. Unfortunately, the Amazon forest and the big, rural and frontier areas bring the mean down. Yet, now that the Brazilian Olympic Games and the Brazilian World Cup are over the govern,ent will have more resources to jnvest i needed infrastructure.

Too....many....jokes......can't control....them all....

"Satan" is a Zoroastrian concept

Pharisaic and Essenic Judaism were syncretic fusions of Zorastrianism and traditional judaism. Note Pharisee and Farsi/Parsi. Essenic Judaism accepted the Pagan trinitarian god and became Nicene Christianity.

'Progress by definition is "linear"'. What are you on about?

Differences are an impediment to economic growth (in part because they contribute to disorder), while sameness serves to promote economic growth (in part because it contributes to trust). Robert Wright, in his book The Evolution of God, claims that the spread of Christianity contributed to trade and, hence, economic growth because it provided sameness (shared belief) and trust. Of course, sameness doesn't have to be religion, as people can share all manner of beliefs, including secularization. Extreme secularization, atheism, is no less a belief than theism, but trust would be lacking and so would order and stability. The key, then, to economic growth is order and stability, which follows from sameness and the trust it engenders. Disruption, on the other hand, is the path to disorder and instability and slow or no growth. Those who believe disruption is the path to economic growth might also believe secularization is the path to economic growth, but both beliefs would be wrong.

Sameness of belief is again problematic. It is what makes CHristianity and Islam radical religions. Unlike Hinduism which is a conservative system.

Sameness stems from an urge to "move ahead" and progress. But that's a cop out. Where you stop arguing with your partner, because you really do want to make love to her.

But isn't that insincere? If there are differences in belief and values, shouldn't we stick to our convictions and not chicken out and give up on difference.

I want a culture that celebrates difference and conflict.

"I want a culture that celebrates difference and conflict."

Then how can you admire Singapore and China? Adding to my critique above.

That was a different point I was making. Exceptions to the "Washington consensus" or "liberal world order" or whatever you may wish to call it

I am no fan of Singapore or China. That's a separate point

@msgkings - I haven't read you in a while. Since when did you transition into an online intellectual? It's kind of funny, like hearing a clown pontificate on nuclear physics. No offense meant.

LOL none taken. Just as I do not mean to offend when pointing out your loneliness and penchant for prostitutes.

He seems to enjoy spending most of his time posting cuck comments to make other commenters look bad. A clown indeed. Dude should be banned.

And here we see you don't need any help looking bad.

"Sameness stems from an urge to "move ahead" and progress. But that's a cop out. Where you stop arguing with your partner, because you really do want to make love to her."

Sameness comes from a desire for Truth. Satanism teaches there is no truth. One worships a devitoday and another devil tomorrow. One does what is expedient (worshipping whatever devil the village does), not what is righteous and truthful.
Western progress coming from the believe in and love for Truth. There is right and there is wrong. There is a real God, who rules with might, not a cow here and an idol there.

That why Modi's totalitarian regime tries to silence Christians, lest Indians learn that they have been lied to by their leaders and are being enslaved by Satan's minions.

Whenever I see the term secular on this blog I get confused.

At a basic level, one reason why captialism needed some degree of seclurization is Very Religious Societies use all their capital to build big religious statues and church instead of assets.

Hindu temples are hoarding around $1 trillion of gold.

Satan controls that money.

The search for Democrat relevance continues.

Alternately, its obvious the Russians hacked these researchers' brains and turned them into lumps of asinine bull shit.

They really should take a close look at birth rate. Certainly secularization decreases birth rate, and number of young children would certainly be tied to women's ability to enter the workforce.

Is there any question that China's one-child policy was tied to its massive GDP growth?

Um, quite the opposite. The Chinese just reversed their one child policy because plummeting population is an easy way to kill GDP growth. Growth is simply growth in population x productivity per capita growth after all.

*was tied*. Of course, as a nation hurtles towards extinction, it's growth will lower. But the initial shock of women entering the workforce is a plus.

msgkings

Why not stages of capitalism on low birth rates? The richest and most competitive nations (US, Canada, Japan, Sinapore, Germany) all have low birth rates and the only competitive nation that has a high birth rate is Israel which is in the middle of a Cold War, and has 7 million people. Also Ireland Euro Tiger came after 1990 when people stopped having three plus babies.

So short term low birth rates:
1) Keep the cost of the family down which allows lower wages.
2) Allows maximum education for 1 child instead of spreading out to 3 - 4.
3) Women join workforce.

Then after one generation, it turns against the economy because now your labor supply and demand are decreasing. So low birth rates were necessary to Japan Inc. rise of 1970 -1990 and then slowed it down after 1994.

The theory is not perfect (numerous low birth nations, Iran, don't have huge growths, but name one nation that has very competitive economy and high rates outside of Isreal.

Probably a little simplistic but seems reasonable.

Across last 140 years, per capita GDP growth in the US mostly proceeds at a uniform rate without regard to major demographic changes in female labour participation, birth rate, or migration rates (or type of migrants).

This seems challenging to explain for ideas that GDP/capita is conditional on age dynamics or gender participation dynamics or positively / negatively influenced by migration (https://ourworldindata.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Screen-Shot-2016-11-21-at-14.37.31-750x441.png).

In your model, you'd surely see a pattern of rising GDP/capita to trend occur with slowing population growth across demographic transition. But this does not really seem to happen.

Sounds like the real key is not secularization so much as greater respect for individual rights.

The secular, Progessive movement of a century ago wasn't bogged down overly with concerns about individual rights. Today's rational secular humanists have bolted on a plank of respect for individual rights, but the rational basis for this position is not at all obvious to me.

"The sanctity of the individual" is a religious idea. You can tell from the word 'sanctity'. Not always honored in practice by Christians, but they have at least as much claim to this idea as secularists, probably more.

Maybe it's how you define "development" or "progress."

I am not a student of other religions, but it's clear that Christianity and its assertion of the dignity of all men offered an escape from the tyranny of polytheisms that saw humanity's fate as out its own hands. That baseline value of respect for others led to the Magna Carta, which led to the broad adoption of contracts, which are helpful in commerce. Then came the philosophers of the Enlightenment who advocated for rights of man and the US Constitution, which guaranteed equal treatment to all citizens.

The idea of citizenship expanded, albeit slowly, to include women and minorities. Other countries still are working on equality for lower-caste persons, members of non-state religions and, most recently, persons without "social credit."

Having a few basic principles that apply to all members of community may not sound like religion, but it does clear the way for economic growth based on more than the you-eat-what-you-kill state of nature that led to the rise of civilization.

The argument here seems rather labored. In Western societies, people are free to see themselves as science-based and to scorn religious beliefs and practitioners. But to pretend that religion didn't carve the way for this freedom belies an ignorance of how we came to this point.

Christian persecution of pagans and heathens is very well known. So much for offering "dignity to all men".

It is unfortunate that Europe has completely lost touch with its pagan roots.

Who cares if they represent the truth or not? Such thing does not exist! One can worship cows today and worship Zeus tomorrow. Who cares? Well, thank you, but I choose Truth instead.

"Other countries still are working on equality for lower-caste persons"

Well. Blacks in the South lacked civil rights right up to the 60s - a time by when reverse discrimination against the "upper castes" was already well established in Indian law.

"Countries where abortion, divorce and homosexuality are tolerated have a greater chance of future economic prosperity." One sentence that says so much about the quality of US researchers and academics and completely validates so-called "anti-intellectualism."

Is there an argument in there somewhere?

I thought having abortion in there was completely unnecessary and it does show some questionable bias.

Any more than homosexuality? They are tolerated in the same kind the country. Which might as well (or not) be the ones with tje best institutions for growth. Divorce is the odd one out. Divorce is frown at traditional Christianity and some Asian countries, but it is codified in Muslim and Jewish laws.

Someone was looking at the cause of the religious hold in Muslim countries. Not very many are doing well, but religion provides a trust basis which allows for trading.

Essentially you have competing groups and warlords, lots of violence and raids. Very difficult to set up a trade system because it is easier to steal. Which makes the towns and villages poorer and lacking in God's that would be easy to acquire through trade. So trust structures based on religious devotion form a basis for trade. The language and religous habits and patterns make it possible to trade.

Of course secondary power structures get established upon that basis which prevent further growth and prosperity. But without that basis there is very little trade

Essentially this study is describing alternate based for trust relationships making trade easy, leading to greater prosperity.

So maybe the precondition for prosperity is stability and reasonable government. Maybe religion isn't a driver of instability but a response to it.

This seems like an odd paper, if anyone else has read it.

It seems to assume that the only competing institutions across the board are organised religion and government, and this approach might work in the Western context.

But it doesn't really seem to account for societies/cultures where family values are still quite dominant and might be reflected in a set of religious beliefs that fall outside of institutions (e.g. Confucianism, Buddhism). And this results in the family being a dominant and competing institution alongside government and church.

In this context I'm thinking of, say, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, where family values are significant, even though religious values are not.

And at which point, you also have to throw in the crossovers between family, ethnicity and CULTURE more broadly, which appears to be missing from the paper in its entirety.

Sure, I understand that they were looking for a set of correlations/relationships between economic development and secularization, but ...

Academic nonsense. First thing every secular ruler did was confiscate Church property. Morality is designed to keep stupid people out of trouble. Obviously, it failed with the authors.

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