Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and seen them change their minds about something right in the middle of explaining it to you? If you have, then you might experience a bit of déjà vu when you read the following from Vox Day’s discussion of Sam Harris’ Red State/Blue State argument. See if you can tell how Vox’s attitude changes between the first excerpt, from page 115ff of TIA, and the second from just four pages later:
There are several layers of problems with this apparent proof of Christian immorality. The first is that political identity is a very poor substitute for religiosity… [I]t is absurd to credit all of the supposedly law-abiding behavior of “blue” voters to the 16 percent of them who lack religious faith…. If this isn’t sufficient evidence of the foolishness of trying to equate Democratic votes with atheism, the ARIS 2001 survey reported a higher percentage of Democrats among Jews, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Buddhists, and Muslims than among the not religious, of whom only 30 percent reported a preference for the Democratic Party…. So while the data may be striking, the argument based upon it can only be described as strikingly stupid.
What is much more important is the way in which using the more accurate county data demonstrates that Harris’s conclusions are precisely backward. Thirteen of the twenty-five safest cities are situated in RED counties and twenty-one of the twenty-five most dangerous cities are located in BLUE counties. This provides precisely the information that Harris claimed to have sought in vain, it is definitive proof that the social health of Red America is significantly superior to that of Blue America by Harris’s own chosen measure.
Did you catch that? On page 115 and following, Harris’ technique for correlating social health with Christian conservativism is “strikingly stupid.” Yet just four pages later, it’s a “definitive proof” (and not just “a sign,” as Harris called it). What made Vox change his mind so completely? Simple: he found a way to make the voting record say something that he wanted it to say.