More TIA controversy

It seems my speculations about Vox Day’s Red County/Blue County argument continues to be my most controversial post in the ongoing TIA review series. Over at Mark My Words, a blogger takes me to task for suggesting that Vox might have changed his mind in the course of working through the numbers on Red State/Blue State voting records as compared with crime statistics for the same regions.

Obviously Vox Day was not seriously considering this a proof as he worked through the numbers. Having not expanded that entry on my first read I didn’t know how silly the reviewer was as I developed my first thoughts about the matter. One would think that perhaps after reading the entire entry the reviewer would be acquitted. Unfortunately, it turns out the incompetence of the objection to Vox Day on this point is even worse than missing the stated intent because the reviewer actually addressed that quote from Vox later in the post.

Yet another Vox supporter who, like Vox himself, accuses me of failing to give Vox the benefit of the doubt, without ever giving me the benefit of the doubt.

In the first place, I’m not the one who called Vox’s Red county/Blue county statistics “definitive proof” of beneficial Christian influence on society. I’m not inventing the marked change in tone between the beginning of the argument and the end. Those are Vox’s words, quoted straight from his book. And as the commentator above admits, I did acknowledge that Vox began with a classic devil’s advocate, reduction ad absurdum approach. I even stated, in my original post, that I was suggesting a possibility which could be wrong. Yes, that’s right, the first person to express skepticism about this possibility was me, not Vox, and not any of Vox’s supporters. I bent over backwards to include both the evidence supporting the possibility, and the evidence against it.

Of course, for Vox and his supporters, this is just a free pretext for claiming that I’m allegedly “silly,” “incompetent,” “dimwitted,” “biased,” etc. etc. That’s fine, a certain amount of ad hominem comes with the territory, and in any case, my point does not depend on any particular personal authority on my part. I noticed a specific, objectively verifiable set of characteristics in Vox’s writing, which I think are (or may be) significant, namely that Vox explicitly mentions the fallacious nature of the argument only when he’s not discussing the conclusion that Christians are more law-abiding than non-believers. When he is talking about Christians committing fewer crimes, he uses different, more positive terms (like “definitive proof”) to describe the results. It’s a consistent pattern, even in his defensive “rebuttals,” and I think it bears watching.

Bear in mind, this is not the first time Vox has addressed Harris’ Red State/Blue State argument. Writing in 2006, Vox says:

Consider Florida, which went Republican in 2004. It has 67 counties, and the ten which supported John Kerry most heavily, (thus, by Harris’ reckoning, the least religious), were home to 367 murders in 2006. The ten counties wherein Bush found his strongest support, on the other hand, had only 19. Even taking population differences into account, the murder rate per 100,000 in the “blue” counties was more than twice that of the “red” counties, 4.7 to 2.0. And the two most murderous counties in the state, Gadsden and Madison, averaged a murder rate of 13.9 to go with their 60 percent support for the Democrat.

It is clearly perverse, bordering on the intellectually dishonest, to attempt charging these godless “blue-county” murders to the religious “red-state” account.

Nor are American statistics the only means of demonstrating a godless proclivity for crime, the inherent problem of equating legality with morality notwithstanding. A comparison of a 2000 survey of the British prison population with the 2001 national census revealed that whereas individuals claiming atheism or no religion make up only 15.5 percent of the British population, they comprise 31.9 percent of those imprisoned. [Emph. added.]

Now again, I’m willing to concede that Vox might believe it is bogus and dishonest to use red-state/blue-state or red-county/blue-county crime statistics to draw conclusions about the so-called “godless proclivity for crime.” He certainly does not go out of his way to draw attention to the bogus nature of the conclusion, though–or at least, not when the conclusion is “Christians are less criminal than unbelievers.” I suspect that, his protests and defenses notwithstanding, he might have a lot more sympathy for this conclusion than he’s willing to admit.

Be that as it may, Vox does deserve kudos for one significant accomplishment. Atheists have been trying for years to debunk the idea that Christianity produces a healthier society. By writing Chapter 7 of TIA the way he did, Vox has set up a situation in which he and his supporters must loudly and conclusively refute the claim that county statistics support a link between Christianity and decreased crime. Maybe with Team Vox on their side, atheists will finally be able to lay this one myth, at least, to its well-deserved rest.

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