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Gregory S. Paul Gets Recycled

John on December 15, 2005 at 8:40 pm

Gregory S. Paul’s study on the correlation between atheism and societal health keeps popping up in new places, despite the fact that it is a pre-fabricated fraud. Someone named Phil Zuckerman has written a chapter for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Atheism in which Paul’s study is cited as authoritative. [HT: Grey Thoughts]

Nations marked by high degrees of organic atheism tend to have among the lowest homicide rates, infant mortality rates, poverty rates, and illiteracy rates, and among the highest levels of wealth, life expectancy, educational attainment, and gender equality in the world. The only indicator of societal health mentioned above in which religious countries fared better than irreligious countries was suicide.

Since Mr. Zuckerman does not use standard citations within his piece, it is difficult to tell which bits of data came from where. However, there is no doubt the above statement is based on Mr. Paul’s study since it mentions all the same metrics, even the lower suicide rate conceded by Mr. Paul. But although Mr. Zuckerman cites Mr. Paul in the bibliography, he references an earlier piece for Free Inquiry, dated 2002. [See update below] As we noted in our debunking of Paul’s study, the 2002 piece contains the conclusions of the later study minus the data. Mr. Paul cites a reference to an earlier Free Inquiry piece by George Bishop, a professor of political studies, however examination of the Bishop paper shows that it has nothing to do with societal health. In fact, there is nothing in the paper remotely like Mr. Paul’s conclusions.

In sum, the history of Mr. Paul’s study is that of a conclusion in search of facts. The 2002 paper makes a bald assertion and backs it up with a fraudulent citation. At least in his study Mr. Paul attempts to back up his claims. What we are witnessing is the birth of an atheist urban legend.

Update: It appears Mr. Zuckerman’s chapter does cite Mr. Paul’s bogus study after all, at least a version of it. He lists an unpublished manuscript dated 2004 by Mr. Paul. Although this manuscript has a completely different title than the study which was eventually published, it appears to have contained the same information.

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