Monday, 11 June 2007

Creation Museum Does Maths

The creation museum does maths!

Hat tip to Blue Grass Roots, for "Fun at the Creation Museum!!!!", his hilarious account of a visit to the new museum everyone is talking about. Go read.

Now let me get boring. Several people have picked up on this hilarious poster. The excuse for adding the 30% might be that it is close enough within a figure of accuracy. Personally, I suspect the addition of the 30% to the poster is simple innumeracy.

But where does the figure come from? It's an encouraging sign; and hopefully the sheer lunacy of the museum will help contribute to the trend described in the paper. But it would still be good to know the source.

The quote comes from the Barna group, a conservative Christian polling research organization. They are actually quite interesting, and I suspect their data is quite credible. There are some amusing features to it, however.

The source of the quote in the poster is, I think, a report that came out in January 2000: Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity:
Perhaps the most deceptive factor is the high level of church-based involvement among today’s teenagers. This study shows that teens continue to be more broadly involved in church-based activities than are adults. In a typical week, nearly six out of ten attend worship services; one out of three attend Sunday school; one out of three attend a youth group; and three out of ten participate in a small group, other than a Sunday school class or youth group meeting. In total, more than seven out of ten teens are engaged in some church-related effort in a typical week. That far exceeds the participation level among adults – and even among teenagers’ parents!

But before these levels of involvement result in celebration, be warned about teens’ plans for the future. When asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip precipitously, to only about one out of every three teens. Placed in context, that stands as the lowest level of expected participation among teens recorded by Barna Research in more than a decade. If the projections pan out, this would signal a substantial decline in church attendance occurring before the close of this new decade.

This confirms that the original research is capable of distinguishing three out of ten from one out of three. But I found the date interesting. The report is now over seven years old; and the same group has more up to date figures available, which the museum did not use. See this report, from September 2006. Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years. By this report, the current figure is one in four. Here's my own graph of some of their data:

According to this data, 81% of 29 years olds were "churched" as teens. 20% are still "spiritually active" and 61% disengaged in their twenties. (I would be in that 61% group.)

There is a lot of other interesting stuff in these reports. Many of these young people continue to maintain an outward allegiance to Christianity. There is also further commentary on "born-again" and "evangelical" categories, and a host of other reports.

Update: credit goes also to the "Friendly Atheist", who appears to have been the first to notice this gaff. See Part 2: My Day Inside the Creation Museum.


  1. Incidentally, this "statistic" highlights something important.

    There's a common belief that the fastest-growing religious group in the US is the fundamentalist "evangelical" group. This is actually incorrect. The fastest-growing group is those who self-identify as Christian but who do not attend a place of worship.

    For some, it's simple lethargy and the claims of modern life. For others, it's a deliberate choice.

  2. At least Ham knows his audience. He makes sure to let them know that 1 in 3 is 30%.

    I liked the one where Ham compared the pile of books to one ancient scroll.

    It winds up being a "no brainer" ... in all senses of the term.

  3. No, no, no guys. There's no bad math here. It's because they only interviewed 3 people for this survey, and since a sample size of 3 has only one significant figure, 33% must be rounded to 30%. =P

    Christians just believe in honest reporting of their wild extrapolations from tiny samples.