Sunday, April 05, 2009

Some flaws in the Belief-O-Matic test

The The New Unitarian took the Beliefnet Belief-O-Matic test and posted his results, which inspired patter pensée to do the same. I've done this before, but decided to do it with commentary this time, as I have some questions about how they get their results. In any kind of sorting program, the choice of criteria and how heavily to weight them is crucial- in Cladistics , for example, if you count bipedal locomotion too highly, you'll have humans more closely related to ostriches than orangutans. Here are the results:

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Neo-Pagan (94%)

Not surprising that these two are on the top; I claim them both- but I think the order should be reversed. There are two reasons why; the first is abortion. Pagans and NeoPagans tend to be as split as the general public on abortion, but I have never met, nor heard of, nor even met anyone who has heard of a pro-life Unitarian- except me. It should be noted however that I am pro-life in the moral and religious sense, but not in the political sense- I have come to believe that it is not possible to craft legislation that will not be abused by one side or the other. But I am unaware of any other UU anywhere who believes that life begins at conception.

The other dividing issue is God. Belief in a divinity is completely optional for a UU, but other than the Satanists, I have never heard of a Pagan atheist. They may argue about how many gods there are, but every Pagan I know agrees on at least one. Were I writing the test, I would weight these questions much higher in separating UUs from Pagans.

3. Liberal Quakers (91%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (86%)

I can't argue with numbers 3 and 4; I get along well with Quakers and liberal Protestants. Mainline Protestans are a little more problematical- there's this "Trinity" thing...

5. New Age (85%)
6. Secular Humanism (84%)

I find it hilarious that these two are rated so closely together. While there are tolerant religious humanists, everyone I've ever known who self-describes as Secular Humanist has nothing but contempt for anything New Age- or "Woo-Woo" as they prefer to call it.

7. Mahayana Buddhism (77%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (72%)

These two look better on paper to liberal eyes than they do in practice, especially in terms of social justice.

9. Reform Judaism (70%)
10. Baha'i Faith (68%)
11. Orthodox Quaker (67%)
12. Sikhism (67%)
13. Taoism (66%)
14. Nontheist (65%)

I have no real comment for most of 9-13, but Nontheist? Personally, I'd have put that at the very bottom!

15. New Thought (64%)
16. Scientology (60%)
17. Jainism (59%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (53%)
19. Orthodox Judaism (52%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (46%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (46%)
22. Islam (45%)
23. Hinduism (38%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (36%)
25. Roman Catholic (36%)
26. Seventh Day Adventist (27%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (16%)

No real arguments on these, either. How about you? any surprises on your matches?


UUpdater said...

Joel, have you read any of Bill Baar's posts? I am pretty sure he would be described as pro life.

Joel Monka said...

You may be right, UUpdater; I had forgotten about those posts! But he presents an either/or, and discusses the ramifications of the question... I'll have to ask him where he comes down on that directly.

ogre said...

I've known a couple Pagans who didn't believe in any gods--not in any sense other than metaphor or Jungian archetypes. I'd view that as a form of Atheism. One of them may be a UU now, too. I'll have to check sometime.

I think that you may need to define terms a little more tightly. I don't have nay issue with asserting that a fertilized egg is alive. Heck, science wrestles with the alive or not of a virus (is it, or not?), but the lean seems to be that it must be.... How's that different from an egg or sperm?

The idea that the fully chromosomed cell isn't alive is a pretty silly one.

That's not the argument I've seen, though. It's not "is it alive, or not?" It's "is it a human being, or not?

I'll agree that it's alive. I don't see that it's a human being at that point. Potential, sure--and potential with a definite biochemical vector in the direction of becoming human. But at that point it's a cell, not a person.

From there we move off into the long zone of shades of gray....

Joel Monka said...

There may well be some Pagans who view divinity as metaphor- we are certainly an eclectic bunch! But it's hard to see why anyone would bother to declare as Pagan, accepting the prejuidices certain to be aimed their way, if they held those views.

I have problems with the shades of gray, ogre, because someone must control the definitions of gray... is it human when it's viable? Define viable. A fertilized egg might be considered viable if it's in a petrie dish, ready to implant in whomever wants it... on the other hand, a new born might be considered not viable, because it's still 100% dependent upon a mother- the only difference being that it could now be sustained by other mothers. We could assign fractional humanity, based on development I suppose- there is Constitutional precedent for fractional humanity.

ogre said...

Someone has to control shades of gray.


So it goes. The choice is to assert that it's God, and allow someone speaking for God to tell us which shades of gray are white and which ones are black... or to come to some agreement about it.

Since we don't--UUs or the society at large--agree on what God says (or that God says anything), we're left having to make the decision.

Challenging. Difficult. Yes.

And we never gave up fractional humanity (that's not how I would express it, but whatever); look at the rights (and lack of) that children have. The notion that we grow (or evolve) into rights and their counterpart resposibilities is utterly normal already.

Joel Monka said...

"And we never gave up fractional humanity (that's not how I would express it, but whatever); look at the rights (and lack of) that children have. The notion that we grow (or evolve) into rights and their counterpart resposibilities is utterly normal already."

True, except for one right: the right to life. It is not legally called a child until it is recognized as a human life; once that happens, then that right is an absolute that doesn't need to be grown into. I used to call that "pneunmatic rights", as the law seemed to say that once air touched the baby's skin, then it was human, but that proved not quite true- it turns out that babies who survive the abortion process are often killed.