Archives for religion



An Economics Lesson from Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish New Year is announced by blasts on a ram’s horn (shofar). Many people use much larger horns instead (a kudu, for example). This year, as part of the religious service, a woman picked up the ram’s horn to blow a few sounds, and not much came out—a few feeble toots. After squeaking out half the required notes, she switched to the kudu horn—she switched to additional capital. With the larger horn she blasted the entire congregation out of their seats—truly wonderful sounds.

Even in a religious service we can observe that the marginal product of labor is enhanced by additional capital—even in this context labor and capital are complements in production.

(HT to AB)



The Ten Commandments of The American Religion

This is a cross-post from James Altucher‘s blog Altucher Confidential. His previous appearances on the Freakonomics blog can be found here.

If I stood in the center of Times Square and said something like “Moses didn’t really part the Red Sea,” or “Jesus never existed,” people would probably keep walking around me, ignoring what I said.

But if I stood there and said, “Going to college is the worst sin you can force your kids to commit,” or “You should never vote again,” or “Never own a home,” people would probably stop, and maybe I‘d lynched. But I would’ve at least gotten their attention. How? By knocking down a few of the basic tenets of what I call the American Religion.

It’s a fickle and false religion, used to replace the ideologies we (a country of immigrants) escaped. Random high priests lurk all over the Internet, ready to pounce. Below are the Ten Commandments of the American Religion, as I see them. If you think there are more, list them in the comments.

The below is an excerpt from my just released book, I Was Blind But Now I Can See. Read More »



Abortion Is Legal, but What Percentage of Ob-gyns Will Provide One?

A new study released by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, from main author Debra Stulberg, surveys 1,144 ob-gyns (1,800 were initially approached) to see how many provide abortion services. Though legal, abortion is much harder to come by than one might expect: while 97% of ob-gyns reported having encountered women seeking an abortion, only 14% said they were willing to perform the service.

The authors further break down willing abortion providers based on gender, location, and religious affiliation. Here’s the abstract: Read More »



Minority Rules: Why 10 Percent is All You Need

What does it take for an idea to spread from one to many? For a minority opinion to become the majority belief? According to a new study by scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the answer is 10%. Once 10% of a population is committed to an idea, it’s inevitable that it will eventually become the prevailing opinion of the entire group. The key is to remain committed.

The research was done by scientists at RPI’s Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC), and published in the journal Physical Review E. Here’s the abstract:

We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc=10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when p<pc, Tc~exp[a(p)N], whereas for p>pc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdos-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

Read More »



Does More Education Lead to Less Religion?

According to a new working paper that looks at Canadian compulsory schooling laws, an additional year of education leads to a 4 percent decline in the likelihood that someone identifies with a religious tradition. Read More »



Is Islam Bad for Business?

In this week’s New Yorker, John Cassidy asks whether Islam may be to blame for slow economic growth in the Arab world. Read More »



Confession by iPhone

The Roman Catholic Church, which hasn’t always seen face-to-face with modernity, has embraced at least one product of the digital age. The BBC reports that senior officials in the Church in the U.S. and the U.K. have approved a Confession iPhone app. Read More »



Inside a Religious Movement

A new Foreign Policy photoessay takes a look at the secretive, Bangkok-based Dhammakaya movement. Read More »