September 2020 Archives


The headline writer says, "Unconscious learning fosters belief in God, study finds", but that's wrong in a very significant way. The study only demonstrates a correlation between a belief in God and an ability to predict complex patterns.

People who unconsciously predict complex patterns are more likely to hold a strong belief in God -- a god who creates order in an otherwise chaotic universe -- according to research published Wednesday.

"Belief in a god or gods who intervene in the world to create order is a core element of global religions," Adam Green, an associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University, said in a news release.

"This is not a study about whether God exists, this is a study about why and how brains come to believe in gods," said Green, who also serves as the director of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition. "Our hypothesis is that people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power."

From what I can see, the fault lies with the writer of the headline, not the study authors. Any of these four possibilities could be true:

  1. Belief in God leads to the ability to make better predictions
  2. The ability to make better predictions leads to believe in God
  3. Both belief in God and the ability to make better predictions are caused by some third unidentified factor
  4. The correlation discovered by the study is anomalous

The first three possibilities are all interesting.


I'm interested in political polls but don't know much about their inner workings. My assumption is that pollsters must have learned something from their failures in 2016, and that 2020 polls showing Biden leading Trump are more accurate than the polls in 2016 that showed Hillary easily defeating Trump. I have no real basis for this assumption, except that people don't like to look foolish twice in a row.

But this voter registration data from Pennsylvania is more concrete than a poll, and hard to dismiss.

The GOP has added almost 198,000 registered voters to the books compared to this time four years ago, whereas Democrats have gained an extra 29,000. Though Democrats still outnumber Republicans by about 750,000 voters in the state, the GOP has seized on their uptick in party members as a sign that Trump is on track to win this critical Rust Belt swing state a second time. ...

Overall, registered Democrats now make up 47 percent of the state's electorate, down from 49 percent in September 2016. Republicans comprise 39 percent, up from 38 percent four years ago. Many party officials credit Trump himself for narrowing the gap.

Obviously Republicans claim this trend in registration is significant, and Democrats claim it isn't.

"It's one of the reasons why I am very bullish on Donald Trump's prospects in Pennsylvania. I think he will win again, and I think he will win by more votes than he did in 2016," said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns in the state. "Trump is doing what Ronald Reagan did 40 years ago, which is moving a lot of traditional Democrats into the Republican column." ...

"It probably means less than meets the eye," said J.J. Balaban, a Democratic consultant in Pennsylvania. "There's reason to believe the shift is mostly 'Democrats' who haven't been voting for Democrats for a long time, choosing to re-register as Republican."

Republicans and Democrats agree that former Democrats are registering as Republicans, but disagree about the significance of this fact. I guess we'll find out in a couple of months.


According to Rasmussen, Trump has the support of 27% of Black Pennsylvanians.

Worrisome for the former vice president is his 67% black support, low for a Democrat, with the incumbent earning 27% of the black vote in Pennsylvania. Trump leads among whites and other minority voters.

That's a tremendous showing for Trump. If he is able to attract more than ~15% Black support nationally his re-election is almost assured.

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