Acceptance of Evolution and Wealth – Interesting Correlation…

by Darwin on April 9, 2012

Tonight, I’m hitting you with a quick one since we spent the entire weekend driving and I spent my Sunday night fighting stupid Windows problems to get a wireless connection (even though this laptop has accessed the same router for a year with no problems – and my iphone/ipad connected just fine tonight; love Microsoft…).  Anyway, I awoke this morning to all kinds of friends, family and neighbors updating their Facebook pages with scripture and proclamations that “he has risen“.  Once I got past the initial “seriously?” phase, it reminded me that I had to do a post on religion and money, so what better time than after Easter?

If you follow my tweets, you know I’m a pretty analytical guy that looks at the world through the eyes of science and nature (rather than “faith), the random and chaotic nature of the universe (rather than believing that there’s a God that gives a crap if Tebow wins the superbowl, decides if a cancer patient lives or dies, or that somehow he’s working in mysterious ways when he inures the world with such horrors, pain and suffering on a daily basis – the world is cruel, random and chaotic) and that while I won’t even bother trying to change your mind if you’re a believer (because you’ve obviously already refused to accept evidence to the contrary), I do find it interesting to consider the role of religion in today’s world.  Sometimes, it’s a question of what kids should be taught in school, the economic consequences of millenia of wars over religion, the positive contributions of religious charitable contributions and institutions over the years, or simply how people weave religion into their personal finances, there’s often something to think about.

With a name like Darwin, how could I not publish this?  Evidently, the more the inhabitants of a country deny the realities of evolution, the less likely that country is to have a high GDP – except – for the ole’ US of A – because as we all know, we’re just about the richest country on earth – and the most analytically backwards.  This one circulated last year and I’ve had it bookmarked for a while.


 (click to enlarge)


I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether this is one of those “correlation is not causation” situations or whether you think there’s a causal relationship. i.e. do more progressive, science-oriented cultures perform better on the world stage while cultures that rely heavily on beliefs in deities squander opportunities to advance?  Or is it a story back-fit to the data points?

I couldn’t help but notice many regions/countries were left out (Middle East/African nations); not sure why.

Additionally, any thoughts on why the US is such an outlier?


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

RL Ingermann April 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

As you indicate, most wealthy countries in the world are not particularly religious and have little problem with evolution. The United States is a notable exception.Why is the US an outlier? Several recent studies suggest increased religiosity (and denial of evolution) is associated with insecurity; economic, political, social. (See Rees J. Is personal insecurity a cause of cross-national differences in the intensity of religious belief? J. Religion and Society 11:1-24,’09; Paul G. The chronic depedence of popular religiosity upon dysfunctional psychosociological conditions. Evol. Psychol. 7:398-441,’09). The US is very heterogeneous: there are many well-to-do Amerians (esp along the coasts) and many poor (for example in the South). This heterogeneity may account for the higher than expected religiosity. See:


Darwin April 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

True, perhaps it’s the top that skews the “average GDP”; as we know, the US has a very high Gini index and the wealth gap is only increasing.


Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog April 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

that is quite the graph and the US is a HUGE outlier. Not sure why that would be, though it could be due to work ethic overall, and very high religious beliefs for some. Odd thing is though, that is nowhere NEAR the chart.


Darwin April 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Oh yeah, we’re WAY out there (in more ways than one!)


Martin April 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Don’t forget about the apparent correlation regarding belief/being born again and brain atrophy.

I have little interest in either, but felt a mention here was necessary input.


Darwin April 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I can’t say I’ve heard that one before, but if you say so LOL!


Martin April 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Just google of course!


G April 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Cute picture, unfortunately it is missing 100+ other countries including Qatar which has the highest GDP per capita in the world. There several other flaws with this post but everybody is entitled to his or her own opinions and biases, including myself.

I’ve enjoyed many of your other posts but I subscribed to your site to read about your thoughts on finances and investing. I am disappointed that it is also used for proliferating political/religious agenda, but it is your site and you can do whatever you want with it.


Darwin April 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

1. I pointed out the omission in the graph myself. In my article.
2. Qatar is actually the most progressive country in the Middle East (aside from Israel), so perhaps not the best example to cite. If you’ve ever been there or know anyone who has, religion is not nearly as prominently displayed, discussed or acknowledged compared to its neighbors.
3. I’m not sure what religious or political agenda you’re referring to.


Martin April 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Causation of course!

Qatar citizens may have the highest GDP. However, the Indian and Sri Lanken, and whoever else they bring in as Expats to do all the dirty work needed to maintain sewer, garbage disposal etc etc networks are not.

European Expats work on all their automobiles.

The hospitals are run on all Expats.

Their citizens job’s are provided by a government run off oil profits and US Military base lease. Imagine when both those go away what their GDP will be.


michael April 10, 2012 at 12:25 am

I am with G on this one….leave the anti-religious stuff off of a finance blog.

BTW, your argument of Qatar’s “progressiveness” is hilarious. It’s like congratulating the tallest guy at a midget convention for his tremendous height.


Darwin April 10, 2012 at 8:07 am

Really more of a question of scientific prowesss and GDP, not so much religion (as the question posed in the survey deals solely with evolution).

Frankly, including Middle Eastern oil-rich countries would not be relevant. A country that owes their sole success factor to exporting a single natural resource is clearly an outlier. By looking at western nations with hundreds of years of steady government, industry, and similar roots, you get a more consistent sample.


Martin April 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Its nothing against yourself, Mike or G or anyone else; but it is all relevant and important. There is, afterall several good reasons why we have had separation of Church and State in the US since the 18th Century. The reasons? They’re fairly obvious.

And for the irony of the day….Thank God Santorum pulled out of the Presidental Race!

By no means was it implied as anti-religious in my opinion, despite what my previous and above comments may have been. Its merely pointing out a correlation between industrialized countries and their GDP vs Religious beliefs. He didn’t make the graph. He just reinforced what we already know. If you think he’s cherry picking data, argue, but ignore the blog.

I say, Bible Money Matters should chime in on the subject.


JT April 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I would say that it has somewhat to do with the United States’ greater economic freedom to religious freedom proportion. In areas with limited religious freedom, where more people are more likely to be very religious, you also find limited economic freedom making it difficult for people to accumulate capital. The US is different in that respect with some of the poorer nations.

For what it’s worth, I don’t know too many people my age who reject evolution. It’s a very small minority at best, even though I live right in the middle of the Bible belt. Give it a generation and I bet we’ll have quickly “caught up” with our views on evolution.


Darwin April 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I was blown away by a work experience a few years back with people my age. Hanging around a bunch of PhD scientists and BS’ing about what we’re reading. I shared my thoughts on Guns, Germs and Steel or some other book with evolutionary biology roots (it’s been a few years); anyway, ALL of them. PhDs – balked and said, “you actually believe that stuff”? I was like, “huh? you guys are trained scientists in 2005 and you can’t string together the pieces”? They went on to cite some carbon dating scam and other conspiracy theories on why the earth is really only a few thousand years old, etc. I figured of all people, they would be pretty anti-creationism. The leader of the group went on to say he believes everything written in the bible happened exactly as written. No allegory, no “lessons”, it’s all literal. I almost fell over. It was then that I realized it’s not about how smart you are or even if you’re an analytical thinking scientist; it really boils down to how effective the brainwashing was that you received as a child.


JT April 13, 2012 at 9:36 am

Guns, Germs and Steel is a very interesting book. Borrowed it from a friend and could not put it down for quite some time. Makes for a good book to read when you have hours upon hours to dedicate to it.

Creationism goes beyond belief for me. I can’t really take anyone seriously if they do 100% believe the world is 6500 or something years old. I think there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from religious text, but definitely not lessons in the sciences.


michael April 13, 2012 at 1:38 am

Well, that comment has quite an arrogant, condescending tone.


Darwin April 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

Which part did you find to be arrogant or condescending? You don’t think religious indoctrination from birth is a form of brainwashing? If the term bothers you, just think about it objectively. Ignore religion, just think of it as any teaching (perhaps racism, anti-Semitism, whatever – the result is the same). If you start teaching a child something from birth, tell them it is true, tell them of the dire consequences should they deviate from the stated path and pound this into them every Sunday for life, do you really think a large portion of a sample population would question it later in life? I’m sorry, but if you step back, look at how religion is taught and consider the system/process, it’s tough to argue that it is not brainwashing or whatever equivalent term is preferred.


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