Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sin Stats

Wired Magazine has a fascinating article called American Vice: Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins. While the theologian in me wants to point out that all sin leads to death apart from the saving blood of Christ, and the statistician in me finds the graphs engrossing, the writer in me is drawn to comment on the choice of the statistic and how accurate it might be to measure the sin.

Greed : Average income compared with number of people living below the poverty line.

So, this is measuring the distribution of wealth; i.e., where the rich are ultra-rich and the poor are many. That's not too bad of a measurement, but I wonder how often it is simply measuring the wealthy areas of the country. Plus, money does not equal greed necessarily, but maybe having money without generously giving it away (locally?) does equal greed.

Envy : Total thefts (robbery, burglary, larceny, and grand theft auto) per capita.

It's a clever idea, trying to say that merchandise is stolen based on the desire to have what your neighbor possesses. I don't believe most thefts are for the desire of the object, though.

Wrath : Number of violent crimes (murder, assault, and rape) per capita.

Not bad, though I'd add road rage to the list.

Sloth : Expenditures on art, entertainment, and recreation compared with employment.

What a clever way to measure sloth. Ideally it would measure employment hours and not percent of population employed, but I like the idea of comparing the amount of productivity to the amount of leisure.

Gluttony : Number of fast-food restaurants per capita.

Well, excluding C.S. Lewis's brilliant clarification of gluttony to mean more than eating excess food. Still, what greater symbol of gluttony is there than the hall of Super-Size?

Lust : Number of STD cases reported per capita.

I see what they're trying here. STD cases vary directly with the amount of sex being had (outside of lifelong monogamous relationships), and the amount of sex varies directly with the amount of lust. I think this fails, though, because STD cases also vary with the level of information the society has (to know to use protection), and of course lust has many other expressions than sex. I would think the amount of pornography viewed (if they had such a statistic) would be much more accurate.

Pride : Aggregate of the other six offenses—because pride is the root of all sin.

True. Putting your own desires first, above others and especially above God, is the only way to sin. It falls short, though, because not all sin is captured under the six sins listed above. Arrogance, judgmentalism, vanity, bitterness, and many more should be aggregated.

The biggest failing, though, of these graphs is that they appear to be graded on a scale, where the upper portion are marked as Saintly and the lower portion Sinful. Instead, the scale should start at Sinful and go down from there, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)

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