Last week at this book club at work (yeah, yeah, I know. I do not read books on corporate whoring usually but this was an exception. They gave us free food and I got to pick the book), we were discussing Freakonomics. After all the Excel whores in the room were done with why we needed more charts and graphs and numbers in the book in question, we moved on to more interesting things. We came up with a list of questions that we would like to see answered and talked about how we would test our hypotheses. For example, one of our questions was whether there is a correlation between the kind of music one listens to and one's criminal tendencies. Is it possible to predict criminal behaviour of a group of individuals given their music preferences? We talked at length about how we would design studies that would control for all other factors - needless to say, quite a few of these "ideas" would be illegal and so not really practical.
Anyway, one of the questions we came up with but which we did not talk about(for obvious reasons) was whether religion has an effect on morality. I was reminded of this when I saw this post by Primary Red; the claim is that one of the reasons why there is so much lawlessness in India now could be because of "loss of faith". Well, first of all, I am not sure whether A) there is more lawlessness than before and B) we as a society have 'less faith' now than before but hey, those questions not the subject of this post.
This is what interests me - if I would like to test correlation between religion and morality how would I do that? First of all, how do I define being moral? Any definition of morality tends to be relative, so what is my measure of morality? If I were to narrow down a group, say convicted murderers, how would I control for other factors(like environment, "evilness" et al)? Are there are natural experiments(remember the Roe v Wade on crime rate stats was right out there!) at all that I can look at? Any ideas? Open for comments.
PS - I am really not interested in what you think is the answer, most people who read this blog will probably say No anyways. I am much more interested in ideas on proving/disproving the hypothesis.