Monday, March 24, 2008


The following passage is taken from this week's Newsweek magazine, page 16. The article is called "The Working-Class Smoker" by Jerry Adler. Thank you, Jerry. It has to do with education and how superstition can affect the way one lives and dies. Being a blue collar machinist myself, but also having a college education and also having toyed with being powerless (i.e. a fatalist) in my drinking daze, I understand the following passage. Of course, another correlation occurs between those who are believers and their lack of education. I interpret both correlations to show that if you are a believer, you are likely to have little education and to also be one who quietly and without noticing it yourself is killing oneself, either by smoking or by failing to wear your seat belt. That doesn't speak too well for religious belief, does it?

PS: While entering this, I've also been watching a piece of superstitious nonsense called, "Constantine" on the FX channel. Of course, it's inspired by a comic book. Just about the level of your average believer's emotional and intellectual life. Notice I don't use the word "intelligence". I do believe that a believer can be intellectual though not intelligent. Intelligence is the realm of reason and rationality, but a believer can be emotionally stunted even while being able to employ massive intellectual sophistication in debate. C.S. Lewis comes to mind, a great intellectual twister but really lost in his faith from reality. I also realize I have been less than generous in my judgments. I try but I fail—somewhat like Paul himself.

But there's also evidence that attending college by itself encourages healthy behavior; when community colleges open in rural areas, enrolling local youths who otherwise would have gone into the work force, smoking goes down.

Perhaps there's a clue in a bit of unpublished research by Cutler on a related question: why does seat-belt use go up with education? Anyone can understand the danger of flying through the windshield in a collision. But some data suggest that the less education you have, the likelier you are to agree with the statement "It doesn't matter if I wear a seat belt, because if it's my time to die, I'll die."

So for anyone reading this who never got beyond high school, here's a bit of free advice: it does matter. Life is uncertain, but that's no reason to surrender to fate. You don't need a Harvard M.B.A. to understand that.

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