Chris Snowdon – The Spirit Level Delusion – at London SITP

Do Cubans live longer than Americans? Are Scandinavians happier than the British? Does capitalism cause mental illness? Does inequality lead to murder? Would higher taxes make us slimmer, more trusting and more charitable? Christopher Snowdon will be challenging the theory made in the best-selling book The Spirit Level that ‘more equal societies almost always do better’. By fact-checking the book’s statistics and reviewing the scientific literature, he will argue that there is no correlation between income inequality and a country’s health, happiness and well-being. The hypothesis in The Spirit Level is, he says, based on selective evidence and flawed reasoning.

6 thoughts on “Chris Snowdon – The Spirit Level Delusion – at London SITP

  1. It is worth noting that none of Snowdon’s criticism have been published in scientific literature. His “analysis” is largely quantitative and is largely based on appealing to the general public’s lack of understanding of maths. A few quotes from sympathetic academics do not change this at all.

    What was notable about The Spirit Level was that the authors where highly qualified experts in their field and submitted their work to journals. This guy is a market fundamentalist with a history degree going on a polemic.

    Incidentally, the authors have responded to his criticism at length:

  2. I should stress again that the criticisms of Wilkinson’s methodology were being made in the peer-reviewed journals long before I ever wrote anything about it. There are also a very large number of studies that fail to replicate his findings, and there are several reviews of the literature which find no link between inequality and health. I mentioned a few of them in the talk and there are others in the book. I’ve discussed Wilkinson and Pickett’s misrepresentation of the scientific literature here:

    And I responded to them here:

  3. Some criticism’s of their methodology were no doubt made in the literature (that is what it is there for) but what I question is your interpretation of them. You are not an academic in the appropriate field, and your criticisms are not occurring within the scientific literature. Even though its completely not my field, I’m going to take the word of the professors who have published all the work they base their book on over yours, because it would be plain unscientific to do otherwise.

    I notice how you didn’t cover the authors response in your talk, perhaps hoping the audience would believe your criticisms were so damning that they couldn’t mount any kind of response. You’ve already shown yourself quite dishonest speaking to me, I can’t blame Wilkinson and Pickett for wanting nothing more to do with you.

  4. The weakest part of the Spirit Level is when they say make excuses that there is no need to control their graphs with other variables and that there is loads of evidence elsewhere. They say we would be confused by over complicated control diagrams and anyway it’s all been proved in other literature.
    I loved the Spirit Level but feel very let down at the very prospect of it being bad science.

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