Reader survey results: Science vs. social science vs. humanities

By Razib Khan | July 25, 2010 11:51 am

About six months ago I did a survey of the readership of my two Gene Expression blogs (before moving to Discover). The N was around 600. You can view the raw frequency results here. One of the issues which I was curious about: did the disciplinary background of readers have any major correlates with responses? So I created three categories from the data on disciplines:

-Social Science
-Not Science

Social science had its own section, but for science I amalgamated those who studies Math, Engineering, Natural Science and Medicine. The balance were under “Not science.”

Not ScienceSocial ScienceNatural Science
How long have been reading Gene Expression(s) regularly?
No more than 4 weeks555
1 to 6 months121314
6 months to 12 months121513
1 to 2 years202222
2 to 4 years332622
More than 4 years181920
What is your highest educational level attained?
Did not complete secondary school100
Secondary school000
Some post-secondary education, incomplete511
Post secondary education, but not a university degree holder421
University degree holder383337
Masters degree202220
Professional graduate degree (law, medicine, etc.)201211
Graduate degree (science, humanities, etc.)132930
What is your subjective socioeconomic status?
Lower class533
Lower middle class15159
Middle class424347
Upper middle class343135
Upper class475
What is your belief about the nature of God?
I believe in theistic God(s)12611
I believe in deistic God(s)885
I believe in a Higher Power556
I am skeptical of the existence of God(s)242322
I do not believe in the existence of God(s)515657
What is your racial identity?
European ancestry (white)758482
East Asian352
South Asian317
Southeast Asian111
African ancestry (black)221
Middle Eastern212
What is your sex?
Which of the following characterizes your general politics:
Far Left561
Center Left161821
Center Right9611
Far Right363
Do you consider yourself sympathetic to transhumanism?
No idea292829
Don’t care171420
Have you ever had sexual intercourse?
Personality type in terms of shyness you are:
Very extroverted052
Somewhat extroverted202118
Somewhat introverted383641
Very Introverted658
Attitudes toward abortion:
Support abortion rights on demand414144
Support abortion rights, but with some constraints393941
Support ban on abortion, but with some exceptions14155
Support ban on abortion6510
Have you taken calculus?
Race is:
A social construct, not a biological reality101110
A biological reality, not a social construct171818
Both a social construct and a biological reality747172
IQ measures:
Something real which we refer to as intelligence616358
Ability to take a particular type of test181827
Who knows?212015
What is the heritability of IQ among groups in the West which are middle class and above?
Less than 0.3634
0.3 to 0.5202122
0.5 to 0.7445443
More than 0.7292131

Turns out there’s no big difference, except for in calculus. A particular type of person must be attracted to the substance and style of this weblog (I suspect the biggest substantive difference between the readership and myself is that I’m on the extroverted side). I’ll probably post a survey for tomorrow, mostly to see how much Discover has changed my readership. But periodically I’ll also look at the results for previous surveys like this.

Note: Some of the results do not add to 100% because I rounded.

MORE ABOUT: Reader Survey, Survey

Comments (14)

  1. Out of curiosity, why did you not include a hispanic/latino racial category?

  2. because it’s an ethnic, not racial, category. also, i’m obviously americo-centric, but it makes most sense to americans in a particular way. europeans would probably be confused why hispanics (spaniards) are bracketed out from all other europeans.

  3. I suppose under that rationale most latinos would be considered of mixed race, then, since they’re a combination of indigenous (Asian of some sort most likely, I’m not up to date on the most recent theory of which Asian group(s) populated the Americas), African, and European lineages for the most part?

  4. yes. though many latin american elites self-define as white and could easily pass, as could most of the population of argentina, chile and much of brazil (i’ve blogged on the non-trivial admixture of non-white ancestry among the whites of these nations, so with caution). and many black brazilians are becoming more assertive about their african origins.

  5. I’m surprised at in general how small a fraction of readers are female. I’m both surprised and disturbed by the large fraction of people in the social sciences who haven’t taken calculus; I don’t know how they are able to talk to natural science people almost all without that. I’m really curious how the natural science people who haven’t taken calculus function, and what they do.

  6. Calculus isn’t entirely necessary for natural sciences. Physics and chemistry, yes, but not as much for most biological fields. I’m a physiologist and while I did take calculus, it was over 7 years ago and I haven’t had to use it since. I suppose it depends on the amount of theory and/or modeling your work requires.

  7. joshua is a math guy. explains his shock & surprise 🙂

  8. That’s understandable. I am often confused as to how many people can be so clueless as to how their own bodies work.

    Also w/r/t girls being a small fraction, I think that’s because (at least in my experience) the majority of female bloggers/blog readers tend to prefer talking about being a scientist rather than talking about science itself. There are obvious exceptions, of course.

  9. Razib, yeah, that’s obviously part of it; I’m probably not the only person who overestimates the importance of my own field. However, I suspect that a fair number of people are also using theorems from calculus without actually realizing it (population genetics might be the obvious example where one doesn’t actually need to know much calculus as far as I can tell, but a lot of the standard formulas and results require calc to derive.)

  10. joshua, mathematics is the most important domain of human inquiry in my opinion response was to give a context for your shock, since for you calculus is trivially easy, but for many biologists it is the last mathematics they take. that is, the most advanced!

  11. Zora

    I recall one of my anthro professors, in grad school, boasting at the department’s success in getting the university to drop the statistics requirement for anthro students.

    This was at the height of the Foucalt-Derrida-Bourdieu craze, when we were supposed to be studying to be French philosophers, NOT scientists. One reason why I didn’t finish my PhD. I knew that much of what I was expected to admire was bogus, but I was too timid and confused to confront my professors.

    I took math much later, for the computer degree, and discovered, to my surprise, that I *liked* it. Including statistics.

  12. toto

    Where we learn that social scientists are just as nerdy as real scientists, and that Browns don’t do social sciences (but East Asians do!)…

    Is there a particular reason why you didn’t offer a “both” option for the IQ question? I know, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I noticed that you offer it for race.

  13. bioIgnoramus

    How many, I wonder, confused “transhumanism” with “transhumance”?


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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