The Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress.
John Tierney writes: My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?
“Democrats outnumber Republicans at least 12 to 1 (perhaps 40 to 1) in social psychology.”
My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?
“The narrative that Republicans are antiscience has been fed by well-publicized studies reporting that conservatives are more close-minded and dogmatic than liberals are. But these conclusions have been based on questions asking people how strongly they cling to traditional morality and religion—dogmas that matter a lot more to conservatives than to liberals.”
Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.
“A few other studies—not well-publicized—have shown that liberals can be just as close-minded when their own beliefs, such as their feelings about the environment or Barack Obama, are challenged.”
All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation.
Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left.
The danger from the Left does not arise from stupidity or dishonesty; those failings are bipartisan. Some surveys show that Republicans, particularly libertarians, are more scientifically literate than Democrats, but there’s plenty of ignorance all around. Both sides cherry-pick research and misrepresent evidence to support their agendas. Whoever’s in power, the White House plays politics in appointing advisory commissions and editing the executive summaries of their reports. Scientists of all ideologies exaggerate the importance of their own research and seek results that will bring them more attention and funding.
But two huge threats to science are peculiar to the Left—and they’re getting worse. Read the rest of this entry »
“The universities are an absolute wreck right now,” said Camille Paglia. “For decades any graduate student in the humanities who had independent thinking was driven out.”
When people are afraid to express their opinions because they’ve seen other people treated as deviants deserving of public shaming or worse, they will be less likely to speak freely
The illiberal left isn’t just ruining reputations and lives with their campaigns of delegitimization and disparagement. They are harming all of society by silencing important debates, denying people the right to draw their own conclusions, and derailing reporting and research that is important to our understanding of the world. They are robbing culture of the diversity of thought that is so central to learning and discovery.
“Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the Black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed,” Haidt said. “Only in the last few years have sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”
— Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt
It’s sadly ironic that so many of the illiberal left view themselves as rational, intellectual, fact-based thinkers and yet have fully embraced a dogmatic form of un-enlightenment. Deviating from lefty ideology is equated to heresy and academic inquiry is too often secondary to ideological agendas.
The illiberal left insert ideologically driven statistics into the media and academic bloodstream and then accuse anyone who questions them of diabolical motives. When researchers make discoveries supporting the wrong ideological conclusion, the character assassination and intimidation begin.
In a 2011 speech, then-University of Virginia social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who describes himself politically as a “liberal turned centrist,” explained, “If a group circles around sacred values, they’ll evolve into a tribal-moral community. They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.”
“Sacralizing distorts thinking. Sacred values bind teams together, and then blind them to the truth. That’s fine if you are a religious community… but this is not fine for scientists.”
The illiberal left likes to accuse conservatives and religious people of doing this, but ignores the central role it plays in their own determination to reinforce their ideological beliefs. Haidt pointed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was labeled a racist for a 1965 report he produced as assistant secretary of Labor in the Kennedy administration.
The report rang alarm bells about the rise of unmarried parenthood among African Americans, and called for government policies to address the issue. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the Black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed,” Haidt said. “Only in the last few years have sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along. Sacralizing distorts thinking. Sacred values bind teams together, and then blind them to the truth. That’s fine if you are a religious community… but this is not fine for scientists.”
“We are hurting ourselves when we deprive ourselves of critics, of people who are as committed to science as we are, but who ask different questions, and make different background assumptions.”
Haidt believes that the fact that conservatives are underrepresented by “a ratio of two or three hundred to one” in social psychology “is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering.” Allowing for more diversity of ideological thought would lead to “better science and freer thinking,” concluded Haidt. This argument doesn’t just apply to academia. It applies to any facet of society where non-liberal views are deemed out of bounds. Read the rest of this entry »
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry meets Popular Mechanics. Potentially offensive to unprepared viewers, but good-natured, sharp, silly, revealing, brilliant, based on solid science and in-depth research. Bonus: watch it all the way through. Also includes a brief Women’s Guid to Men, but it’s very brief, ’cause the research is less developed. Hysterically funny. Drop whatever you’re doing, and watch this.
Thanks to our Hong Kong Bureau Chief for the link.
A look at what has caused the dearth of conservatives in higher education, and why we should be concerned.
The New Criterion – Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a public lecture delivered to the Center for Western Civilization at the University of Colorado at Boulder last fall upon Steven Hayward’s accession as the inaugural visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy, a three-year pilot project to introduce intellectual diversity to Colorado’s flagship campus.
Steven F. Hayward writes: The social scientist Neil Gross made a splash last year with his book Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care?, which, among other things, attempted to refute the claim that conservatives face ideological discrimination in academic hiring. There is some quantitative evidence (with more on the way soon) of ideological discrimination, which Gross grudgingly acknowledges, but he then goes to great lengths to argue that it is vastly overestimated.
[Check out Hayward’s book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama” at Amazon.com]
He may be partly right, but not for the reasons his data-rich analysis lays out. Furthermore, Gross does not begin to reach the more important dimensions of the ideological shape of today’s humanities and social science departments that come into play before you even reach the fever swamps of race, class, and gender.
Liberals have pushed back against the charge of ideological discrimination in hiring with an entirely valid point: You guys don’t show up! There simply aren’t many conservative graduate students in the humanities and social sciences.
[Check out Neil Gross‘ book “Why Are Professors Liberal and Why Do Conservatives Care“ at Amazon.com]
If the top 200 universities set out to hire a conservative for each of their humanities departments, they’d run out after about 75; in some departments, they might run out of qualified conservative job candidates after about two. And if you can’t find newly minted Ph.D.’s for tenure track jobs, you have to poach the thin ranks of conservatives already in academia somewhere, leading to no net increase in conservative presence in universities. But while liberals can’t be blamed wholly for this, they can be blamed for acquiescing in, when not actively causing, the degradation of the humanities and social sciences in ways make academic track jobs repellent to many intellectual conservatives. Understanding what has taken place requires a three-part analysis. Read the rest of this entry »
“Scientists are not saints in white laboratory smocks — they’ve got interests like everybody else.”
— George Will, on Tuesday’s Special Report.
He also took issue with climate-change believers, such as the New Yorker, claiming such reports are “the last word” on the issue:
“Try that phrase — ‘the last word’ — on microbiology, quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry. Since when does science come to the end?”
Reality Check: Education Spending Skyrockets Year after Year, but Student Achievement Stays StagnantPosted: April 30, 2014 | |
Andrew J. Coulson writes: Since the early 1970s, the federal government has tracked the academic achievement of American 17-year-olds.
Presented with this dismal national picture, many pundits and elected officials protest that their own states have done better.
“Overall, the correlation between spending and achievement is among the lowest I have ever seen in social-science research: 0.08 on a scale from 0 to 1.”
The trouble is, there’s been no way to verify their claims. State-level test score averages don’t reach back that far, or, as with the SAT, they aren’t taken by a representative sample of all students.
[Check out Glen Reynolds book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself” from Amazon]
But there’s a way over this hurdle: State-level academic trends can be estimated all the way back to 1972, and the results aren’t pretty. (See the charts that accompany this post).
The average state has seen a three-percent decline in math and verbal test scores, and a 120-percent increase in real spending per pupil. Read the rest of this entry »