Conservative Science: Yur Doon It Rong

DougJ and Tim F. have both weighed in on the John TierneyMegan McCardle “Why are universities so mean to conservatives?” whimper. DougJ is at once gobsmacked and confirmed in his view of the cluelessness of the “argument” advanced, while Tim F. sees much less here than meets his perhaps-jaundiced eye.

Me?  I can’t quite agree with Tim’s sense of the pithlessness of this latest attempt to demand equal treatment for principled young earthers amongst the ravings of all those Foucoultvian mathmeticians.*

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I’m more with DougJ, as to me, Tierney and McArdle are firing one more shot at the whole idea of authoritative knowledge as a source of influence in civil society.  Partly, this is just self interest: the more folks like McArdle can devalue the status of expert knowledge, the less they have to fear of correction by those who, in fact, both know and understand more than they do.

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But beyond the goal of reducing personal embarrassment, the more that the independent authority of scholars and scientists can be diminished, the easier it becomes for ever more risible statements to take on the status of holy writ.  After all, we all know that progressive taxes infallibly drive away the rich…Right?

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That said (and there’s more to be done with a detailed fisking of both Tiernery and McCardle, which I may yet attempt) here I just want to point out that Tierney undercuts the entire farrago with one injudicious anecdote.

His source, Jonathan Haidt, a U. VA social psychologist, made the central claim that Tierney takes up and McArdle then amplifies.  Haidt claims that  the political orientation of the members of his field is so overwhelmingly liberal that only discrimination can account for that distribution.  His proof?  A show of hands at a conference.**  Other than that, the only other Haidt evidence Tierney references comes from an email from an allegedly victimized student:

“I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

O. K. class.  What does this complainant get wrong?

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I’ll give you a hint.  Look again at this sentence:

Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished.

That is: this student says that he or she is “certain” that her/his results would break consensus, and hence, inevitably, would languish in conspiratorially enforced obscurity.

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Uh, kid.  Listen up:  When you already know what your research will reveal, what does that tell you?

It ain’t research.

You have no knowledge to “contribute to the knowledge base” if the conclusions you propose to add to our collective store of human wisdom is what you already know by some process other than the “research” you propose.

Note that Haidt’s anonymous disappointed  ideologue tells us of his/her intention to respond to her/his field’s stunning lack of awe at this proposal by picking up his/her marbles and going home.

Which is another way of saying that this student found it impossible to do the actual hard work of science:  construct testable hypotheses and experiments in which the results may in fact confound your expectations.   If you won’t do that, you can’t make it science … and Hey, Presto! another conservative suffers discrimination.

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Errr…

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This is, of course, exactly the problem we face in trying to get our political discourse to respond to what we do actually know about the world.

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So, to cycle back to the beginning of this post, I agree with Tim that the overt attack on the “liberal” academy has faded a bit since the haute crazoid days of 2002 and 2003.

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But this drip, drip, drip of suggestion that somehow everything we know or discover about the world is tinged by partisan contingency does enormous damage, more so by far, IMHO, than any transparent direct assault on the academy

All of which is why it remains vital to remind folks over and over again that one big reason modern American conservatives have such trouble in so much of the academy is because reality possesses that well known liberal bias.

*No, really.  Here’s McCardle, verbatim: “No, I’m not saying you have to hire a Young Earth Creationist to be a biology professor, but I don’t see why it should matter in a professor of Mathematics or Sociology.”

That she doesn’t see the problem here is a precise representation of why conservatives of the McArdle stripe have a hard time in the academy.  The notion that bodies of knowledge contain worldviews doesn’t seem to penetrate her consciousness.  In plain language:  it’s really hard to do empirical research or construct complicated proofs in a wide range of fields if you have a deep commitment to something that denies a mountain of physical evidence and logical argument.  By way of analogy:  you slouch your whole life (towards Bethlehem?) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand up straight.  Same things go with habits of mind.

The shorter:  you can’t hide the crazy forever, and when it emerges, it makes your colleagues (justifiably) nervous about anything you say.

**Yup, really.  I might guess that Haidt has done some real research on this point, but Tierney doesn’t let one know.   All he draws upon is Haidt’s account of his own speech.  Which, in journalistic terms, is the tell.  Tierney misleading (one might say, actually deceptively) cites some studies, but at no point does anyone but Haidt speak, and  no time does either Tierney or his subject offer anything but assertions.  Which is to say –this isn’t journalism; as a bit of advocacy (that’s the polite word) it would be properly situated at the Corner, and not The New York Times.

Images:  Raphael, School of Athens, 1505.

Paul Cézanne, Harlequin, 1888-1890

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131 replies
  1. 1
    J.W. Hamner says:

    It ain’t research.

    Yeah, that was my observation as well… so since I don’t have a problem with conservative or liberal economics professors, I guess I wouldn’t have a problem with conservative “political psychologists” as long as they admit that they don’t do research.

    The weird thing was McCardle extending the argument into hard sciences because… why? Since the conservative physicist would theorize that the dropped ball falls towards the earth because of tax cuts for the upper 1%?

  2. 2
    JGabriel says:

    More to the point, isn’t there an element of self-preservation and self-interest here? Why would any educator support a political party and movement that consistently denigrates education and research, and advocates for a platform of reduced education spending to cut taxes?

    Why are people like Tierney and McArdle so surprised by educators voting in their own economic interest, just like Galtian overlords? Why do they demand that teachers vote for a political paradigm that advocates wiping them out?

    .

  3. 3
    PeakVT says:

    Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished.

    So…. does UVa already have an affirmative action policy for conservatives? It sure looks like it.

  4. 4
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    Shorter McCardle: Since I have no original thoughts, lets resurrect David Horowitz’ tired old crusade.

    Next she’ll be linking to Discover the Networks

  5. 5
    Culture of Truth says:

    I would suggest it’s simpler than that. They’re working the ref. And it works.

  6. 6
    RalfW says:

    The good news: human progress will continue, even as anti-empiricism surges in the U.S.

    The bad news: nations and regions that believe in science and the scientific method will beat the pants off the US, and we’ll be the idiot nation of the 22nd century. Somebody’s gotta do it, may as well be our turn.

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Culture of Truth: Yup. Which is why I take it as our bounden duty to work ’em back to some semblance of contact with reality.

  8. 8
    Tom Levenson says:

    @RalfW: Yup to this too — with a post coming on exactly this topic as seen from within the warm embrace of MIT.

  9. 9
    Guster says:

    I’m not saying you have to hire a person with severe acrophobia as an airline pilot, but I don’t see why it should matter in a co-pilot or flight attendant.

  10. 10
    agrippa says:

    In regard to Tierney/Mc Cardle: “I have never heard that argument before. Now that I have heard it, I do not think much of it.”

  11. 11
    Crusty Dem says:

    Nice post. As a scientist, I’ve met conservative scientists and professors, on occasion, but in this day and age it’s pretty rare, and nearly all claim to be libertarians. I suspect a thorough analysis would find actual libertarians overrepresented in the realm of academia (given that ~1% of the population identify as such). Perhaps McArdle has some ideas on how can we thin out their ranks?

  12. 12
    Dave says:

    I think you nail the problem on its head. If someone is so closed-minded as to deny reality in one field, there is every reason to assume they will carry over that style of thinking into their own field. And if can’t engage in critical thinking and accept the fact that you may be wrong sometimes in your hypothesis…then stay the fuck out of academia and join a Koch Bros. think tank.

  13. 13
    matoko_chan says:

    nah Levenson. u rong.
    McMegan, Douchebag and the rest of the glibertarians are desperately seeking a solution for Salam-Douthat Stratification on Cognitive Ability (Grand New Party page 154).
    In laymans terms that is redstate selection for stupid.
    The Roots of White Anxiety
    50 years of racebaiting and IQbaiting to WIN elections has resulted in a conservative base where racism and anti-intellectualism are so deeply ingrained that they are impossible to switch off.
    Ironically affirmative action is their only hope.
    i luff this breitbart clip, its so classic.
    no, we arent the racists! you are the racists!

  14. 14
    liberal says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    …so since I don’t have a problem with conservative or liberal economics professors…

    The problem with economics is that (a) the claim that overal, people are doing positive economics and not normative is BS (what kind of idiot would believe in RBC based purely on empirical considerations?), and (b) the entire field has been reduced to a laughingstock, given that economists as a class(*) were faced with a worldwide, enormous housing bubble and didn’t utter loud warnings about what was to follow.

    —-

    (*) Meaning, individual economists acquitted themselves quite well, but the field as a whole? Not so much.

  15. 15
    Fargus says:

    Isn’t it a much simpler causative mechanism to explain the preponderance of liberals in sciences to say that scientists tend to become entrenched against worldviews that deny their entire discipline? That is, a biologist may be apolitical to begin with, but he’s much more likely to become liberal when he notices that conservatives by and large reject the cornerstone of his discipline.

  16. 16
    Zifnab says:

    But this drip, drip, drip of suggestion that somehow everything we know or discover about the world is tinged by partisan contingency does enormous damage, more so by far, IMHO, than any transparent direct assault on the academy

    It damages the consensus, but it doesn’t really damage the facts. If a conservative academic joins a university staff and proceeds to put out demonstrate-ably false work, he’s only going to go as far as his political patrons are willing to advance him.

    I mean, imagine a geologist who insists you can turn lead into gold. How many mining firms are going to contract with this guy or his students? How will his research draw funding into the university or sustain his department?

    The university produces more than just journals for other Ivory Tower academics to ponder over. If a Young Earth Creationist joins the biology department and spins his wheels for three years, producing absolutely nothing of value, how is he expected to get tenure? And if he does get tenure by some political angel investor, is he going to advance or hinder the biology department of the university? Is he going to attract corporate grants or intelligent students? Are his graduates going to donate money to support university?

    You see a few colleges – Liberty University leaps to mind – that can sustain themselves. But they do so on the backs of the faithful. And the faithful are drawn in by charismatic church leader personalities. Not the Liberty U graduates.

    The center can’t hold on that kind of game.

  17. 17
    Josh James says:

    What it comes down to, I see more and more every day, is that conservatives LIE about, well, nearly everything that they can. The politicos, the pundits, the papers and magazines, if it’s conservative I have yet to see it really avoid big lies and within big lies await a maze of little ones to be untangled.

    And the minute one points out that their assertion is far from factual based, said person is accused of partisionship, etc.

    It’s so tiring, and it’s all just to keep power in the hands of a minority, I think (but do not know, I only think it possible).

    I wish more MSM people would take this on, just break down the lies one after another. Take on Fox, the papers, the blogs … and fact check them, each.

    Every day. Every hour of every day.

    And when they howl in anger and fear, consistently point out that facts have no political bent, they’re neither Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative … facts just are what they are. Facts and truth exist as themselves, it’s what a person does (or does not do, in conservative’s case) about them that defines the political bent.

  18. 18
    jrg says:

    matoko u like broken record.
    please go away.
    u annoy most the people here.

  19. 19
    Karl says:

    One of the great ironies here is that the self-styled Jane Galt wound up being Ellsworth Toohey.

  20. 20
    c u n d gulag says:

    “No, I’m not saying you have to hire a Young Earth Creationist to be a biology professor, but I don’t see why it should matter in a professor of Mathematics or Sociology.”

    Or, I guess, economics.

    This sounds like what Megan must have told them in her job interview.

    Yeah, any idiot on the planet can write about economics. But just because they write something doesn’t mean they know wtf they’re talking about.
    Right, Megan?

    Now, I can write a sentence about The Uncertainty Principle, but no one in their right mind should think that I know wtf I’m talking about. At least I’ll admit that I don’t.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    @JGabriel:

    More to the point, isn’t there an element of self-preservation and self-interest here? Why would any educator support a political party and movement that consistently denigrates education and research, and advocates for a platform of reduced education spending to cut taxes?

    This. And for people who are as sensitive to the opinions of others as conservatives are, you’d think it’d be easy for them to understand.

    @RalfW:

    The good news: human progress will continue, even as anti-empiricism surges in the U.S. The bad news: nations and regions that believe in science and the scientific method will beat the pants off the US, and we’ll be the idiot nation of the 22nd century. Somebody’s gotta do it, may as well be our turn.

    This too.

    We’re going the way of Spain. In 1700, greatest empire in the world. In 1900, most backwards nation in Europe. All because they refused to embrace Enlightenment-based reforms, and simply refused to believe there could be anything wrong with their monarchic, conservative-Catholic Traditional Values. Meanwhile, Britain, France and Germany, not shackled by any such stupidity, raced ahead.

  22. 22
    matoko_chan says:

    @jrg: merci pour te complimente.
    trolling is my delight.
    liek the Master says, ABT.

  23. 23
    matoko_chan says:

    @RalfW: totally true. the new arms race is human capital. and anglosaxon protestants are paupers compared the rest of the world.

  24. 24
    Poopyman says:

    @Culture of Truth: Bingo bango bongo! This is it in a nutshell. What really mystifies me is what is the point? While I’m sure they don’t look far enough down the road to see what effect that would have on, say, pharmaceutical research, is it really that important to their immediate world view?

    OK, that’s a rhetorical question, I guess. So why is it so important?

  25. 25
    Mudge says:

    We must revisit this..

    http://www.salon.com/news/poli.....ive_brains

    It is obvious that conservatives are incapable of creative thought and thus seldom meet the requirements of academia. Note that most “great” conservative thinkers are converted liberals, such as Irving Kristol and Saint Ronnie. The Tierney/McArdle position also feeds into the paranoia that so consumes the right. Victimology at its finest.

  26. 26
    Poopyman says:

    @RalfW: 22nd century? You are an optimist. I give us one more generation.

  27. 27
    Ash Can says:

    It’s just more of the same old same old — conservatives reacting negatively to reality intruding upon their ideology. Their ideology can’t possibly be at fault, so they have to find evidence to support it, and they have to somehow negate all the evidence that doesn’t. As a result, they get the scientific method exactly bass-ackwards, like that poor, silly little “political psychology” student. But because their methodology mimics actual science in a way, they not only think it’s close enough, they think it actually is science. To the rest of us who know better, on the other hand, it’s just bizarro world.

  28. 28
    matoko_chan says:

    @Chris:

    We’re going the way of Spain.

    nope, we have it WORSE than Spain. Our substrate is protestant, not catholic. So Americans are burdened with the strong anti-intellectual traditions of protestantism.
    America is the last bulwark of protestant thought, the refuge of creationists, racists, pre-tribulationists, bookburners and supply-side economists.

  29. 29
    JGabriel says:

    @jrg: Honestly, I like matoko_chan’s radical gibberish. It has the semi-retro charm of coming across the 2011 equivalent of a photocopied Free Mumia! handbill.

    .

  30. 30
    matoko_chan says:

    @Ash Can: the basic problem is that conservatism is anti-empirical.
    it doesnt work.

  31. 31
    matoko_chan says:

    @JGabriel: shhhh. ahm trollin here. ur messin wid mah flow.

  32. 32
    Crusty Dem says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Riiight. Because the catholics weren’t anti-intellectual at all. Like how they encouraged reading so much? Psshaw.

    ETA: No disagreement with the rest, the only reason we haven’t been screwed already is that we manage to maintain the flow of the money we leak like a sieve. Once the sheiks and potentates learn they can’t trust Goldman, we’re screwed.

  33. 33
    Poopyman says:

    @matoko_chan: It doesn’t have to work. It simply has to be funded by someone who’s willing to put money into furthering their world view.

  34. 34
    hmd says:

    @JGabriel:
    Ever since I can remember (Spiro Agnew comes to mind) the Republican brand has been associating conservative values with various forms of anti-intellectualism. And now we are shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU! – that intellectuals disdain conservatism. What a surprise.

    I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished.

    In all the fields I know of, well-conducted research that provides contrary findings is most likely to attract attention. Even beyond this certainty about what the research will find, this student appears to have a pre-conceived image of some vast liberal conspiracy that suppresses everything it doesn’t like. Wonder where s/he could have gotten that idea?

  35. 35
    JustMe says:

    The good news: human progress will continue, even as anti-empiricism surges in the U.S.

    The US has the natural advantage of size so that even if 2/3rds of the population decides they don’t believe in science and empiricism, our functional population is still much larger than the population of most entire countries. This is the same way that China can be a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse even though their population is primarily rural: the non-rural minority would still comprise one of the largest countries in the world. Even an empirical minority in the US would dwarf most other countries.

  36. 36
    Erik Vanderhoff says:

    McArdle and Tierney are conducting a classic causation error. What if the cause-and-effect are different? What if it’s the process by which one becomes a researcher or academic, a process that instills an ability to collect and analyze data as it is presented and not as one wishes — that leads the academy to believe more in liberalism?

    What if it’s merely a political calculus: Why identify with a movement that would deny your place of employment funding or legitimacy?

    It would seem to me that more research is in order before they start writing their papers for peer review…

  37. 37
    Napoleon says:

    @Mudge:

    It is obvious that conservatives are incapable of creative thought and thus seldom meet the requirements of academia.

    I have a hunch that a big part of it is that conservatives are pretty much incapable of viewing anything as being other then a zero-sum game, which is why they blithely advocate for war (a negative-sum game if there ever was one) and seem to be unable to see investments by government in infrastructure, education and research (arguably all positive-sum) as good long term investments. If everything in the world is zero sum suddenly a lot of their views make sense.

  38. 38
    JGabriel says:

    @Ash Can:

    It’s just more of the same old same old—conservatives reacting negatively to reality intruding upon their ideology.

    @matoko_chan:

    the basic problem is that conservatism is anti-empirical.

    No, I think Ash Can is right. Conservatives love citing empirical studies when it supports their ideology. They’re not so much anti-empirical as they are anti-contradiction and close-minded.

    Granted, that leads to a form of anti-empiricism — in that it opposes the open-minded acceptance of whatever conclusions are empirically reached — but ultimately conservatives just don’t give a fuck about empiricism. It’s being contradicted that pisses them off.

    .

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    @JGabriel: I think it just makes for too much clutter in the thread, but to each his own. :)

  40. 40
    JGabriel says:

    @matoko_chan: Oops, sorry. Keep on trollin’.

    .

  41. 41
    rickstersherpa says:

    One problem is distinguishing between small “c” conservatives, and the current mass movement that carries the title “Movement Conservtivism” of which McMegan and John Tierney are a part. I know lots of small “c” conservatives who accept Evolution, modern science, etc. as apolitical. However, by 1980s and 1990s, a large group of people, centered in the extraction and energy production industries who had an interest in not having pollution, toxins, work safety, etc. regulated, e.g. who wanted to preserve their right not to pay for the external costs of their businesses, came to realize most modern science was working against their arguments that they did no harm. So, building on the preparatory work tha the Tobacco industry had done attacking tobacco use to cancer, they started started the “sound science” meme and arguing that the science work that was adverse to their industries was “unsound” and driven by “political” agendas. Hacks like Tierney and McMegan advance this meme, and a tremendously successful meme it has been, turning the EPA into a more hated organization than the IRS, even though it has been one of the most sucessful organizations over the last 40 years in keeping business from poisoning the rest of us (we have 100 million more people, and twice as many cars, than we did in 1970, but air quality is far better now than in 1970. (I am going to link to a libertarian blog here. I find this very ironic, becuse it actually proves the Government regulation is very effective and can significantly increase quality of life in a way that the market had completely failed to do prior to 1970. Meanwhile, becaues there is so much to be done, liberal and environmental blogs regularly blast the EPA as a failure and never trumpet these successes, thereby reinforcing the conservative meme of Government is always a failure.)
    http://percolatorblog.org/2011.....-pre-1970/

    Further, Tierney’s and McMegan’s mental apparatus work this way (I believe X, let me find anything that supports X, but ignore anything that would show X to be false.) So they assume all minds work this way.

  42. 42
    matoko_chan says:

    @JGabriel:

    Conservatives love citing empirical studies when it supports their ideology.

    but there are no empirical studies that support their ideology.
    heres a thought experiment FOR YOU.
    name one.
    lulz.
    they invariably cite first principles derived from Dead-White-Guy Phailosophy or cooked statistics.

  43. 43
    ppcli says:

    @Josh James: A case in point is Brooks’s NYT oped today. A long discussion of the debt, in his characteristic faux-reasonable manner, in which he states that “entitlements” are 47 percent of the budget – where, by “entitlements”, he counts “Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt”. (By design, the last is slipped in so quickly, and never mentioned again, so it is easy to fail to notice it.) Set aside the fact that he doesn’t mention that Social Security has a separate revenue stream – that’s already obscured by the inexorable right-wing fog machine (“meaningless iou’s”/ “there’s no trust fund”/ etc.), and Brooks is just going along with the standard deception. But counting “interest on the debt” as “entitlement spending”? How brazenly dishonest can you be?

    Then, of course, spending on defence isn’t mentioned *at all*. Brooks realizes that the arguments for sustaining massive defence spending at a time like this sound kind of hollow. So he doesn’t even bother to mention it at all. Pretends like it doesn’t exist at all, perhaps in the hope that people will forget it’s there. (There is a superb covering reference at one point to “politically untouchable” items “like veterans affairs”. You gotta admit, when it comes to dissembling, the guy’s a pro.)

    I never thought I’d miss William Safire.

  44. 44
    Culture of Truth says:

    I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished..

    This isn’t hard. His starting point is laziness, self-pity, and victimization, then he works his way forward from there.

  45. 45
    JGabriel says:

    @Ash Can: Heh. If you’re gonna love the DFH’s, you gotta love their intellectual offspring, the DFCP’s (Dirty Fucking CyberPunks) — don’t forget, for instance, that William Gibson was a DFH who moved to Canada to avoid the draft.

    .

  46. 46
    matoko_chan says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    Because the catholics weren’t anti-intellectual at all

    .no, sry, that is ahistorical. For example the Jesuits are still extremely intellectual. Protestantism was a revolt against the anglican/catholic capture of science, government, culture, and biblical exegesis.

  47. 47
    The Raven says:

    If a conservative academic joins a university staff and proceeds to put out demonstrate-ably false work, he’s only going to go as far as his political patrons are willing to advance him.

    That can be very far. Consider economists.

    It’s an enormous blot on the reputation of the profession. There are thousands of economists. Most of them teach. And most of them teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless.–Liberal economist Jamie Galbraith, interviewed in the New York Times.

    Croak.

    I’m a raven. We eat dead things.

  48. 48
    matoko_chan says:

    @JGabriel: and Cameron stayed in Canada to avoid Bush and the WECs.

  49. 49
    JGabriel says:

    @matoko_chan:

    @JGabriel:

    Conservatives love citing empirical studies when it supports their ideology.

    but there are no empirical studies that support their ideology.

    You are correct. I should have used the word pseudo-empirical instead. They want the illusion of pseudo-empirical support if they can get it (or create it).

    .

  50. 50
    Kryptik says:

    As some people have already alluded to, it’s not about actually breaking open academia for conservatives. It’s about muddling and marginalizing it by thrusting partisanship upon it. It’s the same mechanics by which they somehow managed to turn Obama into the hyper-partisan psycho-lib just in time for the ’10: lockstep opposition and unified outrage. In such a backward way, they manage to use their own monolithic reactionism and allude to the public that the only reason they’re so monolithic is that their opponents are excluding them. The persecution complex tactic, and it’s sadly been all too fucking effective.

    Look at the tax issues. From my comment on the tax topic downpage:

    In a world where millionaire and lobbyists tend to spend hundreds of millions to push back against policies that would probably cost them less than what they invest into lobbying and campaign mucking, this won’t do a damn whit. Sad fact of the matter. It’s not the actual money they care about, it’s conditioning the rest of society to believe that the rich white corporatists are truly the most aggrieved and discriminated group in America, and in that scope, they’ve been depressingly successful beyond sense.

    It’s societal conditioning, the whole thing. Seeds of mistrust in anything intellectual and learned, so when they lie their asses off, it somehow becomes more plausible and believable than empirical fact.

  51. 51
    Superluminar says:

    Well i don’t know anything about science, but my dad who’s a brilliant scientist told me all the liberal ones are wrong, and that’s good enough for me.

    I also find my comment substantially less glib than the original post, too.

  52. 52
    JGabriel says:

    @rickstersherpa:

    I know lots of small “c” conservatives who accept Evolution, modern science, etc. as apolitical.

    So do I. They’re called mainstream Democrats.

    I’m serious. There’s nothing even remotely conservative about Republican fiscal policy anymore. It’s just mean-spiritedness, in both the cheap and cruel senses of mean, that costs society money and pain. Republican anti-fiscal policy is just as radical as its anti-science policy.

    .

    .

  53. 53
    WyldPirate says:

    Really good post, Tom. I enjoyed reading it.

    This explains much of what the problem is, though:

    But this drip, drip, drip of suggestion that somehow everything we know or discover about the world is tinged by partisan contingency does enormous damage, more so by far, IMHO, than any transparent direct assault on the academy

    .

    In my view, the damage has been done and the foundation has cracked–at least here in the US.

    The conservatives have “gamed the refs” so long and so undermined the credibility of science (and academia as well as the field of education at all levels) that what “publicized science/findings” the layperson doesn’t understand due to their abysmal education, they simply dismiss out of hand as being results infected by research/institutional/liberal bias.

    All of which is why it remains vital to remind folks over and over again that one big reason modern American conservatives have such trouble in so much of the academy is because reality possesses that well known liberal bias.

    This is fruitless because we have passed the tipping point of reversing the problem. Conservatives have so effectively used the “big lie” for so long in so many areas that making this argument you propose will simply be dismissed as more “liberal bias”.

    I’m not optimistic of a good outcome at all re:the future of science or education in America. It is much like our infrastructure–crumbling and in disrepair. It is being papered over with bullshit fixes of expediency similar to duct tape and chewing gum is used to repair some regular household item.

    As an example, I will give a synopsis of the “bread and circuses” approach at my former employer–big-assed, very mediocre southern State U (25K+ students). Over the past 5 years encompassing the current “economic crisis”, big ass State U has cut over 150 M/year of what was once an ~850 million annual operating budget. The Chancellor comes out on multiple occasions per year fretting about the belt tightening and promising how it wouldn’t “effect quality” and how he hated having to “increase the burden on students and parents by raising tuition and fees.

    But what do they do with those fee increases? A huge portion went to raise the athletic budget by more than 50% in the last four years to the point that the funding for athletics is now on par with the budget of the largest school in the uni—Arts and Sciences.

    The effects have snowballed from shenanigans like this. Less resources, more students, bigger classes, less prepared graduates who will be less capable of understanding, questioning and finding answers for the solutions we will need as a country to pull ourselves out of the rut we are in as a nation. The same students will also be more susceptible to the very trope from the reichwing that resulted in the dumbing down of America in the first place.

  54. 54
    Chris says:

    @JGabriel:

    No, I think Ash Can is right. Conservatives love citing empirical studies when it supports their ideology.

    That’s true enough.

    Brings to mind this line from “The Paranoid Style in American Politics:”

    It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery.

  55. 55
    JGabriel says:

    @hmd:

    Ever since I can remember (Spiro Agnew comes to mind) the Republican brand has been associating conservative values with various forms of anti-intellectualism.

    Actually, I think that goes all the way back to Warren G. Harding.

    .

  56. 56
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Josh James:

    Facts and truth exist as themselves

    Not to a totalitarian they don’t.
    And the dangerous fringes of Movement Conservatism in the USA today are a latter day totalitarian movement dressed up in post-modern clothes to disguise what they really are.

  57. 57
    JRon says:

    OK Tom, I said before that I always want to steal your images for my blog but get sucked into the discussion and can’t do it, but THIS one I already have covered.

  58. 58
    Poopyman says:

    Mubarak has resigned. I expect a new post in a fewe moments ….

  59. 59
    Xenos says:

    @matoko_chan: I loved this one factoid in support of Douthat’s argument:

    The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions.

    No citation, natch. But what of black working class christians from the deep south and rural west? There are lots of minorities from the cities because there are schools and programs to reach them and educate a few of the more promising kids. Those stuck in the boondocks have no more luck getting into the ivies than the whites who hide out in the reactionary backwaters.

  60. 60
    Davis X. Machina says:

    It’s neo-Scholasicism. Empirical-sounding, modern-looking — and in 1240 Aristotle was cutting edge — tools deployed to defend an age-old, revealed Truth.

    Plot your data along the curves God has already drawn, and you’ve got a job for life.

  61. 61
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @matoko_chan: You do understand that the protestant reformation was largely brought about by intellectuals who were disturbed by the intellectual flabbiness of the late medieval Catholic Church as well as the cupidity of the Church hierarchy, don’t you? In addition, the Anglicans are generally categorized as protestants. The Anglican, Lutheran, and Catholic churches do not differ significantly in liturgy. I am pretty sure you are talking about the evangelicals when you use the term protestant, but the evs. are just a subset of protestants. You might want to be more careful with your terminology, if you are interested in being taken seriously.

  62. 62
    jcricket says:

    @Erik Vanderhoff: Thanks for posting this.

    It reminds me of why something like 80% of lawyers vote for the Democratic party. You spend a lifetime as a party denigrating the field, and the field itself exposes you to the lies of the party denigrating the field, and voila, people in that field don’t vote for oyu.

    I’ve often thought that there’s a combination of factors at work. The constant conservative drumbeat of academia being some prison where no right-minded, red-blooded, real-american &tm; would want to work would certainly turn of many would-be conservative academians.

    Then the process of discovering that nearly everything Republicans tell us about climate science, biology*, geology, economics, social psychology, etc. is basically propoganda probably takes apolitical academians and turns them into lefty-sympathizers.

    Throw in that Republicans are constantly trying to defund universities and basic-research institutions, and is it any wonder why the vast majority of academians, regardless of subject, aren’t conservative and don’t sympathize with the GOP?

    (yep – biology and medical science – with their claims Plan B is an abortoficient, or that ESC research is “killing” babies. Economics for their revisionist history about the depression, or willful ignorance of facts about taxes and worship of false-stories like “Galt”. And so on).

  63. 63
    Xenos says:

    A quick thought to throw out there – is it really fair to conservatives to condemn them for not being empirical? As a liberal, if there is empirical evidence contraindicating a policy I favor it will give me pause, but I will also be a skeptic about this evidence and look for holes in it. If there is any ambiguity I will still go with my bias, because that bias is based on my values as well as my reliance on empirical evidence.

    At least I consider my enemy not to be empiricism but those jerks over there with different values than mine. But I won’t pretend to not be biased.

  64. 64
    eric says:

    Alas, I do not have time to go into this today because work is kicking my a$$, and would love a thread on this over the weekend, but this is not a new debate. The Catholic Church has been trying to deal with how it can remain an authority on knowledge (short of relying on raw papal decree) when god has given us all the capacity to reason and natural law is available to law. This is in part what leads to the Reformation. Further, if you want to see this debate personified, then look at Scalia, a man whose catholicism most people misunderstand as it applies to his judicial beliefs. There is a strain of Catholicism that is tied to the past because, in part, of the Order that long established rules provide. There is another strain that wants to revisit those rules with an eye toward the Spirit of Christ, independent of the past rule. Understood this way, if you understand how Scalia approaches Catholocism, his constitutional heurmenutics make perfect sense.

    Universities that teach principles that get applied to rules to verify or refute established knowledge lead the way to changing the current Order. Thus, you can see why the scientific method is such aneathma to the Right….it leads to the instability of knowledge and the instability of established insitutional ways of operating.

    back to work.

  65. 65
    Xenos says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Also, too: the puritans took education very seriously, and made sure women were as well educated as the men. The long term effect of this was that their children came to doubt their parents’ fervor, and their grandchildren founded Unitarianism. What Muslim can find fault with Unitarianism?

    Of course, the rejection of such heresies lead to the first of several evangelical revivals…

  66. 66
    Chris says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Facts and truth exist as themselves
    Not to a totalitarian they don’t.

    Long as I’m quoting people, here’s George Orwell.

    This peculiar linking together of opposites – knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism – is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society. The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejets and villifies everything for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled in centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform that was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically underminues the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiments of family loyalty. Even the names of the four ministres by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken.

    If human equality is to be forever averted – if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently – then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

    Example: denying the Big Bang, as many conservatives do to this day. Is the Big Bang anti-Christian? Not hardly; it was proposed by a Catholic monk and initially greeted with great skepticism by secular scientists who thought it was a creationist Trojan Horse. But it held up under scrutiny and was adopted by the scientific community…

    … therefore, it’s become fair game as a conservative target, if only for practice, and to reinforce the “never trust a scientist” ethic that increasingly rules the minds of their voters.

  67. 67
    matoko_chan says:

    @Xenos: xenos, plz. conservatism doesnt work. conservatism brought us the econopalypse.
    the ideology of conservatism is counter-factual; creationism, AGW denial, science denial, homophobia, supplyside economics…..all RELIGIOUS views.
    we are not the same, and stop saying that plz.

  68. 68
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Xenos: That too.

  69. 69
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Zifnab:

    I mean, imagine a geologist who insists you can turn lead into gold. How many mining firms are going to contract with this guy or his students? How will his research draw funding into the university or sustain his department?

    Betcha I can turn K feldspars into kaolinite!!!

    I only need a suitable stretch of geologic time and plenty of water.

    Where’s my grant?

  70. 70
    Nylund says:

    Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished.

    To reiterate, if you have your conclusions in advance its not proper research. On the other hand, if you do a research project with sound methodology and you get contradictory results, you are actually much more likely to get published. Journals love it when someone comes up with something new and different (if done with sound methodology). Innovation is rewarded. Building a method with the intent purpose of deriving a pre-desired result is not.

  71. 71
    Xenos says:

    @matoko_chan: You need to hang out on HuffPo more. There is lots of stupidity and anti-science nonsense out there, and not all of it is conservative.

  72. 72
    matoko_chan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: ok, ill accept all that, but you need to acknowlege the anti-intellectual tradition of protestantism.
    im not making that up.
    and that is why (for example) Bush was able to suppress biotechnology here for 8 years.
    whether there was ever an intellectual tradition is pretty irrelevent at this point.
    American protestantism has been wholly suborned to WEC ideology as far as i can tell.

  73. 73
    Mike in DC says:

    I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

    Galtism

  74. 74
    celticdragonchick says:

    @The Raven:

    I’m a raven. We eat dead things.

    The black plumage is still pretty awesome, though.

  75. 75
    matoko_chan says:

    @Xenos: sure, there are bioluddites everywhere and Deniers of the Holy Biological Basis of Behavior.
    indeed there are plenty right here.
    i call them Cudlips.
    ;)
    heres a link making the point you raised with Douthat’s White Anxiety op-ed. it is a very valid point and this rebuttal was of course completely ignored by Douthat.

  76. 76
    Ash Can says:

    @Poopyman: ::breathes huge sigh of relief:: Glory hallelujia. I really was afraid of what would happen in the wake of Mubarak’s fuck-you-in-the-face of yesterday.

  77. 77
    celticdragonchick says:

    @matoko_chan:

    American protestantism has been wholly suborned to WEC ideology as far as i can tell.

    You seem to think that Southern Baptist evangelicals and Assembly of God charismatics are the whole of American Protestantism. The liberal leaning mainstream denominations may differ with you.

  78. 78
    aimai says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    I was raised in the academy, as it were, and it seems to me, looking back, that it was easier to be a conservative academic in every field before the know nothings took over conservativism. I mean, for god’s sake, Harvard had Harvey Mansfield. We had lots of people who were extremely politically conservative/anti communist and economically to the right of Friedman whether because it was their profession (they were economists) or because it was their preference (they were biologists or physicists and also assholes). But the one thing they weren’t is stupid or badly educated. And they were all empiricists.

    It is empiricism that has taken the hardest hit–and I think that is because the right found, certainly after Stockman and Reagan, that reality was really inconvenient. When you got the chance to cut taxes, or wage war, or anything else and the expected results simply didn’t show up the empiricists and those who could read and remember history began fleeing the party. Leaving the party without any real academic stars, any leading public intellectuals. At that point the wealthy started pouring money into think tanks that operated outside of academia, as a kind of para-academia without standards. And once that happened the way to rise in the conservative pundit movement wasn’t to be the foremost scholar of X but to be the foremost youthful suckup to the Heritage Foundation and the AEI.

    They stopped trying to take over academia and teaching posts and instead simply focused on delegitimizing knowledge in general.

    aimai

  79. 79
    matoko_chan says:

    @Xenos:

    What Muslim can find fault with Unitarianism?

    like i told el Campeador (el Cid) that is one of the cores of Sufism.
    my First Shayyk, the Muhyyiddin.

    “Beware of confining yourself to a particular belief and denying all else, for much good would elude you—indeed, the knowledge of reality would elude you. Be in yourself a matter for all forms of belief, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one belief rather than another.”

  80. 80
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @matoko_chan: I will give you the anti-intellectualism of the evs. and the Southern Baptists. The mainline protestants, no.

    Bush, religiously, falls in among the loonies. I think that what is leading you to your belief on this is that the WECs, as you call them, are loud. They are get noticed, but that does not mean that they are the either the majority of protestants or that they are representative of protestants in general.

    FWIW I am personally not religious but my family comes from a largely Congregationalist/Methodist and Lutheran background.

  81. 81
    aimai says:

    @Xenos:

    That’s a great point, xenos, but I’d deny that these people are “Underrepresented.” In order for Douthat to make that argument he needs to be arguing that there is some number that correctly reflects this population that could fit into an elite college without displacing everyone else. Lots of people don’t want to go to the ivies–and their parents don’t want to pay for it–that’s precisely why you have landgrant colleges that are paid for with local taxes. To keep your own kids at home.

    You’d also have to demonstrate that this group is underrepresented vis a vis its application pool–that is, we don’t know that Harvard and Yale, for example, don’t take 90 percent of the poor white christian iowan flyover country people who apply there while only taking 40 percent of the total number of New York Jews who apply. Douthat doesn’t know. He is only guessing.

    aimai

  82. 82
    matoko_chan says:

    @celticdragonchick: yet….the WECs were able to send missionaries with guns to Iraq and A-stan, and halt biotech in this country for 8 years. my point is, there may be other types of protestants, but WECs are shaping policy.
    the other sects of protestents seem irrelevent to my argument.

  83. 83
    matoko_chan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    that does not mean that they are the either the majority of protestants or that they are representative of protestants in general.

    i dont dispute that. but WECs shape policy. see my comment to the Dragon.
    is that because they are “loud”?

  84. 84
    Jason says:

    @Poopyman: I think they’re looking less down the road to the effect on, say, the pharma industry, and more down the road to a possible (not in the sense that it’s reasonable) re-configuration of public education.

    Where reformers cannot, market forces often can. State schools are, in at least one case that I will not explicitly refer to as that case contains my own faculty job, talking about a future that contains no state system, eliminating smaller schools while taking public schools private. There is a different approach to professionalism in an educational system that does not have a substantive public option; what that is, we’ll likely find out.

    I’ve wondered whether to define the issue as a problem with contemporary disciplinarity – an academic issue alone – and the odd way it interfaces with professionalism, or if it’s an attack on the idea of “expert knowledge” itself, as TL says.

  85. 85
    The Other Chuck says:

    Do not let them get away with this. They utterly dismantled the fourth estate and turned it into their tool by repeating “Liberal Media Bias” over and over and over and over.

    They WILL do it to science. They’ve already been waging their war in the classrooms. They want to graduate a whole generation who subscribes to politicized science.

    Fight back. People like Haidt? Destroy them. Make him and his crowd the object of scorn and ridicule and never let up. Pick up his marbles, shove them into his hand, and point at the door.

  86. 86
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @matoko_chan: They have largely taken over one political party. They worked very hard for over 40 years to do so, but loud is a part of it. The more mainline liberal protestants do not as a rule wear their religion on their sleeves.

  87. 87
    RSA says:

    @Xenos:

    A quick thought to throw out there – is it really fair to conservatives to condemn them for not being empirical? As a liberal, if there is empirical evidence contraindicating a policy I favor it will give me pause, but I will also be a skeptic about this evidence and look for holes in it.

    Right, it’s human nature to focus on information that confirms our own biases. But I think we can fault many conservatives not only for rejecting empirical evidence but for their wholesale rejection of some kinds of rational thinking. I’m thinking in particular of Bible-inspired beliefs: Evolution is wrong because of stories about Adam and Eve, global climate change can’t be happening because God wouldn’t let it, and so forth.

  88. 88
    Jason says:

    Also, I’m concerned that nobody has really explained what _harm_ this exclusion has on conservatives as a group. The argument seems to be predicated on the idea that the exclusion of conservatives from academy posts harms a not-named group.

    I think what pisses me off is that it works both to further a complaint without a problem while de-legitimizing the actual human suffering that is the basis for affirmative action mandates. It’s not like minorities were saying “I have to get a higher-paying job in a different field than the one I am currently seeing hypothetical other people (though not myself) not get jobs in!” They were saying “We’re barred from meaningful employment, full stop.”

    I’ve been on hiring committees. There’s just no way to tell who is or isn’t conservative. We ask one mealy-mouthed question about “diversity” and that’s that – it’s never been the dealbreaker in my experience. I’m not denying the bad experience of others, but I’m not going to cry if Mark Bauerlein doesn’t get a specific post when so many contingent faculty are shunted in and out of a horrific working experience.

  89. 89
    MonkeyBoy says:

    Jonathan Haidt is not a crazy conservative. He has done important work in identifying 5 moral dimensions (Care, Fairness, Ingroup, Authority, Purity) and has observed that modern Liberals mostly value the first 2 while Conservatives value the latter 3 higher. Liberals often just dismiss Conservatives as “irrational” while Haidt’s position is that their “rationality” depends on evaluating things in these extra dimensions.

    He is also somewhat of a gadfly. What he may have been pointing out is that the attitude of scientists and academics toward social and political issues largely tilts to the Liberal evaluation. However with respect to intellectual issues they can exhibit a very Conservative behavior. Consider the notion of “scientific crackpot” as some im-Pure person outside the Ingroup who doesn’t respect their or their saints’ (such as Einstein) Authority.

  90. 90
    Another Bob says:

    This is just the latest conservative assault on an American cultural institution. Conservatives are totalitarianists, apparently as a part of their constitution. They have to control everything, and are intolerant of dissent. Along the lines of “The K Street Project,” they want to purge their conquered territory of the enemy as completely as possible. Their whining about academia is only establishing a beachhead. Their desired end would look something like Glenn Beck University.

  91. 91
    matoko_chan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: it sounds like the silent majority? of protestants have abdicated control of protestant ideology to the WEC brand.
    that is exactly what i was saying.

  92. 92
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @matoko_chan: Yes and no. The protestant do not have a central authority. There is no one ideology that all protestant accept. The mainline protestants broke off from the Catholic church for (largely) intellectual reasons and, within those churches respect of knowledge continues to exist. Some of the more, shall we say, odd protestant churches broke off from the mainline ones because they want a spiritual fulfillment that was not met. Those churches are the anti-intellectual ones by and large. We are not exactly disagreeing here; I am just trying to add some nuance and clarity to what you are saying. Bonhoeffer and Newton (to name a couple of names) would really take issue with a suggestion that protestants lack an intellectual tradition.

  93. 93
    Downpuppy says:

    Weeeeellll, there’s a lot wrong with squishy religions, too. In particular, they encourage indifference to, or even avoidance of, truth

    In my debates and discussions with religious believers, there’s a question I’ve asked many times: “Do you care whether the things you believe are true?” And I’m shocked at how many times I’ve gotten the answer, “No, not really.” It leaves me baffled, practically speechless. (Hey, I said “practically.”) I mean, even leaving out the pragmatic fails and the moral and philosophical bankruptcy of prioritizing pleasantry over reality… isn’t it grossly disrespectful to the God you supposedly believe in? If you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to understand him as best you can? When faced with different ideas about God, wouldn’t you want to ask some questions, and look at the supporting evidence for the different views, and try to figure out which one is probably true? Doesn’t it seem incredibly insulting to God to treat that question as if it didn’t really matter?

  94. 94
    Crusty Dem says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Yes, the Jesuits, if that’s the sum of your answer, it is full of fail, since they’ve never held any real power in the church. Here’s the complete list of jesuit popes: __. Why not throw in Thomas Aquinas? You want to claim the Catholics were true intellectuals, just ask Galileo. I’m sure they left those masses in latin to spread the great language throughout the world. To translate: srsly, u rong on cath hist.

  95. 95
    Brachiator says:

    @matoko_chan:

    Our substrate is protestant, not catholic. So Americans are burdened with the strong anti-intellectual traditions of protestantism.

    I’m really enjoying your Bizarro World ramblings. When you wake up in the morning, do you shout, “Boy, it sure is dark out this morning!”?

  96. 96
    matoko_chan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: yet Calvin and Luther were anti-intellectual…. they have more influence, on protestant thought.
    for example, Martin Luther actually did not favor the complete separation of church and state– he just wanted the other guys church separated from the state.
    and your argument is irrelevent. WEC theology frames the protestant branding in this country.
    so what if you have intellectual dissadents?
    it means nothing.

  97. 97
    matoko_chan says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    Yes, the Jesuits, if that’s the sum of your answer, it is full of fail

    my point was that the Jesuits are pro-intellectual, not that they held power.
    and the latin mass was a means of claiming sole right to biblical exegesis, held by church INTELLECTUALS that SPOKE AND READ LATIN.
    @Brachiator: refute my argument or catch a safe, Brach.
    i have to believe that when people dont even try to refute me its because they cant, and that drops you off my attention curve.

  98. 98
    matoko_chan says:

    look…im sry if you think im insulting protestantism.
    i dont care about your faith and your loyalties.
    ima sufi– yours is better for you, mine is better for me.
    i want to know WHY.
    to me, the idea that America is the first great experiment in protestant thought has the ring of truth.
    and also the fact that protestanism, a consensus religion without central authority, has become coopted by WEC ideology over the last 50 years…Omnes said 40.
    and protestantism HAS an anti-intellectual tradition as modelled by Calvin and Luther, and that anti-intellectualism has become part of WEC dogma.
    this explains a lot, from the outlier high rate of creationists in the population of an industrialized nation, to the Epic Fail of our misadventures in MENA.
    if you have another explanation, a better explanation, please share it.
    ;)

  99. 99
    Brachiator says:

    @matoko_chan:

    refute my argument or catch a safe, Brach.

    You haven’t made an argument. There is nothing much here to refute.

    Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Birunī would be abashed by your mindless prattle.

  100. 100
    aimai says:

    I went back to read the Tierney version of what Haidt said and I have to admit that it leaves me absolutely scratching my head. As a social scientist I’d say that Haidt’s argument makes zero sense. Say that his sample of “people in the room with me one late afternoon at a conference” was totally representative of the profession of psychologists as a whole (and not biased, for example, by the cost of the meeting, the location of the meeting, the time of the meeting, the focus of the meeting) he argues that historically the first thing you might think was the cause of the imbalance was “discrimination.” For example, he says, riding the coat-tails of the holy grail (sic) of conservative angst Civil Rights and the Women’s Movement, you might argue that people who are not in the room are kept out by gatekeepers who are opposed to “their kind” of people.

    But you might not. That’s a testable hypothesis. But its not proved until you’ve done the research. As conservatives are so fond of arguing when its a case of lower pay for the same work for women perhaps the conservative student prefers to stay out of the helping professions just like women “prefer” to opt out of the fast track at work, or prefer to get paid less. If you want to get ugly about it perhaps all the conservatives don’t like Freud because he’s Jewish, or perhaps they don’t like having to work with people with “problems.” My point isn’t that any insulting explanation is true. My point is that absent a serious study not of “people in the room” but of people attracted to the profession you simply can’t make the argument that it is discrimination, and not self selection, that results in lots of people in the room being liberal or conservative.

    Haidt should know better. Or Tierney is badly misquoting him.

    aimai

  101. 101
    Gus diZerega says:

    I recently gave a talk at our locaI recently gave a talk on the nature of science at our local “Science Buzz Café” and as I was getting it ready I noticed something that had stared me in the face for years without ever quite getting acknowledged.
    Science progresses by incorporating ever more knowledge into a common pool while remaining very contentious on the edges. Religions core of commonly accepted knowledge. They may have important insights, but they do not grow the in way that science grows. Instead they fragment.
    The reason may be that religions and ideologies start with certain truths held as foundational. Because these truths can be interpreted differently, and once this happens, that interpretation is accepted by some as foundational compared to another heretical interpretation, they split, and split again.
    Science primarily holds methods rather than statements as foundational, and even particular methods are used only when they are useful. For years the theory of evolution could not make very exact predictions as to what would be found, though with Tiktaalik’s discovery that has changed. Experiment, which is vital in many sciences, has little rile in astronomy. “Scientific method” is basically what scientists find convincing as a community in doing research. So there are no heresies possible other than attempting to bring in new methods others do not find valid (like channeling perhaps and those simply get ignored.
    Modern ideological conservatism (movement conservatism), like Marxism earlier, is particularly concerned with enforcing current orthodoxies, (government bad, market good, we are surrounded by enemies, etc.) and so despite some conservatives being able to actually explore some questions competently, it contributes remarkably little others find of value. Their main area where this is not quite true is economics because up to a point the market does coincide with certain conservative biases, albeit far more imperfectly than they usually will grant.

  102. 102
    agrippa says:

    @JGabriel:

    I agree. It is mainstream Democrats who are conservative. And the GOP does not act like it is fiscally responsible; the opposite in fact.

    It looks to me that much of the GOP has become reactionary; it does not seem conservative to me at all.

  103. 103

    @aimai: Exactly. My money’s on Tierney, btw — I’ll be posting on his misuse of the paper he cites on discrimination against women in the sciences soon, I hope. Haidt may be in full gadfly mode too, which often involves shooting off some half-baked nonsense, but as@MonkeyBoy: notes, Haidt is not a full on hack. Tierney is.

  104. 104
    John says:

    Tracking back to the ur-speech by Dr Haidt, I’m troubled by the lack of operational definitions for liberal/conservative in this context, but I’m just plain annoyed by the meme transition that’s occurred from Tierney’s and McArdle’s pieces.

    I’m hesitant to criticize Haidt until I read more of his own words–there’s a kernel of a good point in his idea about awareness of sacred cows, though his choices of example (Moynihan and Summers) make me very wary. My personal experience of tribalism in the social sciences at college, though, suggests that it’s less a simple liberal/conservative split than a aggregation process in which a tenured professor communicates their worldview and style (and biases)on to the graduate students…who are motivated to emulate their PhD advisors both by a powerful social bond and a cynical calculation of regarding what dissertation concepts will pass muster.

    …but back to Haidt (and subsequently Tierney and McArdle) I can’t see what the “conservative perspective” is, contextually. I really don’t lack the lack of intellectual rigor displayed regarding this issue:

    Consider the paragraphs in the Tierney article regarding the Ceci-Williams study: even reading the abstract, one can see the Tierney has clipped a quote to confirms his “politically incorrect” thesis that women in sciences don’t face direct discrimination (and thus assessing bias is a waste of time, should never have been done, rah-rah status quo).

    Here’s the actual abstract:

    [i]…we suggest that some of these claims are no longer valid and, if uncritically accepted as current causes of women’s lack of progress, can delay or prevent understanding of contemporary determinants of women’s underrepresentation. We conclude that differential gendered outcomes in the real world result from differences in resources attributable to choices, whether free or constrained, and that such choices could be influenced and better informed through education if resources were so directed. Thus, the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing, and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort: Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past,[b]rather than in addressing meaningful limitations deterring women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers today.[i/]

    Contrast with Tierney’s summary:

    [i]“Thus,” they conclude, “the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort. Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past.”[i/]

    Tierney has–and I can only assume purposefully–taken a nuanced argument and flattened into a talking point. He similarly trims Cici-Williams analysis of what does cause underrepresentation–lifetime encultured, gendering of interests; the fact that women are often put in a position of “choosing” between pregnancy/childcare and career–and how to address it down to “…universities should make it easier for women in any field to combine scholarship with family responsibilities.”

    Basically, Tierney didn’t read the article, he read the abstract…and either fails to realize how he misrepresents both the data and analysis, or is actively glossing over detail.

    McArdle’s work, being a second-order analysis of Haidt via Tierney (and Krugman), and really attends the details only so far as they perpetuate a narrative of oppressed conservatism and the Cadmus-like creation of straw men. Self-described centrist Haidt immediately is labeled a liberal for rhetorical effect…things do not improve

    The irony is that McArdle drags in a statshot of academics as 80% Democrat voting, then extrapolates this into a story of conscious discrimination versus conservatives–in terms similar to the gender discrimination assertions that Tierney presented as debunked.

    Furthermore:

    No one stops to consider the Occam’s Razor explanation of academia’s Democratic bent: manys academics operate because of grants, and Republicans often advocate cutting government grants to all but highly-specific applied research.

    …or broaches the subject of the disconnect between social conservatives and the social sciences (anthro, psych, socio), as the latter often encroaches on the sacred cows of the former.

    …or mentions the parallel culture of educational facilities structured solely around the communication of “conservative” ideas–Liberty University, etc–and not just regarding sectarian Christian matters.

  105. 105
    Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q) says:

    @celticdragonchick: Thank you for pointing that out, again. I haven’t the patience.

  106. 106
    eponymous says:

    Tom,

    Great post – might be interesting to hear you take on how the arguments presented by McArdle and Tierney tie into the politicization of science in the former Soviet Union – specifically Lysenkoism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism

    Do McArdle and Tierney REALLY want academia to go down that route?

  107. 107
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Jason:

    I’ve been on hiring committees. There’s just no way to tell who is or isn’t conservative. We ask one mealy-mouthed question about “diversity” and that’s that – it’s never been the dealbreaker in my experience.

    I would not be astonished to learn that you could document some kind of hiring bias in some social science departments. You wouldn’t have to ask leading questions in interviews: the candidate’s past work and the types of research questions he/she had investigated would be enough to give you a sense of where they stood ideologically. For example, I’m sure this is how “freshwater” and “saltwater” economics departments came into being. You just don’t get hired at the U. of Chicago economics department unless you are the right kind of thinker.

    Of course, this mechanism would work less well in the humanities (although you might be able to weed out or include the Marxists depending on your objective) and not at all in the hard sciences or engineering.

  108. 108
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Ash Can: I agree. What the psych student (and he shouldn’t be one, really) said about being absolutely sure that any research he did would be contrary to the existing literature pretty much sums up the conservative world view. “What I think is correct, even if the facts don’t agree. No one will believe me. I am a martyr to my cause. Good-bye, cruel world, I’m going home.” That’s why I find it so frustrating to talk to someone with that mindset because nothing can change his mind.

    @Superluminar: Nicely played, you LOOGie, you.

    @Jason: Very much agree with you. It really ticks me off that the conservatives are trying to play the victim card in this situation especially when it’s a situation of their own making.

  109. 109
    negative 1 says:

    I am applying for the position of professor of mathematics. Here is my thesis: 1 + tax cuts = 5 million. Now get me a job; you have to or else I’m being discriminated against.

  110. 110
    Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q) says:

    @matoko_chan:

    WEC theology frames the protestant branding in this country.

    No, it doesn’t. Only in your wee brain is that the case. It frames the evangelical branding; you misunderstand what “protestant” means, because an actual understanding of the term undermines your argument.

    Or, in your language: rly – u r wrong bout teh protestantz n their brandz

  111. 111
    Crusty Dem says:

    @matoko_chan:

    The jesuits are to the catholic church as the intellectual-appreciating protestants are to american protestanism on the whole (including the WECs); An outlier that doesn’t really have much impact on the political leanings of the larger group. On the whole, the majority are anti-intellectual asshats, but citing the catholics as “more intellectual”, particularly referring to their cultural impact, is comical.

  112. 112
    matoko_chan says:

    @Brachiator: cant you read? thesis statement. there is a strong tradition of anti-intellectualism in American protestantism.
    lissen to this guy.

    I think Kevin Drum has identified a major point:
    __
    Just to be clear: my guess is that this is primarily a reaction to social conservatism. Students at top universities just can’t stomach the anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-civil rights, anti-religious-tolerance attitude of the current GOP.
    __
    In particular, it is a social conservatism of a flavor rooted in New Right Evangelical Protestantism, which has had an oppositional relationship with the elite universities since the 18th century (Princeton was originally founded to offer a more orthodox alternative to Harvard, though it naturally was co-opted by religious liberals in its own turn). The emotional aversion of elite university students and graduates to American conservatism has more to do with the amygdala than the neocortex…….because the staunchest defenders of conservative institutions couch their defense in a tribal language of conservative Low Church Protestant Christianity

  113. 113
    matoko_chan says:

    @Crusty Dem: bye bye
    bye bye
    /drops safe

  114. 114
    grumpy realist says:

    Someone told me a story several years ago about Revealed Truth in the USSR: Only after a certain part of the Urals went radioactive through a nuclear meltdown did the powers-that-be decide physicists would be exempt from Revealed Truth….

  115. 115
    matoko_chan says:

    @Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q): see comment above.
    WARNING WARNING safe fall imminent

  116. 116
    Jason says:

    @Lurking Canadian: Well you have a point there. And usually, if we take the vita into account, it’s easy enough to see where the applicant’s prior research goes. But even there, in my own discipline, it’s hard to make a real judgment; you’d have to be such a caricature of an expressivist for me to say something definite about your political leanings that I doubt we’d hire you anyway. And beyond that, the-sort-of-thing-you-do-academically is often at odds with the-sort-of-thing-you-do-socially. Do we define a person by her involvement with Women’s Studies, or the fact that she has season tickets @ Heinz Field? Or the Film Studies guy who was a fervent supporter of the Patriot Act – it’s hard sometimes to make the connection between some disciplinary necessities (the value of critique, or a commitment to praxis) and other, incongruent, positions.

    Ultimately I’d like to see aimai’s position @100 be implemented, a bit differently than, say, ACTA’s perusal of publicly-available syllabuses.

    Because I do think there is a damaging effect to the discussion. It’s pretty evident to anybody who has been following the HBGary thing on ArsTechnica, in particular, that the values we teach in the humanities sometimes explicitly as a counter to the values taught by other professional disciplines (such as engineering) are in fact a measurable good that this sort of controversy seeks to erase – both as process and product of the contradiction between the two disciplines I mention.

  117. 117
    matoko_chan says:

    @celticdragonchick: don’t be so simple. from the horse’s mouth– David Hume himself

    One reason I began to contribute to this website is to work in my own way to decouple the tribal associations of conservatism with conservative Protestant Christianity.

    the GOP is a religious party. it has WEC doctrine in its party platform.
    mebbe the “mainstream” protestants you allude to should attempt to take back their religion, because those other guys sure are giving it a bad name.
    ;)

  118. 118
    terry says:

    there’s a grain of truth to what matoko_chan is saying. Yes, the Reformation arose from the humanist intellectuals at the time. But the new Protestants (Lutherans at first) turned on those same intellectuals who helped to create their movement. and then they turned on each other, creating the fractured hot mess that is Christianity today. In addition Luther and Calvin were profoundly anti-intellectual (which isn’t to say they were stupid, as they were not.) So when matoko_chan says there’s a bit of an anti-intellectual tradition to Protestantism, it has some truth to it, although I think America’s profound anti-intellectualism is considerably more recent.

    That’s not to say the Catholics have ever had the market cornered on intellectualism, though.

  119. 119
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @eponymous: Provided their team is winning, yes.

    The foam ‘We’re #1’ finger is the Mont Saint Michel or Parthenon of our culture.

  120. 120
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    @hmd: Wonder where s/he could have gotten that idea?

    You nailed it: the echo chamber has reverberated in Mr./Ms. PoliticoPhsycho’s brain. Is there an echo in there? Just like Cheney on Meet the Press, only at a lower level of the food chain: the rumor is out there because Darth’s minions put it there, and then he tells Timmeh that his lies are being reported; Cokie-head then assures the other villagers on This week, “It’s out there.”

  121. 121
    matoko_chan says:

    and to get back to Levenson.
    conservatives pundits are well aware of the effect Salam-Douthat stratification on cognitive ability is having on their party base.
    the only thing they can do is postulate an affirmative action program for intellectually challenged redstate youth.
    we are arriving at an endstate of distributed jesusland, like dr. manzi and i joked about long ago….it is an equillibrium state.
    it will be this way until the demographic timer goes off…about 2020.

  122. 122
    Nutella says:

    @PeakVT:

    UVa has a long anti-intellectual tradition. They used to be proud that students aspired to achieve “the gentleman’s C” in their classes rather than skipping any fraternity parties to waste time studying.

    In 1970 when UVa was forced to admit women there was a lot of talk about the sad fate of the men who now would not be able to attend this fine, taxpayer-supported institution. When it was pointed out that the men who would be left out would be the weaker students so that the addition of women would improve the academic level of the student body, a fellow from the House of Delegates announced that favoring ‘eggheads’ in college admissions was wrong.

    Apparently the psychology department still doesn’t favor hiring eggheads these days if Haidt is typical.

  123. 123
    Stentor says:

    @JGabriel:

    Go to Texas where my father taught music for over 20 years after moving there from Nebraska. The cognitive dissonance of the education infrastructure, and all those good Republican teachers will be enough to make your head explode. There you have educators in the public school system who are evangelical christians, but yet display the striking callousness I have come to associate with their type, and overwhelming ignorance of the world at large. I point to by way of example, the Texas Board of Education’s recent attempts to revise history more to their liking by adding or deleting items they disagree with, or downplaying certain roles, such as that of Thomas Jefferson, or making factually unprovable claims, such as the US Government was infiltrated by communists in the 1950s.
    It makes you truly realize that the average IQ is indeed 100.

  124. 124
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Nutella: Gotta demur here, for family reasons. My cousin, Jack Levenson, is a U VA emeritus with the all time best title in academia: The Edgar Allen Poe Professor of American Studies at the University of Virginia.

    He is a Henry Adams guy, a real and deep intellectual, and a good man.

    So AFAIK U. VA has its virtues.

  125. 125
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @Nutella:

    UVa has a long anti-intellectual tradition. They used to be proud that students aspired to achieve “the gentleman’s C”

    Many of the “best” schools used to give “gentleman’s Cs”. This changed around 1970 when their admission policy moved from targeting rich privileged white males to a more academic merit based approach. How did you think GWB, Yale 68, graduated with a C average? At every school where this happened there were many complaints from Alumni who were outraged that their sons would have to compete with women and other rabble for admission.

  126. 126
    Delia says:

    @terry:

    there’s a grain of truth to what matoko_chan is saying. Yes, the Reformation arose from the humanist intellectuals at the time. But the new Protestants (Lutherans at first) turned on those same intellectuals who helped to create their movement. and then they turned on each other, creating the fractured hot mess that is Christianity today. In addition Luther and Calvin were profoundly anti-intellectual (which isn’t to say they were stupid, as they were not.)

    Oh dear. Number one, you and matoko-chan are both making the mistake of isolating the religious leaders from the social-political ferment of their times. Luther without the German princes in rebellion against the Holy Roman Emperor or Calvin not forced to flee the absolutist French monarch for the relative safety of Geneva would not have happened. Number two: anti-intellectual? Have you ever read Calvin? He was one of the most systematic and intellectual thinkers of his age. And, BTW, nobody, anywhere in Europe, taught complete separation of church and state at that time because the concept didn’t exist yet, no more than the idea of gravity. It would be a long and winding road to get to either of them, especially separation of religion and state.
    One thing about the early Protestants, especially the Calvinists: with their emphasis on individual salvation and personal choice, they encouraged mass literacy, including women’s literacy.

    And one more thing: one of the historiographical controveries in the history of science back in the 60s or so concerned the role of Protestantism in the Scientific Revolution. Basically, after Galileo, most of the further progress shifted to Protestant nations like England and Holland, so a number of people looked at how the religious ethic supported scientific inquiry.

    Whenever you talk about religion you need to be careful about your time and place. Sweeping pronouncements rarely get you anything useful.

  127. 127
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Delia: Thank you.

  128. 128
    Crusty Dem says:

    @Delia:

    Ding ding. Don’t get the “intellectual catholicism” bit at all. Yeah, when I think of intellectual structure, I don’t exactly go with Italy and Spain, and the catholic church is a huge part of it. But makato has heard of the jesuits, so pffffbbth…

  129. 129
    Delia says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    When I think of makato I don’t think of intellectual.

  130. 130
    tkogrumpy says:

    @jrg: Speak for yourself.

  131. 131
    Mike says:

    Again, it’s all about money.

    People with conservative views at 22 seek salary-maximizing jobs 98 percent of the time. People with liberal views at 22 seek salary-maximizing jobs 60 percent of the time. Academia and journalism are definitely not salary-maximizing jobs. Prevalent attitudes in their fields and resulting socioeconomic status probably only reinforce these beliefs.

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