Friday, October 5, 2012

"My bigotry is just common sense."

This has to be one of my favorite things in a long time...

Thaddeus Russell, the fabulously interesting historian, and author of "A Renegade History of the United States" is a buddy of mine. This evening, on Facebook, he posted an interesting Ronald Bailey article about how "Liberals Admit to Discriminating Against Conservatives" in Reason Magazine. I also posted it tonight, and it's definitely worth reading.

From the article: 
"...a new study, "Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology," by Dutch psychologists finds that overt discrimination against conservatives [PDF] likely plays a role. The researchers surveyed several hundred social psychologists, most of them American, and found that 6 percent identified as "overall conservative""
Then Bailey quotes the researchers, who say [PDF]:
"The current results suggest one answer: Members of the conservative minority are reluctant to express their political beliefs publicly. Survey 2 shows why: Hostility toward and willingness to discriminate against conservatives is widespread. One in six respondents said that she or he would be somewhat (or more) inclined to discriminate against conservatives in inviting them for symposia or reviewing their work. One in four would discriminate in reviewing their grant applications. More than one in three would discriminate against them when making hiring decisions. Thus, willingness to discriminate is not limited to small decisions. In fact, it is strongest when it comes to the most important decisions, such as grant applications and hiring."
When Thaddeus put this on Facebook, it sparked what I think is a truly hilarious series of comments, that everybody really needs to see. At least you should see the first few:

I'm sorry, but that is just spectacular to me!

David begins by claiming the article/study is "Bullshit!", presumably meaning that he doesn't believe liberals discriminate against conservatives in academia. He follows that up instantly with saying that conservatives/Republicans are "RACIST PIECES OF SHIT" and shouldn't be allowed to be employed at universities.

Of course, he's not bigoted. Oh, no... His positions are just "common sense". You can tell by how he used all caps.

There are more comments like this, and for the most part they are equally oblivious, cognitively dissonant and  - in my opinion - hilarious in their astounding irony. David supports his position by linking to a Huffington Post story about a single, Republican member of the Arkansas State House of Representatives who wrote in a book that the descendants of black American slaves might be better off in the US than they would have been had they been born in Africa. That's not actually that controversial statement, as far as I'm concerned, but it seems that he goes on to make a lot of racist statements as well.

Now... It's a Huffington Post article, so I'm assuming there's more than a little bias working against this guy here, but given that we're talking about a state-level politician from Arkansas, it's not like it'd be surprising that that guy was an out an out racist.

But............. Taking a single person's views and then ascribe them to all conservatives is - I pointed out - insane, dishonest and stupid. Thus we get my second favorite part of the thread, where David calls me a conservative for criticizing his logic.

There's another bit that I think is worth saying something about as well, though... One of the commenters, "Joe", who I believe is a university professor, lists a bunch of reasons that he believes conservatives shouldn't fit into the social sciences. But, quite consistent with the bulk of my experience talking with "liberals", his descriptions of conservative beliefs are generally inaccurate and misstate the arguments conservatives actually make.

Here's Joe's comment:
"Climate change denial is by far the dominant position in the GOP. Beyond that I can see research scientists as not likely to be Repubs because the party has turned its back on science on everything from stem cell research to NSF and NIH funding in general. In social science, many conservatives don't even believe in something called the social - preferring explanations that at the level of the individual or family. And as for the humanities, these disciplines have been under assault from the right for a long time, particularly the business right which sees any intellectual endeavor not in pursuit of profit as a waste of time and resources. Not to mention the fact that conservatives are far less likely to support student grants and manageable loans to attend college. Having said all of that, I have Republican colleagues both in my dept and elsewhere. In fact, one of my former PhD students, an arch-conservative if there ever was one, just got a tenure-track position last year. I visited him in the summer, and he appears to be thriving."
.So... Here's the thing.

First of all, Democrats turn their backs on science all the time as well. Ronald Bailey wrote another recent article about this as well called, "Who's More Anti-Science: Republicans or Democrats?", noting that the anti-vaccination crowd, the fears of GMO crops, the appeals to failed Malthusianism, the fear-mongering about pesticides and even fracking and things like that - all actual evidence to the contrary of their claims - tends to come from Democrats and "the left". Not to mention that there is so much more bias against advances in technology when coming from entrepreneurs & business. One key passage:
"Expanding on his argument at DeSmogBlog, Mooney asserts that the left doesn’t abuse science; it merely has policy disagreements about it. As an example, he cites affection for the precautionary principle. “There is always much scientific uncertainty, and industry claims it’s safe, but environmentalists always want to be more cautious—e.g., adopting the precautionary principle,” he notes, adding: “The precautionary principle is not an anti-science view, it is a policy view about how to minimize risk.”

But as University of Chicago law professor and current administrator of the White House Office Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein noted in a 2003 working paper entitled “Beyond the Precautionary Principle,” this idea “imposes a burden of proof on those who create potential risks, and it requires regulation of activities even if it cannot be shown that those activities are likely to produce significant harms.” Note specifically the latter point.

Furthermore, Sunstein observed, the precautionary principle is now pervasive, applying to global warming, nuclear power, pesticides, and biotech crops. Restraint on experimentation is unscientific in the sense that it demands the impossible: Researchers can never show in advance that any technological or scientific activity will never produce significant harm."
Point being... There's plenty of anti-science ideology on the left, and even more so what actually concerns me is that often a policy disagreement surrounding a scientific is assumed - by liberals, in my experience - to be a disagreement over "the science".

Take Global Warming, for example. Contrary to what Joe claimed, I don't encounter a ton of conservatives (and I'd be willing to bet that I meet and know/am friends with many more than he is) who don't believe global warming exists. I know many who believe that either the risks, the causes, or the severity (or all of the above) of global warming are overblown, but I don't know many who deny that it's happened.

Most are happy to look at NASA data and say what most intelligent people say: "NASA scientists have the tools, the expertise, they're collecting good data from space... they're probably right."

But where they diverge - and I'm in this camp - is that simply because global warming exists does not mean that every totalitarian, "world government" scheme some progressive wants to impose on billions of people to "solve" the problem should be allowed or supported.

That disagreement isn't a disagreement over the data. It's a disagreement over policy and what constitutes an acceptable way to solve - even potentially very large - problems.

Consider what Joe said about the NFS or NIH as well. I've never really met a conservative who wants to "defund" science. I've met plenty, and of course nearly all libertarians, who don't want THE STATE to fund science.

Not using force to pay for something, and not doing something are two totally different things.

Republicans have their baggage to be sure, but the assumption that they are always evil, stupid or wrong gets tiresome to me, because it invariably comes from people who couldn't articulate a non-progressive opinion accurately if their lives depended on it. I find the reaction to Thaddeus' posting fairly instructive in this regard, but keep in mind that it's merely one of hundreds of comparable examples I've experienced in the last decade or so.

And on that note. Anytime you find yourself about to justify your angry bigotry by claiming that it's just common sense............... Well....Just take a step back and listen to yourself.

1 comment:

Chris said...

But you're a Libertarian -- "common sense" is all you've got!