Fanatics in their attics

Diverse — Drokles on May 16, 2012 at 10:59 am

Jeg kom i diskussion med en af mine venstredrejede skolekammerater for et par måneder siden om klimaforandringer. Vi overraskede hinanden ved at vi begge gik ud fra af modparten var en døende race. Hun lagde dog alligevel trumf på ved at henvise til videnskabelige undersøgelser, som blot skog fast at højredrejede mennesker, så langt vi kan kaldes mennesker, blot er mere afvisende overfor videnskab. Uden at have set den slags undersøgelser slog jeg det umiddelbart hen som normativt nonsens. Jeg stødte senere på de omtalte undersøgelser, som også Information og siden psykopaten George Monbiot i samme avis refererede til. Det var sikkert der hun havde set dem og det var sikkert derfor jeg ikke ville have anet noget om deres eksistens, hvis ikke jeg var blevet konfronteret med dem. Jeg ville gerne have svinet deres dumheder til, men andet kom i vejen og jeg stolede på at andre om mere kompetente nok skulle skrive om dette løjerlige fænomen at tolke uenighed patologisk. Og ganske rigtigt, hvis blot man venter ordner alt sig af sig selv. Eller i det her tilfælde blev det ordnet af Andrew Ferguson i Weekly Standard

It is a principle of psychopunditry that the political differences between right and left—the differences, in Mooney’s scheme, between those who would fearfully deny reality and those who embrace it unafraid—originate in two personality types. As it happens, the liberal personality, as psychopunditry describes it, is a perfect representation of those traits that liberals say they most admire. Liberals are “more open, flexible, curious, nuanced.” Conservatives are “more closed, fixed, and certain in their views.” But don’t get the wrong idea: Mooney insists he is not saying “conservatives are somehow worse people than liberals.” That would be judgmental, and Science is clear: Liberals aren’t judgmental. “The groups are just different,” he goes on amiably. Indeed, he warns that the truths he reveals in his book “will discomfort both sides.” Fairness requires him to be evenhanded. On the one hand, conservatives won’t like the scientific fact that they tend to deny reality and treat their errors as dogma. On the other hand, liberals won’t like the scientific fact that all their well-meaning attempts to reason with conservatives are doomed.

Mooney’s attachment to Science is touching in its insouciance. He relies on studies in social psychology that were spawned by a famous “meta-analysis” about the conservative personality published in 2003. The meta-analysis, which found that conservatives were morally rigid and inordinately afraid of threatening situations, was orchestrated by a left-wing sociologist called John Jost. Mooney consults the studies that Jost inspired among his ideologized acolytes, and swallows them whole. These include a paper teasingly titled “The Secret Lives of Conservatives and Liberals,” published in 2008.

As Mooney tells us, Science crept into the private residences of conservatives and liberals and brought back solid results. Conservatives’ bedrooms are filled with “items you use to keep your life organized—calendars, stamps”; also, lots of cleaning supplies, proving that conservatives are “conscientious,” the scientific term for tight-assed. Liberal bedrooms are “messier .??.??. but also brimming with articles suggesting Openness to Experience.” Among these totems of Openness are books about travel and feminism and ethnic issues, and a “variety of music CDs,” including (duh) folk music.

That’s what Science tells Mooney, and Mooney tells his readers. What really happened was that sometime in the mid-2000s, 76 college students—Berkeley again—filled out a form placing their politics on a scale of one (liberal) to five (conservative). Again, the sampling was statistically worthless: More than two-fifths were Asian American, two-thirds were female. Like idiots, the kids then let psych majors swarm their bedrooms bearing clipboards and tally sheets: Wastebaskets and lamps, rumpled bedspreads and dirty underwear were duly noted and assigned code numbers. Crunch, crunch went the data. You will not be surprised that Science confirmed Jost’s original findings, which in turn echoed those of Adorno, who never thought to check the bedrooms.

Og så synes jeg Tom Lehrer’s sang om sociologi er ganske passende

Is the change
They’re trying to arrange
Today in sociology

In their attics
Are learning mathematics
Just for sociology

By equation
They all feel it’s much more satisfactory
They, in an ivory steeple
Far away from all people
They do research in sociology

Who wrote lies
Now present them in disguise
A cinch in sociology

Quite abstract
Without one single fact
Disblended sociology

Who used words
Now all talk in terms of X and Y and Z
They can take one small matrix
And really do great tricks
All in the name of sociology

Who wrote prose
Now write algebra, who knows
It may be sociology

Full of Sigma and Chi squared
And full of sociology

They consult
Sounding occult
Talking like a Mathematics PhD
They can snow all their clients
By calling it science
Although it’s only sociology

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