No Conservatives, Please

Are the social sciences ‘too liberal’? At least one professor of psychology thinks so. Addressing those present at a conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt described what he identified to be the ‘liberal bias’ both within his own discipline of social psychology as well as within the social sciences and humanities in general. Haidt, who specialises in the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology, asked audience members to identify their political affiliation by show of hand. Of the thousand or so people present, an estimated 80% identified as liberals, while only three conservative Continue reading “No Conservatives, Please”

Extreme Religious Beliefs?

A man was barred from entering the UK this week because he holds “extreme beliefs”. An oversimplification? Well, yes. But it is certainly interesting to look at the story of Pastor Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burning provocateur and his recently denied entrance to the UK, from a strictly philosophical point of view.

As I play at being Socrates, let’s begin with the facts. A Home Office spokesman said: “The government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.” So Terry Jones – incidentally, a gift of a name for satirists who can manage a Monty Python impression – is denied entrance to the UK because he is an ‘extremist’. What is an extremist? My dictionary (the Oxford English) says: “Extremist: a person who holds extreme political or religious views.” So Terry Jones was denied entry to the UK because he holds extreme political or religious views. We might ask, is it his political or religious views that have condemned him? Richard Dawkins holds extreme religious views, compared to the Archbishop of Canterbury for example, yet Dawkins is welcome in this country (as far as I’m aware…). What is ‘extreme? “Furthest from the centre or a given point” (my dictionary is working hard today), or “far from moderate”. Both of these could be true of Dawkins’ religious views. But there are no cries to deport Dawkins, so Terry Jones’ rejection can’t be simply because of his ‘extreme religious views’. Continue reading “Extreme Religious Beliefs?”

Are liberals confused by economics?

I’m saddened to see this Buturovic and Klein survey treated credulously on a philosophy blog. The survey has problems that should worry anyone who has thought about the difference between facts and values.

The basic idea: Buturovic and Klein asked a bunch of people to classify as true or false a list of propositions considered true by a broad range of economists. Liberals were much more likely than conservatives to label propositions false, thereby contradicting the consensus view of economists. The upshot, according to Klein, is that conservatives are better informed about economics.

But the questions in the survey are terrible. Continue reading “Are liberals confused by economics?”