05 November 2008

Obama and McCain Walk Into a Bar ...

“Conservatives tend to be happier than liberals in general,” said Dr. Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. “A conservative outlook rationalizes social inequality, accepting the world as it is, and making it less of a threat to one’s well-being, whereas a liberal outlook leads to dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a sense that things need to change before one can be really happy.”

Another possible explanation is that conservatives, or at least the ones in Boston, really aren’t the stiffs they’re made out to be by social scientists. When these scientists analyze conservatives, they can sound like Victorians describing headhunters in Borneo. They try to be objective, but it’s an alien culture. …

Could it be that the image of conservatives as humorless, dogmatic neurotics is based more on political bias than sound social science? Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, … said that while there were valid differences, “liberals and conservatives are roughly equally closed-minded in dealing with dissonant real-world evidence.”

(“Obama and McCain Walk Into a Bar …” New York Times, Nov 3, 2008)

You'd think if anyone could be unbiased, it would be people who are trained to analyze cultures and personalities objectively.

Dr. Martin observes that conservatives are happier than liberals as a group. Rather than letting this observation stand on its own, she then explains it away by insinuating that conservatives are selfish and unfeeling about the plight of others. One could just as readily argue that liberals take a perverse pleasure in seeing themselves and others as perennial victims.

“For myself, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

(Winston Churchill, Speech, Sept 11, 1954)

It has been said, “Any discipline with the word science in its name is not.” I'm not quite so dogmatic — or perhaps I'm more broadly dogmatic. I think both hard and soft scientists are all too prone to label as science what is actually just an expression of their own prejudice.

A prime example is those who accept the hypothesis of evolution on faith, and ridicule those who question it. That's not science, that's dogmatism. Charles Darwin, himself, distinguished between natural selection, which he termed science, and evolution, which he termed [something else]. (dang, where is that quote?)

I think Philip Tetlock was right on in affirming that both liberals and conservatives – along with hard scientists, soft scientists, and theologians – are equally closed-minded in dealing with people or evidence that disagrees with them. Anyone who has tried to stand up against Poltical Correct doctrine can attest that there is no view more closed-minded.

Incidentally, I know many conservatives who enjoy Monty Python and Far Side. That said, I suspect some of them are less cheerful than usual today.

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