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Why Call for Heterodoxy in the Academy?

By Preston Stovall

In a series of three essays published at Crooked Timber, philosopher John Holbo argues that the Heterodox Academy’s campaign against ideological homogeneity in the academy is not well founded. Holbo’s argument takes the form of a reductio ad absurdam, developed over his first two essays. Suppose Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) is true. According to MFT, the left-dominated academy of today is characterized by a lack of individuals who respect the loyalty/authority/purity axis of moral sentiment. This results in a narrowness of moral vision that, so the Heterodox Academy tells us, leads to problems. At the same time, (Holbo argues) PC-culture displays reverence for values along just that axis—for what is all the protesting and shouting down of debate, the aggressive suppression of those who disagree with orthodoxy, and the call for safe space from microaggressions, etc., but the display of loyalty to a cause, respect for the authority advancing that cause, and an emphasis on social purity? Thus, by MFT’s lights, these displays of outrage should be the corrective to the problems the members of the Heterodox Academy are pointing to. But the Heterodox Academy takes precisely the opposite stance. And so the project is incoherent.

April Kelly-Woessner on Declining Political Tolerance: Half Hour of Heterodoxy #4

In this episode, Chris Martin (@Chrismartin76) interviews April Kelly-Woessner, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies at Elizabethtown College. She specializes in public opinion, mass behavior, and political psychology. She is the co-editor of The Still Divided Academy: How Competing Visions of Power Politics and Diversity Complicate..

Are Conservatives Really Simple-Minded?

This is a guest post by Luke Conway, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Montana.

The current consensus in psychology is that political conservatives are uniquely simple-minded. Indeed, even the famous critic of political bias and Heterodox contributor Jonathan Haidt (and colleagues) suggested that there is a “consistent difference between liberals and conservatives” on several measurements related to cognitive complexity (Joseph, Graham, & Haidt, 2009, p. 176).

When someone as open-minded as Jonathan Haidt implies that an array of evidence shows that conservatives are consistently more simplistic than liberals – even in an article largely devoted to exploring potential qualifiers to the effect – it suggests that the idea has achieved nearly axiomatic status in the minds of psychologists. And yet, in a recent Political Psychology paper, my colleagues and I showed that this “conservatives are simple” conclusion is, if not untrue, at least wildly premature.

You may reasonably wonder: If conservatives really aren’t simple-minded, how can so many smart people from all political viewpoints possibly be so fundamentally wrong about it? Let’s first talk about what we found, and then we’ll talk about how we ended up here.

Why are there so few non-liberals in social psychology? A closer look

Recently a paper was published by Duarte et al. (2015) discussing how political diversity will improve psychological science. The paper pointed out that while democratic/liberal views have historically dominated the field, where these views among academic psychologists outnumbered Republican/conservative views 4 to 1 about 20 years ago, today that ratio has skyrocketed to over 12..

Is social science self-correcting? Not yet. (Updated)

In our recent BBS paper, we argue that the lack of political diversity in scientific psychology sometimes leads to biased research. When ideology is embedded in research questions and measures, it can undermine the validity of that research.

In response to our concerns, some scholars have argued that science is self-correcting, and that political bias is already handled by these corrective processes.

Alice Eagly, a famed attitudes researcher, argued that social psychology is self-correcting:

"Liberal, like conservative, psychological scientists are constrained by the shared rules of postpositivist science whereby research methods and findings are public, available for all to scrutinize and critique. When bias is present in research that attracts an audience, the bias is (sooner or later) exposed and then corrected."

A Response to John K. Wilson

I would like to thank John K. Wilson for sending me his comments about my HeterodoxAcademy blog and inviting me to respond. There are a lot of points to cover.

First, John K. Wilson disputes my finding that young people today are less tolerant than their parents. He claims “young people only seem modestly intolerant by comparison because older Americans have grown more tolerant to a degree unimaginable in human history.”

In our private email exchange, Wilson defended this argument by pointing to increased tolerance toward homosexuals. Indeed, people are more accepting of alternative lifestyles, minorities, women’s rights, etc. than at any time in the past. But political tolerance is a measure of how we handle disagreement. Tolerant people allow those they consider dangerous to society to speak and participate in the democratic process. Allowing one’s friends and political allies to speak is not a sign of tolerance. Young people may like more people, but they are especially intolerant of disagreement.