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Scientific American: Treating an ideological political narrative as science

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Along the same lines as taking past lives research seriously, we have a story about the hitherto unheard-of personality trait that is now ripping the world apart:

There are many divides in the world right now. But there’s one divide, deeply embedded into the core of human nature, that helps explain many other divides. What I’m referring to is a source of human personality variation that is built right into our DNA: antagonism. By really zooming in on this trait, and understanding how antagonism interacts with environmental conditioning and messaging, we can gain a greater understanding of one of the most prominent divides in the world today: populism.

Perhaps the most important interaction in the world today, however, is that between antagonism and populism. The core feature of populism is an anti-establishment message and a focus on the central importance of the people. The anti-establishment message portrays the political elite as corrupt and evil, and disinterested in the interests of “the pure people.” According to John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, the essential divide among populists is “the people versus the powerful.”

In a recent series of studies, political communication professor Bert Bakker and his colleagues conducted the largest and most systematic investigation into the question: What happens when antagonistic citizens receive an anti-establishment message? They found strong support for the notion that the anti-establishment message of populists resonates the most with highly antagonistic people. This finding was confirmed in seven countries across three different continents. Antagonism predicted support for populists for both right-wing (Trump, UKIP, Danish People’s Party, Party for Freedom, SVP) and left-wing (Podemos, Chavez) populists. Scott Barry Kaufman, “The Personality Trait That Is Ripping America (and the World) Apart” at Scientific American

This isn’t science; it is a political harangue, aimed at people who would be insulted if the same terms were applied to them. But science media seem to bde losing the ability to distinguish, which will make them less useful as sources of information about science.

For what it is worth, the main driver of populism today is the fact that top-down bureaucratic policies often don’t work out for voters, prompting big upsets in the polls. That happened in Canada’s two biggest provinces this year, Ontario and Quebec. The election of populist governments usually means that numerous bureaucrats are looking for new employment, which means that we will hear from their cronies that society is going downhill in the most awful way. And new terms like “antagonism” (a 2019s Word of the Year hopeful?) do sound more educated than mere whining would.

Note: Re the “past lives,” as explained earlier to a commenter, consider the statement from the “past lives” paper: “Among children who report memories of a previous life, gender nonconformity is strongly associated with a purported life as a member of a different sex. This association may offer insights into contributors to gender nonconformity in children who do not express such memories.”

The most likely explanation is that the children in question are highly suggestible. But that account of the situation, however well-evidenced and clinically fruitful, won’t validate transgenderism. Quite the opposite; it implies that transgenderism too is an elaborate fantasy.

But whoops, transgenderism is a Big Cause now, as Nature amply demonstrates. The transgender lobby explicitly seeks validation of beliefs, not an adequate account of them. One politically correct outcome of their demands can be that past lives research is tacitly accepted in science journals as part of the acceptance of transgenderism if that’s what the lobby wants.

We shall see. As they used to say, he who dines with the devil must have a long spoon. And too many of the people we are encountering seem to be eating with their fingers.

The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd Hat tip: Ken Francis, co-author with Theodore Dalrymple of The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd.

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See also: Science journal embraces reincarnation research in support of transgender ideology

and

Sceptic asks, why do people who abandon religion embrace superstition? Belief in God is declining and belief in ghosts and witches is rising

5 Replies to “Scientific American: Treating an ideological political narrative as science

  1. 1
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Sceptic asks, why do people who abandon religion embrace superstition? Belief in God is declining and belief in ghosts and witches is rising.

    For most who call themselves skeptics they (religion and superstition) are the same thing.

    The most likely conclusion they can reach (lacking the spiritual convictions of the religious) will be that the ex-religious abandoned an unpopular superstition in favour of a more popular – or, in the case of Christianity, less despised – superstition.

    And if you think about it, they’re probably not entirely wrong.

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    On this site we have had numerous debates about moral subjectivism. But above and beyond moral subjectivism there’s another kind of subjectivism: epistemological subjectism– the belief there are no real objective facts, no capital T Truth, only beliefs and opinions. But if that’s true (which is of course self-refuting) how then do we decided between competing opinions? It all comes down to a power play and since there are no ethical standards anything goes, including lies, deception, intimidation and coercion. Those things are already, we see, being used in politics, on college campuses and in the mainstream media. Could it get worse? If history is any guide it not only could, it will.

    Since epistemological and moral subjectivism have both become a dominate force in western culture is there any surprise that it should it should start effecting the last bastion of objective, fact based, logically rigorous analytical thinking and scholarship, the natural sciences? We shouldn’t be just surprised, we should be scared.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    The most likely explanation is that the children in question are highly suggestible. But that account of the situation, however well-evidenced and clinically fruitful, won’t validate transgenderism. Quite the opposite; it implies that transgenderism too is an elaborate fantasy.

    But whoops, transgenderism is a Big Cause now, as Nature amply demonstrates. The transgender lobby explicitly seeks validation of beliefs, not an adequate account of them. One politically correct outcome of their demands can be that past lives research is tacitly accepted in science journals as part of the acceptance of transgenderism if that’s what the lobby wants

    Children are suggestible and they are also highly imaginative. All that the researchers are suggesting is that these past-life “memories” may be related in some way to gender nonconformity.

    As for “validation”, I don’t doubt there is a lobby advocating for social and political recognition and acceptance of transgender individuals. And why not?

    We are a sexually reproducing species. There are well-established morphological and biochemical differences between the two sexes. But there are also a strong psychological and social components to gender identity which are not necessarily genetically determined. If we look at common stereotypes, are the alleged female childhood preferences for wearing dresses, playing with dolls and the color pink or the alleged male childhood preferences for wearing pants, playing outdoors and the color blue, genetically determined or are they social norms – culturally acceptable behavioral manifestations of gender identity?

    Either way, what does it matter? I don’t feel threatened in any way by transgenderism. I don’t feel any pressure to change my own gender identity. Why should I? If someone wants to undergo a sex-change procedure, that’s their choice not mine. If individuals want to be addressed by a different pronoun, there should be no legal compulsion for me to do so but out of common courtesy I would respect their wishes just as I would expect them to respect mine. That’s what happens in a humane and civilized society.

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    john_a_designer @ 2

    Since epistemological and moral subjectivism have both become a dominate force in western culture is there any surprise that it should it should start effecting the last bastion of objective, fact based, logically rigorous analytical thinking and scholarship, the natural sciences? We shouldn’t be just surprised, we should be scared.

    If there is in fact no objective reality about which it is possible to make claims that are observably true or false to some extent then science is indeed a hopeless enterprise. If, on the other hand, an objective reality exists, if it possible, therefore, to make testable claims and construct testable explanations of it and if people are actually curious about which claim or explanation is more likely to be true then there will always be a fundamental role for science.

    The real threat comes from people who don’t want to try and determine which of several competing explanations is true because they already know for a certainty that it is their own beliefs, be they religious or political. What they want from science is not a means of testing which of a number of competing explanations is more likely to be true, all they want is validation of those pre-existing beliefs.

  5. 5
    Fasteddious says:

    I keep asking, what is the difference between populism and democracy? I suspect the answer depends on which side won the election and which side the answerer voted for.

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