Monday, November 07, 2011

Were the lying Dutchman's lies important?

Rush Limbaugh makes a case that the now discredited Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel was riding the old Leftist hobbyhorse of trying to prove scientifically that conservatives are psychologically defective: Good projection but bad science.

The paper that Rush concentrates on is here and it implies that we dislike blacks because we often see them in messy "slum" environments. Even if that were a genuine finding, however, I don't really see it as much of a problem. Stapel did not claim that he had isolated the ONLY cause of negativity towards blacks and the possibility that the very high rate of violent crime among blacks has a central bearing on attitudes towards them was not addressed at all.

Stapel did however claim that a "heightened need for structure" was behind the effect that he observed -- i.e. it was only people with a heightened need for structure who let the messy environment influence them. That too seems innocuous enough at first sight but when one realizes that a heightened need for structure has been identified by many psychologists over the years as characteristic of conservatives, we begin to see the "conservatives are defective and that's why they don't like blacks" story emerging.

That a need for structure is a bad thing is of course highly debatable (does it mean that Leftists have a need for chaos?) but in any case I did many years of research on the "conservatives have a greater need for structure" hypothesis and other hypotheses like it and found that all the "proof" offered was based on research methods not much better than Stapel's. You can read my papers on the subject here.

Stapel also claimed that meat-eaters are a bad lot but I think Rush deals well with that claim.

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