I think this may prove to be a very worthwhile endeavor, but there is
certainly a danger of substituting one oversimplification for another.
Just as "conservative" can mean evolution-denying, anti-abortion,
pro-military, but can also mean libertarian, supporter of EP, etc.,
"liberal" denotes a wide variety of positions. Obviously no supporter
of EP is likely to be a religious conservative, so in contradistinction
to that view all can claim the status of liberal if they find it
helpful. It would thus seem that what we would need is a larger matrix
of positions, to more fully specify the kinds of differences that
matter. (We would of course find that then even those on this list are
far from full agreement, but it would be a start.) We would need to
know stances on issues such as government support of social services,
limitations of the market, nationalism, immigration, feminism, etc. One
way to proceed might be simply to prepare a questionnaire, sending it
to those on your list, some control group, our own list, etc., and just
see what emerges.
On the other hand, we might look at something more evanescent, but
still very revealing — style. I once did a small pilot study of to see
whether I could guess people's political affiliation on the basis of
their front-yard gardens. The sample was too small to be terribly
convincing, but to a rough approximation my hypothesis worked:
Republicans prefer order and boring amounts of the same greens (or even
paving) while Democrats prefer more varied, wild and colorful
plantings, and this held for quite different degrees of apparent
On Sep 10, 2004, at 6:20 PM, Samuel Waite wrote:
> Val Dusek has written about the tendency in the press to portray the
> sociobiology controversy (and now, the science wars) as a conflict
> between Objective Scientists and Leftists Who Won't Accept Reality.
> I've only recently (in the last year or so) begun investigating --
> indeed, even really been aware -- of these topics, and I too find this
> narrative frighteningly commonplace. In fact, the only thing I've
> found that even comes close to an alternative view (at least for
> sociobiology and evolutionary psychology) is Dusek's "Sociobiology
> There have been some ostensible attempts at balanced expositions, but
> virtually all are either pretty blatantly biased (Defenders of the
> Truth) or obviously (to me, anyway) poorly researched (Man, Beast and
> This narrative must be challenged. This is a book that needs to be
> written (Dr. Dusek? ;-)). In any case, in the spirit of constructing
> an alternative narrative, I'd like to discuss the politics of
> sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists, and science warriors.
> I think it's important to point out, first of all, that one can
> be ideologically biased without necessarily being politically biased.
> In addition to conscious political bias, there are matters of race,
> gender, class, careerism, and scientism. As is well known, many
> left-wingers supported eugenics.
> Still, if the critics of EP and of big science are to be successful,
> they must show that the sociobiologists and their current descendants
> were and are as ideological as their opponents. So actual political
> bias should certainly be one of our first considerations.
> So, let's consider the political and broader ideological biases of the
> following individuals (please add any comments you might have to my
> Desmond Morris - ?
> Lionel Tiger - recently admirably penned an editorial against "race"
> as a scientific concept.
> E.O. Wilson - commonly portrayed as a liberal in the press, but I'm
> very much in doubt. I'm almost inclined to think that he encourages
> the idea in order to make sociobiology more credible. In Sociobiology
> and On Human Nature, of course, he suggested that homo economicus is
> inscribed in the genome, as well as racism, women's oppression, and
> women's inferiority, and suggested that it might be a good idea to let
> poor people starve to death (albeit not quite in those terms).
> Referred to black students who dumped ice water on him as "aborigines"
> by whom he felt like he'd been "speared". Has privately praised J.P.
> Rushton. Has been wined and dined by major corporations and recently
> allied with Thernstrom in attacking women's and ethnic studies at
> Harvard. In Conscilience he descbribes himself as a social
> Richard Dawkins - again, commonly portrayed as liberal, but I'm in
> doubt, given his remarks about welfare recipients in The Selfish
> Gene. Most of his writings on social issues deal with
> religion. Terribly scientistic, IMHO.
> Napoleon Chagnon - described in National Review article as a "moderate
> Democrat", but referred to by Terence Turner as a "right-wing
> character". Macho persona.
> David Barash - ?
> Michael Ghiselin - some anti-feminist comments in his works.
> John Tooby - ?
> Leda Cosmides - ?
> Helena Cronin - claims to be left-wing.
> Matt Ridley - certified right-wing lunatic.
> David Buss - has allied himself with racists.
> Peter Singer - adherent of all manner of bizarre ideas.
> Martin Daly - ?
> Margo Wilson - ?
> Robert Trivers - supposedly a Leftist. Coauthored a book with Huey
> Steven Pinker - books bask in "political incorrectness". He thanks
> Thomas Sowell and several AEI Fellows in the Acknowledgements in The
> Blank Slate, and has given a lecture sponsored by the AEI.
> Scientific racists (from Jensen to Sarich and Rushton) - most of these
> are pretty obvious, but what motivates people like Ernst Mayr, James
> Crow, and George Williams (or maybe it was William Hamilton...) to
> side with them (at least insofar as they defend the validity of the
> race concept)?
> Behavior geneticists - some have obvious biases, but what about people
> like Plomin and Scarr?
> Paul Gross - reactionary.
> Norm Levitt - again, claims to be left, but I'm not buying it.
> Praises sociobiology and Living Marxism.
> Alan Sokal - a well-meaning liberal who's served as a convenient dupe
> for the culture warriors.
> The rest of the science warriors seem to be known political
> conservatives and/or largely apolitical scientists who they've whipped
> into a frenzy.
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