Dear Prof. Pigliucci:
When I challenged you to either 1) retract and apologize or 2) affirm your original post, I expected you to invent your own option 3, retracting or qualifying a few claims but not apologizing. Thank you for choosing option 2 so decisively!
I have three points to make in response, and then I will be done with our exchange.
1) When Bill Clinton said “there is no improper relationship” with Lewinsky, he spoke truthfully but deceptively. What the interviewer wanted to know was whether there HAD BEEN a relationship. You tell us that I was wrong to assume that you had not watched my talk before dismissing my argument. You say that in fact “I have indeed looked at it.” Did you mean to say “have” or “had?” If you meant “had,” then readers can better judge the quality of the reasoning in your initial post. Even though you knew my full argument, you dismissed it by focusing on one claim — that underrepresentation is not evidence of bias – which is a claim that I myself made in the talk. But if you really meant “have,” as in “I have now watched the talk, after writing my initial post but before writing this response,” then please explain how your statement differs from Clinton’s.
2) You take issue with my use of Google, and I thank your reader for pointing out to us the difference between the number of hits Google says it found vs. the number of pages it actually delivers. But my basic point still stands: Google finds many cases of “liberal social psychologist” which refer to actual psychologists, but just three hits for “conservative social psychologist,” none of which point to an actual psychologist. You say you found 10 cases of the latter phrase, but did you notice that seven of them referred to my talk?
Your more revealing error is your claim about the role that the Google example played in my argument. You said that my conclusion from it was “Voilà, case closed, bias demonstrated!” Yet anyone who watched the talk knows that this was just my opening example, intended to be humorous, but also intended as one of three demonstrations that it’s very hard to identify any conservative social psychologists, and that point itself was just one of three arguments that my field has become a tribal moral community. I’m no philosopher, but I’m pretty sure that “case opened” is not the same thing as “case closed.”
3) You deny that you have accused me of academic misconduct, and you warn me that I myself may have done something ethically wrong in “throwing those words around.” You say you were just raising a theoretical possibility of motivated cognition. I repeat your original words here:
I suspect that Haidt is either an incompetent psychologist (not likely) or is disingenuously saying the sort of things controversial enough to get him in the New York Times (more likely).
You also called me “silly” and you called my talk “garbage.” Readers will judge for themselves which of us writes recklessly and unprofessionally.
* * *
I have greatly enjoyed our debate. You assert that I “got upset” by your initial post, and you refer to my “outrage” at your accusations. But in fact I was delighted by them. I am an intuitionist. I am building an extended argument that reasoning, when not informed by broad understanding and cultivated intuitions, is an unreliable tool for finding truth. There is mounting evidence in psychology that the evolved function of reasoning is not discovery but social justification and manipulation. We humans use reasoning skillfully to find arguments in support of our intuitively held positions, but we are hobbled by the confirmation bias; we are unable to find evidence or arguments that contradict our favored positions. I believe this is the most serious defect in the writings of the “new atheists” and many other self-proclaimed rationalists: because they are so good at finding reasons to support their views about science and religion, they develop an extraordinary confidence that they are right, which makes them prone to arrogant dismissals of all who disagree with them.
When I issued my challenge to you, I knew that I would soon obtain either an apology or a classroom-worthy demonstration of rationalism in action.
p.s., If readers would like to see experimental evidence of bias against non-liberals in the academy, or studies of the relative intelligence of liberals and conservatives, they are posted here.
Update: Pigliucci’s response is this comment, posted on his last blog entry:
Hmm, I really don’t think I’m being Clintonesque here. And the slides in the talk make it clear that the google example was central to the argument, especially as data are concerned. But this exchange has gone on long enough, considering that it’s not even about a peer reviewed paper.
In other words: he still won’t say whether he HAD watched my talk before writing his initial post.