I recently gave a talk on the need for ideological diversity in social psychology. John Tierney wrote an article for the New York Times describing the talk, titled “Social Scientist Sees Bias Within.” Paul Krugman wrote a dismissive response in his blog, Conscience of a Liberal. His 2 main points were 1) Ideological differences are not like race differences, because people can CHOOSE to adopt a different ideology (which I presume means that it’s OK to discriminate against them, even though ideology is in fact quite heritable) and 2) Under-representation of any group in any field does not imply discrimination, which is a point I made explicitly in my talk. I fully agree with him that “doing head counts is a terrible way to assess” bias.
I posted a response on his blog, but because my response was #287 out of 310, nobody is likely to see it. I reprint it here:
Dear Mr. Krugman:
I urge you to view the video and/or transcript of my talk at www.JonathanHaidt.com.
I very deliberately did NOT make the moral argument that ideological divides are like racial divides. I agree with you that there are many relevant differences. Also, I directly stated that personality differences will always guarantee that academe is mostly liberal, just as you noted that the military is mostly conservative. That’s all fine by me.
Rather, I focused my appeal to my colleagues one one point: that when conservatives are entirely absent (as opposed to simply underrepresented), then there is NOBODY to speak up, nobody to challenge predominant ideas, and our science suffers. I gave examples of several scientific mistakes that my fellow social psychologists make because our shared values make it difficult for us to entertain alternative hypotheses. People who think of such alternatives dare not speak up.
My research, like so much research in social psychology, demonstrates that we humans are experts at using reasoning to find evidence for whatever conclusions we want to reach. We are terrible at searching for contradictory evidence. Science works because our peers are so darn good at finding that contradictory evidence for us. Social science — at least my corner of it — is broken because there is nobody to look for contradictory evidence regarding sacralized issues, particularly those related to race, gender, and class. I urged my colleagues to increase our ideological diversity not for any moral reason, but because it will make us better scientists. You do not have that problem in economics where the majority is liberal but there is a substantial and vocal minority of libertarians and conservatives. Your field is healthy, mine is not.
Do you think I was wrong to call for my professional organization to seek out a modicum of ideological diversity?