Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Social science that lacks viewpoint diversity produces findings that are reliably insane.

Jonathan Haidt considers whether an entirely biased social science is capable of reliability:
Truth is a process, not just an end-state. The Righteous Mind was about the obstacles to that process — confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, tribalism, and the worship of sacred values. Given the many ways that our moral psychology warps our reasoning, it’s a wonder we’ve gotten as far as we have, as a species. That’s what’s so brilliant about science: it is a way of putting people together so that they challenge each other and cancel out each others’ confirmation biases and tribal commitments. The truth emerges from the interaction of flawed individuals.

But something alarming has happened to the academy since the 1990s: it has been transformed from an institution that leans to the left, which is not a big problem, into an institution that is entirely on the left, which is a very big problem.

Nowadays there are NO conservatives or libertarians in most academic departments in the humanities and social sciences. The academy has been so focused on attaining diversity by race and gender (which are valuable) that it has created a hostile climate for people who think differently. The American Academy has become a politically orthodox and quasi-religious institution. When everyone shares the same politics and prejudices, the disconfirmation process breaks down. Political orthodoxy is particularly dangerous for the social sciences, which grapple with so many controversial topics (such as race, racism, gender, poverty, immigration, politics, and climate science). America needs innovative and trustworthy research on all these topics, but can a social science that lacks viewpoint diversity produce reliable findings?
Based on the evidence, the answer is yes, as a social science that lacks viewpoint diversity produces findings that are reliably insane. At this point, the term "social science" has become an oxymoron akin to "military intelligence" or "new Star Wars movie".