Why Is the Fight for Free Speech Led by the Psychologists?

Jeffrey Sachs (not the economist) asks, Why are psychologists so prevalent in the free speech movement?:

If any academic field is associated with the contemporary debate surrounding free speech, it’s psychology. Haidt, Pinker, Peterson, Saad, Jussim, even Lehmann. All specialize or have backgrounds in academic psych.

The Scholar’s Stage offers a good answer:

I attribute this all to three things.

1. The conclusions academics reach tend to rankle the right. There are exceptions. If your research draws on evolutionary psychology, focuses on innate behavioral differences, or touches any sort of psychometrics (e.g., IQ), the angry tide does not sweep in from the right. The wave these men and women fear crashes in from leftward side. Moreover, the sort of leftist opposition that the academic consensus on these topics face leaves little room for rational debate or compromise: controversies over psychometrics or evolutionary psychology are usually framed in terms of good and evil, not right and wrong. The scientists involved are to be conquered, not reasoned with.

So that is point one: the people who want to shut controversial psychologists up are overwhelmingly creatures of the left.

2. Psychology, especially social psychology, is itself an overwhelmingly leftist discipline. We actually have data on this, and it is pretty grim: a recent survey of American tenure-track professors reveals that there 17.4 registered Democrat psychologists for every single registered Republican.[2] If there is a field of people who ought to be sympathetic to social justice railroading, these people are it.

3. Despite this, behavioral scientists have not yet adopted the rhetorical techniques or methodology of inquiry of “critical theory.”  In contrast, see how these modes of inquiry have swallowed up the fields of anthropology and communications, and established creeping colonies in history, sociology, and area studies.  Given the left-leaning sympathies of almost all in the profession, the threat that the same might happen to the study of human behavior is real.

…Haidt et. al. are confident they can win the debate if they are allowed to debate. For the heterodox anthropologist or sociologist the game is already over: their discipline has already been conquered. For the economist, the threat is too remote to take seriously. Behavioral science exists in that rare in-between: methodologically, it has the tools to fight back against the excesses of the activist. Socially, it provides a compelling reason for its practitioners to use them.


What makes the 17.4 to 1 stat even more alarming is that registered Republicans and Democrats make up less than 60% of the electorate, with the plurality not affiliated with either party.

True, that college educated people (such as psychologists) might align to the outside more than the general population, but certainly not all of them. The net result is a field that is even more hyperpartisan than these embarassing statistics present.

One common rebuttal to the high number of leftists in academia is that they are merely smarter. One should wonder how and why the preponderance of conservative professors disappeared after the 1950s. One should also ask just how rigorous a Psych PhD actually is (it isnt).

No, the disparity is the result of active discrimination. The 80% Rule makes a prima facie case that the leftists must disprove with evidence, not merely unsupported pretextual excuses.

As long as Republicans subsidize psychology departments, they will remain Democrats. They'll change if and only if they must.

"One common rebuttal to the high number of leftists in academia is that they are merely smarter." That doesn't pass the laugh test.

Academia is naturally leftist because leftism is the idea of designing social institutions through the use of reason. Conservatism is the recognition that social institutions are too complex to be designed by a rational planner, which is in direct conflict with the idea that human reason is all powerful.

Math and science is apparently too Marxist for some people.

"One should also ask just how rigorous a Psych PhD actually is (it isnt)."
Is this why I'm never convinced of anything Jordan Peterson says?

Well, imagine who is going to pursue a Psychological degree from an average high-school graduating class. It's certainly the boy/girl, who may be very smart, but always felt oppressed. Some may feel a huge change on that in their university years, but those who continue with an academic career surely just got even bitter.

Christine Blasey Ford?

Couldn't put my finger on it but I think that's why Jordan Peterson might the way he is. Seems like a real smart guy, but there's something paranoid and off about the guy when he rants against his real/imagined bogeymen. A psychologist like him ironically would benefit much from a talk with a shrink or two.

“but always felt oppressed”

Really? Why?

And yet the right never does debate, only complain about how they aren't allowed to, probably because repeating the same falsehoods doesn't work anymore and actual engagement takes knowledge and is difficult and because they have little incentive to as their objective is to confirm their existing opinions rather than discover something they might not like.

"And yet the right never does debate"

Your statement is wrong. Clearly some of the people on this list have debated their positions quite articulately.

" Haidt, Pinker, Peterson, Saad, Jussim, even Lehmann. "

I can't speak for all of them, but I think Haidt & Pinker would deny being right wing.

The original posters point is absolute. Ergo, if anybody on the Right ever debates then his point is provably wrong.

bad comment that barely acknowledges any actual detail of the post or link

Check out the thousands of pages that Pinker and Haidt have written. They're vocal, articulate, and famous.

A field will fall to critical theory to the extent that its traditional topics are unfalsifiable...to the extent that its innovations consists of new arrangements of words. Sociology has a sort of social justice mission, but there are still many sociologists who collect tons of data, and I think sociology journals all rejected the "Sokal 2.0" submissions. There is something about performing experiments and collecting data that reminds one that there is an objective reality out there beyond our feelings and theories, howsoever hard it might be to make contact with. Also, fields with data collection/experiments will tend to filter out people who lack competence at carrying out boring tasks...at administering large grants, keeping track of big excel files, talking to different kinds of people, etc. Carrying things out tends to moderate people, and moderate people tend to be better at execution than emotional word wranglers.

For this reason, if I were an economist I would be concerned about my field being taken over eventually, as so much of economics consists of theory. On the other hand, maybe the type of theory economists do---mathematical theory---performs a lot of the same filtering as data collection, and maybe mathematical facts can also impress upon one the same sense of there being a reality beyond our emotions. If economics does resist the takeover, I think it will be the mathematical theory that is the moat rather than the data collection, because economists often do not collect their own data.

I mean this as an opinion complementing your post, and not as a contradiction: imo the statistical knowledge needed to become a successful academic economist today successfully IQ-gatekeeps a lot of the issues.

Yes, there's an enormous difference (at least right now) between "the types of students who are sociology undergrad majors, who maybe want to go to grad school to do some mesearch" and what actual practicing sociologists do and publish. Sure, the departments encourage the former to keep their undergraduate student counts up but (again, for now) the inmates are not running the asylum.

College students that major in psychology, social work, criminology, etc., are simply at a loss for a genuine vocation and opt for one that doesn't have a possibility of getting uncomfortable or dirty and is likely to be in public sector, where lay-offs are rare.

Humans have a social nature baked in by millions of years of evolution, and given that, a surprising ability for individual action and motivation.

This results in a balance across most of ... "society" (to use that word).

But of course individuals vary. Some will major in "social psychology" because that's what they see. And some will become "libertarians" because they don't see it at all.

But on average, normal people see and understand the pull of both, the social and the individual.

This is a very strange canard about Libertarians. They are much more group-focused then others. Other people want to sit at home and commandeer the police to take stuff from other people and rearrange it according to their whims. Libertarians understand the power of true collective action, coordination, volunteering. All the things the left want to destroy and replace with faceless bureaucrats

If there were libertarians in the stone age, they died. Things were too close, it was too impossible to ignore the value of social cohesion.

Your crazy idea that you can spring forth full grown and form voluntary associations is an invention of the machine age, and of anonymous consumerism. Only then could you pretend that the school and the army had nothing to do with you. Because if you hid out, someone else would do them.

If people will only “volunteer” money, time, and potentially their life for your cause at the threat of physical violence, maybe that should be a sign your cause sucks.

The military is voluntary in this country. Billions of dollars in charity, countless in kind donations (soup kitchens, food banks, etc) and millions of man hours spent helping others....

All done without the threat of physical violence.

What the heck are you even saying ?

Politics always grows out of a view of human nature, and the more accurate your view of human nature, the better your politics will be.

The two poles of error, "society is all" Marxism and "the individual is all" Libertarianism are similar in this regard. They each blinker their view of human nature down to one thing, and make a politics from it.

Whereas, pretty much any centrist-courting mainstream political philosophy is going to acknowledge a dual nature of individuals in a society.

And yeah, sometimes that means fighting stupid wars. Same as it always was.

Again, individualism has little or nothing to do with libertarianism. Liberty is all about the value of consent and human rights

Communism led people to murder their neighbors, starve the kulaks, and the deaths of tens of millions of people. Tens of millions. The holomodor, the cultural revolution, juche in Korea causing man made famine..

People who are extreme on the liberty side want non violent felons to be released from prison, semiautomatic weapons to remain legal, women to have the right to abort their fetus, and to lower the tax rate.

These are not the same.

Actually extreme libertarians want private police, all drugs legal, zero taxes. No fair comparing extreme socialism to moderate libertarianism

"No fair comparing extreme socialism to moderate libertarianism"

I suppose that's fair. But of course extreme Libertarians haven't taken over countries and murdered the opposition and the helpless by the 10's of millions. So, it's pretty conjectural.

Granted, I don't support extreme Libertarianism, but I don't want them hung from the trees either. I would like to see Castro or Maduro strung up until they were dead.

It seems a little pointless for Castro, but I think you might find a fair number of Venezuelans who are with you w.r.t. Maduro.

I follow Sachs on Twitter, and saw this go by. I'm not sure the question is that great, or the answer. As Sachs knows, and writes frequently, it isn't so much about freedom of speech but the decision of how and when to deploy opprobrium.

All human societies are equally governed by what you can say and what you should say.

If anything we sudden social media driven "moment" in America in which we have to reanalyze it all. Because both free speech and opprobrium are suddenly leveraged by factors of thousands.

How a lie about George Soros and the migrant caravan multiplied online

I don't understand your point. These academics fear that their field could be taken over by people who will heap enormous opprobrium on any research that does not match their political commitments. Whether you call this free speech or not is semantics. What they are interested in defending is an opportunity for scientific inquiry unencumbered by politically motivated assumption and they are latching on to the defense of free speech as closely tied to this.

I'm not so sure. We definitely have free speech in this country, and the argument in an English Department or on Twitter is about "platforming," to use the new term.

Let's say that a particular state in the Union skews left, and creates a university system that skews even more left, and then produces speech along that axis .. is that their right?

I say yes, and if they get too screwed up, someone else will do it better and out-compete them.

"We definitely have free speech in this country"

Nope. Free speech is more than just a constitutional amendment. It's a principle and it's worth defending.


So who is in jail?

Why would someone have to be in jail?

How is the hell is Abigail Spanberger gonna win the Virginia 7th? Did Cohen do a ground attack?

You don't have a right to free speech in other people's homes. They can kick you out and if you refuse to leave I can have the police force you out for trespassing. In Florida, I can shoot your ass. My 2nd amendment trumps your 1st amendment.

Unless you want to go to jail in Florida, definitely not true. Of course you can expel a temporary guest from your own property essentially at your whim- but not with a firearm.

Just voted. I saw tones of voter fraud going on. It was unbelievable so many fraudsters voting in my neighborhood.

How did you know they were fraudsters?

It's the troll. He's trolling.

They were voting, thus watering down, or erasing his vote.

When your vote no longer elects who you want, that's voter fraud.

F- this nonsense. The fight for free speech has been led, as it has always been led, by the ACLU.

ACLU rapidly losing its luster as it is commandeered by the extreme left. They no longer defend many right-wing cases.

What would be an example of a right-wing case?

"Hate speech" (not that that is right-wing per se, but the kind of thing that left wingers are no longer interested in protecting)


The right has no problem censoring jihadi speech on social media, which I am for btw. The right to free speech, even the political jihadi kind, is not unlimited. Hate crimes are already law in the US and hate speech itself is a crime in most other democracies.

Yes most other countries do not have a tradition of free speech. The U.S. is in danger of losing its strong speech protections and the ACLU is letting it happen, so it is not leading the fight for free speech.

"the ACLU generally will not represent protesters who seek to march while armed."

Guns aren't speech. That's why there's a 2nd amendment for guns and a 1st amendment for speech.

So what? Protesting is.

It's a pretty common sense argument. Unfortunately, the pessimist in me suspects these guys are probably part of the last generation of social scientists who will/could make arguments for free speech on college campuses and actually get a respectful hearing; they have the name recognition and institutional clout to do so. Once they're gone, though, it's probably Ye Olde Mobbing Tactics from here on out.

I think one reason psychology is at the heart of the free speech movement is the findings of much of psychology itself: we are all biased, we are all extremely subject to error, reality isn't absolutely knowable, there is no singular rationally correct answer. Combine that with the field's historical penchant to see its major findings and paradigms overturned, and much of psychology, whether experimental or clinical, is heavily rooted in skepticism. A lot of the rejection of free speech comes from those who are sure that there is a right or just answer. Psychology, instead, discourages this, except in social psychology where, as the article points out, there is a great preponderance of left-leaning individuals who muddy the waters between social psychology and sociology and have produced a lot of bad work that is fueling the field's current replication crisis (ironically a result of one of the field's major findings, groupthink, and is another reason other psychologists are concerned about free speech, because if dissent is silenced, you'll get groupthink).

Hello Anonymous,
Look at the word "relatable." I find that painting "relatable." Is that helpful information? Is it the same as saying I "like" that painting? So, saying relatable reduces discourse, moreover, thinking in terms of relatability, say when reading a novel, does a disservice to one's understanding of the novel. Yet it is inevitable. After all, nepotism falls under "relatable," in a certain sense, right?

Is there a counter-point to the "fight" for free speech? Is there an argument that "free speech" is somehow harmful? You have divided everyone into "right" and "left" and "pro" and "con" without defining what the argument is even about.

Seems obvious to me. It’s part of larger struggle in which significant parts of either side wish to engage rational thought and objective reality with violence, the threat thereof, and cultural revolution type shaming and social destruction. It’s a refusal of the societal norms surrounding free speech. Free speech in law is downstream from these norms, which have largely disappeared in the last few decades.

The left owns academia, and so in this particular instance we see the left use these tactics to shut down thoughtcrime and speakcrime.

The right owns the NFL.

The battlefield changes, the stupidity and disgusting mob behavior does not.

Both sides do it though.

Is "the fight for free speech" in truth and in fact being "led" by academic psychologists?

In academic contexts and settings: perhaps possibly maybe--but in the real world? I for one am unwilling to defer to academic judgments concerning much of anything these days: American academia is AS CORRUPT today as media, sports, politics, tech, and business interests can make it and have made it.

Academic defense of "free speech" is no defense at all when such defense has been amply bought and paid for. (Same goes for the corrupt Media Establishment's stale mouthwash concerning its institutional defense of "the First Amendment".)

“. . . controversies over psychometrics or evolutionary psychology are usually framed in terms of good and evil, not right and wrong. The scientists involved are to be conquered, not reasoned with.”
This is a pretty rank generalization and not true in my experience.
And no mention of the debunked IQ race science by Charles Murray?

BTW Jordan Peterson is a shallow crackpot with incoherent politics and no historical background. He’s better known as Doc Lobster. Kind of an amateur or dilettante in the subjects for which he’s become famous. Haidt practices tone-policing, also using an amateurishly transparent “measured and thoughtful” pose, for which there is very ample funding.

Agreed. Not sure why Haidt gets a pass on expecting a degree of professionalism and civility from his peers. It's disgusting, really.

^^^ Powerful takedown of Jordan Peterson by 'Mike' from the Internet.

And Charles Murray too. He probably doesn't even know the work. And I don't think 'debunked' means 'I really really wish'.

Didn't you read that the Southern Poverty Law Center has published a devastating critique of Murray's white nationalist race pseudo"science"? I go there for all my factchecking.

I am just like Mike.

Hey Southern Poverty Law Center is a sweet gig. You've got love a non-profit that has stashed millions in off shore accounts.

Why don't you apply for a job there instead of writing asinine comments on the internet? I need you to move out of the basement by next Thursday.

+1. Powerful yes but Peterson is an easy target because of his arrogant preachiness and general ignorance. He's also a cuck that could hit the gym once in a while.

Things that I’m uncomfortable with are debunked because I said so.

People whom I disagree with have no right to speak, and they are not only wrong but are evil.

"I get all my politics from 3 socialist millionaire podcasters"

What is free speech? I don't understand this framing. Jordan Peterson is left? I don't know anything about him but that he has pissed off the left socials.

There is freedom of expression and then there is entitlement to the attention of others. The left seems to elide them conceptually when convenient and dispense with both when not. By that I mean they feel like they are entitled to my attention whenever they please and I am not entitled to say things that they don't want to hear. Gawker type articles about how "So and so just needs to listen". No, no one needs to listen. Feel free to talk, if you get someone willing to listen, good for you (or not if they just reinforce some assumptions that are not working for you).

Psychologists may be interested in free speech because a fundamental human need is to be 'oneself', a term I won't define. Individuation is the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid. Communication is the substrate for human society and life as a human rather than an animal existence, after all. Shutting people up for any non trivial reason without letting go of them leads to pathology. This is obvious, but if I need to rigorize it to sell it, it creates a double bind (paradox- a recursion that stalls someone's processing) and explains things such as schizophrenia in the field work of Bateson and Watzlawick. I mean, Watzlawick actually 'solved' individual schizophrenic 'problems' with this theory, in clinical practice, and wrote it up in the canon.

Hope deferred (to thine own self be true) makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. If you can't tolerate someone when they are right in front of you, it is better to let them go than to hold on and hate what in them you can't assimilate in you. For you, for them, for the rest of us.

I am probably posting here so often lately as a finale to reading this blog at all. The space used to be characterized by pragmatic and libertarian perspectives, but it has given credence to socialist tenets (inequality is NOT a problem, poverty in absolute terms may be but relative poverty is inevitable, we don't all have to worship in the same catherdral) undeservedly. MR is kinda getting stuck in it's own double bind.

Psychologists care about free speech because individual expression is, like, their whole field. That's what they do. It's like asking why a hydrologist is talking about head pressure. . . right before a dam breaks. But hey, Y'all can concern yourselves with what you like.

A lot of the controversy on campus centers around "no-platforming"--aka having a riot to prevent some speaker being able to give a talk to people who want to hear him. That's not someone claiming the right to your attention, it's someone claiming the right to prevent you from hearing something you want to hear.

You might want to learn about libertarian socialism since you seem to think they are opposites even though they are not.


The friction is where psychology and biology meet. Biology is the problematic discipline. There is irony here, inasmuch as the left has used biology (evolution) mercilessly for 150 years, unto this very day, to beat the religious with. Watching the new secular religion of the left grapple with human biology is a kind of justice.

Without apparent irony we say the "left" has "evolution" on a page where we wonder 'why are universities "left?"'

Um. Asked and answered.

If my thinking were as muddled as yours, I suspect my writing style would be similarly deliberately obscurantist.

"the left has used biology (evolution) mercilessly for 150 years"

I am really amazed that anyone could drop anything like that in a forum in 2018. Most established religions have long since rationalized evolution, and that is kind of the key question that makes them rational.

It is a quote thrown out of time to think that evolution is used "to beat the religious with," unless by religion you mean the most fundamentalist and irrational.

Our party is ushered into a room to await His Holiness. He enters accompanied by a burst of song - young priests chanting hosannas. Our conference has been wrestling with evolution, both biological and cosmological. And so has he, John Paul tells us. "The Church's Magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man." Though "Revelations teaches us that man was created in the image and likeness of God," says the Pope, "new knowledge has led us to realize that the theory of evolution is no longer a mere hypothesis." It's good to hear, but hardly breaking news. The Catholic Church has long accepted an evolutionary worldview, complete with descent from apes and a big bang beginning. John Paul in particular has championed science and lent his personal support to "Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action," a decade-long program of which our conference is a part.


Something like 50% of people in America don't believe in evolution and they are overwhelmingly right, and the left uses this fact to shit on them (not without some cause)

It is a bit better than that(*), but my warning was really about tying something like that to "left" or "right."

If you treat it as neither, a nonpartisan issue, you are going to have a much healthier relationship with universities.

* - https://news.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx

neck-up creationism is decidedly partisan

The example of Murray proves the point. His claim was deemed to be evil and offensive, which is why the ironically named antifa groups de-platform him every chance they get.

Where did somebody call Murray's race "science" evil?

It conveniently evades history.

I recall that Haidt has said he started his research on morality because he wanted to find out "what was wrong" with the conservatives (my quotes). It appears that he started with a particular agenda, but had the ability (training?) to try and be open minded and objective. Perhaps he had the rare ability to step outside his own world view.

Haidt's pithiest contribution: when we hear something we agree with, we ask "May I believe it?". When we hear something we disagree with, we ask "Must I believe it?" This explains a lot.


Here's a thought. Maybe the psychologists more easily recognize the psychopathology that is often displayed by the anti-free speech crowd.

I'd approach the question a bit differently. Many engage in this debate, not just psychologists, so why are these psychologists rising above the pack? I'd speculate based on my readings of Pinker and Haidt that they are best trained to speak to all parties. Psychologists understand what someone means if they say identity is constructed and they understand what someone means if they say that identity is genetically predisposed to certain outcomes. They are also able to speak credibly and clearly to people who are skeptical of the opposing side. Finally, SP and JH seem to understand that audiences won't listen if they don't establish their credibility to both sides, something that I note writers from other disciplines don't fully appreciate and often dismiss as virtue signalling, so psychologists' books succeed relative to the competition in part because they engagingly build a relationship with their readers that their readers trust enough to disarm some of their defenses. Just a theory.

1. The conclusions academics reach tend to rankle the right. T

That's because the conclusions follow ineluctably from the questions they permit themselves to ask. When they reach unexpected conclusions, the data will be commonly thrown in a drawer.

A hypothesis:

See Allan Bloom on the disturbances at Cornell in 1969.

1. The faculty of the professional schools proceeded as if it had nothing to do with them. Bloom was such a partisan of academics that he implicitly endorsed this view; arts and sciences was where it was at, the whole point of the dispute.

2. The natural sciences faculty were perfectly insouciant and feckless. The expected to be protected from injury by the precision of their disciplines, and for the other departments to figure out what to do with poorly prepared students.

3. The humanities faculty was corrosive, containing the worst elements of the faculty and endorsing the antics of the worst elements of the student body. Ergo..

4. The defense of standards and reason was left to the social research faculties.

And what of the social research faculties?

1. Geography is not typically present, geographers themselves have had a couple of generations of failure in the course of defining the boundaries of their discipline, a certain share of them are actually Marxist and feminist bafflegabbers perfectly useless as social researchers, and the discipline as a whole is easily rolled by such grifters.

2. Sociology and the ethnographic wing of anthropology are largely apologetical enterprises. Individual papers and individual projects may be valid, but the discipline as a whole exists to provide evidence for a particular range of worldviews (and to engage in hand waving when the actual evidence is inconvenient).

3. The history department is not as far gone as the sociology and anthropology faculty. Give 'em time. See KC Johnson on the evolution of American history as a subdiscipline and the evaporation of whole lines of inquiry which cannot be captured by race-class-gender discourse.

4. The economics faculty is on balance feckless, rather like the natural scientists at Cornell who gave Bloom such irritation.

5. So it's left to political scientists and psychologists to carry the ball. And, of course, their performance is uneven. Would anyone rely on Daniel Drezner to anything but strike conceited poses?

The real problem, is that our intellectual life isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit, largely because the people who are paid to generate ideas and transmit them are deficient in character.

Keep in mind that in living memory, the hot intellectual ideas were either communism as the path to a bright humanitarian future for everyone, or government-imposed eugenics as a path to a better species, with maybe a sideline into apocalyptic rhetoric about population growth. So maybe most intellectuals most of the time really aren't all that clever. (One reason for that might be that they get rewarded for sounding convincing to then-current intellectuals and opinion makers, rather than for being right. )

Psychologists make claims backed weakly by evidence, at best, effectively telling persons they are thinking wrong, and thus must be sick, or worse.

Certainly many persons act badly and thus they are thinking badly, requiring society to act when they harm other individuals. We have no theory or persons acting without thinking, ie, given the many people with no functioning mind, comma cases, who never act for good or bad.

Heritage and environment are too complex to reduce to simplistic conclusions on persons thinking. Some genetic features have been identified that affect thinking, as have a few environmental factors, like heavy metal poisoning.

But the claims made by some, like Murray, are so broad as to be improbably, e.g., similar to the earth being the center of the universe, that they are clearly driven by an agenda or dogma.

But these claims are so broad they can't be falsified to allow proper testing.


Which claim of Murray's would you say that about?

For example, one of his claims is that IQ is substantially heritable. There are a lot of observational studies that agree with this claim--for example, the IQ of adult siblings who were adopted and raised in different homes is more strongly correlated than the IQ of adults who were adopted into the same home from different families. Is that somehow too broad to be meaningful?

Or how about the claim that IQ measured at 16 strongly correlates with a bunch of life outcomes at 40, like income, marital status, and whether you've ever been in prison. That doesn't seem like too broad a claim to falsify--indeed, it seems like you could falsify it by just collecting data and measuring the correlations.

Or how about a difference in average IQ between different racial groups in the US? That's a claim Murray has made, but it sure seems easy enough to falsify--just get a representative sample of blacks and whites, give them all IQ tests, and see what you find.

(My impression is that all these have been done multiple times, and broadly agree with Murray's claims, while sometimes changing some of the numbers--is it a 15 point gap or a 10 point gap, say.)

"For example, one of his claims is that IQ is substantially heritable."

Murray wrote in The Bell Curve that he was agnostic as to what percent of IQ is heritable, and I've heard him repeat that. Where has he said otherwise?

Tanner Greer's comments likely largely correct, and I have little to add to them. But what little I would add is a couple points that may contribute and be more or less important:

1) consider the role of the replicability crisis. psych and social psych have been particularly in tumult in reaction to that and are interested in rebuilding the scientific validity of their field.

that frame of mind militates against a reaction where they accept the critical theory claims that scientific discipline is all a vast, malleable bourgeois language game, and against ideas that, like Marx, state "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways... ...the point, however, is to change it."

it also makes psych conscious of the sheer difficulty of knowing anything about anything at all, and the preciousness of unbiased method to getting what factual knowledge we can obtain about the world.

2) consider that psychologists are particularly well placed to understand conformity. much of social psych does not replicate and contains on laughable biases of interpretation (e.g. Right Wing Authoritarianism).
but one thing that does replicate is that humans conform, more of less without exception for political ground or self described status as "open", "intellectual" or "open minded".

this militates against the idea that, when the activist left seems to confirm without exception around some particular cluster of ideas, it must be true or factual, because they are exempt from conformity bias. rather indicates the more likely idea is that they have simply been captured by conformity pressures.


on the left. the activist minority is composed enough of high school nerds to strikes a pro-science pose but its actual political ideology is that truth is almost irrelevant and criticising power and privilege is all that matters, using whatever tools and means come to hand. the complacent class of left wing liberal professionals meanwhile believe that, although open dialogue is important in principle, in practice they already know all the truth and that it is more pragmatic to honor open dialogue in the breach and practice "repressive tolerance". the current circumstances of psych push them against both stances.

It is possible that psychologists, by knowing how people's mentality works, can focus their proposals based on what each listener wants to hear, obviously focused on the political position of each one of them.

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