Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Liberals, Conservatives, and the Social Sciences

If you haven't already read this article in the New York Times regarding psychology's assessment of its liberal bias, you really should. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it should prove most interesting.

I think that this article forces us to wonder how it came to pass that, if it is true that 40% of Americans self-identify as conservatives and only 20% as liberal, 80% of psychologists are liberal? There are a few immediate answers to this question.

It could be that the more you learn about human beings, the more liberal you become. That is, it could be that psychological studies naturally makes people more liberal because that is the way that we should be. Perhaps this study makes one compassionate, and therefore, more liberal. If indeed liberalism is more compassionate.

It could also be that psychology is inherently liberal at its core. If that is the case, it is natural that conservative thinkers would be put off by psychology from the beginning, therefore they naturally tend to study an alternate discipline. To alter that slightly, it could be that the core foundation began as slightly more liberal, so in the beginning, it attracted more liberal thinkers than conservative. Over time, liberals came to make more and more of a majority, thereby moving the foundational thought more liberal in the field as a whole.

My two cents? Of all that I have studied of psychology, it seems to me that the field is a sort of secular religion. That is, psychologists act as a modern priest to secular man. Now, instead of turning to a pastor or religious figure for counsel, people turn to psychologists. An interesting thought experiment might be to ask yourself whether you think it would be better to seek counsel from a person trained in pastoral ministry or a psychologist? Ask yourself why you picked one or the other? Isn't your choice rooted in your beliefs? This is probably why the field is dominated by a people of a particular perspective.

Life is interesting when you begin to poke around at foundations, isn't it? I believe that psychology, as practiced today, is liberal at its roots. It is a sort of secular religion, as I have said. Here's why I think that. Christianity teaches that man is, at his core, sinful and rebellious. What does psychology teach man is at his core? (In the majority, that is). Also, Chrsitianity teaches that man is a spritual being who has a body. Does psychology teach this? Why or why not?

Like I said, fun thought experiment.

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