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The Discussion of “Openness” is a Doorway to Ideas that are Even More Important and Far Reaching

I mostly agree with the comments I’ve received to my post Our Concept of Openness is Wrong.  But the discussion itself helps me to illustrate much more important ideas that go to the main purposes of this entire blog.

I received comments through two methods; through the comments following my blog post, and through email.  I think the comments are correct.  My list of sub-traits that make up “openness” may need refinement; crisper definitions or distinctions.  For example, there are different kinds of empathy, and I either need to be clear about which one I’m talking about or I need to include both of them in the list. If each element in the list were to be tested separately the results could still show a greater tendency among liberals for at least some of them.  It is correct that the few examples of extraordinary minds I listed do not extrapolate to a more general trend in a whole population.  In my defense, the examples of extraordinary minds are meant to illustrate a particular kind of open mindedness, not to suggest mean differences between liberals and conservatives or any other group.   

But the larger and more important ideas I’m aiming to demonstrate in this blog include the following: 

1) The sorts of questions that might be asked if there were more conservatives in the social sciences. I’m questioning the unquestioned status quo.

2) The consequences of liberal hegemony in the social sciences are more far reaching than even Heterodox Academy has so far indicated.

Regarding “openness:” novelty seeking is not sagacity is not empathy is not epistemic humility. But all of them require, or reflect, “openness.”

If each of those traits were tested separately my prediction would be that liberals would score higher in novelty seeking and conservatives would score higher in all the rest.  Moral foundations are the building blocks of social imagination. The more of them one employs, the broader is the spectrum of possibilities one can imagine. 

I say that with confidence because in important ways those tests have already been done.  They and their results are described in, and are arguably some of the most important lessons of, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Our understanding of “Openness” is too broad. It conflates distinctly different things, and in so doing it incorrectly assigns attributes to the left that it does not demonstrate, and it does not assign attributes to the right that it does demonstrate.  

The incorrect assignment of attributes underlies everything else.  It leads to incorrect conclusions about the personalities, inherent natures, and psychological profiles of liberals and conservatives. Those incorrect conclusions in turn are the base assumptions upon which practically all discussions, debates, and scientific inquiries into human nature and social interaction rest. Those incorrect base assumptions have a profound affect on our understanding of the causes, effects, and possible solutions, of, well, everything, in the social realm.  

If the attributes were correctly understood and assigned then the very nature of all of those debates, discussions, and scientific inquiries would change, and dramatically so; as would our understanding of causes and effects of, and through that understanding our proposed solutions for, social ills.  And all of it would be much closer to the truth than it currently is.  It would be more accurate, honest, and fair to everyone.  It might even result in more success at ameliorating social ills.    


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I Support Viewpoint Diversity


A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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