Chris from Mixing Memory posted a comment on my post about Pinker and Summers, and it led me to check out his blog. I urge you to do the same. It doesn’t have much information about what Chris does, but I suspect it must have something to do with cognitive neuroscience or linguistics. Two recent posts really stuck out to me. The first was about the ways in which the secular left and the religious right misunderstand each other. In this post he makes two important points that I have often made myself. First, that there is a good deal of variation within what we often refer to simply as the religious right (I am certainly guilty of that myself sometimes). Second, that the religious right tends to either misunderstand or misrepresent the basic perspective of the secular left as advocating relativism:
But this problem is overshadowed, from the perspective of the religious left, by the almost complete lack of understanding of the our world-view by Christians on both the left and right. It is virtually impossible to find a veridical characterization of the secular left from anywhere on the right. The secular left world-view is treated by the right as a form “postmodernism” which to most on the right is a synonym for “relativism.” Yet for the most part, members of the secular left hold values that they consider objective, or at least absolute, such as tolerance and the avoidance of cruelty. Very few of us are relativists, and even those of us who are do not adhere to the caricatured form of relativism, in which all values are entirely subjective or culturally dependent. Our objective values are the basis for our arguments against common religious positions such on issues like choice, affirmative action, gay and women’s rights, and the environment. The right’s, and even the religious left’s failure to grasp this makes communication damn near impossible. Their representations of our positions and arguments will be entirely mistaken, so long as they do not include the fact that the values from which our positions are derived are not merely blowing in the wind like so many dandelion seeds which may be carried away at any moment.
He really nails this. There’s nothing more irritating to me than to be treated like a postmodernist, something I emphatically reject. I am not at all a relativist, yet I am continually called one. Very frustrating.
The second post is a fascinating exchange he had with David Horowitz, who I consider to be one of the most obnoxious people on the planet. Horowitz constantly talks about the lack of political diversity in academia, claiming that it is dominated almost entirely by leftists. He further claims that this is a result of outright discrimination. The irony, of course, is that when the issue is racial or gender diversity, Horowitz scoffs at the notion that a disparity in numbers proves that the cause of that disparity is discrimination. He rightly demands actual evidence of discrimination, not merely the assumption that all disparities are caused by discrimination, before accepting that premise – but when it suits his ideological purposes, he does quite the opposite. So Chris wrote to him and proposed a study that might take an objective look at the possible causes of the ideological disparity of more left-wing represtation in academia. Naturally, Horowitz refused the offer with derision because it was just obvious to him that discrimination is the only possible cause, even telling him in his usual charming manner not to “be an asshole.”
I hope Chris continues to post comments here, and I will definitely be reading his blog regularly from now on. I hope you’ll do the same.