Links to Consider, 1/19
Wilfred Reilly on political bias in social science; Scott Alexander on the psychology of conspiracy theories; Ryan Bourne on the AEA meetings; Emil O.W. Kirkegaard on the value of cognitive elites
Within my field—the academic social sciences—a 2006 survey found that about 18% of all faculty members identified as Marxists, another 24% as Radicals, and 20-21% as Activists. In contrast, perhaps 5% of American soft-scientists are conservatives. In an environment this politically slanted, the odds are good that many shifts of focus attributed to new theory or empirical data – and indeed many overall social science conclusions – are largely the products of ideology.
I like when I have personal experience with a cognitive bias, so I know what it feels from the inside. The most recent time I fell for a conspiracy theory was Trump-Russiagate. I didn’t believe in an active way, so much as hear that lots of other people believed it, assume it was probably true, and not bother looking into it.
His hypothesis is that conspiracy theories are a way of justifying and articulating otherwise inchoate anger. So your social class just cannot stand Trump (recall that more than 20 years ago David Brooks wrote in Bobos in Paradise that the elite had negative emotions about Trump), but you have a hard time explaining why. The alleged Russia connection gives you something to pin your hatred on.
It's a plausible hypothesis, but I do not find it persuasive. My thoughts, which I posted as a comment:
Nice essay. I suggest you look more into the group aspects of this. David McRaney's book "How Minds Change" talks about how people stop believing in conspiracies, and IIRC it has a lot to do with finding a replacement for the emotional support that they were getting from being part of the cult that believed the conspiracy. Also I recommend Randall Collins on "Interaction Ritual Chains" on how social interactions raise or lower emotional energy. I suspect that trying to tie conspiracy theory in with anger is not the right path. I think it is more the gain in emotional energy from being part of a tight-knit group that is "onto something." It is like being an early adopter of a scientific breakthrough or a new technology or esoteric music or a novel social movement, but in the case of a conspiracy theory you've made a bad choice of people to bind to.
Ryan Bourne writes about the recent American Economic Association meetings,
there were roughly three times as many sessions featuring papers on each of race, gender, and climate as there were sessions on the topics of inflation or growth. For the conference as a whole, that means 13.2 percent of all sessions featured gender issues, 12.6 percent climate, 12.4 percent race, against just 4.4 percent for inflation and growth
we are predicting the social progress index general factor. That's what I in 2014 called the general socioeconomic factor (S), based on the observation that almost everything good goes together between countries. Those that do well with education also do well with health, have less corruption, have better roads, earn higher incomes etc. This is essentially a better version of the commonly used Human Development Index, but with less emphasis on GNI/GDP.
we see that mean IQ itself does well with a beta of 0.77 (model 1). Adding the smart fraction metric about the 95% ability level improves the model (model 2).
…What's the take-away? Well, nurture the best and brightest! If civilization depends on the few brightest among us, then it would be very smart to make sure their talents are not wasted.
Pointer from Richard Hanania. The analysis consists of cross-country regressions, which is one of my least-favorite statistical techniques. But the results go along with my intuition.
Substacks referenced above: