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Archive for the month “June, 2016”

NEARFest 2005 Event Program

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest).  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.

At each NEARFest, the Festival organizers created a weekend event program.  I was lucky enough to have purchased one from all of the Festivals I attended, and I will post photographs of them all here.  These programs were expertly crafted with many beautiful photographs and well written descriptions and histories and such.  Of course, they also contain their fair share of ads, as one may expect.  I got most (maybe all) of the programs I purchased at NEARFest over the years autographed by the artist who drew its cover and, in this case, that was Yes and Asia cover artist Roger Dean.

I was able to purchase a program at NEARFest 2005, and I thought it would be fun to post it here for prog rock fans who may not have had the opportunity to go to the Festival and/or purchase the program.  Accordingly, I took photographs of each page of the program and posted them below.

I also posted a review of NEARFest 2005 which you can see here.  The review contains many photographs from the event.

Enjoy!

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A New Milestone! We’ve exceeded 30,000 views!

Thanks to all of my readers for helping this blog reach the mark of 30,000 views!  As of this post, this blog has received 30,198 views!  I am humbled by the dedication of my readership.  Thanks so much for all of your loyalty to this blog, it is very much appreciated, and I hope to continue providing material worthy of your interest and readership!

WordPress (the platform for this blog) sorts posts into “categories.”  These categories can be created by the blogger, and, because I have OCPD tendencies, I have ensured the categories are many, descriptive, and comprehensive.  This is somewhat unusual, but in light of the new milestone I have decided to list all of my blog categories below for you to peruse.  Please take a few minutes to browse through them as I am sure you can find something worth checking out!

Thanks again to all of my readers and enjoy!

Limiting Legal Malpractice Claims: Applying the Glenbrook Analysis

The statue of limitations for a legal malpractice action in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of the malpractice; however that time period may be extended under certain circumstances.  In Glenbrook Leasing Co. v. Beausang, 839 A.2d 437 (Pa. Super. 2003), affirmed, 881 A.2d 1266 (Pa. 2005), the Pennsylvania Superior Court explored the viability of various ways to potentially extend that two year period.

Plaintiff in Glenbrook is a real estate partnership which purchased office space in a condominium development to be used as medical offices.  The agreement of sale for the office space included language granting Plaintiff use (and alleged ownership) of 35 parking spaces.  Nothing was placed in the deed regarding Plaintiff’s ownership of the aforesaid parking spaces.

About six years later, the condominium association took action to limit Plaintiff’s use of the aforesaid 35 parking spaces.  Unsurprisingly, a dispute arose between Plaintiff and the condominium association regarding the ownership and use of the parking spaces, which eventually evolved into litigation.  The litigation culminated in a ruling in favor of the condominium association.  The ruling was based on the merger doctrine, which generally states that any guarantee to be granted in a real estate transaction must be stated in the deed to the subject property.  As applied to the instant matter, Plaintiff was considered not to have any ownership rights over the parking spaces as they were not memorialized in the deed to the property.

When the initial real estate transaction took place, Plaintiff was represented by Defendant, a real estate law firm.  Plaintiff believed that its loss in the litigation against the condominium association, and the resulting loss of the 35 parking spaces, was a direct result of the legal malpractice of Defendant in failing to take into consideration the merger doctrine, and by failing to include language regarding the parking spaces in the deed to the property at issue.  About a year after the conclusion of the litigation against the condominium association, and about six years after the association first presented the issues regarding the deed, and its lack of language dealing with the parking spaces to Plaintiff, the company brought suit against Defendant law firm, claiming it committed legal malpractice.

Defendant ultimately filed a motion for summary judgement, claiming that Plaintiff brought suit far beyond the two year statute of limitations.  The trial court ruled in favor of Defendant.  On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and the Supreme Court issued a per curiam order affirming the Superior Court’s ruling.  It is the Superior Court’s opinion that is the subject of this article.

While the statue of limitation in a legal malpractice claim is two years, that period can be extended via the equitable discovery rule which sates that the two years is initiated not at the occurrence of the malpractice, but when it was, or should have been, discovered.  The Court ruled that Plaintiff discovered, or should have discovered, that there may have been legal malpractice six years before it initiated suit against Defendant (or four years longer than the two year statute allows) when the dispute with the condominium association first arose.

Plaintiff then argued that the Court should apply the “continuous representation rule” which states that the limitations period would not begin to run until plaintiff terminated Defendant’s services.  The Court was unmoved by Plaintiff’s argument to extend the legal malpractice statute of limitations based on the continuous representation rule.  The Court noted that the rule was not the law of Pennsylvania (although it is in other jurisdictions) and it is not the place of the Superior Court to adopt new rules without authority to do so.

Plaintiff next argued that the limitations period should be extended through estoppel, asserting that the “special relationship” between a lawyer and his client lulled Plaintiff into a false sense of security, through fraud, or deception, or concealment, to trust Defendant beyond when it would have been prudent to do so.  This sort of argument has traction among physicians and patients and Plaintiff attempted here to apply it to attorneys and clients.  The Court rejected this argument as well, as it found Defendant was completely candid with Plaintiff regarding the claims made by the condominium association, including providing Plaintiff with the first allegation of their own malpractice nearly six years prior to Plaintiff’s bringing suit.

Finally, Plaintiff argued that the question of precisely when it discovered the malpractice is a question of fact that should have been decided by a jury, not via a motion for summary judgement.  The Court rejected this argument as well, ruling that the facts in this matter were abundantly clear as to when Plaintiff discovered the malpractice.

The statute of limitations is critical to be aware of when considering bringing suit.  Although the Court made a variety of rulings, as described above, it is significant and useful in that it lays out some guidelines as to how to apply the various means to extend the statute of limitations and notably refuses to adopt and apply the continuous representation rule.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on September 24, 2015 and can be seen here.

How Our Botched Understanding of ‘Science’ Ruins Everything

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article that warrants posting here.  I have seen a recent proliferation of articles in respected publications pointing out, bemoaning, and/or highlighting increasing problems with the trustworthiness of the alleged findings of the contemporary scientific community.  I find these articles to be particularly interesting given how our society looks to science as a (the?) source of ultimate truths (often as a mutually exclusive alternative to spirituality).  This sort of scientism may be misplaced, and these articles delve into the pitfalls that come with such an approach.

Here are the links the other articles I posted on this subject:

Be edified.
_________________

Here’s one certain sign that something is very wrong with our collective mind: Everybody uses a word, but no one is clear on what the word actually means.

One of those words is “science.”

Everybody uses it. Science says this, science says that. You must vote for me because science. You must buy this because science. You must hate the folks over there because science.

Look, science is really important. And yet, who among us can easily provide a clear definition of the word “science” that matches the way people employ the term in everyday life?

So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That’s the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet. But what almost everyone means when he or she says “science” is something different.

To most people, capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It is a thing engaged in by people wearing lab coats and/or doing fancy math that nobody else understands. The reason capital-S Science gives us airplanes and flu vaccines is not because it is an incremental engineering process but because scientists are really smart people.

In other words — and this is the key thing — when people say “science”, what they really mean is magic or truth.

A little history: The first proto-scientist was the Greek intellectual Aristotle, who wrote many manuals of his observations of the natural world and who also was the first person to propose a systematic epistemology, i.e., a philosophy of what science is and how people should go about it. Aristotle’s definition of science became famous in its Latin translation as: rerum cognoscere causas, or, “knowledge of the ultimate causes of things.” For this, you can often see in manuals Aristotle described as the Father of Science.

The problem with that is that it’s absolutely not true. Aristotelian “science” was a major setback for all of human civilization. For Aristotle, science started with empirical investigation and then used theoretical speculation to decide what things are caused by.

What we now know as the “scientific revolution” was a repudiation of Aristotle: science, not as knowledge of the ultimate causes of things but as the production of reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation.

Galileo disproved Aristotle’s “demonstration” that heavier objects should fall faster than light ones by creating a subtle controlled experiment (contrary to legend, he did not simply drop two objects from the Tower of Pisa). What was so important about this Galileo Moment was not that Galileo was right and Aristotle wrong; what was so important was how Galileo proved Aristotle wrong: through experiment.

This method of doing science was then formalized by one of the greatest thinkers in history, Francis Bacon. What distinguishes modern science from other forms of knowledge such as philosophy is that it explicitly forsakes abstract reasoning about the ultimate causes of things and instead tests empirical theories through controlled investigation. Science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It’s a form of engineering — of trial by error. Scientific knowledge is not “true” knowledge, since it is knowledge about only specific empirical propositions — which is always, at least in theory, subject to further disproof by further experiment. Many people are surprised to hear this, but the founder of modern science says it. Bacon, who had a career in politics and was an experienced manager, actually wrote that scientists would have to be misled into thinking science is a pursuit of the truth, so that they will be dedicated to their work, even though it is not.

Why is all this ancient history important? Because science is important, and if we don’t know what science actually is, we are going to make mistakes.

The vast majority of people, including a great many very educated ones, don’t actually know what science is.

If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian “science” — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed.

This leads us astray. Since most people think math and lab coats equal science, people call economics a science, even though almost nothing in economics is actually derived from controlled experiments. Then people get angry at economists when they don’t predict impending financial crises, as if having tenure at a university endowed you with magical powers. Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors’ urges to look “more scientific” by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge.

Because people don’t understand that science is built on experimentation, they don’t understand that studies in fields like psychology almost never prove anything, since only replicated experiment proves something and, humans being a very diverse lot, it is very hard to replicate any psychological experiment. This is how you get articles with headlines saying “Study Proves X” one day and “Study Proves the Opposite of X” the next day, each illustrated with stock photography of someone in a lab coat. That gets a lot of people to think that “science” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, since so many studies seem to contradict each other.

This is how you get people asserting that “science” commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be). People think that a study that uses statistical wizardry to show correlations between two things is “scientific” because it uses high school math and was done by someone in a university building, except that, correctly speaking, it is not. While it is a fact that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads, all else equal, to higher atmospheric temperatures, the idea that we can predict the impact of global warming — and anti-global warming policies! — 100 years from now is sheer lunacy. But because it is done using math by people with tenure, we are told it is “science” even though by definition it is impossible to run an experiment on the year 2114.

This is how you get the phenomenon of philistines like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Facebook.com/COSMOSOnTV)

You might think of science advocate, cultural illiterate, mendacious anti-Catholic propagandist, and possible serial fabulist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and anti-vaccine looney-toon Jenny McCarthy as polar opposites on a pro-science/anti-science spectrum, but in reality they are the two sides of the same coin. Both of them think science is like magic, except one of them is part of the religion and the other isn’t.

The point isn’t that McCarthy isn’t wrong on vaccines. (She is wrong.) The point is that she is the predictable result of a society that has forgotten what “science” means. Because we lump many different things together, there are bits of “science” that aren’t actual science that get lumped into society’s understanding of what science is. It’s very profitable for those who grab some of the social prestige that accrues to science, but it means we live in a state of confusion.

It also means that for all our bleating about “science” we live in an astonishingly unscientific and anti-scientific society. We have plenty of anti-science people, but most of our “pro-science” people are really pro-magic (and therefore anti-science).

This bizarre misunderstanding of science yields the paradox that even as we expect the impossible from science (“Please, Mr Economist, peer into your crystal ball and tell us what will happen if Obama raises/cuts taxes”), we also have a very anti-scientific mindset in many areas.

For example, our approach to education is positively obscurantist. Nobody uses rigorous experimentation to determine better methods of education, and someone who would dare to do so would be laughed out of the room. The first and most momentous scientist of education, Maria Montessori, produced an experimentally based, scientific education method that has been largely ignored by our supposedly science-enamored society. We have departments of education at very prestigious universities, and absolutely no science happens at any of them.

Our approach to public policy is also astonishingly pre-scientific. There have been almost no large-scale truly scientific experiments on public policy since the welfare randomized field trials of the 1990s, and nobody seems to realize how barbaric this is. We have people at Brookings who can run spreadsheets, and Ezra Klein can write about it and say it proves things, we have all the science we need, thank you very much. But that is not science.

Modern science is one of the most important inventions of human civilization. But the reason it took us so long to invent it and the reason we still haven’t quite understood what it is 500 years later is it is very hard to be scientific. Not because science is “expensive” but because it requires a fundamental epistemic humility, and humility is the hardest thing to wring out of the bombastic animals we are.

But until we take science for what it really is, which is both more and less than magic, we will still have one foot in the barbaric dark.

Originally published in The Week on September 19, 2014 and can be found here.

5 YA books to read to keep you going until Doctor Who’s return

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Waiting for Doctor Who to come back (and Patrick Ness’s spinoff Class to air) got us like:

Doctor Rory Amy

Since we’re guessing you don’t have a TARDIS, here are 5 YA novels you can read to help you cope until then!

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The United Shapes of Arithmetic: Whatever They Want

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them on his own blog.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here is the initial strip and I will post a list of links to all of them as they come out:

Whatever They Want

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

NEARFest 2004 Event Program

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest).  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.

At each NEARFest, the Festival organizers created a weekend event program.  I was lucky enough to have purchased one from all of the Festivals I attended, and I will post photographs of them all here.  These programs were expertly crafted with many beautiful photographs and well written descriptions and histories and such.  Of course, they also contain their fair share of ads, as one may expect.  I got most (maybe all) of the programs I purchased at NEARFest over the years autographed by the artist who drew its cover and, in this case, that was Yes and Asia cover artist Roger Dean.

I was able to purchase a program at NEARFest 2004, and I thought it would be fun to post it here for prog rock fans who may not have had the opportunity to go to the Festival and/or purchase the program.  Accordingly, I took photographs of each page of the program and posted them below.

I also posted a review of NEARFest 2004 which you can see here.  The review contains many photographs from the event.

Enjoy!

 

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Prom-mania!!

Very recently I was at my sister’s house to celebrate my niece’s birthday.  Family and friends were gathered on the front lawn at picnic tables enjoying the company, food, drinks, and my niece’s special day.  Although we were there for my niece, for about an hour or so the attention of many of those in attendance – me included – were distracted by the goings on at a house a couple of doors down which, I think, are worth sharing about here in this blog.

At first the distraction was due to the mystery of it all and trying to figure out what they were doing.  A couple of ladies were out on the front lawn and driveway setting up various decorative items.  When I rolled in they were stretching sheer white fabric from the front window down to the lawn, and created a large structure out of balloons.  Not long after, a large double seated chair – a throne effectively – was brought out to the lawn and connected to the end of the stretched fabric and the balloon structure was placed behind it as a background.  This was followed by a large sign with a picture of the girl who lives in the house which said something like (I forget exactly) “Senior Prom: this is your Cinderella night!”  At this point, the mystery was solved and they were clearly setting up for a prom.

Although I thought the above was a little over-the-top, it seemed it was only the beginning.  The ladies then went ahead and constructed a carousel near the front door about six feet high with a hobby horse and more sheer white fabric stretched tastefully on it.  Out of that same front door came a white carpet which stretched to the street.  While at the street, about four poles were set out, each about four feet high, with a rope connecting them, to create what appeared to be a queue line rope as one would see at a red-carpet-event behind which the paparazzi and other spectators would stand.

Apparently the paparazzi rope was necessary as about thirty friends and family and other spectators arrived and congregated behind the rope all wielding cameras, cellphones, and tablets in order to capture the event.

At this point I was really curious just how far all this hoopla would go and I, and some others, had shifted our chairs on my sister’s lawn to face her neighbor’s house and became an audience for the building spectacle.

Now that all the props had been set in place, the next phase was the arrival of the date.  Just so you can have a visual: my sister’s street is a one-way city street with cars parked on both sides.  Suffice it to say it’s pretty narrow.  Eventually, down this narrow street, came a stretched Porsche limousine with gull wing doors that parked in front of the girl’s house and remained there for nearly an hour.  Needless to say, no one was getting down my sister’s street while it was there, and I am pretty certain no permit was secured for this event.  The gull-wings on the car raised and the girl’s date emerged to music playing from a stereo which had been set up on the front lawn.  At this time, I want to point out that, despite all the over-the-topness of it all, two things surprised me.  First, the boy’s tuxedo was black tie with a black coat and white pants and white shirt.  His abominable ignorance of standard tuxedo formal dress codes aside, I was expecting him to be wearing something completely ridiculous.  So, his fairly conservative choice was not at all expected.  Second, curiosity got the best of me and I poked my head into the limousine.  I was expecting it to look like some gaudy version of the bridge to the Starship Enterprise inside.  Much to my disappointment, it just looked like a standard party limousine inside.

Moving on: the date moved beyond the paparazzi rope at which time the music swelled and a little girl in a gown emerged from the house on the white carpet spreading flower pedals on the ground below her.  In other words: a flower girl.  Yes, a flower girl, as in someone who participates in a wedding.  Behind her, the girl-of-the-hour appeared wearing a white(ish) dress with a train and veil (not over her face thank God) being held by her mother who was immediately behind her wearing an off-white dress which appeared to be a mother-of-the-bride dress.  It was all rather uncomfortably (for me) wedding-like.

Of course, the paparazzi snapped countless pictures and took video footage of it all.  The girl made her way to the throne on the lawn, to be joined by her date for a photo-op.

And then, in an hour’s worth of over-the-top, something completely absurd (to me) occurred:  some guys went into the house and carried out an area rug (presumably from their living room) and laid it out in front of the couple, and on that rug a little girl (the sister of the girl in the prom maybe?) performed a dance for the happy couple to music played on the stereo.

After all the festivities, the couple entered the limousine and were transported to an evening of bliss at their Senior Prom.

Now, I admit I did not go to my prom, so some of this seems silly to me all the way around, but I get that people go to prom and enjoy it.  My sister went to her prom.  She and her friends got their hair and makeup all done up and wore fancy dresses, and their dates came over and took pictures in my back yard in their outfits, and then went in their cars to the prom.  That was it.  My sister had no paparazzi.  No interpretive dance.  No carousel.  Most disappointing of all?  No car with gull-wings. This seemed normal to me.  I think it is normal for most people in my age group.

How and when did promos change?  I am sure the kids I watched at my sister’s house also had an elaborate “promposal,” which is this new thing where asking to go to the prom is, itself, an event.  I told my sister that my niece – who we were all there to see after all – was likely taking mental notes about her own prom in about ten years, and my sister needs to brace herself!

Although the story I related above is fun and possibly interesting, I think things like this are becoming more and more typical.  I wonder what it says about our society and our culture?

The first thing that it says to me is that it reflects our culture’s weird obsession (worship?) with celebrities, reality television, and the idea of “being famous.”  I have seen many polls which suggest that kids today would much rather “be famous” when they become an adult than take on an occupation or accomplish something.  Apparently, reality television – and the constant barrage of tabloid media that people (especially kids) now consume – seems to have shaped actual reality in some way to make things like the above expected or perhaps “normal” now.

I think it also points to our culture’s superficiality.  These are just two high school kids.  This is not a wedding where life-long troth is pledged.  Yet, from the hoopla, it would seem the same significance is applied to both.  We seem to ignore the deeper and more significant aspects of relationship (e.g.: commitment, self-sacrifice, etc) and, instead, focus on the superficial feelings of the moment (e.g.: romance, desire, and impressing others).  Many jokes were made about what this couple will do after the prom is over, all suggesting some sort of sexual encounter.  I hope these jokes do not reflect this couple’s reality, however when we celebrate a prom in a similar way as we celebrate a wedding – down to using similar imagery (e.g.: flower girls, white dresses, etc), what message are we (as adults) sending to these kids, and what else should we expect them to do or think?  Why wouldn’t their evening head toward a sexual encounter?  After all, it’s presented to them with the trappings of marriage.  Teenagers have enough internal motivation for this sort of thing, they do not need the adults in their life giving them the illusion that prom is a mini-wedding, and all the things that go along with that.

Another, and perhaps more depressing, aspect of all this is what it says about marriage.  Despite all the attention “gay marriage” has received, the fact is that marriage rates are on a steep decline, and have been so for some time now.  As a family lawyer, my thoughts went to marriage and children while I watched all of this, and I could not help but think that all of this spectacle poured into something as minor as a Senior Prom is due to the fact that there is no expectation to marry any more.  This was the girl’s opportunity to have a big romantic evening with her boyfriend, not her wedding.  Who has weddings anymore?  That is so last century.

Finally, there seems to be a consensus in America that our economy is, at best, under performing, and people do not have the income and money they used to have during better days.  In spite of that, this family spent lavishly for one ephemeral evening for a high school event.  This took place in a typical middle-class area.  These people were not rich.  It seems that, with all the complaining about the economy, people still insist on spending absurd amounts of money on frivolous things.  Perhaps our view of the condition of our economy is as much due to our own feelings of what we are entitled to have and spend our money on as it is to reality.  This is a much bigger discussion, so I will not get into it here, but suffice it to say here, the entire event just seemed like a huge waste of valuable money (I admit that I do not like spending money – some may call me “cheap” – so that may color my view here).

My wife, who tends to be more optimistic than me, told me that I should perhaps take note of, and focus upon, the fact that this couple had family and friends who loved them so much as to spend money on, plan, set up, attend, and hold this event for them.  That seems true too and I guess that is a positive to take away from it all.

I love my sons, and I hope they enjoy their proms if they decide to go, but if they expect me to shell out the money for an event remotely like this one, I think they’ll be disappointed.  I guess, as history unfolds, we will see how these developments in the prom tradition fit into the development in our culture.  I just hope it is for the good.

More on this sort of stuff here and here and here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINNESOTA NICE

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

I just returned from my home state of Minnesota where I visited the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis, and I attended my 50th high school reunion. My class was the first graduating class of a new high school, we were a combination of students who had attended two other high schools, and because we only attended one year as a combined class, we did not have much school spirit at the time. There were the usual cliques, but the barriers between them seem to have fallen after 50 years. The reunion was lots of fun and everyone was happy to visit with each other.

Sadly, 36 members of the class had passed and as I left Minnesota after college, I was not aware of everyone who passed. Some of them had been my friends in grade school and junior high school. It was a shock looking at…

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How Academia’s Liberal Bias is Killing Social Science

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article that warrants posting here.  I have seen a recent proliferation of articles in respected publications pointing out, bemoaning, and/or highlighting increasing problems with the trustworthiness of the alleged findings of the contemporary scientific community.  I find these articles to be particularly interesting given how our society looks to science as a (the?) source of ultimate truths (often as a mutually exclusive alternative to spirituality).  This sort of scientism may be misplaced, and these articles delve into the pitfalls that come with such an approach.

Here are the links the other articles I posted on this subject:

Be edified.
_________________

I have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don’t want to be there, or they’re just not smart enough to cut it. I say: “That’s interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that’s true?” An uncomfortable silence follows.

I point this out not to score culture-war points, but because it’s actually a serious problem. Social sciences and humanities cannot be completely divorced from the philosophy of those who practice it. And groupthink causes some questions not to be asked, and some answers not to be overly scrutinized. It is making our science worse. Anyone who cares about the advancement of knowledge and science should care about this problem.

That’s why I was very gratified to read this very enlightening draft paper written by a number of social psychologists on precisely this topic, attacking the lack of political diversity in their profession and calling for reform. For those who have the time and care about academia, the whole thing truly makes for enlightening reading. The main author of the paper is Jonathan Haidt, well known for his Moral Foundations Theory (and a self-described liberal, if you care to know).

Although the paper focuses on the field of social psychology, its introduction as well as its overall logic make many of its points applicable to disciplines beyond social psychology.

The authors first note the well-known problems of groupthink in any collection of people engaged in a quest for the truth: uncomfortable questions get suppressed, confirmation bias runs amok, and so on.

But it is when the authors move to specific examples that the paper is most enlightening.

They start by debunking published (and often well-publicized) social psychology findings that seem to suggest moral or intellectual superiority on the part of liberals over conservatives, which smartly serves to debunk both the notion that social psychology is bereft of conservatives because they’re not smart enough to cut it, and that groupthink doesn’t produce shoddy science. For example, a study that sought to show that conservatives reach their beliefs only through denying reality achieved that result by describing ideological liberal beliefs as “reality,” surveying people on whether they agreed with them, and then concluding that those who disagree with them are in denial of reality — and lo, people in that group are much more likely to be conservative! This has nothing to do with science, and yet in a field with such groupthink, it can get published in peer-reviewed journals and passed off as “science,” complete with a Vox stenographic exercise at the end of the rainbow. A field where this is possible is in dire straits indeed.

The study also goes over many data points that suggest discrimination against conservatives in social psychology. For example, at academic conferences, the number of self-reported conservatives by a show of hands is even lower than the already low numbers in online surveys, suggesting that conservative social psychologists are afraid of identifying as such in front of their colleagues. The authors say they have all heard groups of social psychologists make jokes at the expense of conservatives — not just at bars, but from the pulpits of academic conferences. (This probably counts as micro-aggression.)

The authors also drop this bombshell: In one survey they conducted of academic social psychologists, “82 percent admitted that they would be at least a little bit prejudiced against a conservative [job] candidate.” Eighty-two percent! It’s often said discrimination works through unconscious bias, but here 82 percent even have conscious bias.

The authors also submitted different test studies to different peer-review boards. The methodology was identical, and the variable was that the purported findings either went for, or against, the liberal worldview (for example, one found evidence of discrimination against minority groups, and another found evidence of “reverse discrimination” against straight white males). Despite equal methodological strengths, the studies that went against the liberal worldview were criticized and rejected, and those that went with it were not.

I hope this paper starts a conversation. Again, this is not about culture-war squabbling — it is about something much more important: the search for knowledge.

This article was originally published in The Week on December 17, 2014 and can be found here.

 

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