You Say “Passionate Views,” I Say “Fanatical Nonsense”

QUOTE: “A hazard of dedicating one’s life to the study of politics – whether in philosophy, political science, psychology, or some other field – is developing passionate views on the subject.”

Here’s a fun paper to read, the source of the quote above:

Political Activism and Research Ethics

In this paper, an ethicist from Penn State argues the common sense point of view that political science researchers who wish to produce meaningful data would ideally avoid being involved in causes that can have a detrimental effect on their objectivity, as bias gets in the way of good data (truth). But he also says that there should be no blanket ban on political activism among researchers, as having a Fanatic here and there can be good for “viewpoint diversity.” That sounds like it could work, too.

The jist of the paper is this: “It’s best if your researchers don’t have personal agendas, but it’s okay to have a few kooks in the mix. They can be foils against which everyone else’s objectivity can be tested.” That approach makes sense.

What’s remarkable is that such a paper ISN’T common sense anymore. What used to be taught in freshman-level introductory classes about the scientific method has now been so thoroughly assailed by ideologues that it takes a CONFERENCE PAPER to simply remind everyone that biases make for bad research. A telling quote:

“Drawing on this research, disciplines could provide researchers with training focused on recognising bias and encouraging actively open-minded thinking. Such training could occur in graduate programs and as continuing education opportunities at academic conferences.”

Graduate programs!? Academic conferences? Has it gotten so bad that we have to wait until people are in GRAD SCHOOL or already have their bias-tainted Ph.Ds before they can handle being told that the presuppositions they picked up from their moms or in church or on Reddit or some other intellectual circle-jerk might be wrong?!

A lot of people get annoyed with me because they think I equate having strong political views with a lack of intelligence. This is (mostly) incorrect. What equates with a lack of intelligence in my mind is not HOLDING strong political views, but the inability to distance one’s intellectual processing or general understanding of the world from them, like a creationist or something. There are few things, further, that strike me as dumber than That Person who can’t do their job without trying to find ways to work their personal value system into their work, especially if it is obviously not appropriate to do so and mental gymnastics must be performed to accommodate.

I see someone’s political convictions very much like their libido: it’s fine if my friend has an apparent sex drive, but it’s quite another if he walks around exposing himself and propositioning strangers regularly and looks at porn on his phone during a dinner party. That’s what all of these people constantly bringing their political views, buzzwords, opinions, fellow travelers and memberships into the workplace remind me of: perverts. Their “politics libido” is out of control, and they want to hump everyone’s leg.

In the library world, a strong policy of institutional viewpoint neutrality can be like a blast of cold water on these kinds of people if one can interdict early in their downward spiral into some Fanatical bullshit-based project.

“Terry, I understand that you want to the library to strengthen its collection of writings and works on TOPIC X as viewed through the lens of TERRY’S BULLSHIT IDEOLOGY, but we have a collection development policy and it doesn’t mention “lenses” or TERRY’S BULLSHIT IDEOLOGY. Review your job description and do your job. Thank you.”

Related Reading: Schroedinger’s Bin Laden: The Irrational World of Motivated Reasoning

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