Who’s the More Science-Hostile, Right or Left?

Following my having said (previous post) that any political position will find some human-science results obnoxious, a reader asked me, off-line, to identify a finding — not a practice, like embryo-destructive stem cell research, but a finding — that is obnoxious to conservatives.

I think the leading candidate here is the work on child development showing that parenting styles don’t matter much, perhaps not at all above a certain very low level (locking the kids in the basement and feeding them cat food). The canonical statement was given by Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption:  “Group socialization theory makes this prediction: that children would develop into the same sort of adults if we left their lives outside the home unchanged — left them in their schools and their neighborhoods — but switched all the parents around.” That’s got to be painful for a family-values conservative to read, yet it seems to be the current consensus.

For the Left, pretty much anything to do with heritability of human characteristics, other than undeniable visible ones, is obnoxious because such things violate the “psychic unity of mankind” (in its modern reading, which seems to me not precisely congruent with Bastian’s). Most obnoxious of all to the Left is the idea that homo sap., like any other widely-distributed species, exhibits regional variations between its big, old, settled, mostly-inbred populations.

It’s an interesting question whether the Right or the Left is more science-hostile, net-net. I insist that ideologues on both sides are science-hostile; but which kind of politics is more of an obstacle to the advance of our understanding, is arguable. Since science is mostly carried out in places where Right Creationists, Geocentrists, etc.  have no influence, but blank-slate Left “culturists” and po-mo words-have-no-meaning deconstructionists have tremendous influence, I’d guess the Left has the potential to do more damage, at least in the human sciences. I’d defer to Mr. Hume on this, though, as he’s better acquainted with the situation on the ground, in actual labs and institutes.

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