Wednesday, January 29, 2003


I put up this post on Dissecting Leftism recently:



I wrote recently on this blog: "American Christians think that Christianity is the main source of the high level of respect for individual liberties "

A US reader wrote to me in reply:

What? Individual freedom and Christianity don't even deserve to be in the same sentence together! Christians are all about oppression .... in every way. There are so many examples ... a book could be written on that topic!

It’s not my fight. Would any of my Christian readers care to reply?


One of my US Christian readers has responded:

Ok, I'll take a stab at a defense, although I'm probably going to miss some stuff.

First, it is absolutely ludicrous to state that "Christians are all about oppression .... in every way". Your reader is no doubt thinking back on the history of the *Catholic* church, which does in fact have a deplorable record on general human liberties. But to tar 'Christianity' with the same brush is like saying "Americans are cannibals - look at Jeffrey Dahmer and William Coyne (real-life Hannibal Lecter)"

The best, most recent example of the true Christian attitude towards civil liberty is the United States and its' founding documents - The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. These documents, created by and with the input of Christian descendants of those who fled from religious persecution in Europe, still define today the government which gives the highest, even sacred, priority to individual liberty "endowed by (the) Creator".

I would ask what government, under which philosophy, religion or belief system, currently grants more freedom to more people? Muslim countries like Malaysia, Egypt, Iran or Pakistan? Communist (atheistic) countries like Vietnam, North Korea or China? Socialist (humanistic) countries like Sweden, Canada, France or Germany, with their crushing tax burdens and rampant regulatory environment? Or maybe animist, pagan dictatorships that still allow slavery like in Niger and Sudan?

No, it is the secular government of America, founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, where individual liberty is most prevalent and widespread. Thousands seek to come here, often at great personal risk, every month from China, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba and South America. That is because they have a "yearning to breathe free" and they know that here, they can.

I would also point out Christian principles, as taught by Jesus himself, urge true Christians to not only tolerance but to mercy and forgiveness for *all* mankind - "I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you" (Matt 5:44) and Paul urged Christians "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink" (Rom 12:20). This is in sharp contrast to religious writings that urge followers to kill all who don't believe as they do and to treat females as second-class people.

So, I'd say that your original statement, "Christianity is the main source of the high level of respect for individual liberties" is right on the money. Christianity, as practiced by imperfect men, is far from perfect but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it's better than any other alternative.

Monday, January 27, 2003


An email from Shishir Yerramilli

I would like to start off by saying that I am not a fan of Christianity, particularly the Western brand. I am of the opinion that Islam, Christianity, Communism and Nazism are more alike than they like to admit. Christianity is definitely the more wholesome of the lot, especially if you can brush out St. Paul's 'contributions'.

Having said that, it cannot be denied that Christianity has refined the attitudes and manners of many peoples in the European and to some degree Asian worlds. Even in 'civilized' nations like Rome, the common people used to view cripples and the deformed as the source of amusement and laughter. Rome was a brutal society where religion, as the definition goes, was non existent and morals were good so as long as they served Rome. Indeed the very word 'virtue' has its origins in the Latin “vir” (man) and denoted manly qualities like courage, bravery and stoicism. Also it should be mentioned that in Sanskrit the word “virata” (obvious similarities) quite literally means heroism and is associated with the qualities mentioned above.

Now in this definition there do not seem to room for 'feminine' qualities like compassion, kindness, charity etc. This is where Christianity comes in. Initially with Christianity, though gladiatoral games continued in a less brutal form until they were gradually replaced by bouts and duels between rival knights, people did not scorn the diseased and deformed as much as they used to. Of course there was the unfortunate side effect of Christianity which persecuted Pagans as witches and warlocks but this was (to them) a theological, not a moral issue.

I doubt if the rest of Europe was any more wholesome. In the original Celtic texts King Arthur seems less of a chivalrous hero and more of an oppurtunistic adventurer prone to rape and brigandage. And the same text does not even condemn this behavior. Same goes for the Goths, Magyars. The exception to this being the Spaniards who did have some sense of honor. That may be the Basque influence, but that is just supposition.

Regarding freedom and liberty having roots in German culture, the idea of a noble savage always seems romantic and magnetic however let us remember that it was revisionist Roman historians like Tacitus who exagerrated the qualities of the Germans in an attempt to revitalize and energise Roman society by emphasising qualities like courage, liberty (around his time, Rome pretty much ceased to be a Republic) and a love of the outdoors.

There are many tribes around the world who qualify as noble savages. Heck I can name around 100 in India itself. The more well known ones would probably be the Bedouins but once again these people think little of rape (of other tribes) and plunder. Prophet Mohammed being a prime example, though strictly speaking he wasn’t a Bedouin -- but he had the heritage.

Ultimately Christianity is supposed to be an apolitical religion. However even a cursory glance at history shows that this has not been the case. Personally I abhor the Pope and keep wishing the Vatican would burn to the ground after it has been emptied of its treasures to feed and help the poor Catholics and non Catholics (from whom this money had been fleeced for over 300 years) in S. America, Africa and Asia (now thats being a true compassionate conservative!).

I believe the separation of church and state has its roots in the Bible itself. Didn’t Jesus say "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's?". Even decentralization to some extent finds some support in the Book of Judges but the Israelites ended up misusing it to such a level (especially the last chapter of Judges where a Levite's girlfriend is gang raped by a mob till she died and the former in a fit of fury cut her body up into twelve pieces to distribute to each tribe and this is just the beginning of the story!) that they reluctantly agree to having a king, quite aware that they were sacrificing liberty for order. The Bible does not condemn or condone their decision, hence the Biblical view on monarchy is vague at best!

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Sorry girls, but the truth is . . .

By: Andrew Bolt

JUST when I'd finished writing my 1000 lines of punishment -- ``Women are not more superstitious'' -- along comes Cherie Blair. Stunned, I was, to read that Cherie, a top barrister and wife of Britain's Prime Minister, had a friend shower with her to scrub her body of ``toxins''. And astonished to hear she'd apparently got her friend's mum, a psychic, to speak to the dead.

Actually, I lie. As Federal Labor frontbencher Nicola Roxon noted when I last wrote about superstitious women, I'm a ``pigtail-pulling . . . school bully'' with a ``poltergeist-like frothing at the mouth'' as I rehash ``time-honoured, anti-female sentiment''. And so, monster that I am, I expected exactly this kind of thing from Cherie -- especially after reading last year how she'd dragged husband Tony to a ``rebirthing'' session in which they rubbed each other with mud and watermelon while emitting ``primal screams''.

And you could have heard me oinking and snuffling over other reports that Cherie also wore a ``bio-electric shield'' of crystals to wrap her in a ``cocoon of energy'' to repel the negative vibes of bad people. This was given to her by Hillary Clinton, wife of the then United States president, who was herself using ``spiritual advisers'' to hold conversations with the long-gone Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hillary, I hardly dare point out to Roxon, is a woman. As is Nancy Reagan, also a president's wife, who wouldn't let husband Ron make big decisions before she'd consulted a psychic.

This parade of First Ladies in the Fourth Dimension illustrates the fact that women are more likely than men to believe in the paranormal and irrational New Age cures and psychics.

But it's hard to state the obvious truth that men and women tend to think differently. Just ask sociologist Professor Steven Goldberg, of the City University of New York, who tried to get publishers to accept his manuscript, The Inevitability of Patriarchy, in which he described how innate differences between men and women explained why men ended as top dogs in every civilisation ever known. That book -- now widely respected -- was turned down 69 times by 55 publishers. It dared to argue that women were by nature unlikely to match men in dominating top jobs or excelling at things requiring higher-level reasoning, such as maths, chess, composing and philosophy.

And yet evidence for this claim is all around us. For example, the World Chess Federation has just one woman -- Judit Polgar -- in its top 100 rankings. A list of the top 100 mathematicians of all time would include no more than one or two women. And not a single female composer or scientist can be mentioned in the same breath as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, or Newton, Galileo and Einstein.

Even in these affirmative action days, the Fortune 500 top companies have just six female chief executives between them. It is true that women have been held back by social pressures, and that even today a woman's career can be wrecked the second she feels that first contraction. But oppression didn't stop men like, say, Srinivasa Ramanujan from revealing his genius. From a poor Indian family, he taught himself maths from a couple of books and had to scribble his formulas on scrap paper, yet became one of the greatest of mathematicians.

BESIDES, what is it about women that they have been lorded over by men in every society in every age? Charles Darwin was right -- there is more variation in men. Women, on average, are just as smart as men, but men are five times more likely to have IQs of 145 or more, says Professor Seymour Itzkoff, author of Why Humans Vary in Intelligence.

But men are also far more likely to be psychotics, sociopaths and morons. Says Professor Denis Dutton, editor of the Philosophy and Literature journal: ``There are more crazy, sub-normal males than females but also more above-normal males, crazed or sane . . .''

Despite all this, some women can beat men at their own game, and vice versa. What a loss it would have been had the great Jane Austen not written books, on the grounds that it was a ``man's job''.

All we can say is that men and women tend to have different talents, and will drift to the jobs and activities which suit them best. This doesn't mean that women can't, won't or even shouldn't become engineers, for instance, but it does mean we're ignoring nature to expect many will.

We're also fooling ourselves to think it's unnatural that many boys trail girls at English at school, or that most of our judges are men. Nature has decreed what no equal opportunity commissioner can cast asunder: If you want someone normal, look for a woman. But for a genius or a cretin, just ask a man. And, yes, ladies, I know that includes me.

Article originally published in the Brisbane Courier Mail of December 29th., 2002. p. 79. Not otherwise online.


Prof. Goldberg’s work: Here is a summary. And a debate with him is here.

Denis Dutton’s study of genius.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Saddam and Sharon

18th September 2002

As the international war against terrorism escalates some people cannot resist using this as an excuse to attack Israel whilst honouring the terrorists that kill Israeli citizens. The leaders of the British trade unions at their annual gathering in England this past week led the assault.

These are the people whose organisations fund the governing Labour Party. Lady Thatcher banished these garrulous goons into well-deserved obscurity but since Tony Blair came to power they have crept back into the spotlight. And they all love Arafat.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ journalists' union caught the mood of the assembled mass when he shrilled, "If justice was the motive, we would be considering sending troops in now to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory" This venomous outpouring was swiftly followed up by his colleague Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU Post and Telecoms Union who declared, "The British population does not want this war. But if the US talks of deadlines, why don't they give Ariel Sharon a deadline to get out of the West Bank?"

British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave his address to this Trade Unions Conference telling them that Saddam Hussein was "the worst dictator on the planet". "What about Sharon?" responded a delegate in the audience to uproarious laughter and general approval!

This burning leftist hatred towards Israel is manifest in a new British TV programme called "Palestine is still the issue" broadcast by the journalist John Pilger. In it he rails about the Israeli "occupation" and the courageous Palestinian "resistance" to it. Much of the film concerns itself with describing the alleged "everyday brutality of the occupation".

Pilger suggests that the Israeli army only imagines itself as a defence force battling terrorists. But pictures of what was the Palestinian "Culture" ministry (Orwell would have been proud of that example of doubletalk) obliterate this illusion, he claims. He further alleges that Israeli soldiers destroyed computers wilfully, smeared excrement on walls and equipment, and even vandalised children's drawings. In these and many more unrecorded acts of vandalism, Israel is blamed for removing the possibility of any kind of normal existence in Palestine.

Violins then strike up as we listen to the tale of Fatima Abed-Rebo who lost her baby when she was held up at an Israeli army checkpoint. She says of the way the soldiers treated her, "It wasn't personal, just cruel. This is the way they treat all Palestinians." Such balanced objectivity! Fatima then helpfully adds, "Palestinians have resisted this state terrorism. Even within the Israeli army some dissent has appeared-over 500 soldiers have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories."

The film then examines the motivation of those who are driven towards suicide attacks. Wafa Idris, the first such female suicide killer, was an ambulance volunteer-an extremely hazardous occupation in Palestine where the Israeli army regularly attacks medical crews. Note the almost casual manner of the slander against the IDF.

In the horrific aftermath of suicide bombings in Israel, ambulances zoom up and down to pick up the dead and injured. But in Palestine ambulances are often prevented from reaching the injured and dying. (In Palestine, ambulances are used to transport terrorists and weapons) Wafa saw so much death and destruction that she could not take it any more. That's what made her want to slaughter innocent Israeli citizens. This pathetic excuse is the best that Arafats' media apologists can come up with to excuse crazed Arab Jihad killers.

The programme then latches onto the fact that a few Israeli victims of the suicide attacks have spoken out against the "occupation". Most of Rami Elhanan's family were murdered in the Holocaust. He lost his 14 year old daughter after an attack by a suicide bomber In Israel. "It doesn't just come out of the blue," he says. "The boy whose mother was humiliated in the morning at the checkpoint will commit suicide in the evening. The bomber was a victim, just like my girl. Of that I am sure." Mr Elhanan's loss must be respected but he makes no sense whatsoever. No doubt a few Jews thought Hitler had a point. Did that make the Holocaust understandable?
As the programme concludes we are presented with the apparent disparity between the poverty of the Palestinian areas and the lush suburban Israeli settlements guarded by massive military force. The fact that Arafat has ensured Palestinian poverty by his corrupt money-laundering regime is never mentioned, naturally.

Maps are produced to show just how little was offered to the Palestinians during the peace process (only 95% of their wish-list was met) despite the enormous concessions made by the good and wise Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Pilger should apply to work for Disney because he has an obvious gift for fantasy.

Terrorists have little trouble finding apologists. The British political left, including the Trade Union bosses, have consistently found comfort in supporting various terrorist groups. The IRA was a favoured cause as it fought for "freedom" by killing pregnant women, shooting elderly men, even planting bombs at graves. These repulsive acts never stopped the morally bankrupt apologists queuing up to explain why the terrorists were really the good guys.

Little wonder then that these British stooges switch affections to Arafat whilst demonising Prime Minister Sharon. It is a great shame that this poisonous nest of appeasers and equivocators could not experience Saddam Hussein's tender mercies up front and personal. Who would listen to their cries then?

A Tangled Web 2002

This article is reproduced here to give it a stable link. Where it is on its original site seems to move about constantly. It is otherwise to be found somewhere here under the general heading “Israel under attack”.

Blunkett aims at judges - and blasts our liberties

By Boris Johnson
(Filed: 23/01/2003)

Just after DC Oake was stabbed eight times through the heart and lungs, I heard something about David Blunkett's torment. Here we are, on the threshold of war. The Prime Minister has issued bloodcurdling warnings about the "inevitability" of a terrorist attack.

We are told by intelligence sources that there are 1,000 dangerous Islamic extremists in this country, and we seem to have no ability to round them up, to extradite them, or to prevent them from being joined by their associates. The system is, to put it mildly, in chaos, and Blunkett is apparently feeling sorry for himself.

"It's the judges," he groans, and there is something in what he says. The fault is partly with the judges, or rather with the way they interpret British law: massive in its humanity, scrupulous in its willingness to hear every point of view, fantastic in its cost and interminable in its delays.

There is a good reason why the Algerian alleged killer of DC Oake was still at large in Manchester, years after he had unsuccessfully claimed asylum, and that is that he had booked himself a first-class berth in our legal system. He had already appealed twice for asylum, and been turned down twice, before he melted into the cityscape.

It enrages politicians to think that the law they enact is assisting such characters. They fume to read about men like Abu Hamza, the one-eyed, one-armed cleric from Finsbury Park, who is apparently not as nice as he looks. They would love to give him a one-way ticket to Cairo.

And finding that they cannot, because it would be an infringement of his human rights, they do what politicians always do. They grope for something really potent, a law that will show these pesky lawyers who is boss - even if it turns out to be a blunderbuss, inflicting severe collateral damage on ancient freedoms.

If you want to share Blunkett's rage at the judges, and to understand his lust for new legal weapons, then consider the case of Rachid Ramda, which has been highlighted by my colleague John Maples.

Mr Ramda is another Algerian, who is vehemently accused by the French of involvement in the hideous Paris metro bombing of 1995, in which eight were killed and 200 injured.

And yet, after eight years and nine separate legal proceedings, and after £500,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent, British judges simply will not extradite the man to Paris. This is not because they discount the evidence against him. The British system will not cough him up, because our judges have somehow been persuaded that this would infringe his human rights. In a stunning judgment last year, Lord Justice Stephen Sedley effectively ruled that no Muslim could expect a fair trial in France.

Imagine if the French were in possession of the man thought most likely to have masterminded the Omagh bomb. Let us say they had good forensic evidence against him, and yet French judges refused to hand him over, on the ground that he could not expect a fair trial in this country. If Kelvin MacKenzie were still running the Sun, the paper would almost pop with anti-Frog feeling, and this paper, I dare say, would not be far behind.

Or take the case of the four men, still held in this country, who are wanted for the American embassy bombs in Africa. It is now almost five years since those crimes, and still British lawyers are keeping them here, at taxpayers' expense, and using all the very many tactics at their disposal to fight extradition to America.

If the four men are connected with the al-Qa'eda network, it is disturbing to reflect that, had they been sent for trial in good time, it is possible that information might have surfaced that could have alerted the world to the imminent September 11 attack.

Such cases rightly inspire great anger, in America and France. The Egyptians think we are pathetic in our failure to send some of these characters back to them, and the Algerians would be thrilled to have the suspects back in their hands. The British public think it amazing that we are about to blow up innocent Iraqi civilians, with no regard for their human rights, when we are so meticulous about the likes of Abu Hamza.

It is in a frenzy of frustration, therefore, that the Government brings forward new and Draconian legislation, such as the European arrest warrant. In some ways, the measure is sound.

If the warrant had been in force in 1995, Rachid Ramda would have been straight on a plane from London to answer for the Paris bomb. The Paris authorities would have issued a warrant; a district judge would have determined simply that this was the man in question, and pow, he would have been off.

Lord Justice Sedley would not have had a look-in. But it is precisely because the lawyers are so ingenious, and the thicket of human rights law so impenetrable, that the politicians have framed a countervailing law whose power, in at least one respect, is excessive.

Under the EU arrest warrant, you can be summarily extradited to another European country, without any examination of the evidence against you, for conduct that is not even a crime in this country. For the first time, British citizens, in Britain, will be subject to the criminal law of other countries - even if the law here says they have no case to answer. And if we protest against this infamy, we are told it is part of the war on terror; and that, of course, makes it politically hard to oppose.

This law, like others, is part of the eternal but escalating conflict between lawyers and populist Home Office politicians. The more assiduous are the lawyers in protecting human rights, the more ruthlessly the politicians retaliate with new law. The tragedy is that ancient British liberties are caught in the crossfire.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator

From the UK Daily Telegraph. Reproduced here because this link was working unreliably

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Teacher sacked over plastic gun 'feels ruined'

By Michael Paterson
(Filed: 21/01/2003)

A lecturer sacked for allowing a student to take a fake gun to a photography class feels his life has been ruined, his union representative said yesterday.

Richard Browning, 40, lost his job teaching photography at Doncaster last week after the Government said that replica guns would be banned in public.

But it has emerged that the 2ft plastic gun he allowed a 16-year-old girl to photograph for her HND course was never out of its case in a public place and could not even fire pellets.

Mr Browning, from Doncaster, who is married with a family, is to appeal.

His union official, Mel Battersby, said: "His career record was impeccable. Now he fears his life is ruined."

This story originally from UK Daily Telegraph but posted here because of a malfunctioning link.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


Below is an email exchange between John Ray and John Quiggin that took place between 25th. and 27th. September, 2002. The stimulus for the exchange was a theory that cerebral laterality was part of the reason why most political bloggers are conservative. The exchange was originally posted by Quiggin on his Australian National University site but was removed when he resigned his job there and moved to Brisbane:

To: Prof. John Quiggin:


I thought I might weigh in briefly to the Left-Right brain debate you and the Parishoner are having fun with:

You seem not to have taken into full account the situation in which something is said. As someone with a background in both academic psdychology and academic sociology, I tend to think you need both in this situation and I think that your concentration on the psychology alone has led you astray.

My blog, for instance, would have you howling "Right-brain", I am sure.

But how do you reconcile that with the fact that I have had over 200 papers published in the academic journals of the social sciences? If academic journal articles are not "Left-brain" in your terms, I would like to know what would be.

The answer is to look at the situation -- to ask what was the intended audience of the articles. In my blog I am writing principally for others with some degree of Rightist leaning. I am "preaching to the converted". So are Mark Steyn, Prof. Bunyip and many others.

"How absurd!" you will no doubt say. But it is not. If preaching to the converted is pointless, why do we have churches? The fact is that is important to inspire your own troops and strengthen their confidence in themselves and their own beliefs.

And in doing that, YOU CAN TAKE LOTS FOR GRANTED. You can assume lots of areas of agreement without having to prove every point. But that does not imply that you would be unable to prove every point if you tried.

So really, the problem lies when what is written for one audience is read by another. My recent non-academic papers get me a stream of congratulatory emails from other conservatives (mostly in the US) but any academic journal would (rightly) reject them and any non-conservative would find heaps of unproven assumptions in them.

So what to you seems "Right-brain" will often be simply an article reaching beyond its intended audience. The writer may well be a very "Left-brain" type in your terms.



Hi John

You raise a lot of interesting points, but to start with I'd like to focus on "preaching to the converted". It seems to me that the appropriateness of this stance depends a lot on both medium and style. Preaching to the converted is fair enough if

(i) the selected medium ensures that most readers will be among the converted, and others are appropriately warned

(ii) the style is appropriate to an in-group audience
As an example of (i), a group newsletter is obviously appropriate. The sole newspaper in a one-paper town is not. The basic norms of the blogworld are those of open access, so if you want to use blog technology to reach a restricted audience you need to signal what you are doing.

On (ii), the most obvious point is that any personal references should be within the group. While socialists addressing an in-group audience might make hostile references to capitalists in general, or public figures like Bush and Howard, they can scarcely attack individual supporters of capitalism then retreat to the claim that they weren't talking to the person concerned.

On point (i), if you read my blog, I've made a specific announcement that I will have no dealings with Gerry Jackson and The New Australian group. Otherwise, it's open to everyone to comment, and I'll try to respond. The corollary on point (ii) is that I do not criticise Jackson personally, although I will certainly argue against viewpoints that he holds.

Given their medium and style I don't think Steyn or Ozbloggers like Professor B can justifiably ignore criticism, especially as one of their main tropes is bagging the supposed liberal bias of the established media.
John Quiggin


Hi John,

Although I had looked at your blog previously, I replied before visiting it again. I think you make it pretty clear that you are preaching to the converted, criticising leftism in general terms, rather than keeping up a running commentary on daily events and the statements of individual leftists.

BTW, your style is basically left-brain in my terms.

John Quiggin


You mean I can't be Right-brain even when I try?
John Ray



I think you are being far too prescriptive. You can do what you want on the internet. That is the beauty of it. If Prof Bunyip wants to ignore somebody's criticisms that is his privilege.

Anyway, why not blog this discussion and see what others think.

John Ray

I suspect yours is a self-defeating argument. If its Prof B's privilege to ignore criticism, isn't it Prof Q's privilege to berate him for it ?

As you say, the points raised might be of interest to others, so I will blog them in some form over the weekend - probably a summary with links to a full transcript.

John Quiggin



Yes, Indeed. It is Prof Q's privilege to berate Prof B and it is then the privilege of Prof B's readers to leave Prof Q off their favourites list. They will, you know. People know how to choose the sermon they like.
John Ray

Monday, January 20, 2003

Doctors in trouble for not giving man cervical smear
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor
(Filed: 16/01/2003)

A family doctor has been summoned to a formal hearing over his refusal to put a 34-year-old male patient on the list for screening for cervical cancer.

The complaint has caused doctors in the west country practice to spend hours in meetings and writing replies to the local primary care trust over the complaint which began two years ago.

The man, who has fathered a child, believes he is a hermaphrodite although his doctors have examined him and can find no evidence for this. However, they did agree to his request to be re-registered with a female name.

One doctor in the practice said: "We are worried that the PCT is so falling over backwards to be patient-friendly, that it has gone too far the other way. Silly things are starting to happen."

The wife of one of the GPs, told The Telegraph she had every sympathy for people who believe they had the body of the wrong gender but the decision to investigate the refusal was political correctness taken to extremes.

She said her husband, who has been a GP for 30 years and who trains young doctors would be "pleased to hear from anyone, medical or otherwise, who could teach him the correct way to carry out a cervical smear on a 34-year-old male".

She added: "The refusal of one of the doctors to put Mr X on the recall list for cervical sceening has resulted in a complaint and, as a result the doctor, practice manager and other practitioners have spent many hours, at the expense of the care of other patients, answering written inquiries.

"My suggestion would be to accede unquestioningly to the patient's demand and carry out the procedure requested. Provided of course that a representative of the primary care trust could indicate the necessary part of this gentleman's anatomy, and was able to give the learned medics a clue as to how they could access it."

The doctors are confident that the man has "a genuinely held belief" about his gender.

He first wanted a cervical examination and was refused because he did not have a cervix. He then asked to be put on the list for regular screening.

He has since requested full DNA testing and full blood toxicology screening, although he will not give his doctor a reason or describe symptoms to justify the tests.

Tim Terry, consultant in reconstructive urology, Leicester University Hospitals NHS Trust, specialises in gender reassignment surgery.

He said: "There are some people with ambiguous genitalia but I have not come across a man who was normal physically and fertile who was in this inter-sex group. My advice would be to refer the patient to a sexual dysfunction clinic."

A local primary care trust spokesman said: "We have received a complaint as you described and as required, under the NHS complaints procedure, we are investigating along with other complaints from the individual."

This story from the UK Daily Telegraph was often not loading so I have reproduced it above. The original link was here.

Saturday, January 18, 2003


Last year I posted on Dissecting Leftism the following views on abortion. They are still my views:

Abortion is a difficult issue for conservatives. They seem to be fairly evenly divided about it. But Leftists are not. Leftists almost all seem to favour abortion. Why?

The key to understanding that is simple. When Leftists get into absolute power -- as they often did in the 20th Century -- we soon see what their "compassion" really adds up to. From Stalin to Pol Pot, Leftists showed that they do not care about human life at all. They murdered millions. So what are a few unborn babies to them? A mere bagatelle!

Rightists are divided because they are the only ones who genuinely care and it is a situation of conflict between the rights of the child and the rights of the mother.

I myself think it is patently obvious that abortion is murder. A baby that would survive if born premature is destroyed by an abortionist and we are told that no crime has been committed! Absurd.

But my libertarian instincts also tell me that coercion is not the way to stop abortion. I leave coercion to the Leftists. Paying mothers to have the baby would work a lot better. Good old capitalism again! A payment of (say) $10,000 to all mothers who produce a healthy baby should do the trick. And with the now catastrophically low birthrates in most of the developed world we probably need such an incentive scheme for all mothers anyway.

So conservatives should be helping to support and encourage reluctant mothers rather than threaten them with the law -- perhaps even setting up special, discreet, resort-style homes for them during their pregnancy.

You will understand from the above, however, why I also have great sympathy with the views that I reproduce below:


By: Larry Bohannon
January 19, 2002
Given at Garden Oaks Baptist Church, Houston, Texas

On behalf of the Salt & Light team, I would like to speak to you about a subject that is near and dear to our hearts. Today is National Sanctity of Human Life day. Perhaps you have noticed the pro-life sign in front of our church. If not, I invite you to look at it after the service this morning.

Thirty years ago, the United States Supreme Court made up a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. Since then there have been 44 million abortions. There have been 112 million births. Using those two numbers, one can calculate that 28 percent of all pregnancies have ended in abortion. Everyday the number of babies killed by abortionists approximately equals the 3,000 killed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

Now I believe that I do not have to convince anyone here in this church about the evilness and tragedy of abortion. But, if anyone remains unconvinced, go over to our nursery, pick up a little baby, hold it in your arms and gaze into its eyes and you will know the truth. All the pro-choice pro-abortion rhetoric will just melt away.

The real question to be asked is why, in this predominately-Christian nation, do we tolerate this practice? I have spent three years trying to answer that question. I must tell you that I am totally amazed. There really should be no debate at all about abortion. The truth should be clear to everyone. It should be a slam-dunk that abortion should not be tolerated. It should not be legalized. And it should not be a choice. After studying this issue, I now understand how Adolf Hitler was able to pull off the holocaust. It took a tremendous amount of propaganda, lies, and deceit. The Nazis were able to morally confuse many people. It took many good Christians in Germany closing their eyes and remaining silent.

Well the same thing is true today in the United States of America. There are a relatively few passionate activists who loudly spread pro-choice pro-abortion propaganda, lies, and deceit. They are able to morally confuse many people in our country. It is a sad truth that most Christians in all denominations have closed their eyes and have remained silent.

The abortion struggle has corrupted our politics. Legalized abortion is so entrenched in our government because one of our two major political parties has embraced it. To even be considered a viable candidate in that party one must blindly accept the doctrine of legalized abortion. This has made it difficult for the Christians who are traditionally members of that party. Every election cycle, pro-choice candidates try to give Christians reasons to vote for them on other issues. And so, too many Christians forget about abortion as they go vote. They often provide the margin of victory for pro-choice pro-abortion candidates. If a miracle were to happen and those Christians were to hold a little baby in their arms and gaze into his or her eyes just before stepping into the voting booth, our system of abortion would disappear after the very next election.

In conclusion, the most important thing I have learned during these last three years is that the future of abortion is totally in the hands of Christians. We really do have the political power to solve this problem. Our cultural enemies know this and they are scared. For this reason they desperately work to demonize and marginalize us. We do not have to convince the sinful pro-choice activists that they are wrong about abortion. We do not have to convince the radical feminists, the biased news media, or the morally corrupt politicians. To win, all we have to do is convince our fellow Christians to truly follow Christ and there is no doubt that they will vote pro-life.

Friday, January 17, 2003


By: John J. Ray


Both detailed and wide-ranging surveys of how various research topics are treated by psychologists reveal a consistent pattern of failing to consider what went before. Psychologists substantially live in an eternal present that has little or no awareness of the past. The result is continual re-invention of the wheel, a failure to learn from past mistakes and the impossibility of ever disposing of erroneous theories. Bibliographical research as a prelude to new data-gathering seems to be a custom much more honored in the breach than in the observance. There seems to be a common belief that no-one previously could possibly have had such clever thoughts as those of the researchers concerned. Such behavior has more in common with childish play than with science.


Psychologists have, of course, long claimed to be scientists but this would seem to be a good occasion for examining that claim. What follows below, however, is not at all congratulatory. The paper falls into two broad sections: In the first just one case is examined intensively and in the second a more summary treatment is given of a wide range of cases.

The present paper is not, of course, wholly original. For example, some time ago now Faucheux (1976) criticized the lack of care and insight typically shown by psychologists when they do cross-cultural research. He showed that much of such research was really little more than playing at science. It will be contended here, however, that the criticisms made by Faucheux are more widely applicable than even he thought. It will be contended that psychology generally is badly flawed as science.

It seems useful to introduce this theme by considering in depth just one book -- the book which won the 1988 prize for behavioral science research awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Altemeyer, 1988). Surely this book should provide us with a glimpse of what mainstream academic psychologists today consider to be first class science.

Setting the Scene: Altemeyer's 1981 work

Altemeyer's topic is Right-wing authoritarianism. In his earlier book on the same topic (which also received some quite rapturous reviews), Altemeyer (1981) did some rather surprising things for anyone purporting to be a scientist or even a scholar generally. As I pointed out in various papers (e.g. Ray, 1985a & 1987a) Altemeyer failed to consider what was meant by "Right-wing" and gave a definition of "Right-wing authoritarianism" which sounded remarkably like a definition of traditional political conservatism. In other words, his ignoring the literature on conservatism caused him to pay the penalty of simply reinventing the concept under another name. I confirmed that his RWA scale was simply another measure of conservatism by showing that it correlated highly with other measures of conservatism but not at all with a well-validated measure of authoritarian personality (Ray, 1985a). The latter finding has been replicated by Byrne, Reinhart & Heaven (1989). See their Table 2.

The key fact that Altemeyer seems to have been unaware of is that respect for various traditional authorities has long been an integral part of political conservatism but that such attitudes to authority have little or nothing to do with propensity to behave in an authoritarian way (Ray, 1973 & 1976. Again see Table 2 of Byrne, Reinhart & Heaven, 1989, for independent replications).

So why did Altemeyer not know this? Because of his very limited literature review. He virtually ignored the political science literature (even though he was writing on a political topic!) and his review of the psychological literature was comprehensive only up to about 1972 or 1973. As science is supposed to be a cumulative, "brick by brick" process, this was a recipe for disaster and disaster struck in the form of causing him to reinvent the wheel.

Refusal to learn

One might have thought that this would be a chastening experience for Altemeyer. Not a bit of it! In his second, prize-winning book (Altemeyer, 1988), he is, if anything, even more unscientific. He makes no attempt to update his literature review and thus ignores most of the last 20 years of research by others on his topic. As it happens, there are only three authors now who continue to write, year after year, on the topic of authoritarianism. They are K. Rigby, P.C.L. Heaven and myself. Other authors seem to contribute just one or two papers on the topic and then fall silent. The three authors mentioned, by contrast, are prolific. I, for instance, have had over 100 papers published on authoritarianism and conservatism. If Altemeyer were a true scientist, therefore, one would expect extensive citation of these three authors in his 1988 book. What do we find? Rigby is totally ignored, Heaven gets one citation (only apparently because he once used Altemeyer's scale) and only three (out of more than 100) of my papers are cited. Two of the three concern occasions where Altemeyer's work was referred to.

The third reference, however, is instructive. Apparently even Altemeyer felt a bit embarrassed about ignoring a body of work as large as mine so he sets out to justify his ignoring it. He does this by attacking just one of my papers (Ray, 1976) concerning just one of the many measuring instruments that I have produced. His main objection seems to be that my Directiveness scale has a reliability which -- at .74 -- is "too low", though he concedes that its predictive validity is good. Quite aside from the fact that lower reliabilities are very commonly reported in psychological research, what Altemeyer ignores here is that I have agreed with the sort of criticisms he makes. The scale concerned would not now be in its Mark VI version if I had not! In other words, Altemeyer goes about criticizing the Mark I version of the instrument without telling his readers that it has subsequently been extensively revised! What he thinks he achieves by that is hard to imagine.

Altemeyer also makes the point that the conception of authoritarianism embodied in the Directiveness scale is very different from his own. It is not clear that this is a reason to ignore different conceptions but, even if it were, how does it justify ignoring the work I have done with various other scales? My "A" scale, for instance, (Ray, 1972 & 1984) reads rather similarly to Altemeyer's RWA scale but work with the "A" scale is not referred to.

Clearly, Altemeyer is interested only in playing his own games and seeks any excuse to avoid doing any reading. The basic concept of science where knowledge accumulates gradually over the years from the work of many authors is quite alien to him.

Is this because his own work is so brilliant that it constitutes a quantum leap? Hardly. Altemeyer (1988) attempts to make some rejoinder to my repeated earlier observations (e.g. Ray, 1985a & 1987a) concerning his inadequate definitions by offering a definition of conservatism (which he appears to equate with "Right-wing") which may owe something to dictionaries but which shows no contemporary political awareness at all. He defines conservatism in a way which pays some heed to its basic lexical meaning (rejection of change) without apparently being in any way aware that anyone, Right or Left, will reject change if their interests are threatened. Thus, hard-line Communists in the Soviet Union and China long resisted change in their countries towards a more open and democratic society -- even at the cost of great bloodshed. And equally, anyone, Right or Left, will advocate change to further their own ends. Thus Britain's Prime Minister Thatcher was the leader of Britain's "Conservative" party but was at the same time one of the most actively reformist leaders Britain has ever had. Saying that she defended the status quo is laughable. So in Altemeyer's strange world (i.e. according to his definitions) Margaret Thatcher is a Leftist and Brezhnev, Li Peng and their ilk are Rightists! Black might as well be white. The real difference between the political Left and Right is, of course, that the Left claims that a high level of government intervention is justifiable for benefitting the poor and disadvantaged whereas the Right rejects that.

Nor is this rejection of the efficacy of State intervention peculiar to Mrs Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and the late 20th century. To quote one history of the earliest English Tories (Conservatives): "The principles of Tory paternalism do not lend themselves to effective legislation or improved administration. Coleridge, the most profound and influential of these theorists, looked to the moral regeneration of the individual, not to the reforming State, and he envisaged the Church of England as the head of a paternalistic society. He despised what he called "act of Parliament reforms", and he exalted the Church as much as he feared the State." (Roberts, 1958).

Of a slightly later period we read: "Only State aid to all voluntary schools could extend education, but the Tories would not tolerate State intervention in a sphere reserved for the Church. In a grandiloquent speech to the Commons, Disraeli played deftly on this deep jealousy of the State. He raised the specter of a centralized despotism comparable to those which oppressed China, Persia and Austria, and sombrely warned that the grant would force a return "to the system of a barbarous age, the system of a paternal government"." (Roberts, 1958). The more things change.....

Obviously, then, Altemeyer's view of conservatism has not been much influenced by any knowledge of history.

Perhaps the most decisive comment on Altemeyer's brilliance, however, can be left to Altemeyer himself. He admits that his scale of "Right-wing authoritarianism" gives virtually no prediction of anything political! Scores on it are roughly normally distributed but Leftists are almost as likely as Rightists to get high scores on it! It measures an essentially non-political form of conservatism. How research with it is supposed to enlighten us about "Right-wing authoritarianism" is therefore a considerable mystery. Altemeyer claims in effect that many Right-wing authoritarians are Leftists!

That is surely mere mumbo jumbo. Black might as well be white. In response to Altemeyer's first book I was able to design research which might or might not falsify his claims. In response to his second book I could conceive of no new useful research to test his claims because Altemeyer himself had already shown them as false! And this is prize research.

An unfortunate exception?

It may seem that I have dwelt over-long on what is clearly a meretricious piece of work. In reply I am at first inclined to comment that a few pages is a fairly economical demolition of a rather large prize-winning book but a much more important answer is that Altemeyer is typical of psychologists who undertake politically relevant research. He is not an isolated and unfortunate exception. All the surveys of the matter show that psychologists are clearly of a fairly reliably Leftist or "liberal" bent (e.g. McClintock, Spaulding & Turner, 1965) and it would seem that this renders most of them incapable of anything approaching objective or creditable political research. They sometimes show an almost desperate eagerness to denigrate the Right and are blind to any fault on the political Left.

This is a large claim. Can it be justified?

Political bias in action

The first justification, of course, goes back to Altemeyer's work. Whatever else it does, Altemeyer's work does purport to show Rightists in a bad light. This alone seems to have sufficed to win it a prize of such distinction. Its status as science would certainly have won it nothing.

But Altemeyer's work really shows us more than that. It shows us psychologists' inability to learn. The first notable scale of Right-wing authoritarianism was that produced many years ago by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson & Sanford (1950) and far more people have used the 'F' scale from that work than seem ever likely to use Altemeyer's RWA scale (Altemeyer, 1988, himself admits the limited usage the RWA scale has had). But what has research with the F scale shown? It has shown that it measures a form of conservatism with little relevance to current politics and little or no validity as a measure of authoritarianism (Titus, 1968; Hanson, 1975; Ray, 1973, 1976, 1983b, 1984 & 1988; Ray & Lovejoy, 1983). Does that sound familiar? It is, of course, just what proved true of Altemeyer's RWA scale. Altemeyer (1981) summarized at considerable length most of the problems of the F scale and devised his RWA scale to replace it but ended up making the same mistakes all over again. The need to prove a point (i.e. that Rightists are in some way defective) seemingly leads inexorably to the same follies.

Such folly, however, is not confined to Altemeyer. The F scale must hold some sort of record for the number of researchers who have used it and most of these to this day show no awareness that it is in any important way flawed. Let us look at some examples.

Meloen et al.

Meloen, Hagendoorn, Raaijmakers & Visser (1988) present a finding to the effect that members of the Dutch "Center Party" score high on the F scale as support for the Adorno et al (1950) theory. This is on the grounds that repatriation of minorities was a policy of that party.

Yet the F scale was manufactured as a covert measure of racism. The finding may show that Adorno et al were good at producing covert measures but it tells us nothing about their theory. The basic question in assessing the Adorno et al work is not whether the F scale predicts racism (It generally does. See Ray, 1980) but whether it measures authoritarianism (It does not. See Ray, 1976, 1983b, 1984 & 1988). Meloen et al seem quite unaware of this, however, and even report that their allegedly extensive literature review found nothing adverse to the Adorno account. How they managed to avoid finding (to name a few) Christie & Jahoda (1954), Titus & Hollander (1957), Rokeach (1960), McKinney (1973), Altemeyer (1981) or most of my hundred or more papers on the topic must remain a considerable mystery, to be polite about it.

So, in accord with the generalization proposed, Meloen was unable to see the evidence adverse to the Adorno theory and the "support" his own work gave to the theory was really no such thing.

Van Ijzendoorn

Another recent F scale user who gives the impression of knowing virtually nothing of the literature on the F scale is Van Ijzendoorn (1989). He reported two studies wherein college and High School students who scored high on a one-way worded version of the F scale also showed some tendency to score low on a measure of moral development adapted from Kohlberg (1984). Van Ijzendoorn concludes from this that authoritarians suffer from arrested moral development.

He seems completely unaware that the F scale is generally held to measure to at least some extent a type of conservatism or to have a Right-wing "bias" (Brown, 1965) and that the "higher" stages of Kohlberg's scale reflect primarily not developmental observations but rather the requirements of liberal ideology (See both Kohlberg, 1981 and the vast review in Modgil & Modgil, 1985). In other words, conservatives score low on a measure of liberalism. How surprising!

Van Ijzendoorn's findings can, in other words, be seen as entirely artifactual. Whether they are or not, who knows? Van Ijzendoorn just made no effort to find out. Had he considered the literature he might have attempted to control for conservatism by way of partial correlation or some such but he did not. He ignored the literature on authoritarianism at the cost of making his own "support" for the Adorno theory totally ambiguous.

Mercer & Kohn

Mercer & Kohn (1980) reported research with a version of the F scale which purported to show that authoritarianism was caused by the type of parenting experienced and that authoritarianism was a useful predictor of drug-abuse among High School students. Challengingly, high F scorers ("authoritarians") were shown to be less likely than others to resort to drug abuse. This, of course, very much flies in the face of the Adorno et al assertion that "authoritarianism" is maladaptive. Drug abuse is one of the great plagues of the modern world and resistance to drug abuse is surely something that almost all parents would want for their children.

This, then, should have presented something of a conundrum for Mercer & Kohn. Some attempt to reconcile their finding with previous assertions about the maladaptive nature of a high score on the F scale was surely to be expected. As it
is, however, no mention of any such problem is made. Naive readers of the paper would not guess that a theoretically interesting finding was being presented. Something adverse to the Adorno theory was simply ignored.

Their remarks on authoritarianism and parenting are also uninformed. They appear to accept unquestioningly that the F scale measures authoritarianism despite all the years of evidence to the contrary. If, however, we take the view (See Ray, 1983b & 1988) that the F scale measures to a very large degree an old-fashioned orientation the findings make sense. They reduce to saying that strict fathers and loving mothers are showing a slight tendency towards becoming old-fashioned. As there seems to have been something of a breakdown of home and family life (as a conservative might put it) or traditional sex roles (as a liberal might put it) in recent decades this does make some sense. Such sense is not to be found in Mercer & Kohn (1980), however. What sense does it make to say that loving mothers are "authoritarian"?

Fisher et al.

Fisher et al (1988) present findings which purport to show that "erotophobia" is authoritarian in the sense of correlating with F scale score. This seems in line with the Adorno formulation that authoritarians have an exaggerated concern with sexual goings-on and is presented by Fisher et al in an uncritical way. If, however, they had taken account of the results of F scale validity studies, they would not have been so sure of their interpretation. If we take the perspective (Ray, 1983b, 1987c & 1988) that the F scale is mostly a measure of an old-fashioned outlook the findings become very predictable. Fisher et al simply showed that it is old-fashioned to be prudish. Given the great wave of sexual liberation that followed the general release of the contraceptive pill, this is hardly surprising.

A finding that initially seemed interesting and theoretically significant becomes a very ho-hum one indeed once looked at carefully.

Again support for the Adorno account could be found only by ignoring the considerable literature that showed the F scale not to measure what it purports to measure.

Grossarth-Maticek et al.

A final study that does to a degree belong among the studies so far discussed here is one by Grossarth-Maticek, Eysenck & Vetter (1989). Eysenck (1954) has, of course, distinguished himself as one of the most notable critics of the Adorno et al work so this study does not display the same sort of utter ignorance that has characterized the other studies so far discussed. What is notable about this study is the contrast between the Herculean labors that went into its execution and the quite insouciant ignorance that went into its design. The execution of the study entailed interviewing 6796 middle-aged West German males over an 11 year period. That is quite amazingly hard work by the standard of what is generally reported in the psychology literature.

Equally amazing, however, is that the hard work that went into the execution was not matched by similar hard work at the design stage. The study of racism is now an old one and one would have thought that the scale of racism adopted for use by Grossarth-Maticek et al would have some connection with some existing instrument. Not a bit of it! The scale used has no acknowledged antecedents and resembles no other scale that at least this author knows of. Grossarth-Maticek, in true social-science style, once again reinvented the wheel. Is this because the Grossarth-Maticek scale is some sort of quantum leap in measurement sophistication?

Far from it. The scale is almost ludicrously naive. No reliability or validity data for it appear to exist, it has no balance against acquiescent bias, only 4 out of its eight items actually refer to race or particular races and all items are worded in such an extreme and paranoid way that, on average, each item is assented to by only about 5% of the sample! It would be hard to devise a worse or less informative scale. And this is a particularly hard-working and diligent author. His negligence cannot be attributed to lack of motivation. Only a culture that is not really concerned with the canons of science can explain such negligence. Because of that culture eleven years of work were wasted before they even began.

The conclusion of the paper to the effect that the Adorno et al picture of the racist personality was to a degree replicated is therefore of a quality comparable to other such conclusions. Whether acquiescence, racism, hostility, paranoia or nothing at all was in fact studied is simply unknown. Given the very low rate of agreement with the scale items, the latter may well be the safest conclusion.

Other writers on authoritarianism

Other recent writers who continue to ignore the literature, particularly as it concerns the F scale and the Adorno et al theory include Miller, Slomczynski & Kohn (1985), Maier & Lavrakas (1984), Browning (1983), Sidanius (1985), Rump (1985), Kelley (1985), Weigel & Howes (1985), Tom et al (1984), Kline & Cooper (1984) and Petersen & Wilkinson (1983). These authors offer in some cases even clearer examples of ignoring adverse findings and "manufacturing" favorable findings but as I have recently pointed out the follies of all of them at some length elsewhere (Ray, 1987b & c, & 1989) I will not repeat the exercise here. I believe that enough has been said, however, to show that any attempt to produce a list of studies that perversely assume the basic correctness of the Adorno et al work would result in a very long list indeed.

Other topics:

Authoritarianism is however one of the most minor topics in modern-day psychology. Unscientific practices there might conceivably not generalize to other areas of psychology. Unfortunately, they do.

Achievement motivation

Another field of study that has long been with us in psychology is achievement motivation. The best known way of measuring it is by way of projective tests. Nearly every year, however, some psychologist somewhere has the bright idea that it might be measured by way of self-reports (i.e. by a behavior inventory). And almost every time the psychologist concerned seems to assume that no-one else has ever had such a flash of inspiration. As I have documented at length elsewhere (See Ray, 1986a), over the last 40 years there have been over 70 such scales produced and in only a few cases did the authors know of any of their predecessors. In this field, the wheel is happily invented anew each year.

The coronary-prone personality

So achievement motivation is a bit old-hat too. What about newer concepts? Unfortunately it is the same. The concept of the "A-B" personality seems at the moment to be inspiring new papers daily. Such papers are too easy to find for me really to need to list any of them but perhaps papers by Nielson & Dobson (1980), Hicks, McNicholas & Armogida (1981), Kobasa, Maddi & Zola (1983), Hicks & Gaus (1983), Musante (1983), Strube, Turner, Patrick & Perillo (1983), Byrne, Reinhart & Heaven (1989), Yarnold & Grimm (1986) might be mentioned as a few examples of this type of study. Such studies generally show little or no awareness of the many other studies that have questioned the validity and unitary character of the A-B measure (e.g. Booth-Kewley & Friedman, 1987; Linden, 1987; Hansson, Hogan, Johnson & Schroeder, 1983; Ray & Bozek, 1980; Diamond, 1982). The A-B personality concept was devised by cardiologists to encapsulate what they saw as the typical personality of a sufferer from coronary heart disease and it is generally measured by the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS). The items used in the scale are a rather confused melange with several themes evident. The most original concept involved is the Speed and Impatience (SI) factor. The other items mostly relate to the familiar psychological concepts of dominance and achievement motivation (Ray & Bozek, 1980). Descriptions of what constitutes A-B, however, generally seem to stress the SI factor. It is therefore a considerable irony that the test manual for the JAS (Jenkins, Zyzanski & Rosenman, 1979) shows the SI factor as not predicting coronary heart disease (CHD) in the various studies it surveys. So what factor does do the predicting? None, usually. There are many studies showing the JAS as not predicting the cardiac phenomena that it on theory should (e.g. Nanjundappa, Friis & Taladrid, 1987; Emara, El-Islam, Abu Dagga & Moussa, 1986 and Appels, Mulder & Van Houtem, 1985). One some occasions, however, a weak association can be found and on one such occasion Ray (1986b) showed that a scale of aggressive dominance explained more variance in CHD than did A-B and that it was only insofar as the JAS measured aggressive dominance that it provided any prediction of A-B. Most users of the JAS, however, seem to have heard of none of this and treat the JAS as if it were a valid measure of what it purports to measure. When even the JAS test manual plainly listed information that should have alerted JAS users to the validity problems, that is surely a truly woeful situation. Is there any limit to how blinkered or unwilling to read psychologists can be?


So maybe cardiologists invent concepts that confuse psychologists. What about other modern concepts? One such is the feminist prescription that everybody should be androgynous (exhibit both stereotypically male and stereotypically female traits). This state is said to be the most psychologically healthy. Bem (1974) seems to have been the main influence in igniting the interest of psychologists in the idea and her scales of the two traits of masculinity and femininity seem to have been the most used. Regrettably, they are invalid. They received critical mention almost from the time that they were first published (e.g. Edwards & Ashworth, 1977; Sines & Russell, 1978) but rather than making an attempt to list the whole range of such critical studies let it suffice it to say that, when used on general population samples and even on some other samples, the items of these scales or their derivatives do not differentiate males and females (Edwards & Ashworth, 1977; Myers & Gonda, 1982; Ray & Lovejoy, 1984; Uleman & Weston, 1986; Heerboth & Ramanaiah, 1985). How something can be said to be feminine when males and females are equally likely to be characterized by it is a considerable mystery but most of the users of the two scales (again examples are legion but perhaps Moore & Rosenthal, 1980; Baucom, Besch & Callahan, 1985; Baucom & Danker-Brown, 1983 might be mentioned for form's sake) seem unaware that any such mystery exists. As with the California F scale and the JAS, however, an informed reader could only wonder why these scales continue to be used at all. That they are in fact constantly used is a real wonder.

Racism and stereotyping

Many people regard the issues associated with feminism as very important ones. If such issues are so badly researched might it be that other important issues are also unscientifically treated by psychologists? One issue that is surely important is racism. Racism is something that costs happiness and even lives daily. Surely psychologists take that seriously. Unfortunately, the literature on stereotyping would suggest that they do not. Stereotyping is, of course, commonly resorted to as part of the explanation of racism and, as Weber & Crocker (1983) observe, most psychologists seem still to adhere to the old Lippman view of stereotypes as being very rigid and resistant to change. This view is even offered as textbook wisdom. To quote: "In-group/out-group biases lead us to conclude that we are better than they are. Our stereotypes reinforce these biases, stand resolute against disconfirmation, and function as self-fulfilling prophecies." (Forsyth, 1987, p. 233) or: "Stereotypes are a major mechanism in sustaining prejudice. Once people agree on prejudicial labels, such labelling becomes resistant to change." (Gergen & Gergen, 1986, p. 146).

Such writers are evidently ignorant of most of the actual research into the processes of stereotyping. As such research shows (McCauley, Stitt & Segal, 1980; Bond, 1986; Weber & Crocker, 1983; Triandis & Vassiliou, 1967; Kippax & Brigden, 1977; Schutz, 1932; Berry, 1970; Locksley, Hepburn & Ortiz, 1982; Galper & Weiss, 1975; Braithwaite, Gibson & Holman, 1985-86; Forgas, 1983; Stein, Hardyck & Smith, 1965; Bayton McAlister & Hamer, 1956) stereotypes, far from being rigidly held, are in fact highly susceptible to influence from all sorts of sources and represent generally accurate generalizations that facilitate processing of input from the environment. There are some studies which show people to have a degree of reluctance to relinquish a stereotype (e.g. Pettigrew, 1979; Johnson & Judd, 1983; Darley & Gross, 1983) but that is not at all inconsistent with what was just said. One swallow does not make a summer and good generalizations cannot remain founded on just one or two examples. When a person is presented with stereotype-inconsistent information he/she will have regard not only to that information but also all the other information he/she has on the subject. Few if any generalizations are perfect and total fluidity of response to new information would be mindless. What is needed is an assessment of how much new information is needed to change a stereotype rather than a simple demonstration that new information is not always influential. Few researchers into racism ever do this, however, and a mythical view of what goes on in stereotyping is retained (e.g. Simpson & Yinger, 1965). An informed view would be that stereotyping has as much (but no more) to do with the formation of racist attitudes as it does with the formation of any attitudes and that persistence of stereotypes is generally evidence of some sort of real (though possibly minimal) modal intergroup differences -- surprising though that might sound to the reader not familiar with the relevant literature.

Acquiescent tendency

So perhaps it is now clear that psychologists do not do well when researching socially sensitive phenomena. What about some really technical area with no sensitive implications? Few debates could be more technical than the debate over acquiescent response bias: The alleged tendency to say "Yes" to questionnaire items without really meaning it. If such a tendency exists it is clearly a problem for questionnaire users and has to be allowed for in designing research.

The obvious control against it is to include in the questionnaire items that are both "for" and "against" some point of view or that are both "true" and "false" in relation to the existence of some trait in the person. Such scales are called "balanced" scales. Almost all those who have studied the phenomenon do agree that meaningless acquiescence exists and that it does distort the meaning of responses to questionnaire items. There have been occasional optimists who purport to show that meaningless acquiescence does not matter much (e.g. Rorer, 1965) but such dissent has been met with a chorus of criticism, refutation and contrary argument (e.g. Peabody, 1966; Campbell, Siegman & Rees, 1967; Jackson, 1967; Ray 1983a & 1985b). The situation appears to be that meaningless acquiescence does exist and it does show some tendency to generalize from scale to scale but it does so unpredictably (Ray, 1985b).

This unpredictability, in fact, poses the biggest problem. If it could be predicted, special precautions against its influence might not always be necessary but, as it is, such precautions are always necessary. All scales should be cast in balanced form. But are they? Unfortunately not. One-way-worded scales are still widely used by psychologists (e.g. Rushton, Chrisjohn & Fekken, 1981; Bem, 1974; Van Ijzendoorn, 1989). Psychologists can in fact be surprisingly rigid in their attachment to their old unbalanced and problematic scales. One author (Van Ijzendoorn, 1989) even used a one-way-worded scale when he knew that its form had been criticized and that an alternative balanced version was available. Such behavior is not even cautious, let alone scientific.


It may be noted that most of the work I have criticized is North American in provenance. As I am Australian, is this just another boring example of anti-Americanism? Am I holding up Australian psychology as some sort of alternative? I am afraid not. For somewhat different reasons, Grichting (1989, p. 126) recently concluded about Australian psychology: "I submit that psychology and sociology in this country have not employed scientific methodologies which are likely to push ahead the frontier of knowledge....". It may be noted that Grichting was also concerned by (among other things) the failure of psychologists to learn from what had gone before in their literature and that he arrived at this conclusion by way of a lengthy review of the recent contents of Australia's four main social science journals.

It may also be noted that Altemeyer is a Canadian and that other writers I have criticized are Europeans (e.g. Meloen, Van Ijzendoorn). The problem, then, appears to be psychologists in general rather than any one national grouping of them.


I feel that the brief exploration of modern-day psychology which I have attempted above really does make one despair about psychologists. They are more like big children playing games than they are like scientists. They are just not engaged in any sort of cumulative enterprise. History mostly seems to begin anew for them with every day that dawns. It is hard to catch their attention but once something does catch their attention it is virtually impervious to any sort of unlearning, rejection or disconfirmation. It is almost as if a concept is liked because it is "pretty" rather than because it has any relationship to reality. Because it will almost never be read or heeded by those who should read and heed it, getting a psychological research report or any paper at all published is merely a form of point-scoring. Why the taxpayer and others continue to fund such silly games is the real mystery.

The present critique is, of course, not the first of its general kind. Much of what has been criticized in the present paper falls in the realm of social psychology and social psychologists have certainly had self-doubts on previous occasions. Ring (1967), for instance criticized social psychologists for the triviality of the topics they studied and several authors seemed to think that the uninspiring results generally obtained from social psychological research meant that the whole natural science paradigm had to be questioned (Gergen, 1973; Harre & Secord, 1972; Israel & Tajfel, 1972). The problem identified by Ring is probably now less salient but the latter group of critics would seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Before abandoning normal science why not try it first? Why not just develop the habit of reading what one's colleagues are writing? It does not sound hard to do.


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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Children 'being brainwashed' by new green geography lessons

By David Harrison, Environment Correspondent, Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 24/11/2002)

Geography teachers are brainwashing children with a politically correct "green agenda" while failing to give them the basic facts of the subject, according to a new study.

Pupils are leaving secondary school knowing "everything about pollution but nothing about rivers or mountains", say researchers from Canterbury University.
Their study found that geography lessons are dominated by "environmental values and attitudes" and do not provide pupils with enough information to form their own views. The new "greenwash" approach is being promoted by the Government, exam boards and geographical associations, the study claims.

One exam board, Edexcel, is accused of making a virtue out of providing fewer facts to pupils, boasting that its new GCSE syllabus "contains the same core geography [as before] but in less depth".

The study gives warning that the emphasis in the classroom has shifted from knowledge to "environmentalism, sustainability and cultural tolerance". It concludes: "Replacing knowledge with values means that the subject has become less academic, less rigorous, less demanding and less interesting."

The Canterbury Christ Church University College study is based on interviews with 50 geography teachers in south-east England, and an examination of the national curriculum and textbooks used in secondary schools.

Alex Standish, the author of the research, who was a geography teacher in south London for 10 years, said: "New Agenda Geography assumes that there is a correct attitude towards a problem and so teaches pupils to think in the 'appropriate way'.
"Teachers are concerned to tell pupils what to think about global warming and multinational corporations exploiting less-developed countries. But the syllabus does not offer a counter-interpretation - for example, that many environments are very resilient or the extent to which new farming techniques have reduced starvation.

"This contrasts markedly with the more traditional educational approach which considers pupils as being capable of making rational decisions for themselves."
The study found that most teachers were happy to promote green values over knowledge, although there were pockets of resistance. One teacher told Mr Standish: "We already teach as if we were the action wing of Greenpeace. We should develop critical thinking, not blind adherence to green policy."

Eighty-four per cent of teachers agreed that there was a greater emphasis on values and attitudes today, and 68 per cent said fewer facts were taught today than under previous curricula.

Eighty-six per cent said it was now more important to teach about environmental issues while 80 per cent agreed that "geography should teach pupils to respect and reconnect with nature". Many teachers went further. Two thirds thought that teaching about "sustainable lifestyles" and the pupils' roles as "global citizens" was more important than teaching basic skills such as reading maps.

"Selective presentation" of issues is also evident in geography textbooks, the study says. A new A-level textbook, Global Challenge, published by Longman, presents pupils with a series of challenges on "cutting consumption" and "lowering fertility rates".

This bias "leaves pupils with the impression that humans can only cause harm to the environment", Mr Standish concluded.

Many parents backed his findings. Tina Fitzgibbon, a mother of three, from Hemel Hempstead, Herts, said that she was "appalled" to discover that one of her sons, in the early years of secondary school, could talk about "renewable energy sources" and "population issues" but could not point to Egypt, or even Africa, on a map.
"The lessons were anti-facts," Mrs Fitzgibbon said. "They were clogged up with broad environmental issues, sludgy stuff with pretensions of morality. My children have learned more about geography from board games such as Risk than they ever did at school."

Tom Burkard, who has three children and runs a charity for special needs children in Norfolk, said: "My 14-year-old daughter's class was taught about saving the rainforest but nothing about the people whose livelihood depends on cutting down the trees. It was totally one-sided. The curriculum today promotes simplistic answers instead of real thinking. The green agenda is obscuring children's access to facts.

"It is dispiriting to see how many children do not know basic geography such as where countries are and the names of their capital cities."
Nik Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the research "reveals attitudes that are typical of the Left-wing ideology that now controls our state school system".

He added: "The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Geographical Association are obsessed with political correctness to the detriment of our children's education. We have had terrible difficulties with the history being taught in state schools and now geography is a real problem too."
A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said: "Teaching about environmental change and sustainable development is an integral part of the geography curriculum.

"Pupils develop a wide range of geographical skills, including the ability to analyse and evaluate evidence from a range of sources, before drawing conclusions."

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