People don't necessarily think like you: Islamic edition

One of the things that I find really annoying about a lot of political discussions is the notion that everyone thinks like you rather than that people think in different ways. The annoyance I feel seemed well expressed in a discussion between Shadi Hamid and Robert Wright (beginning around 21:15) (highlight mine):

Hamid: For me, and based on my own experiences as an American, I think that having a state that is religiously and ideologically neutral is important. But then, why should my personal inclinations or beliefs be imposed on other people who don't share my starting assumptions. And that's a question I always pose to people when I get in this debate and they say 'We think this is better. Liberalism is better. Secularism is better.' And yes, it may be from our standpoint but you can't force people to be liberal or secular against their will if they don't want to be, right?

Wright: Ya. That's my view. I'm definitely with you there that we should be in many ways wary of assuming that everyone's going to share our values as soon as we explain to them how enlightened we are.

Shadi Hamid also expressed this more elaborately to Razib Khan:

My bigger issue, though, has to do with political scientists’ unwillingness to take religion seriously as a prime mover. In other words, because most political scientists in the academy aren’t particularly religious or haven’t spent much time around religious people, they usually see religion not as a cause, but rather as something caused by other more tangible, material factors, the things we can touch, feel, and of course measure. So if someone joins an Islamist organization like the Muslim Brotherhood, the tendency is to explain it with things like rural-urban migration, underemployment, poverty, being pissed off at America, the list goes on. Sure, all those things matter, but what does political science have to say about “irrational” things like wanting to get into heaven? It’s not everything, but it’s one important factor that has to taken into account. This is something that becomes more obvious when you talk to Islamists about why they do what they do. They don’t say, “hey Shadi, I’m doing this because I want to get into heaven.” It’s more something that you feel and absorb the more you sit down and talk to a Muslim Brotherhood member. It matters to them and it’s something that drives them, especially when they’re deciding to join a sit-in and they’re well aware that the military is about to move in and use live ammunition. It’s not so much that they want to die; it’s more that they are ready to die, and it doesn’t frighten them as much as it might frighten someone else, because they believe there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be granted paradise especially if they happen to killed while they’re in the middle of an act that they consider to be in the service of God and his message.

Shadi Hamid might be best described as a liberal Muslim, but you can find similar sentiments expressed by so-called "new atheist" Sam Harris:

the people who are devoting their lives to waging jihad really believe what they say they believe, however those ideas got into their heads. The psychological problem that secularists must overcome is the basic doubt that anyone believes in paradise. I’ve actually had anthropologists and other overeducated people look me in the eye and insist that no one believes in martyrdom and that even suicide bombers are merely concerned about politics, economics, and male bonding. Some experts on terrorism sincerely think that no one is ever motivated to act on the basis of religious ideas. I find this astonishing.

Both of the above quotes are most specifically focused on secular views of certain Islamic groups, but it's certainly something that applies much more broadly. (One of my favourite weird studies is still that of investment decisions by members of apocalyptic cults).

Random links

No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism
"a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements". Suggests racism a larger factor in the US.
Tough Breaks in Life Can Fuel Extreme Political Views
I'd consider this fairly unsurprising: "Randles found that regardless of where people stand on the political spectrum — left or right — adverse life events hardened their leanings either way. “After facing adversity, these respondents weren’t saying about an issue, ‘Maybe this is OK.’ They were either saying, ‘This is definitely OK,’ or, ‘This is definitely not OK,’” said Randles."
Why Don’t They Come?
"People with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) participate at lower rates in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less 'elitist' forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting events." An exploration of this issue and factors that may play.

Quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I quoted him once before on intellectual fads and the exclusion from public debates of certain ideas. Here are a few more of my favourite quotes from him:

You're sincere, but in order not to upset your views you avoid talking with people who think differently. You pick your thoughts from conversations with people like yourself, from books written by people like yourself. In physics they call it resonance. You start out with modest opinions, but they match and build each other up to a scale ... - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good... Ideology - that is what gives devildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It's an universal law-- intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility. - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Random links

How the GOP Could Use Science’s Reform Movement Against It
Brian Nosek of the Center for Open Science: "Openness and reproducibility may be core to how science works, but they can be misused or turned into ways of pursuing ideological attacks". I think that that's not just something done by the GOP but by all sorts of activists.
Bounded openness: The effect of openness to experience on intolerance is moderated by target group conventionality
"We suggest that tests of the association between openness to experience and tolerance have heretofore been incomplete because they have primarily focused on prejudice toward unconventional target groups. ... People high in openness do appear more tolerant of diverse worldviews compared with people low in openness; however, at the same time, people both high and low in openness are more intolerant of groups whose worldviews conflict with their own."
Faculty jobs are rare, but Canada still needs its PhDs
"by the end of their doctoral studies, only 36 per cent of male and 27 per cent of female students were interested in pursuing faculty positions at research institutions. The myriad calls for the demise of the traditional PhD are premature, however. Doctoral work provides students with critical skills that are key to sustaining and building Canada’s economic, social, and cultural prosperity. A quick look at a university’s graduate degree level expectations for doctoral students shows the PhD is much more than just a thorough understanding of a substantial body of knowledge. PhDs are expected to communicate complex and ambiguous ideas, orally and in writing; to locate, evaluate, and synthesize novel information; and to apply that information in new situations. They learn to work independently, and, in many fields, they learn the value of teamwork as well. They learn to take risks. They learn resilience from failure. They learn how to build on ideas from success. These are exactly the sorts of skills Canada’s workers need in our evolving knowledge-based economy."


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