Thursday, July 28, 2011

What the culture war really is about

Do you remember the scorn from the Bush administration some years ago, claiming to make "their own reality"? It's a symptom of the "culture wars". From Forbes:
[T]he so called “culture wars” that 150 years later are now back in full swing with a couple of stories that hit the news this week. The counseling center Michele Bachmann co-owns with her husband was shown to practice discredited and potentially harmful therapies intended to use prayer, counseling, and coercion to convert same sex attractions to heterosexual attraction. Then Tim Pawlenty made demonstrably false claims about a “scientific dispute” that does not exist as to whether or not same sex attractions are a choice: they are not and there is no scientific dispute, there is a scientific consensus.

Now, if you are not a member of the LGBT community or a partisan on the religious right, you might think, like those who travelled to Bull Run, you are merely a spectator to a battle. You may have a favored side, like an entertaining reality show, but one that is actually reality. You may even be passionate about which side you want to win. But if you think you are simply watching something being fought by others, you would be wrong. You are a full participant, as are all Americans. What’s at stake is nothing less than how our country will think about and try to solve the problems we face. The culture wars we watch are really psychological wars in which we are fighting about how and with what we will think.

One of the issues about which you are a perhaps unwitting combatant is the question of whether both sides are fighting with the same weapons. They are not. One side fights with scientific curiosity, professional consensus, and professional doubt. The other uses pseudo-science and a rhetorical strategy designed to undermine the credibility of those who use data-driven arguments in conflict with cherished beliefs.

Consider the Bachmanns’ discredited counseling practices. The professional community is nearly unanimous in condemning their practice as a potentially dangerous one that does not work (and let me be clear, if they presented their work as a faith-based ministry rather than a mental health counseling center asking for and receiving Medicaid reimbursement I’d probably have nothing to say about what they are doing, it’s the counseling not the Christian part of what they are doing that is the problem)

... Whether you’re trying to decide between different economic solutions to our nation’s problems, to figure out how to generate more revenue or get more customers for your business, or crafting a treatment plan to help a struggling adolescent find his way through a hornet’s nest of painful conflict, you have to be able to tolerate the stress of making decisions in conditions of uncertainty without imposing the certainty of ideological order. You have to constantly monitor whether what you’re doing is working or not.

Wishing won’t make it so not matter how fervent, or ideologically pure the wish.

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