Right-wing Christian “rats”?

Progressive Christian writer and activist John Shore just wrote a post I found really worrisome.

Do I smell a right-wing Christian rat behind Ohio State’s psych quiz “controversy”?

rat_phone

Yesterday I published Ohio State University teaches Christians are stupider than atheists. I came across the story on Google News, thought, “Here’s a bit of fluff I can have some quick fun with before I get back to writing my novel,”—and blip I wrote what I did.

The website that originally “broke” this story is Campus Reform. This morning, poking about the Campus Reform website, I found this on their Mission page:

As a watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, Campus Reform exposes bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses.

Our team of professional journalists works alongside student activists and student journalists to report on the conduct and misconduct of university administrators, faculty, and students.

Campus Reform holds itself to rigorous journalism standards and strives to present each story with accuracy, objectivity, and public accountability.

A few clicks later I learned that Campus Reform is owned and operated by the hyper-conservative The Leadership Institute. Here’s a bit about them:

The Leadership Institute identifies, organizes, and trains conservative college students to promote and defend their values on campus.

Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year. Conservatives learn how to:

· Form independent conservative student groups
· Manage grassroots-oriented campaigns
· Publish independent conservative school newspapers
· Communicate a conservative message using the media

Gee, I wonder why the complaining OSU “anonymous student” knew nothing about the Psych 1100 class that had so offended him or her (see below)—and why exactly they were quoted as having said:

I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question … . Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity.

I smell a rat. A lowdown, lying, cheating, right-wing Christian rat trying to drum up a little cheese for itself.

Ugh.

It pains me to have at all contributed, however cursorily, to the lie that there was any credibility whatsoever to the original story. Me, helping to further the agenda of hardcore right-wing Christians!

So sad. So wrong. So … what can totally happen when you’re trying to keep two blogs going and write a (major) first novel.

After reading my post yesterday my good friend Dan Wilkinson got interested in what the story behind that story might be. Dan getting interested in something is like a coke-detecting police dog getting interested in a suitcase. It’s kinda scary. But awesome to watch.

Courtesy of Dan “Sniffy” Wilkinson, here is what’s really going on with OSU’s Psychology 1100 classs:

First we have the class syllabus. As you’ll see, it’s a totally normal, duly formidable college class.

One of the tools used in the class are the online LearningCurve quizzes. As you may recall, the particular Learning Curve question that has caused such a stir is this one:

unnamed

Here are a few other LearningCurve quiz questions (which taken altogether comprise only 10% of the grade for the class):

salaries

smarts

liberal

Notably, all of the quiz question are pulled directly from Psychology, the textbook used in the class (which Dan managed to get hold of, and which is on Amazon here—for only $159.48!). Each includes exactly where in the book information informing that question can be found. So literally none of the quiz questions should be a surprise to any student in the class.

While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.

The authors of Psychology thoroughly explore the findings that certain groups consistently test higher or lower on intelligence tests, carefully considering the factors that contribute to that result:

Although the average difference between groups is considerably less than the average difference within groups, Terman was right when he suggested that some groups perform better than others on intelligence tests.

But do group differences in intelligence test scores reflect group differences in actual intelligence? …

Some groups outscore others on intelligence tests because (a) testing situations impair the performance of some groups more than others and (b) some groups live in less healthful and stimulating environments. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that between-group differences in intelligence are due to genetic differences.

Interestingly, intelligence test scores also seem to be fairly good predictors of a person’s political and religious attitudes: The more intelligent people are, the more likely they are to be liberal and atheistic (Deary, Batty, & Gale, 2008; Lynn, Harvey, & Nyborg, 2009; Reeve, Heggestad, & Lievens, 2009; Stankov, 2009). All in all, intelligence tests scores are excellent predictors of a remarkable range of important consequences. IQ clearly matters.

In short, there’s nothing whatever wrong or suspect about OSU’s Psychology 1100 class.

I wish I could say the same for the pathetic Leadership Institute.

Here was my response:

Hello dear John.
While I’m myself a progressive Christian actively supporting the acceptance of Gay couples into the Christian Church, I realize I can no longer endorse your tone and rhetoric.

I’m also against the Christian Right and expose quite often their false priorities and distortion of the Gospel.

But in spite of everything, I view them as human beings created in God’s image and NOT as right-wing rats . As a German liberal theologian rightly pointed out: “Fundamentalisten sind auch Menschen” = “Fundamentalists are human too”.

Even if it might be a daily struggle, should it not be our duty to love our fundamentalist foes as ourselves? I’m not pretending to be a better person than you because I fall short in countless other respects.

But I think it’s really a pity if your laudable and praiseworthy defense of Gay people degenerates into self-righteous hatred.

So I really hope you’ll back away from your rhetoric and adopt a more constructive tone because you’re unlikely to change the hearts of fundies while using such words.

Otherwise, I also feel pretty irritated by the psychological Quiz. It is extraordinarily reductionist in that it defines “Christians”, “Atheists” and “Liberals” as homogeneous groups. This is very far from being the case, there are numerous conflicting groups, ideologies and movements within Christianity and atheism and merging them together has a very poor scientific value.

I’d be interested if such IQ comparisons were carried out between VERY specific groups (such as “Secular Conservatives” against “Evolutionary theists”) to see what come out of it.
What is more, it is far from being certain that there is such a thing as intelligence which can be fully grasped by a unique measure such as IQ. Its assessment also depends a lot on psychological factors such as motivation, impulsiveness and anxiety.

Anyway I wish you all the best and hope you’ll begin to see Conservatives as fellow humans.

Rick Santorum’s rise means the GOP must fight– and lose– the culture war

Lovely greetings.

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16 thoughts on “Right-wing Christian “rats”?

  1. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such is your gracious will.” Luke 10:21 (NRSV)

  2. Jesus said, “‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will .'” (NRSV)

  3. Well, Lothar, I’m glad you can see the problem I’ve been pointing out with Shore.

    It’s funny to see Shore whirl about and defend the test, seemingly almost purely because he found out that a ‘right-wing’ group was calling attention to it. Well, that and his defense of ‘But it’s in the textbook too!’

    I’ll construct a comparison question:

    Subject A has an IQ of 85, and subject B has an IQ of 100. Which of the following would you expect to be true?

    1. Subject A is rich, and B is poor.
    2. Subject A drives a Ferrari.
    3. Subject A is black, and B is white.
    4. Subject B drives a Ferrari.

    Now, if I could point at a paper – even a textbook – arguing the correct answer is “C”, would the question be acceptable?

    • Here’s another:

      Subject A is significantly more likely to commit suicide that subject B. Which of the following would you expect to be true?

      1. Subject A is atheist, subject B is Christian.
      2. Subject A is poor, subject B is rich.
      3. Subject A is gay, subject B is straight.
      4. Subject A has a lower IQ than subject B.

      I fear we are soon becoming, if not already, a world in which selective quoting of facts and statistics allows one to justify just about anything. And since ‘facts’ reign supreme…

      • labreuer,

        I fear we are soon becoming, if not already, a world in which selective quoting of facts and statistics allows one to justify just about anything. And since ‘facts’ reign supreme…

        Well, the real shame here is that this is a quiz in a class on the subject – you know, the one place where you’d expect there to be something approximating a careful discussion and presentation when it comes to this. I’m half tempted to say that the very idea of a multiple choice quiz is pretty risky for the class in general, at least for anything beyond straight up ‘What did this study find?’ style facts.

        Of course, the other weirdness here is that for Shore, simply finding out that he had quoted *gasp* a conservative organization was enough to whirl him into a hate-rage that sent anything approximating even-handedness and objectivity rocketing out of him, leaving some kind of anger-husk. It’s pretty easy to see and explain what the problem with the questions are, and likewise easy to see why people may be upset.

        But to recognize as much would put Shore on the path of agreeing with a “conservative”, and that’s too heavy a burden to bear. We’re talking about people who want to beat gays to death with their bare hands, after all.

        • There has been a time where I was largely sympathetic to John Shore’s ministry and to his notion of “Christianity with humanity”.

          But this completely put me off . So first he was critical of this extremely biased and misleading quiz and JUST after he realized the complainers were Conservatives he changed his mind at once.

          To my mind, this shows he’s not a honest thinker sincerely trying to promote love and understanding in a callous and unjust world.

          He’s an ideological culture warrior who has defined “enemies” (or shall I say “rates”) he has to absolutely oppose regardless of the circumstances.

          It is my hope and prayer he will come to understand that the “humanity” Jesus talked about involves as a fundamental part loving these very people one’s own “in-group” dehumanizes.
          There is really no merit in fighting for Gay rights while making no effort searching peace and reconciliation with one’s foes, for following the Zeitgeist is always much easier that overcoming one’s own darkness.

        • Of course, the other weirdness here is that for Shore, simply finding out that he had quoted *gasp* a conservative organization was enough to whirl him into a hate-rage that sent anything approximating even-handedness and objectivity rocketing out of him, leaving some kind of anger-husk. It’s pretty easy to see and explain what the problem with the questions are, and likewise easy to see why people may be upset.

          This is one of the most compact, funny + insightful bits I’ve read in a while. I’m inclined to say that part of the reason for said behavior is absolutely terrible teaching on anger among Christians. If you never get angry, it’s likely you don’t love—or at least, not agápē. But uncontrolled anger leads to uncontrolled destruction, which God never does. He clearly has some sort of emotions (else Jesus can’t be an “exact representation”), but he always does the right thing, not in spite of his emotions (or whatever you want to call them), but because they are being acted on appropriately. C.S. Lewis talks about the matter of right sentiment in The Abolition of Man.

  4. Lotharson, although I am no fan of John Shore (having been banned from his site for improper ‘tone’ – yet defended by a half dozen of his most notable commentators to always provide a valuable and stimulating viewpoint), I have to say I think you’ve missed the point of his post: it’s not to ‘hate’ right wing Christians but to clarify a vast disappointment in himself for being fooled into supporting a conservative Christian agenda that uses deception and misrepresentation to distort reality (which seems to have a rather pronounced liberal bias) and create a false controversy where there is none (does that sound like familiar tactics we’ve encountered before… cough*Crude*cough?).

    The ‘anonymous student’ did not present the context in which the questions were given but worked on behalf of this conservative Christian agenda (The Leadership Institute) by misrepresenting the quiz questions to be reflective of the institution’s support for supposed liberal and atheist teaching bias.

    The phrase ‘smelling a rat’ is a euphemism for discovering another agenda at work – usually a behind-the-scene motivation. Identifying this ‘rat’ to be someone working to promote a conservative Christian organization means identifying that the ‘anonymous student’ who complained did so for reasons to further this religious agenda. By pretending that no such motivation existed for the complainant is not just dishonest but intentionally omitted. This is underhanded and dishonest. That’s why John uses the words a ‘lowdown, lying, cheating’ rat. The university and the particular course was not promoting a liberal and atheist agenda. The quiz questions were about testing students to recall a psych book’s research contents. Rather than present what these quiz questions actually represented – findings from legitimate studies about test anxiety – fairly and honestly, the ‘anonymous student’ is the one manufacturing a controversy in order to manufacture a false image of a biased liberal teaching agenda. That’s why he calls the ‘controversy’ something brought about by a ‘lowdown, lying, cheating, right-wing Christian rat.” This description is accurate and not an expression of ‘hate’ at all..

    • and create a false controversy where there is none (does that sound like familiar tactics we’ve encountered before… cough*Crude*cough?).

      Calling out Tildeb’s idols and bishops on their lies = ‘dishonesty’ according to Tildeb. Naturally, I’ll ask him to provide any evidence whatsoever of this dishonesty.

      What are the odds he’ll suddenly go ‘responding to Crude is a bad idea so I won’t do that’?

      By the way, Tildeb – did you happen to look at the Campus Reform article?

      Where is the lie on the page?

      The university and the particular course was not promoting a liberal and atheist agenda. The quiz questions were about testing students to recall a psych book’s research contents.

      Do you realize that you can do both at the same time, Tildeb?

      As the Campus Reform site asks: “So would it be permissible to force blacks to take a class teaching that blacks would have a lower IQ than white people?” he said in an interview with Campus Reform.

      I came up with a hypothetical quiz question. If the stats presented are in the textbook or article, does that mean the question is completely unobjectionable and there’s nothing to question – particularly with regard to bias – regarding the professor, or even course?

    • Oh, by the way – a little bit more analysis of the ever-entertaining tildeb’s words:

      Identifying this ‘rat’ to be someone working to promote a conservative Christian organization means identifying that the ‘anonymous student’ who complained did so for reasons to further this religious agenda.

      And how do we know the student who complained ‘did so for reasons to further this religious agenda’, as opposed to, you know… simply thinking the questions were an example of bias?

      By pretending that no such motivation existed for the complainant is not just dishonest but intentionally omitted. This is underhanded and dishonest.

      Okay folks. Let’s take stock of a few things.

      Here’s the entirety of what Campus Reform had to say about the student:

      According to a student in the class who wished to remain anonymous, the question was a part of an online homework quiz. Students were required to complete a certain amount of quizzes throughout the course but were encouraged to finish all of them in order to prep for the final exam.

      “I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question, which is a sad thing,” the student told Campus Reform in a phone interview. “But how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ?”

      Psychology 1100 is a general education requirement class which can primarily be taught by an undergraduate teacher’s assistant.

      While the student said the quizzes were based on the textbook used in class, an OSU employee in the psychology department who wished to remain nameless said quizzes are oftentimes created by the teacher’s assistant.

      The employee added that the psychology department is “very open to talking with students” if they are worried about grading or a question on an exam.

      OSU explicitly prohibits discrimination on campus against any individual based on “age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, HIV status, or veteran status,” according to the university’s policy.

      “Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity,” the OSU student said. “If colleges really want to give everyone a fair shot, they should stay away from making comments about any religion.”

      So, let’s see…

      A) The student was anonymous. They said they think colleges have a liberal spin, and asked ‘how can you really measure which religion has a higher IQ’?

      B) The student said the quizzes were based on the textbook used in class – something Shore seems to present as being news to the student, and to CR as well.

      C) The student complained about anti-Christian bias, and said the colleges should ‘stay away from making comments about any religion’.

      From this, John Shore smells a dirty, low-down rat… and tildeb gleans that the student was underhanded and dishonest for not reporting his ‘agenda’. But the student expressed their views to Campus Reform, so if the agenda is ‘he thinks there’s anti-Christian/pro-liberal bias on campus’, that can’t be right. If there are other motivations, either tildeb is a mindreader or he has sources he’s not presenting.

      Adorable.

      And I ask again, this time with a new spin: if a quiz based on racial performance was worded as I stated, and someone complained while saying that ‘colleges should refrain from casting any race as having a higher or lower IQ than others’… would tildeb or John Shore be justified in calling them ‘a lying, low-down, cheating black rat’?

      Oh, and if they did… would I be justified in talking about their hate?

  5. By the way – something to keep in mind about Shore’s comment here:

    While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.

    Here’s the problem.

    The ‘uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue’… is not reflected in those questions.

    The questions and answers treat the topic as quite straightforward. Lothar already pointed out some of the problems and factors that can complicate those results – that ‘Christianity’ contains a diversity of ethnicities, groups and subgroups, etc, as would ‘atheists’.

    Come to think of it, just the way there’s not just ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ but a diversity of people in various different locations, cultures, and more.

    If those questions were qualified properly, then a quiz about the data could have been just fine. But the questions weren’t qualified properly – so here we are.

  6. While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.

    Well, maybe the book actually does that but those multiple choice questions are still ridiculously stupid – they are positively misleading instead of educational. If the question about Theo and Aine would be rephrased to include a “everything else being equal” and the “expect to be true” substituted by “more likely to be true” (with an explicit caveat about statistics and individuals) – it might be somewhat defensible (but still a terrible question).
    Who comes up with such BS? Some lazy TA maybe, but even that wouldn´t be an excuse if they publish it as part of a *textbook*, for that price, one could and should expect that someone competent reviews the questions before publication.

    • I’m pleasantly surprised by your impartiality here, Andy 🙂

      As I insinuated, for many people the underlying logic is that since (statistically speaking) atheists have a higher IQ than theists, then atheism is much likelier to be true.

      As I pointed out, the first problem is that they should compare the DIFFERENT FORMS of atheism and theism with each others before drawing such far-reaching conclusions.

      If one considered data from France and Germany, I surmised there would not be great IQ differences between agnostics, atheists, deists and evolutionary theists.

      • As I pointed out, the first problem is that they should compare the DIFFERENT FORMS of atheism and theism with each others before drawing such far-reaching conclusions.

        Even if they did that, this:
        1. John is smarter than Jim.
        2. John believes x to be true, Jim believes x to be false.
        3. Ergo, x is more likely to be true than false.
        => will never be logically valid reasoning (also not if you´d replace John and Jim by population samples). Intelligence per se does not translate to expertise about a particular question (if we knew that you have a significantly higher IQ than the population average and that would be all that we knew about you, than that per se wouldn´t tell us anything about how likely you are to be correct about a question regarding, say, astronomy – and someone with an average or even below average IQ but who also happens to be an amateur astronomer, would be a much better source on an astronomy question than you would be).

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