REQUIRED READING: “The New Phrenology”

Fundamentalists resent liberals’ smugness.  Fundamentalist intellectuals, especially, have long chafed at their opponents’ equation of conservatism with ignorance and isolation.   In the Scopes Trial of 1925, celebrity anti-evolutionist William Jennings Bryan–former Secretary of State, holder of multiple earned and honorary college degrees–protested that he had met with “kings, emperors, and prominent public men,” but he had never been called an “ignoramus . . . by anyone except an evolutionist.”  Until his dying day, Bryan maintained a protest membership in the staunchly pro-evolution American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bryan and the man who called Bryan an "ignoramus."This week we have a new articulation of this fundamentalist tradition.  In a scathing piece in this week’s The Weekly Standard, editor Andrew Ferguson tees off on liberal “psychopundits” who use questionable social-science research to prove “that Republicans are heartless and stupid.”

The first of Ferguson’s targets is journalist and academic Thomas Edsall.  In a March article in the New York Times, Edsall summed up a handful of research studies that prove that richer people tend to pooh-pooh poor people’s problems.  Ferguson takes Edsall to task for wrapping his punditry in a hazy gauze of shady research.

Ferguson also attacks writer Chris Mooney.  Not surprisingly, Ferguson was offended by the premise of Mooney’s new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality.  As with Edsall, Ferguson blasts Mooney’s “wide-eyed acceptance of this social science, no matter how sloppy or ideologically motivated.”

As with other conservative intellectuals, what seems to gall Ferguson the most is the combination of ignorance and intellectual snobbery.  On one hand, liberals, evolutionists, and other anti-fundamentalists lambaste conservatives for attacking “Science.”  On the other, those same anti-fundamentalists often misuse or misunderstand the very science they claim to be supporting.

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