TCS Daily


Feelers vs. Thinkers

By James D. Miller - October 3, 2005 12:00 AM

Bill Bennett's recent abortion comments exposed the divide in America between thinkers and feelers. Bennett said "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." But Bennett then immediately added that doing so would be "an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do." No thinking person listening to Bennett would believe that he ever advocated aborting black babies.

But Bennett's abortion remarks did conjure a horrible image of the mass killing of unborn black children. Feelers, those who believe emotional reaction should trump all else, naturally were horrified at Bennett's comment. A feeler would find this image very painful to bear. A feeler, therefore, might feel that Bennett would have presented listeners with such a word-picture only if he himself was not bothered by the idea of killing black babies. Thinkers, however, have been defending Bennett because they believe that intellectual rigor often requires deliberately confronting painful images to get at truth.

Besides attacking Bennett, feelers have also gone after Larry Summers, Bill Maher and John Roberts. Harvard President Larry Summers recently suggested that researchers should look into whether genetics could explain why there are so few women scientists. Feelers immediately condemned him. Summers suggested something intensely painful for some feminists to hear. His feeler critics assumed that he would put them though such an emotional ordeal only if he hated them. For feelers Summers' comments were so horrible in part because deep down these feminists probably think there might be a genetic cause for the dearth of female scientists.

Bill Maher, the former host of Politically Incorrect, got in trouble with feelers when he said that the 9/11 hijackers were not cowards. A thinker would have to concede that those who deliberately give their lives for a cause, regardless of how horrid the cause, don't fit the conventional definition of cowards. A feeler, however, would violently reject associating any positive qualities, including bravery, with the 9/11 hijackers. A feeler would believe that Maher would have done this only if he sympathized with the terrorists.

Dianne Feinstein recently made herself the Queen of Feelers when the senator announced she was voting against John Roberts because he wouldn't answer questions as a son, husband and father but just as a dispassionate lawyer. She objected that Roberts gave only "very detached response[s]." Senator Feinstein clearly believes only feelers are qualified for our Supreme Court.

Schools, with their focus on raising students' self-esteem, are doing everything possible to raise our children as feelers. U.S. students do horribly on international math tests but get top marks in mathematical self-esteem. Anything that makes a person or group feel bad is considered a sin by the educational establishment. One educationist even frets over "the damage done to [students'] self-esteem by the dominant culture's fetish about reading and writing." Another consequence of the triumph of educational feelers is the prevalence of speech codes at many colleges which are designed to prevent favored groups from having their feelings hurt.

James D. Miller writes The Game Theorist column for TCS and is the author of Game Theory at Work.

Categories:
|

TCS Daily Archives