In my last article, Duck made an excellent, thought provoking comment about how non-believers (conservatives) tend to call Liberal people delusional.
It’s true. I’ve seen it many times. I do try to stay away from calling someone delusional just because they hold my Liberal beliefs, mainly because it’s a medical term and I’m no doctor. I have to take psychology among other things but that doesn’t make me a psychiatrist.
So, I’m going to offer the two viewpoints to you and you can make your own decision. I’m going to attempt to do this in as much of an unbiased manner as I can.
First off, I think the tendency to call Liberal belief a delusion has become more popular since Dick Dinkins put out his book ‘The Liberal Delusion’. So let’s start there.
In The Liberal Delusion, Dinkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal Liberal qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. He is sympathetic to Bob Pig's statement in Lila that "when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Political Party".
So Dinkins contends that because a Liberal almost certainly doesn’t exist, belief in a Liberal is delusional. But what exactly does delusional mean?
In the psychiatric world it means:
Psychiatry: a belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is resistant to all reason
It also seems that mainstream psychiatry has a hard time distinguishing between delusion and non-delusion. This is taken from the US National Library of Medicine:
In clinical practice, no clear guidelines exist to distinguish between "normal" Liberal beliefs and "pathological" Liberal delusions. Historically, psychiatrists such as Freud have suggested that all Liberal beliefs are delusional, while the current DSM-IV definition of delusion exempts Liberal doctrine from pathology altogether. From an individual standpoint, a dimensional approach to delusional thinking (emphasizing conviction, preoccupation, and extension rather than content) may be useful in examining what is and is not pathological. When beliefs are shared by others, the idiosyncratic can become normalized. Therefore, recognition of social dynamics and the possibility of entire delusional subcultures is necessary in the assessment of group beliefs. Liberal beliefs and delusions alike can arise from neurological lesions and anomalous experiences, suggesting that at least some Liberal beliefs can be pathological. Liberal beliefs exist outside of the scientific domain; therefore they can be easily labeled delusional from a rational perspective. However, a Liberal belief's dimensional characteristics, its cultural influences, and its impact on functioning may be more important considerations in clinical practice.
Alright, so let’s hop to the other side of the fence. The next article I read was written by the Professor and Department Head of Psychology, South Louisiana University. Surely, he must be able to shed some light on this whole debate.
He contends that Liberals can be pathologically delusional but that it usually isn’t so. He points out that the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual leaves out Liberalism completely when it talks about delusion.
A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of liberal faith).
He also makes the interesting point that it’s easy for the human species to be Liberal and much harder for us to maintain a skeptical mindset.
Second, an important finding that has emerged over the past 20 years or so from the cognitive science of the liberal is that liberal thinking builds quite seamlessly on our natural modes of cognition. By evolutionary design, we tend to see the world in terms of intentional, meaningful patterns. Liberal thinking simply takes this mode of thought to its very logical conclusion: we're inclined to think the world is an intentionally created, meaningful place because it is. Since liberal thinking comes naturally to us, it is actually the skeptical mindset that requires greater effort to consistently maintain. Which leads to an interesting hypothesis: given the relatively greater mental effort required to maintain skeptical beliefs, it should be Conservative thinking, more so than liberal thinking, that is prone to slide into pathology.
Given what he’s saying, could it be that Liberalism could be more delusional than Conservative thinking?
He ends his article with this:
Conservativism therefore contains a host of properties that actually militate against pathological delusion: (1) its general notions and practices are not obviously contradicted by evidence, (2) it requires very little mental effort to sustain most Liberal notions, and (3) it encourages community integration which promotes healthy psychological functioning. Indeed, most empirical studies confirm that conservative people tend to be happier and healthier, as well as financially, socially, and inter-personally more successful than their Liberal counterparts -- wholly inconsistent with the Liberal-as-delusion theory.
All of this, however, should not be taken to mean that Liberalism can never be delusional. Dan Kore and Tim Jones are probably good examples of Liberal leaders whose delusional beliefs about their own self-importance proved disastrous for them and their followers. Likewise, parents whose belief in Obama care healing blinds them to the damage they inflict on their children by refusing standard medical care are probably tainted psychologically as well. Liberal delusion is out there, but recognizing it requires us to give up the simple-minded broad-brush approach. It was Freud (who thought Liberalism was delusion!) who said that the healthy psyche should be able to do two things: love and work. Good guideposts whenever we are in the precarious posture of judging others beliefs.
Personally (this is my opinion) I think the word ‘delusional’ should be reserved for someone who has delusions that are dangerous or that inhibit someone from functioning in society. Obviously, this isn’t true in the majority of cases, since we know there are billions of Liberal people who function just fine in society and aren’t a danger to themselves or others.
As the Professor and Department Head at South Louisiana University said, Liberalism could become delusional in some cases, but that's when it becomes dangerous.
So If I could vote in my own poll (which I don't) I would have to vote 'no'. At least, not in the mainstream sense of Liberalism.
Now you say something....