The 10th anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone. Leftist liberals everywhere all seemed determined to make the worst possible interpretations of the U.S. response since that historic day. It was a pathetic display. It's rhetoric like that which has led to my becoming an Independent. I no longer identify with Democrats. I feel pushed to the center and now see myself as a moderate centrist. I'm simply appalled at the extremes of the left, just as I am at the extremes of the right.

When we receive new information, the obvious response is to adjust, if necessary. The information can open – or close – our minds, depending on how we interpret it. An unbiased person will scrutinize the information for validity and judge it accordingly. A biased person is more likely to spin the data to suit his preexisting ideas or even reject it out of hand. Perhaps the most common cause of bias is ideology. Whether it be political, religious, cultural or whatever: ideology can act like a camera filter through which new information can be tinted or even polarized.

Ideologies are seductive. Even scientists can have their objectivity compromised by ideology. Confirmation bias is an all too human tendency that can also afflict scientists. Political, religious, philosophical and economic biases can also affect scientists (consciously or not). Within their own disciplines, reductionism, aesthetics, metaphysics and other presuppositions can skew findings or interpretations of them. Fortunately, science has the scientific method (peer review, repeatable experiments, etc.) to weed out such errors.

If even scientifically disciplined professionals are subject to ideological bias, then who is really safe from it? Would less disciplined laymen be even more prone to it? To answer my own question: Yes – judging by what I read, online, from (alleged) freethinkers in blogs and forums.

Politically, freethinkers are predominantly liberal. From what I can discern, they seem more likely than others to exhibit ideological bias because liberals are, by and large, idealists. They push for change to realize their ideals: how society should or ought to be. One important liberal ideal is equality (inclusion). It was liberals who heralded reforms to include women and minorities (religious, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, etc.) as equals. Idealism can lead to wonderful reforms but not every issue is always amenable to idealism.

If all religions, nations, people, species, lifestyles, etc., are equal and to be included, then values become, in effect, relative. Because of this tendency to ignore or deny differences, liberal thinking leads to accommodationism, multiculturalism and a bias for political underdogs (and against the prevailing powers). All too often, decisions aren’t based solely on the available information: instead, they’re filtered through the lens of liberal ideology. Instead of evaluating issues in terms of merit, the idealism of liberals leads them to evaluate issues in terms of ideals. As thus practiced, the most significant difference between merit and ideals is bias.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more how liberal idealism – being liberal for liberal’s sake – causes bad decisions. It’s why I’ve moved right, to the political center. Differences must be addressed on their real merits. This doesn’t mean you forsake your ideals. It means your ideals will mislead decisions if they take precedence over the merits of political realities. You can recognize when idealism has ignored political realities by the backlash that eventually follows, such as: reverse discrimination and the end of Affirmative Action; multiculturalism and bans on burqas and mosque spires.

As a centrist, I believe there’s a time to be conservative and a time to be liberal and that these times are determined by the merits of the political realities involved. For instance: nobody wants civilian casualties in the pursuit of the war on terrorism. Should we quit the war to avoid such casualties? Of course not! If we value our way of life, there is no alternative but to deal forcefully with terrorists. We can try our utmost to avoid civilian casualties but we need to acknowledge that they will nonetheless occur. It doesn’t help that terrorists use civilians as human shields, so the fair share of blame should go to those who callously endangered the civilians in the first place. The truth is that terrorists have been known to gun down civilians who flee neighborhoods used as human shields. You can’t hide behind civilians who run away.

Everything is NOT relative. The deaths on 9/11 are distinctly different from the deaths incurred in the war on terrorism. Civilians were intentionally targeted by Al Qaeda BECAUSE they were civilians. The U.S. military and those of other countries target combatants only. Collateral damage and civilian deaths are not desirable to us. Let’s get real here. If terrorists stopped trying to destabilize governments by attacking their civilian citizens, the war on terror would be over.

The war on terror is an example of where liberal idealism is not generally a good idea and where harsh realities must be accepted. However, there are times, even in war, when liberal ideals are needed, such as in the treatment of prisoners and the methods used to interrogate them. It’s a matter of balance. Ideals and merit.

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Comment by Robert Karp on September 12, 2011 at 10:38am

I agree with most points in your article I think even us idealists need to be rationalists as well.

However the debate that will go on through history as most likely will remain unresolved will be the debate on what is a "just war".  On this point, I have and always will differ with conservatives as well as many respected centrists such as Hitchens. In my opinion only, the war in Iraq did not have to to with the war on terror. It was a preemptive war of aggression and vengeance and to me, that is not a just war regardless of the track record of the dictator we overthrew. I do not wish to get into a debate about this. We will always have differing opinions and that is fine.


The other piece that I think is over looked are the implications of the historical foreign policy of the United States and why we are now facing a war on terror. Actions lead to reactions.  If we can not take ownership and have an understanding to why we even needed to have a war on terror then we will never learn.


Let us be clear; I am not saying nor ever have said or ever will say I condone terrorism or that we should not hold terrorists accountable for their actions. I am saying it is more than a black and white issue. More than a war on terror by any means necessary and that the "collateral damage" as a result is a necessary evil. That is not good enough.



Comment by dataguy on September 12, 2011 at 11:28am

"Everything is NOT relative."

Centrism, by definition, is relative.  The Right has moved so much further right in recent years, so a Centrist would have to move to the right as well, to stay in the center.  To me, that's not a good idea.


I believe in being a realist, which takes from the full spectrum of options.  Give me sound logic and reason for political policies, and I'll support it 100%.  I don't see sound logic and reason on the Right.

Comment by Atheist Exile on September 12, 2011 at 3:13pm

@Robert Karp,


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  As I've said before in other posts, the war in Iraq was about securing the uninterrupted flow of oil from the Gulf region.  Plus it was a chance for Jr. to make Sr. proud. :-)

I don't expect ANY government to make wise choices in all places at all times.  This does not excuse U.S. foreign interventionism.  I consider it a learning experience and that we (hopefully) learn to be up front about our intentions.  For instance, President Bush should have simply stated that it was essential to our national interests to secure the Gulf region from the threat of Saddam's aggression.  People can understand self-preservation and protecting our way of life.

Comment by Atheist Exile on September 12, 2011 at 3:24pm

HI Dataguy,

Please refer me to your source for the assertion that "Centrism, by definition, is relative".  I see it as cautious of undue influence from ideology: an approach that evaluates issues on a case by case basis.  You're correct about the right getting more extreme but I fail to see why this means the centrist must therefore move to the right.  I, for instance, abhor the extremes of the right even more than the left.  I feel bereft of my old Democrat party and without any acceptable alternative.  I guess I'm an independent. I must decide based on my own ideas of governance.

And yes, I too believe in being a realist (which is exactly what I've advocated in other recent posts) as opposed to an idealist.  When I was young, it was the other way around.  Maybe I'm just tired of tilting against windmills.

Comment by dataguy on September 12, 2011 at 3:38pm

Centrist = central = center.  The center moves in relation to the end points.  Maybe you do mean "Moderate" or "Independent", they are completely different.  A Centrist would try to appeal to both ends of the spectrum equally.  To do that today would qualify as insanity.


This is a pet peeve of mine, but that's in another thread.

Comment by Pierre H. Vachon on September 12, 2011 at 6:17pm

"If even scientifically disciplined professionals are subject to ideological bias, then who is really safe from it?"


FYI - this is where the scientific, naturalist method comes in big time, including peer-review and skepticism-driven independent verification of data ... Hence why this method is not only self-correcting but furthermore acts as a "guardian" against ideology, bias, belief, etc.


I think that people have to understand what an actual scientist is - and that is definitely not anyone who claims to be. Hence, you need to get a PhD in an actual scientific discipline, and do actual research and regularly publish in peer-reviewed, recognized scientific journals. That makes you a scientist. Anything less than these three criteria together makes you not one - and it is largely such people that give the impression that "even scientists can have their objectivity compromised by ideology" ....

Comment by Atheist Exile on September 12, 2011 at 10:59pm

@Pierre H Vachon,

Scientists are human.  That's one of the many reasons for peer review and repeatable experiments.  I didn't address the scientific method at all.  Only human fallibility, such as bias, in scientists.  Don't read more into my words than I say and don't put words in my mouth.

Comment by Atheist Exile on September 12, 2011 at 11:05pm










1. (especially in continental Europe) a member of a political party of the Center; moderate.


2. of or pertaining to centrists or to their political views; middle-of-the-road.


Comment by Becca on September 12, 2011 at 11:37pm

Thanks for a good read I always enjoy your posts.


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