Ruth Johnson on Sci Fi and the Culture Wars

There is a new post up at the Superversive blog you might find interesting. It touches on the psychology of the Culture Wars, using the Hugo Kerfuffle surrounding the Sad Puppies as an example.


Part One:  What Forces Drive the SciFi Culture Wars?

Q: In the Afterword to your new book, you suggest that ideas about personality might help us understand “culture wars” by showing how the sides just see the world differently.  What do you mean by “personality-based worldviews”? 

A: The thesis of Re-Modeling the Mind is that our brains can’t process all of the information that comes at us constantly, so each brain organizes itself around more limited options, depending on the neural strengths it already has. When we talk about “personality” we mean these limitations and abilities, which are usually clearly visible when we watch each other. We know ourselves this way, too. We know there are things we simply can’t take in, or if we can take in the facts, we can’t manage them to make decisions. There are things we pay close attention to, and other things we just can’t be bothered with. Personality is this very real neural patterning that filters the world so that it’s manageable.

But this means that our personalities also limit and even blind us to things other people can perceive and manage. We’re all in the same physical world, in the sense that we agree on where the objects are, so that we can avoid running into them. But at a more complex level, we really don’t all live in the same world. Our personalities can have such root-level different views of the world that we can barely have conversations. This is what I’d call a personality-based worldview.

I’m not a science-fiction reader, and I’d never heard of the Hugos until this year. But watching the ferocity of the battles made me feel convinced that at least some of this culture war is provoked by a clash of personality-based worldviews. In other words, probably the leaders and many supporters of each faction share some personality traits so that they all “live” in a similar world. In each faction’s “world,” its values are not only sensible but the only possible ones. Or if not the only possible ones, the only morally right or safe ones. This is why it’s so hard to have a conversation. It’s self-evident to each faction that its values are right, and the arguments offered by the other faction hold no water in their worldview. A lot of people on both sides feel that if So and So wins a prize, moral right or wrong will be rewarded

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