Tyler Cowen hypothesizes a “dogmatism portfolio” or a “quota of dogmatism”: in his words,
If you’re very dogmatic in one area, you may be less dogmatic in others.
OK, well “may be” is pretty vague. There’s not really anything to disagree with, yet. But then Cowen continues:
There’s a lesson here. If you wish to be a more open-minded thinker, adhere to some extreme and perhaps unreasonable fandoms, the more firmly believed the better and the more obscure the area the better. This will help fulfill your dogmatism quota, yet without much skewing your more important beliefs.
He seems to be making a testable prediction here, that levels of dogmatism on two randomly chosen issues should be negatively correlated. I guess I should call this “almost testable,” as it still requires an issue-by-issue measure of dogmatism. (Is it dogmatic to believe that there was this guy called Jesus who walked on water . . . or is it dogmatic to say that Jesus didn’t walk on water and that you’re right and 2 billion Christians are wrong? And so forth.)
In case you’re wondering, my guess is that, if you do manage to reasonably define “dogmatism” on a variety of issues, and if you do manage to measure these on a bunch of people, I suspect that dogmatism on different issues will be positively, not negatively correlated. That is, I think Cowen is wrong.
Yes, I realize that Cowen’s hypothesis fits various stories of people who were disillusioned by religion and transferred their allegiance to Communism, or ex-communists who found religion, etc etc etc. Still, I’m gonna go with the psychometric principle taught to me many years ago by Don Rubin, which is that (almost) all test scores are positively correlated with each other.
Remember: Psychometrics is the most underrated science.
P.S. It’s possible Cowen is kidding. I say this because he concludes the blog with the statement, “I believe in portfolio models of dogmatism very very strongly,” which, in combination of the above, suggests that he’s just holding this view in order to feel less dogmatic elsewhere. I don’t know if Cowen is kidding, though, so I’ll take his post seriously.
P.P.S. Cowen has more here. I continue to be completely and utterly skeptical of his hypothesis.