I feared the worst the first time a couple of religion graduate students approached me regarding the new focus on religion at the Social Science Research Council. At first, when contacted by e-mail, I was somewhat excited, and thought that maybe it could provide research support for scholars doing actual social scientific research on religion. But, when I hooked up with a couple of the boys at ASA that year, I immediately began to worry. I thought to myself, Why is someone from the Graduate Theological Union running something at SSRC? Back in the day, SSRC provided a lot of support for real research, most of it comparative and historical. Maybe they still do that so long as you aren’t trying to study religion.
For religion, the SSRC seems to have become yet another foxhole for liberal religious people who like to muse about various things and rag on atheists. They had an entire fucking segment on redefining secularism, and as near as I could gather from the fuzzy thinking by various religious types, they wanted to redefine secularism into religion. Wow! That’s Great! What the fuck kind of “social science” is that? Religion people are like germs, they infect things and take over. The SSRC transformation is right in line with the cooptation of other scholarly organizations by religious entrepreneurs. They’re well networked, willing to volunteer, and they lack other employment opportunities. They’ve put together a few interesting things which were genuinely social scientific (for the most part), and I’ve even contributed a couple of posts. But, the vast majority of contributions are nothing short of theological drivel, with no social scientific import or content. Most of the segments and featured books are works by theologians, bullshit philosophers (theologians who are no longer employed in divinity schools), and English professors (theologians who don’t even know anything about theology). On the rare occasion that a sociologist or political scientist addresses an issue at the Immanent Frame, it is almost always someone who thinks “scientific” and “empirical” are epithets.
What bugs me is what coulda, woulda, shoulda happened at SSRC. They don’t have the bucks of some of the conservative foundations like Pew and Templeton, but maybe they could have at least countered some of the bullshit that passes for social scientific research. Just recently, real researchers once again showed that right-wing nutcase christianist pseudoscholars made up analyses claiming to show adverse effects of abortion on women’s health. The christianists benefit from a huge wad of money funding their fake research, and a gigantic megaphone touting their fictitious findings—which even influenced recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion. The real researchers did it on their own dime, and the “press release” from UCSF was only picked up on a WaPo blog by chance, months after the article appeared in Social Science and Medicine. In the meantime, the right wing pundit classes are now drooling over the latest bullshit fake studies from rightwing tools claiming to show that the decline in women’s submission to their husbands created the rise in inequality in the United States. In the meantime, over at SSRC’s Immanent Frame, the feature is how liberal education is like soulmaking (huh? I didn’t know science had discovered souls!), and the mediation of culture and nature (huh?). Wow. SSRC is now using scarce resources to tout wackjob theology that looks like something cooked up as a parody by Alan Sokal. Thanks.