Is the Academy liberal?

By Razib Khan | July 14, 2007 3:20 pm

I think the answer to the question posed in the title is “Yes.” But I’m more interested in the break down of disciplines. Below the fold is some data I’ve collated.


Source:
polA.jpg
Source:
polB.jpg
Source:
polC1.jpg
polC2.jpg

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
  • Benjamin Franz

    They come to to conclusion that American academia favors liberal over conservatives by crossing the conservative/liberal analysis with an ‘academic achievement index’. But their ‘academic achievement index’ is flawed in that it essentially measures number of publications, conferences attended and the amount of time spent doing research. It is like the problem in programming of identifying ‘good’ programmers as those who write many lines of code: Quantity is not the same as Quality.
    They should have added H-index to it. I have no idea whether it would help or hurt their thesis. But ‘line counting’ is clearly not a good metric. 400 articles on the number of hairs on the legs of fleas that no one references are not a ‘better’ achievement than 1 groundbreaking article on the developmental biology of insects that everyone references.

  • jeffk

    The notion that there should be some kind of political “balance” in the academy is false and completely relative to whatever the major parties happen to be up to. The academy is about pursuit of knowledge, sound science, using that knowledge and scientific discover to progress our society – things political conservatives are generally against. The very philosophy of conservatism is at odds with the goals of academic pursuits. Furthermore, most professors, but particularly those in engineering and science, could easily make more money in private industry but choose not to out of principle – good luck finding a conservative who would sacrifice his earning potential to teach students.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    we have a conservatologist in the house?

  • cuchulkhan

    “The academy is about pursuit of knowledge, sound science, using that knowledge and scientific discover to progress our society – things political conservatives are generally against.”
    Larry Summers? The Blank Slate?
    The goal of scientists, engineers etc, is largely apolitical, their political views are of little relevance – they don’t have a blatant means of stuffing them into their students minds. On the other hand the views of the wordsmith intellectuals do matter, the true goal of the humanities being to understand, not ‘progress’ society (whatever that means). They indoctrinate.
    Anyway, history at 9.1 was disappointing. I don’t care about bulls**ty ‘disciplines’ like ‘fine arts’ or ‘sociology’, but history is interesting and important. Looking over the research interests of modern historians is pretty depressing, dominated by Foucaultish crap about gender identities, sexuality, gays and criminals. Have they heard of opportunity cost?
    The thing to take away from all this – people are status seeking sheep.

  • Colugo

    Conservatism is antialtruism and liberalism is pseudoaltruism.
    Just kidding.
    Actually, I think these associations reflect the fact that the adherents of some disciplines tend to be more ideological than others for historical, pedagogical, and other reasons. The prevailing winds of political fashion as determined by cultural tastemakers (culture creators) are reflected in the dominant ideologies in those disciplines.
    The actual content of those ideologies is perhaps less important than the fact that academics in those disciplines tend to be attuned to them and use them to enhance their social networks and social capital. Just like religion, scientific paradigms, clothing, music, and preferred brands of gadgets. In short, anything that can be a platform for identification and posturing. I would expect that those in the (currently) liberal disciplines are more in touch with the latest trends in cuisine, personal accessories, and spiritual/self-improvement fads than the B-school and engineering types. (Look at the now-tiresome PC vs Mac ads.)
    For example, early in the 20th c. the philosophical-ideological fads of organicism/holism and blood and soil romanticism were rife in art, biology, history, and anthropology in a number of countries.
    And before political nonconformists in these fields congratulate themselves, they ought to consider that perhaps they are just following a frequency-dependent strategy.

  • jeffk

    The goal of scientists, engineers etc, is largely apolitical, their political views are of little relevance
    Perhaps you should ask some climatologists what they think of conservatives these days – or any other scientist that can’t get funding because their research doesn’t directly increase the bottom line of an oil company. You’ll find out pretty quickly how apolitical their existence is.

  • jeffk

    To add, conservatives are – by definition – a ball and chain to progress, be it academic or otherwise. Imagine an academy without progress, that is, one run by conservatives. Newton would still be, from the grave, trying to convince us that physics isn’t the work of the devil, sociologists would be fighting over whether or not various minorities had things pretty rough because they were genetically inferior, psychologists would still be considering whether to keep homosexuality on the list of mental disorders, biologists would be trying to figure out evolution would linking us to monkeys, and theater departments would still be doing nothing but Shakespeare because everything new had too much sex in it. Yeah, that’s a pretty picture alright.
    we have a conservatologist in the house?
    Thanks for contributing.

  • TGGP

    or any other scientist that can’t get funding because their research doesn’t directly increase the bottom line of an oil company.
    Cite? I actually haven’t seen much data on funding for climate research, so I’d be interested to see some. My guess is that it has been relatively stable.

  • jeffk

    To clarify, those were two different points: climate research gets shat on or ignored by conservatives, other research doesn’t get funded.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com Agnostic

    Meanwhile liberals are happy to fund research that will sort out the genetic and environmental contributions to variance in outcomes on, say, IQ tests — whether that’s between individuals or *gulp* between populations. Or anything else — personality, height (maybe), dancing skill, or what have you.
    Gauss, Euler, and Von Neumann were more conservative than anything you could dream of in the present. And math is the most imaginative of the sciences, those three figures having pioneered / invented a huge chunk of modern math after calculus.
    Seriously dude, you should write an Op-Ed for the WSJ. They love cartoons.

  • http://www.rishon-rishon.com David Boxenhorn

    The real business of the academy is impressing your peers. That’s also the goal of “liberalism”. No wonder there’s a correlation.

  • cuchulkhan

    How anybody can read ‘The Selfish Gene’ and remain a leftist is beyond me.
    agnostic – maybe at the extremes of accomplishment there is less incentive to act like the herd.

  • http://www.idiocentrism.com John Emerson

    This comes up over and over again. It’s normally used as an accusation against the university, but it seems that conservatives might bother to look at what conservativism has become. By and large, fundamentalist Christianity and neo-Confederate sympathies are not conducive to intellectual accomplishment. The most conservative social scientists are economists, but Bush conservativism flouts economics except in its cargo-cult Laffer curve form. Another branch of conservative academics is in international relations, but Bush conservativism is pretty discredited in that area too. Global warming denialism is also dogma in the Republican Party. And one big chunk of the Republican demographic (Country Club Republicans) is almost exclusively interested in short term issues affecting them personally.
    I understand that the center of gravity here is right libertarianism, out of sorts with both parties, but there are pretty good reasons why not many academics are Republicans or, in the contemporary sense of the term, conservatives. Likewise, I realize that the heritability of IQ and g is the most important political and intellectual issue ever for many people here, but there’s a lot of other stuff of interest going on in the intellectual and political worlds, and the GNXP consensus on those issues can’t be regarded as proven. There are also excellent political and historical reasons why a lot of people are hostile to racial realism, and the GNXP approach to politics hasn’t really served to reassure people that the scientific ideas are harmless.

  • cuchulkhan

    Social scientists like Charles Murray who actually collect data rather than pontificating marxism come to conservative conclusions. Reality is overwhelmingly conservative, which is why there are way more conservatives in the real world than in these secular monasteries.

  • John Emerson

    Bullshit, Cuchulkan. If you find that belief comforting, fine.

  • jeffk

    Agnostic, I don’t see your point. Should academic curiosity be bounded?
    The real business of the academy is impressing your peers. That’s also the goal of “liberalism”. No wonder there’s a correlation.
    Well, that’s completely out of left field with nothing to back it up whatsoever.
    How anybody can read ‘The Selfish Gene’ and remain a leftist is beyond me.
    Understanding evolution should make us conservative? Please, do tell!
    Reality is overwhelmingly conservative, which is why there are way more conservatives in the real world than in these secular monasteries.
    Yeah, religious belief has a lot to do with reality all right. Using “secular” as an insult means you belong back in the middle ages, or in the middle east. Which would you prefer, by the way?
    Truly, this blog is the only one on ScienceBlogs populated by conservatives, and I can see why – they’ve been easily run off everywhere else because they don’t put out lines of reasoning, only make absurd claims.

  • Daniel Dare

    How anybody can read ‘The Selfish Gene’ and remain a leftist is beyond me.
    Posted by: cuchulkh
    How anybody can write ‘The Selfish Gene’ and remain a leftist is beyond me. ;-)
    “The Selfish Gene’s basic theme – that we are prisoners of our DNA – was also seized by free-marketeers who thought it somehow backed their beliefs about laissez-faire economics and who suspected the rather arrogant-looking Dawkins might be one of their own. They were to be quickly disabused. Dawkins is a liberal to his core. In the US he had worked for Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign, and had taken part in anti-war marches. Nor have his views been diluted. He retains a hatred of President Bush (that now encompasses Tony Blair) which he has outlined in streams of anti-war letters to newspapers.”
    Link

  • John Emerson

    The American terms “liberal” and “conservative” are almost useless for political analysis, except as designating contemporary tactical groupings. “Moderate” and “independent” are useless too. “Libertarian” has some meaning, but it only describes a tiny sliver of opinion.
    There are about 5 or more dimensions of analysis which don’t coincide.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com Agnostic

    I’ll be frank jeffk: you’re an idiot, and I’m done arguing with you. You do nothing to back up your claims either — you only define conservatives to be a certain way and show how it follows that they are anti-intellectual. That’s called begging the question. I do hereby declare liberalism to be exactly what you defined conservatism to be, and thus why liberals are anti-intellectual — see how easy it is!
    I provided a clear counter-example to the claim that conservatives are anti-intellectual (and similar figures from other fields aren’t hard to find). Since you don’t know dick about math (no surprise), you may not realize the stature of the three individuals I mentioned. Look them up. The point is that if conservatism is so anti-intellectual, glaring counter-examples of conservative geniuses shouldn’t be so easy to find.
    The reason is that “conservative” is a vague term, which people will define as suits their purposes in such debates. I don’t doubt that there is some correlation between Openness to Experience (a personality trait) and something like conservative outlook, but your cartoon version makes it sound like it’s +1.00, and that conservatives are… well, what your caricature said. It’s just as moronic as cartoon versions of liberalism.
    I’m socially semi-conservative, but politically and economically farther left than everyone in this discussion, I’d bet. My roots are left-anarchist, and I’ve changed my views on plenty of things, but a lot of that still remains. Cartoon conservatives exist, but not in academia — there are plenty of conservatives who would thrash you in a debate, since you’d vastly underestimate their knowledge, assuming them to be evangelical or neo-con retards.
    The only way you can avoid that is to shelter yourself and/or stick to ideas that are utterly uncontroversial among anyone with a brain: evolution vs creationism, global warming vs none, etc. Those are battles for little boys (although I grant global warming is important to get across to the public, it’s of little importance when talking to fellow academics). If you pursued a grown-up topic, you’d get your ass handed to you.

  • Colugo

    Agnostic: “variance in outcomes on, say, IQ tests — whether that’s between individuals or *gulp* between populations.”
    There you go again. And so soon after the embarrassment of ASPM and microcephalin, which were supposed to provide genetic proof for the “race realist” position. Those hopes were dashed just months ago.
    cuchulkhan: “How anybody can read ‘The Selfish Gene’ and remain a leftist is beyond me.”
    Well, how about writing The Selfish Gene then? Dawkins himself is a leftist. Trivers, who has contributed more to sociobiology (I mean, evolutionary ecology) than Dawkins, is even more left wing. And yes, there are also conservative and libertarian evolutionary theorists. Evolutionary thinking is not politically, philosophically, or even theologically prescriptive.
    John Emerson: “flouts economics except in its cargo-cult Laffer curve form.”
    I would not suggest that ScienceBlogger Mark Chu-Carroll endorses conservative economics. But at least he understands the Laffer curve concept, rather than snidely dismissing the whole field. Read his recent post on the controversy over the WSJ’s graph.
    jeffk: “they (conservatives) don’t put out lines of reasoning, only make absurd claims.”
    Yes, quite unlike all the liberals I’ve observed. (Sarcasm)

  • jeffk

    Let’s take a look at how I defined conservative:
    conservatives are – by definition – a ball and chain to progress
    And the dictionary definition: “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”
    Same thing. I’ve found that conservatives tend to be very slippery with their definition of conservative, and every time you show that one aspect of conservatism is bunk, they simply say, “well, sure, but no TRUE conservative thinks that” and yet again change the definition. What is your definition of conservative? How is it not antagonistic to the ideals of the academy, that is, progress and change? Additionally, how can you deny the recent tendency of conservatives to ignore and generally bend to their needs the work of science, one of the tenets of the academy?
    Turns out I know shit about math. I’m a physics grad student, so I’ve had plenty of it. I know who those people are. They are all in one field, math. In any case, certainly you can name off a list of people who happen to be academic and conservative – it’s right there in the statistics in the post, about 10% of academics are, by some miracle, conservative. It doesn’t deny the clear trend, nor does it deny the reasons for that trend. In particular, people doing math on its fringe are not doing work that interacts much with the day to day workings of society, and so it is no huge surprise to me that a small handful of them can be politically conservative. It proves little.
    Please, what grown-up topics are you thinking of? In all of my academic experience – liberal arts college, grad school, time with intellectually-minded friends, I can’t think of too many academic issues where prevailing minds think policy should be formulated conservatively.

  • John Emerson

    Gauss and Euler were from a past age. Their conservativism was like nothing in America except perhaps a few of the First Things people.
    Von Neumann was very hawkish and anti-Communist. Other than that I’m not sure how well he’d fit into contemporary conservativism.

  • Daniel Dare

    Academia tends to be liberal because careers depend on government funding so people support the party most likely to fund them. Then there is the issue of winning the respect of your peers in a community that is liberal, this is also a career issue.
    In the world outside academia, particularly the private sector, self-interest depends a lot more on keeping the government off your back so there is much more resistance to statist solutions.
    Of course these are the underlying agendas, these are not how people rationalize their positions to themselves and others. That argument is always far more idealistic. This is just PR. Of course my position is noble and rational. Who would admit otherwise?
    So I lean towards self-interest as the most-likely explanation of this pattern.

  • Colugo

    jeffk: “liberal arts college, grad school, … intellectually-minded friends, I can’t think of too many academic issues where prevailing minds think policy should be formulated conservatively.”
    If you had surveyed the “prevailing minds” of the intellectualoid demographic nearly a century ago, a lot of them would have embraced blood-and-soil organic nationalism. A couple decades later a good many of these types were Stalinists or fellow travelers, or as an alternative, Trotskyists. Later still, many of these wise men and women turned to Third World “liberation” movements (Mao, Castro), romanticism of preindustrial poverty and squalor, and greenish utopianism.
    History demonstrates the profound fallibility of the intellectual class. The prevailing, or at least plurality-enjoying, views of the literati / intelligentsia / academic set at any given time are not necessarily correct. And even when these views do happen to be creditable, it is not because the alleged smart set embraces them, but often, in spite of that.

  • cuchulkhan

    “bullshit”
    Damn good argument there John.
    Anyway most of my family is conservative in one way or another, the disposition is partly inherited, and (at least in my experience) is expressed in a profound suspicion of human beings and their real intentions.
    Here’s what I believe. I’m an atheist. I used to believe religion was useful and should be encouraged for the sake of social stability, but I am increasingly skeptical about whether it has much effect on behavior at all. Yet the religious account of human nature – original sin or whatever, dovetails with ‘tragic vision’ of evolutionary biology moreso than the blank slate/innate goodness accounts of the left.
    Behavior can be changed via an altered incentive structure. The incentive structure that leftists set up encourages the worst aspects of humanity to thrive. Eg. Free money for single mothers at once encourages men to sleep around and not work, women to have babies in socially irresponsible ways, and a dependency culture to emerge. This in turn contributes to rising crime and social decay, all because of one little tweak in the incentive structure. A rights based welfare state makes no sense, it contains the seeds of its own destruction, as humans are natural cheaters and will deceive the system if they can get away with it.
    Dawkins thinks we shouldn’t base morality on Darwinism, and I agree. But we still must recognize that what it says about human nature has profound political implications. I’ll let Steven Pinker’s off the chart verbal IQ explain this part:
    “The right therefore has an affinity for market economies, because people will always be more motivated to work for themselves and their families than for something called “society,” and because no planner has the wisdom, information, and disinterest to run an economy from the top down. A tough defense and criminal justice system are needed because people will eternally be tempted to take what they want by force, so only the prospect of sure punishment makes conquest and crime unprofitable. And since we are always teetering on the brink of barbarism, social traditions in a functioning society should be respected as time-tested workarounds for the shortcomings of an unchanging human nature, as applicable today as when they developed, even if no one can explain their rationale.”
    Evolutionary biology also confirms other conservative things – women looking after children, men working – societies will never develop true equality because a desire for status is innate and there will always be competition for the prettiest girls – men fight wars and are more expendable than women -
    I’m libertarianish, but only because I see it as an effective means to an end, not an end in itself. Before I discovered the truths about human nature I was an ideological technocrat libertarian, but since then my critique of modernity has become less technocratic and more philosophical and humanist. As Charles Murray has pointed out, the modern welfare state is terrible not because it creates perverse incentives or inefficient outcomes (and it does), but because it usurps life itself. By removing struggle and difficulty from life it takes away the elementary things that make life (ultimately) meaningful – family, work, social togetherness – all these are taken away from individuals and communities, and put in the hands of faceless bureaucrats, invisible bonds are broken.
    Colugo, Daniel
    Leftist evolutionary biologists can be explained by the human tendency to compartmentalize the world in their brain.

  • John Emerson

    Cuchulkhan: What I said was on an intellectual appropriate to what it was responding to.
    So I lean towards self-interest as the most-likely explanation of this pattern.
    You can say this, but another way to express it is to say that one reason why mathematicians, for example, are almost 5-to-1 liberal is that mathematicians believe that most conservatives are rabidly anti-intellectual.
    Another way to express this is to say that one reason why many scientists support off-market government spending is that government spending pays for a lot of good things that the market wouldn’t pay for. An almost unthinkable idea for many here, I know.
    The most interesting thing to me in this kind of data is that the most conservative groups are in the most practical ones: nursing, business, econ, and education.

  • http://www.rishon-rishon.com David Boxenhorn

    How is it not antagonistic to the ideals of the academy, that is, progress and change?
    I was going to ignore this thread as hopeless but that statement really got me angry. “Progress and change” are NOT “the ideals of the academy” – or should not be, in my opinion. On the contrary, the ideal of the academy should be the pursuit of truth – a highly conservative ideal – not changing the world.
    Really, the fact that the academy is pursing “progress and change” instead of truth encapsulates everything that is wrong with it.

  • http://www.idiocentrism.com John Emerson

    David, we’re at the end of a several-hundred year process of progress and change, in which the university played a major role. You are right that the ideal of Truth tends one toward the status quo, to the extent that Truth is regarded as given, but science is progressive in finding new truths and rejecting traditional pretenders to truth, and this progress has been linked to social progress.

  • cuchulkhan

    I’m not opposed to the government spending money on useful things like science, only to it subsidizing and encouraging bad behavior in individuals.

  • Caledonian

    How arrogant is it to presume that, since many societies have tended towards certain attitudes in the last fifty years or so, that movement towards those attitudes constitutes “progress”?

  • http://www.rishon-rishon.com David Boxenhorn

    John, I am not against progress and change. On the contrary! I agree with you 100% that as we learn more about truth we progress and change. What I object to is putting the cart before the horse: that’s a very good way to go backward. The pursuit of truth leads to progress and change. The pursuit of progress and change leads to totalitarianism, not truth.

  • jeffk

    Your point is taken that truth is ideally the pursuit. But discovering truth requires flexibility – consider, for example, the scientific method, in which theories are constantly being changed, updated, refined. How can one accomplish this if they begin by stating, “I’m anti-change”? Consider the examples I gave above as to how academic thought might look if we had conservatives in change. Further, it seems fair to point out that humanity has always progressed while pursuing truth, being led by the intellectuals of society. It’s fair to admit that exactly which direction forward isn’t always clear, but as I look back over the last 100 years or so, I’m pretty happy with where liberal intellectuals have taken us and I’m pretty glad everyone didn’t decide to simply stop changing things and be “conservative” in 1907.

  • Daniel Dare

    Science pursues truth. Arts used to be about beauty – aesthetics anyway.
    Truth is beauty to the right kind of mind. The ultimate beauty.

  • MarcZ

    There you go again. And so soon after the embarrassment of ASPM and microcephalin, which were supposed to provide genetic proof for the “race realist” position.
    Colugo,
    What “embarrassment?” ASPM wasn’t the home run for race realists that it could have been, but it was at least a double, in that it proved that human brains are are still evolving and have been since we left Africa. The argument that the well-documented differences in intelligence between the races can’t be genetic in origin because there hasn’t been time for genes influencing brain development to evolve and take hold in different human subpopulations can be laid to rest at last.

  • Colugo

    MarcZ: “The argument that the well-documented differences in intelligence between the races can’t be genetic in origin”
    That’s a one way to state that while there is no evidence that inter-population IQ differences are genetic in origin, it still could be the case. Sure, a lot of things could be the case. But when they keep getting dashed against the rocks of empirical reality, it makes one wonder.
    “hasn’t been time for genes influencing brain development to evolve and take hold in different human subpopulations can be laid to rest at last.”
    That was SJ Gould’s not-so-swift idea, I think, or at least he helped popularize it. Gould was correct on some positions (multilevel selection, the importance of heterochrony – even though he was wrong about humans being neotenic apes), and incorrect on others. (For example, his largely debunked “nonadaptive just-so stories”: kiwi egg size, avian tolerance of siblicide, human language, hyena pseudopenis etc. See Alcock and others for more.)
    There are better reasons for expecting general parity of genetic potential for g across continental populations (“races”) than Gould’s model.

  • Colugo

    Let me relabel that list of Gouldian foibles as “nonadaptationist just-so stories” – an important distinction.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    well, been away for a day. the thread didn’t degenerate as much as much as i thought it would have! i’m not going to close comments just yet ;-) two quick points
    1) it seems the height of conceit to assume that we can derive what the proper mapping of is to ought is, or implication is has for ought. the reason is that the functions which operate upon the relations from is to ought are constructed in large part from a large set of variant norms. what i’m saying is that conservatives and liberals (however you define them) may look to the same data and draw different ought conclusions simply because of the difference of their mapping functions.
    2) which of course brings me to what ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ mean. one’s perception of oneself is nuanced, but one’s perception of others is coarse. if one is a liberal one has particular ideas of what conservatives, ignoring variation or subtly within tha category, and inversely. this causes confusions and mistranslations in the discourse.
    3) these sorts of discussions must be conditioned upon the realities of coarseness and error in particular constructs and perceptions. e.g., there are a set of views which person 1 holds of person 2, and though there will be intersection between what 1 perceives of 2 and what 2 truly perceives, there will be a disjoint set between the perception of 1 of 2 and the avowal of 2. so making gross deterministic statements is pretty fucking dumb. (e.g., “conservatives are against progress, progress is the heart of scholarship,” or “science x natural leads to conservatism”). now, those who make those assertions might not think they are dumb, but in that case they really don’t have a place at my table and they can sit privately contemplating their own genius and perfect perception of the world.

  • Daniel Dare

    Of course scientific advancement requires both progressive change and conservate resistance to change. New discoveries must be accomodated, yet at the same time, the achievements of the past must not be lost.
    The vast majority of valid discoveries that science makes are never invalidated. And even when new theories are invented/discovered to be true, there are complex networks of “correspondence principles” to ensure that the old theory can still be recovered from the new theory as a special or limiting case. How else can you explain that the old theory seemed to work for so long? It had to be a good approximation to the truth over at least a certain domain.
    Hence such heuristics as: “the more extreme the claim the more extreme the proof”. Hence the Kuhnian paradigm shift. Resisted skeptically, cautiously up till the very last minute and then embraced as the new orthodoxy from the moment the key experiment(s) confirm it.
    Science is a dialectic between conservatism and radicalism.

  • Caledonian

    I find it interesting that so many people equate ‘progress’ with ‘change’. Progress is a specific subclass of change, change that moves a system closer to a pre-established ideal or goal. Identifying a change as ‘progress’ involves making a variety of assertions, and is difficult to do from a position of logical strength. There’s some question about whether even having generalized pre-established goals is a good and desirable thing.
    Conservativism (in the classic sense which has mostly be abandoned in modern American political discussion) is wary of and resists change. But that’s not the same as being opposed to ‘progress’ – the very concept of progress is a traditional one that’s been called into question in the process of modern social change.
    At this point, classical conservatism has nothing to do with the political movements given that name, just as classical liberalism has nothing to do with modern political liberalism. Conflating them usually leads to incoherent and ridiculous claims.

  • Daniel Dare

    A science that was too conservative would not evolve.
    A science that was too open & radical, would dissolve into entropy.
    There is a “sweet spot”.

  • meh

    I’m curious jeffk, what are you studying in physics?

  • MarcZ

    Colugo,
    There is no direct evidence that the persistent gap in IQ measured between racial groups is the result of genetic differences. But to discount the possibility because a specific gene hasn’t been identified is analagous to Creationists discounting the idea of human evolution because we haven’t found the “missing link.” As they say in the evolution debate, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
    It is certainly possible that the recorded differences in IQ between blacks and Eurasians are the result of environmental influences. But when you look at the test results, they are much, much closer to what you’d expect if they were genetic in origin. I.e., the gap persists in every country in which blacks and whites have been tested from the U.S. to Britain to Brazil, it persists across all socioeconomic levels in the U.S. (where the most extensive research has been done) and it persists in cases of interracial adoption. So it seems a stretch to say that it is the result of environment, however comforting the idea might be.
    Look, I don’t like it any more than you do. But I can’t deny where the indirect evidence is pointing.

  • cuchulkhan

    Endlessly qualifying everything one says would take forever razib, one must generalize to some extent.

  • j mct

    I think that the truly interesting thing about colleges and universities isn’t specific to what academics actually think, but they are so lockstep. It would seem to me that a colleges and universities are the greatest creators of intellectual conformity that mankind has ever devised given that academics have a demographically measurable tendency to overwhelming believe some things so at thoroughly at odds with the world they (don’t) live in that a Kuhnian type explanation for their beliefs has to be right therefore is right. It’s almost as if they were designed to produce intellectual conformity, saying that that academics, at least outside the hard sciences physics, chemistry… and mathematics, pursue ‘truth’ not being able to pass any imaginable laugh test. Per JeffK, if you’ve ever heard of ‘post modernism’ a large proportion of academia don’t pursue (objective) ‘truth’, they don’t believe there is such a thing, and don’t do so explicitly, the see themselves as ‘culture’ generators.
    Guess what, universities were designed to produce intellectual conformity! The modern university is the descendant of the old medieval monastery school, the cap, gown and hood being the costume of a medieval monk. I guess they’ve left out the requirement of getting a tonsure before commencement. Such schools were designed to flesh out (Roman Catholic) orthodoxy, and the orthodoxy they were created to explore and flesh out came from the outside. A medieval scholastic (scholar, schoolman) generally liked guidance from their bishops about straying into heresy as in ‘Brother so and so, your thought leads to the denial of free will, so you’re getting it wrong, so junk it and start over…’.
    University “speech codes”, formal or informal, sure look like ‘heresy’ laws if you ask me.
    It would seem to me, now that any outside (real world) guidance to academic pursuits is now completely gone, one has a case of the inmates running the asylum. Or one like in that Ray Bradbury story about the advanced house that made it’s occupants breakfast… automatically every morning, and then ‘pans back’ to show that no one lives in the house anymore because they all died in a nuclear war, but the house is still there doing what it was designed to do. Universities still produce the intellectual conformity they were designed to do, but it’s pretty impossible to take what academics think about things seriously at all, it all looks rather pointless, like making breakfast with no one there to eat it.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Endlessly qualifying everything one says would take forever razib, one must generalize to some extent.
    no shit. but how much should you generalize? the fact is that the writer of the selfish gene, and most evolutionary biologists, are leftists. you can appeal to compartmentalization all you want, but who cares, humans compartmentalize as a fact of their cognitive hardware. so it is a little rich to argue that x leads to y when it might not lead to y for biological reasons. in any case, the more you generalize the more you’re just asserting your own worldview when there are others who might disagree. so there’s really no point in commenting.

  • Random Guy

    Is the academy too liberal?
    —I think the answer to the question posed in the title is “Yes.”
    Razib is right–this is a problem. This bias ensures that conservative policy makers will disregard relevant academic research, probably even when they make decisions on technical policy matters where academic input is important. This disregard is far from unreasonable–given its scope, the bias almost certainly warps data collection, analysis, and especially the framing of issues.
    This is a serious, serious problem. It inevitably retards our society’s ability to make decisions.

  • Caledonian

    This bias ensures that conservative policy makers will disregard relevant academic research, probably even when they make decisions on technical policy matters where academic input is important. This disregard is far from unreasonable–given its scope, the bias almost certainly warps data collection, analysis, and especially the framing of issues.

    It seems to me that the question oughtn’t to be whether the Academy occupies some middle ground between ‘conservatism’ and ‘liberalism’, but whether the Academy is neutral and objective.
    If neutral and objective is closer to ‘liberal’ than it is ‘conservative’, then the Academy ought to be more liberal than conservative. If neutral and objective is closer to ‘conservative’ than ‘liberal’, then it should be more conservative.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »