Conservative Logic

A study shows that a selected segment of the most highly educated and intelligent people, folks gifted with jobs that allow them to think deeply about the world, tend overwhelmingly to reject the Republican party. Is the rejection of the GOP by professors at California's two leading universities just maybe a sign that Republican ideas don't stand up to sustained scrutiny? No, it seems that this hypothesis isn't even on the table. Instead, it's presumptively a 'Conspiracy of Intellectual Orthodoxy'—if you're a Republican anyway. Seems to me the data is in fact utterly silent as to causes, meaning we should ask ourselves what is more likely.

(Incidentally, given the authors' tendentious manner of introducing the results, the study relied on should be viewed as presumptively suspect. Anyone who introduces a study of faculty living in California by comparing their political party registrations to the national electoral vote is someone who doesn't understand comparing like with like or who is consciously trying to bamboozle with statistics. I understand that the California state party registration patterns are not as skewed as the ones asserted for Berkeley and Standford, but if we're going to do serious work, let's do it seriously, and compare to people similarly situated geographically and by educational and financial status.)

Update: See also Intellectual Diversity at Stanford for more shocking news about narrow-mindedness ruling the halls of academe:

…my preliminary research has discovered some even more shocking facts. I have found that only 1% of Stanford professors believe in telepathy (defined as “communication between minds without using the traditional five senses”), compared with 36% of the general population. And less than half a percent believe “people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil”, compared with 49% of those outside the ivory tower. And while 25% of Americans believe in astrology (“the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives”), I could only find one Stanford professor who would agree. (All numbers are from mainstream polls, as reported by Sokal.)

This dreadful lack of intellectual diversity is a serious threat to our nation’s youth, who are quietly being propagandized by anti-astrology radicals instead of educated with different points of view. Were I to discover that there were no blacks on the Stanford faculty, the Politically Correct community would be all up in arms. But they have no problem squeezing out prospective faculty members whose views they disagree with.

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11 Responses to Conservative Logic

  1. Chris says:

    Well said, particularly so with your discerning the inappropriate conclusions drawn by the researchers. If this is the best example of research by Republican faculty, I’m not surprised there are so few of them.

    I think there is considerable irony in Republicans all but demanding a quota system in academia, which they, of course, are not pleased to grant to women, the poor, or minorities. Special treatment to the Repubs also seems unnecessary. After all, aren’t they free to use the churches as their bully pulpits to mobilize voters (and even for military recruitment, right in the damn sanctuary; see Daily Kos).

  2. Bricklayer says:

    Poorly said. The more often you reveal the truly elitist attitudes of academia with tounge-in-cheek questions (“Is the rejection of the GOP by professors at California’s two leading universities just maybe a sign that Republican ideas don’t stand up to sustained scrutiny?”), the more harm you do to those with the potential to advance your agenda.

    To begin with, your posting is premised upon false elitist notions that make the conclusions you draw unsupportable. When you refer to academics as “the most highly educated and intelligent people” you assume the following:
    1. A definition for intelligence whereby it is measured by success within academia. But for those of us who have spent most of our adult working lives outside of academia, there is much truth in the old addage, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, administrate.” There are many forms of intelligence–the “book smarts” possessed by academics are but one type, of debatable significance or value. Certainly given the historical evidence of intellectual support and approval of ideas such as communism, anti-semitism, and isolationism, you must agree that even the “highly educated and intelligent” are subject to mistakes and corruption.
    2. Even if we aggregate characteristics of intelligence stereotypical of professors (attention to detail, ability to aggregate disparate ideas into a coherent model, etc..) into what we colloquially call “being bright”, other institutions such as the business world are filled with people often just as educated and certainly smarter. Yet business people are stereotyped as Republican. Further, there is ample anecdotal evidence that many young people characterize themselves as liberal and Democratic during their college years, only to adopt conservative Republican views after real world experience. Did these people loose intelligence?

    I need not elaborate on the losing political strategy of implying that one’s candidate is smarter than the other, it was amply proven in the last two democratic challenges to republican candidates.

    The more disturbing implications of your attitude are the manner in which a predominantly liberal academy intends to examine the lack of conservatives within their midst. Certainly if there were a shortage or blacks, women, or jews in academia you wouldn’t be implicating the intelligence of those persons. Instead, you almost certainly would be blindly advocating a system of affirmative action. You would advocate such a plan to admit even lessor qualified persons, simply for the purpose of creating diversity.

    If racial and ethnic diversity is inherently positve for both faculty productivity and student experience (or so liberals argue), then how can it possibly be that intellectual diversity is not also a positive? The truth is that there is disturbing bigotry and discrimination against conservative academics, and I am afraid to inform you that your comments are part of the problem, not the cure.

  3. Chris says:

    Bricklayer, I think you misunderstood my point (at least about minorities, women, etc.). It was simply that what Republicans are pleased to deny to others, they should deny to themselves. To mention disadvantaged groups as a reason why faculties should hire token Republicans is simply to reiterate Republican hypocrisy.

    Anyway, no academic would object to your banal appeal for intellectual diversity in the academy. Universities are intellectual institutions, meaning that they generally value science, empiricism, open-mindedness, reasoned argument. One could reasonably ask why Republicans would even want a job in the academy, as it would not seem a hospitable environment. More specifically, Republicans offer nothing intellectual, indeed all of the Republicans I can think of are anti-intellectual. Your fearless leader, Bush, prides himself in not reading anything. Jonah Goldberg, a leading chickenhawk for the war in Iraq, has never read a book on Iraq. The way I see your argument, it’s analogous to someone arguing that the Catholic church doesn’t have enough representation of atheists in its leadership.

    But let me give you the opportunity to argue that Republicans can fit in. Do you have any evidence that Republicans generally value intellectualism–can you offer credible evidence to refute my hypothesis? Indeed your comments betray your own anti-intellectualism and uncritical reliance on dogma as–in your own mind, at least–an acceptable substitute for evidence-based argument (e.g., “Those who can do, do; those who can’t, teach”). It might simply be a matter that Republicans self-select themselves into other jobs, rather than the nasty liberal faculty forcing Republicans out.

    But anyway, I know many conservatives in the academy. I’m one myself, and I do not feel oppressed or unwelcome. This is not to say that if one looks hard enough he can find a Ward Churchill around, but I have no reason to think that such as him are widespread. But I’m not a Republican because I have seen little evidence that they have any respect for science or fact-based argument. Until they do, and for other reasons, I am not a member of the Republican party.

  4. Chris says:

    Bricklayer, I think you misunderstood my point (at least about minorities, women, etc.). It was simply that what Republicans are pleased to deny to others, they should deny to themselves. To mention disadvantaged groups as a reason why faculties should hire token Republicans is simply to reiterate Republican hypocrisy.

    Anyway, no academic would object to your banal appeal for intellectual diversity in the academy. Universities are intellectual institutions, meaning that they generally value science, empiricism, open-mindedness, reasoned argument. One could reasonably ask why Republicans would even want a job in the academy, as it would not seem a hospitable environment. More specifically, Republicans offer nothing intellectual, indeed all of the Republicans I can think of are anti-intellectual. Your fearless leader, Bush, prides himself in not reading anything. Jonah Goldberg, a leading chickenhawk for the war in Iraq, has never read a book on Iraq. The way I see your argument, it’s analogous to someone arguing that the Catholic church doesn’t have enough representation of atheists in its leadership.

    But let me give you the opportunity to argue that Republicans can fit in. Do you have any evidence that Republicans generally value intellectualism–can you offer credible evidence to refute my hypothesis? Indeed your comments betray your own anti-intellectualism and uncritical reliance on dogma as–in your own mind, at least–an acceptable substitute for evidence-based argument (e.g., “Those who can do, do; those who can’t, teach”). It might simply be a matter that Republicans self-select themselves into other jobs, rather than the nasty liberal faculty forcing Republicans out.

    But anyway, I know many conservatives in the academy. I’m one myself, and I do not feel oppressed or unwelcome. This is not to say that if one looks hard enough he can find a Ward Churchill around, but I have no reason to think that such as him are widespread. But I’m not a Republican because I have seen little evidence that they have any respect for science or fact-based argument. Until they do, and for other reasons, I am not a member of the Republican party.

  5. Chris says:

    Check out the Carpetbagger Report for more Republican misuse of science…

    http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/003631.html

  6. Bricklayer says:

    Chris-
    I thank you for your honest response to my post, as your frankness has proven my point to other readers. Your comments are filled with stereotyping and cherry picking typically used to justify an exclusive majority. Shades of your arguments are exactly those used to oppose affirmative action programs.

    I could respond to your nonsense point by point, but that would achieve little as there are a great many readers here who are the converted liberal flock. Should I bring up democratic brainiacs like Sharpton, Edwards, Boxer, etc to counter your Bush-bashing? I refuse your silly bait. For the few but more rational readers, michael’s original post was disturbing, and your answer amplified it. Intellectual conservatives with republican affiliations are in plain view, how a self-described conservative intellectual such as yourself could fail to discover any is beyond me. Perhaps you’re not who you say you are.

    The problem is that you confuse complaints about a lack of academic diversity with a desire to have you or others agree with a particular viewpoint. In a truly enlightened environment, it would be the liberal students and faculty complaining the most about their lack of exposure to alternative viewpoints. But that isn’t happening. Worse, it seems there is a growing refusal to even admit that many academic fields are merely interpretive (history, pyschology, justice) and subject to different points of view. That’s not learning, its brain-washing.

    Even before law school, I recognized that an adversarial system of opposing viewpoints has a way of helping human beings explore the facts and reach better conclusions. A modern university that does not embrace this approach ultimately short-changes all of its students.

  7. Chris says:

    Bricklayer–
    Intellectual diversity is a worthwhile topic, but you must provide evidence that this is what the Republicans offer. My message was getting too long, so I’ll leave out extraneous rebuttals & focus on this this topic.

    You observed: “Worse, it seems there is a growing refusal to even admit that many academic fields are merely interpretive (history, pyschology, justice) and subject to different points of view. That’s not learning, its brain-washing.” I said earlier that universities were predominantly scientific institutions, but this statement is clearly a rejection of science (or are you expressing a postmodernist critique? That’s an odd perspective for a Republican to endorse, as it wholeheartedly embraces moral relativity). Universities already have postmodernists, so I’m not sure what intellectual diversity a quota of Republicans would add (assuming your sentiment is widely held among Repubs, which I doubt). Moreover, you don’t address the question of why Republicans would even want to work somewhere with values (namely, science) that conflict so starkly with theirs. After all, you don’t seem too happy in the Ivory Tower. My alternative hypothesis, that Republicans select themselves into professions other than academia seems a reasonable interpretation of the data, as far as I know them. If you have other credible data that search and tenure committees are weeding out Republicans for their viewpoints and not for substantive reasons, feel free to present them. There are assorted journals on higher education, and maybe there is something that offers at least descriptive statistics on faculty grievances. No anecdotes, please.

    I share your respect for different points of view, so long as they have merit. When Republicans have to engage in research fraud to promote their policies, a point recognized by the Nobel laureates and sundry scientists who petitioned the President to complain about this, that is prima facie evidence that the Republican point of view is empirically bankrupt. Why do you think the the academy should embrace people who fudge their data? With this in mind, I can understand why your faculty have little patience for sermons on the virtues of Republican policies. I have little patience myself when people parrot talking points to me based on flimsy or concocted evidence.

    As for my status as a conservative, it is genuine. Conservatives and liberals share the goal of bettering peoples’ lives, but conservatives are cautious about using government to improve the lives of citizens because it is too easily turned into a vehicle for tyranny (making peoples’ lives worse). Juvenile justice, for instance, was originally a liberal endeavor of great promise, but quickly created a monster where for many years the state could destroy families with no recourse or appeal for the individual. So, you see–conservatives are sometimes right after all. My liberal colleagues in fact share my sentiments, at least with respect to juvenile justice! Why? Because I can marshal scientific evidence to support my claims. Until Republicans can do so and have the integrity to admit when they are wrong, as conservative ideals sometimes are, I cannot see why anyone in the academy would see any advantage for a quota system of Republicans.

  8. Bricklayer says:

    Chris-
    Lets leave ourselves out of the discussion. You raise a few points that merit discussion.

    Self selection: This is a pragmatic viewpoint, but also raises the chicken & the egg problem. As analogy, I don’t think I step on too many toes when I say that gays self select themselves away from military careers. Its also true that the military is hostile towards gays within its ranks. Is that situation really any different from republicans/conservatives and the academy? Shouldn’t the few that would like to join be encouraged, and welcomed?

    Science/spin: I have no quarrel with you or others that want to call out republicans/conservatives when they spin a study or use bad science. But both parties, conservatives and liberals, do and say dumb things. What irks me is michael’s use of one example to justify exclusion of republicans/conservatives from academia. Its as if I went to a SoBe night club, pointed out a flamboyantly effeminate homosexual, and then matter-of-factly held him out as an example of why gays shouldn’t be in the military. But the truth is there are plenty of others who might make excellent soldiers, and in any case even many examples wouldn’t justify the perpetuation of a hostile environment towards those who wish to join.

    As an aside, I don’t mean to spark a gays in the military debate, and I didn’t mean to take a side either way. I simply use that scenario to point out how strikingly similar the comments here have been with regards to exclusion.

  9. Chris says:

    Bricklayer,
    That’s a good point about gays. Well taken. I actually can’t argue with anything you’ve mentioned; so long as the Republicans have the appropriate academic training & value intellectualism, their politics are their own personal business. In all the faculty hiring searches I’ve taken part in, the main topics were always “is he/she tenurable,” and “can he/she teach”. Political orientation never came up.

    Just a few last comments/observations on intellectual diversity in the academy. Before anyone goes into conniptions over the lack of republicans in the professoriate, we should step backward for a moment and consider whether this is really true. Many “issues” in our society are socially constructed. Nobody pays any attention to them until somebody can market them to the media, government, or whoever. In the ’80s, for example, an advocate for the homeless said that there was anywhere between 3-5 million homeless in the United States. This staggering number led to all kinds of attention and resources directed to study and address homelessness–but we learned years later that the number was made up! To the extent that the attention given to homelessness was excessive, the money could have been better employed to deal with other social problems. So back to the topic of our alleged liberal colleges and unversities. Republicans, if they wish to make a case that the supposed problem in universities is real, should support independent research on the topic (such as to the NSF, who would then award competitive grants to qualified researchers). The fact is, I really don’t know much of anything about faculty politics (it’s hard enough keeping up with literature in my own field). However, I do know that Klein and Western only reported data from select departments at unrepresentative universities, so we don’t really know what the parameters of faculty political party are. In short, I think people are getting overly concerned based on anecdotes and distorted samples. With these, it is easy to create the illusion of a social problem. If Republican politicians are serious about intellectualism, they should step backward for a moment and make a case of political disparity based on the best scientifically collected data they can obtain. Only when we have some factual basis may we speculate about the causes behind such disparity and whether disparity has adverse impact on undergraduate education, let alone whether it is a problem to be remedied.

    —–

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