4/10/2005

On liberals in academia

Some great insights from The Poor Man's blog:
...Jonah Goldberg (of the uber-conservative National Review online) engages in a little bit of speculative sociology about the persistant liberal bias among the engineering and hard science faculty, which, among assorted asinanities, engages in a little shell-game wherein “the most liberal members of the science faculty are probably the least likely to be able to find work elsewhere”, unlike the (also disproportionately liberal) engineering disciplines, although, he concedes, “I don’t have the data to back this up handy”. Brad DeLong, who works at a major research university in the Silicon Valley area, offers the following suggestion:
Perhaps Goldberg could go ask some scientists and engineers why they aren’t Republicans. Do a little legwork. I know that when I ask scientists and engineers why they aren’t Republicans, I get back five answers:
1. From libertarians, because the Republicans are really hostile to individual freedom: they want to control people’s lives and boss people around.
2. From biologists, because Republican politicians say they don’t believe in evolution.
3. From chemists and physicists, because Republican politicians pretend to believe that CO2 molecules created by human action have a different radiation-absorption spectrum than other CO2 molecules.
4. From all corners, because Republican politicians are the tools of lobbyists and do not respect the evidence about anything.
5. From all corners, because Republican politicians don’t understand how important investment in education is for the future of America–they have no idea where our current wealth and health really comes from.

The Poor Man continues:
In response to this request, Goldberg asks some National Review-reading Republican engineers why engineers aren’t Republicans. The answers are: A) they are all Republicans, it’s a lie of The Syndicate, B) they would all be Republicans, but for the devious machinations of The Syndicate, and C) DeLong is a jerky jerk head. As someone with an MSE who has worked in the aerospace industry, let me offer the observation that I have no idea which way people in this field vote, I don’t particularly care, and I wouldn’t invest too much significance into it either way. I will offer the observation that “data” is not the plural of “anecdote”, nor is it the plural of “tangentially related temper tantrum”, and leave it there. It is typical, though, that in response to a pretty reasonable request that when speculating about the beliefs and opinions of party A, you might actually ask party A why they think the way they do, Goldberg cherry picks a few responses from his fellow travellers speculating about the beliefs and opinions of party A, and considers the matter settled in his favor. It is also typical that Goldberg would be complaining about institutional political bias and people being unable to earn their keep in the private sector, while writing for the friggin’ National Review, a job his mom got for him. If there is anything that binds all Wingnuttians together, no matter what their particular creed, it is a complete lack of interest in either the outside world or their relationship to it, except insofar as it can be used to perpetuate the faith. Secular Wingnuttia is simpatico with Theocratic Wingnuttia, and all that is required to maintain this relationship is the one to pretend that the other doesn’t really exist. This is why it is so important for the National Review crowd (and Peter Beinart, and their other allies) to pretend that foreign policy somehow won 2004 the Republicans, despite the fact that Rove knew perfectly well that the scourge of Massachusetts faggotry would be what decided the race, and the polls proved him out. (Looking at the polling, I can’t help but infer that the number of people who were generally aware of the ballpark facts about Iraq - WMD, ties to terrorism, etc. - AND were moved to vote for Bush by their support of the war, was indistinguishable from zero. “Moral values” not only put him over the edge; it turned the tide.) There is no problem, so long as you don’t let the right hand know what the other right hand is doing.

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