Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Paul Krugman's "academic question"

Dr. Sanity is not pleased with today's Paul Krugman column in the NY Times, in which Krugman attempts to deal with the question of why there are relatively few Republicans in academia--not only in the humanities, but in the sciences, as well.

Krugman's answer? "It's the evangelicals, stupid!" (Or, rather, "It's the stupid evangelicals.")

Krugman has become somewhat of an evangelical himself, on an anti-Bush crusade. Krugman seems to think that the Republican Party is dominated by people who are anti-science, anti-ideas, and pro-theocracy. No doubt there are Republicans who fit that description, but Krugman fails to give any statistics on how many. But, after all, Krugman is a famous economist; he don't need no steenking statistics.

But I'd like to point out that a kernel of actual good sense is nevertheless embedded in Krugman's column. He writes: One answer [to the question of the lack of Republicans in academia] is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

I think Krugman is correct, although he spends the rest of his column ignoring this excellent point in favor of railing against those pesky creationists and their friends the theocrats. So he leaves it up to me to ask the question: just what sort of person might prefer a career in the private sector to one in academia, and why?

Well, I can come up with a few speculations. Academia is notorious for two things: relatively poor pay, and a liberal atmosphere. Republicans may shy away from academic careers, even in sciences such as engineering, because they a) would like more earning power; and b) would like to be in a place where their fellow colleagues are more simpatico. My guess is that there are many Republican scientists who are neither at war with ideas nor with science itself; they simply find a home in other arenas, such as aerospace, the military, NASA, and private industry of all kinds.

UPDATE: Going back to Dr. Sanity's, I noticed that she's posted a link to Stanley Kurtz's remarks at National Review's "The Corner" on the Krugman column. In his early paragraphs about political bias in the universities, Kurtz seems to ignore the fact that Krugman is referring to the lack of Republican representation in the sciences, not the humanities. In his last paragraph, however, Kurtz makes essentially the same point I make here about self-selection among scientists.


At 10:34 AM, April 06, 2005, Blogger Loyal Achates said...

Sorry, but Christian evangelicals have pretty much total control over the GOP on the domestic level. 45 senators and 186 congressmen get 80-100 ratings from the Christian Coalition. Socially moderate Neocons like yourself are far and away the minority in the party, and you have absolutely no voice when it comes to shaping social policy.

Bush himself is Born-Again and has repeatedly expressed his opposition to scientific inquiry (Global wamring is a myth, creationism is a valid theory, no stem cell research, etc.).

It's going to be hard to find Republican scientists and mathmeticians because so many Republicans do not believe in math or science! Like it or not, 2 and 2 continue to make 4, no matter what Jerry Fallwell says.

So what exactly is Krugman saying that's so wrong?

At 12:29 PM, April 06, 2005, Anonymous meander said...

I wonder if the previous poster, Loyal Achates, knows many run of the mill republicans or conservatives. My neighborhood is filled with people who voted for Bush-Cheney and we are not religious wackos. We believe in reasonable science inquiry and have varying opinions on stem cell research etc. and where to draw the line on all sorts of issues. I think the academic life probably seems like wheel spinning to a lot of people, period. They wanted to get their degree so they could get on with the real, rest of their lives. It is shocking to me that the Ward Churchhill types are being paid taxpayer money to spout their inane drivel and that there are many like him. Frankly, if I was an alumnus of a school that I became aware had these more radical professors on staff, I would no longer make contributions. Hey, here's an idea that would be an interesting experiment...the schools should start a fundrising drive to foot the bill for hiring definite conservative minded professors to teach content with a conservative influence and see what kind of monetary response they get. Americans love to vote with their pocketbook!

At 1:44 PM, April 06, 2005, Blogger George said...

I'm a conservative who wanted an academic career, but the self-selection is not a matter of simply lifestyle (pay, liberal ambience), but research topics. My advisor really liked my disertation topic (concerning literary manifestations of anxiety as a result of the American Revolution), but told me honestly that it would hinder my efforts to get a job, because it was, to simplify greatly, to interested in the creation of new institutions and social classes. He said that people would like reading it, but that they would see it as too pro-American and much worse, too research based (too dependent on original sources and doucments). This was in the worst years of theory (though I don't know what it's like now), so you might say that my problem was intellectual, not political. Except, of course, I found theory (I'm referring to Derrida-Lacan-Foucault etc.) of little use in the field I was studying (except Derrida, somewhat), as would any conservative.
I have to laugh at Loyal Achates take on conservatives being unscientific. Perhaps he could go back in time to my last semester of Ph.d course work when I was trying to explain to my baffled fellow grad students and professor that it was not possible to get small pox from a blanket that someone had died in months before, nor was the knowledge of germ theory widespread in the American West in the early nineteenth-century. They never forgave me.

At 7:25 PM, April 07, 2005, Blogger David said...

"Liberal" is a word which can have many meanings. I suspect that most self-identified liberals in university science & engineering departments are closer to the FDR type of liberalism than to the Democratic Underground flavor of "liberalism."

At 8:31 PM, April 07, 2005, Anonymous UML Guy said...

Don't forget another thing that makes academia appealing: job security. And that's not just about tenure. I know people who work in various technical and administrative roles at a Big Ten university. More than one has said, "Yeah, the pay's not as good, but it's really great job security." As long as they kowtow to the right people and don't cross the wrong people, their jobs are pretty much theirs for life. And of course, that's what tenure's like, only moreso. The only ones who have to worry for their jobs are pre-tenure profs and graduate student teaching assistants.

So maybe this tells us another trait of those who select academia over the real world: some of them prefer a secure cocoon over more risks and more opportunities.

And achates: thanks for the laugh! That's the best parody of the Paranoid Left that I've read in a long time. You really nailed their bigotry and ignorance!

At 11:28 PM, April 07, 2005, Blogger Loyal Achates said...

Plenty of insults, I see.

No one's bothered to dispute the substance of what I said, of course.

At 8:30 AM, April 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those that "can", do. Those that "can't", teach.

At 12:14 PM, April 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Achates, there is no substance: As far as I know, Jerry Fallwell has not disputed the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. Where are the numbers on your assertion that "so many Republicans do not believe in math or science"? Where are the stat analyses of those numbers? Where are the error bars? Actually, I also believe that Global wamring is a myth; Global Warming, on the other hand, is a serious problem. Although I am not a republican, I believe that their official position is that the research is not conclusive. Admittedly, I find this a to be a shallow assertion, in light of the fact that current theories are based on predictive modeling and analyses of records, not single variable experimentation; therefore, the research will never be conclusive. But they are simply taking a posture that supports their economics. The other side does the same thing. All religions have some form of a creation explanation, which is not in conflict with evolution, as they relate to different concepts (why versus how). Stem cell research elicits ethical questions which are not specific to any particular religion, or even religion itself. It is interesting that the Christian evangelicals have total control over the GOP and yet there are so many neocons, Jews, academics (Rice), and ex-military types in the admin. Finally, your Chritian Coalition arguement is typical circular logic. Their polical agenda is lockstep with the Bush admin, not the other way around. Essentially, one gets a high rating for voting with the admin.

At 4:00 PM, April 11, 2005, Blogger George said...

Thank you final anonymous. I didn't respond to LA because he is so oviously absurd. And yes, LA, that's an insult.
1) The Religious Right has a lot of power in the Republican Party, as they deserve, but the Republican Party agenda is hardly identical with theirs.
2)Bush has never expressed opposition to scientific inquiry, (disagreement with a conclusion about evolution or global warming is not opposition to inquiry). He has not opposed stem cell research, just the use of a certain kind of cell line, and agree or disagree, that was not based on opposition to the inquiry per se, but a moral opposition to a certain subject for study.
3) There are millions of Republicans who use mathemratics and science as part of their everyday work lives, among them myself.
4) Jerry Falwell has never said 2+2 is not equal to 4.

At 4:02 PM, April 11, 2005, Blogger George said...

Explication Re#2: By subject, I do not mean academic subject, but the physical object being experimented with, the way that the animal rights people oppose animal experimentation.

At 9:20 AM, May 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LA NEEDS a reality check. Or a hit by the clue bat.

Among my Republican-voting friends (most pre-9-11 neocons, btw) I count physicists, mathematicians and research biologists.

This new meme of the left post election would be funny if it weren't so prevalent. It pops up in every TV show, every "joke" every editorial cartoon in the MSM -- the country is howling into an age of irrational religious belief, donchaknow, and this is the reason that Kerry lost.

There is only one answer to this -- your "religious" belief in the sanctity and moral worth of your politics makes you blind to all evidence to the contrary and you project your unthinking faith onto those who made their presidential choice in light of the war, terrorism and economics.

And please don't mention the election-day pushpol. That was just another symptom of hysterical denial.

At 2:06 PM, September 16, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Unlike the Left, the Republicans believe in compromise. Sometimes that means they compromise the balance of power by voting in Ginsberg, but that is simply a result of Republican principles.

But, in most cases, the Republicans believe in having a compromise that satisfies most of the people in their party. Those in the middle, and those a little bit more on the right.

If you talked to a Leftist, they couldn't even compromise on Legal Unions, they'd have to have the full deal or otherwise they'd Walk. Walk to Massasschusets perhaps.

To a Leftist, they couldn't make a compromise between Neo-Neocon to keep her in the party, so they stayed with the anti-war activists, Michael More and Cindy Sheehan. Good luck building a political party in charge of social policy with that kind of attitude.

There would be little reason to join with the Republicans in some endeavours, if you just wanted to play power politics by taking over the Republican party entire. you should leave that to MoveOn.org and DemocraticUnderground.

To make freedom work, it is about making compromises, good compromises between that group of people and this group of people. So long as both group of people are reasonable, and aren't bent on destroying each other, a good compromise is possible and beneficial.

Socially moderate Neocons like yourself are far and away the minority in the party, and you have absolutely no voice when it comes to shaping social policy.

If you look at the multi-party parliametary system in Germany, you would see that the Christian Democrats has 35% of the vote, the current Prime Minister's party the Social Democrats has 30% of the vote. So why does the PM's party have power, instead of the Christian Democrats? Because the Green party is a MINORITY PARTY among minority parties, and they give the 9% necessary to the Social Democrats to gain power. If the Social Democrats pissed off the greens and broke the coalition, the Christian Democrats would win.

This must mean that the Green Party has NO POWER over Germany's environmental, economical, and foreign policies... WRONG. ZZZZZ.

Someone needs to go back to Power Politics 103.

The hard sciences has a disproportionate number of conservatives. My High School teacher was a conservative, he taught AP Chemistry and AP Physics, as well as Physics for Juniors and Chemistry for Sophomores. He was big on personal responsibility, and told us all the time to get off our lazy arses and do something worthwhile.

Then there was my German teacher, spoke 9 languages most of them European fluently, and he was a big socialist and Jimmy Carter lover.

He also didn't like Calculus, something useful in Physics.

Most of the Democrats are in the soft sciences, psychology, and the humanitarian arts, art and literature. They talk about feelings, and "getting to know what the author intended you to know".

Most of the Republicans are in the hard sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, and so on. They talk about cold hard reality, and how people are like atoms, they follow the path of least resistance.

That's a general trend, and the statistics are easy to lookup, up to and including High School and Secondary/Post secondary schools.

I'm sorry if that truth doesn't please some people's misperceptions of reality.

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