Monday, April 11, 2005

Of Education and Politics

The debate about education and politics is heating up again. Evidently I'll have to reference my post about assumptions and help the conservatives to use the same logic.

There are numerous studies which show that liberals outnumber conservatives on college and university campuses. That's not really disputable. The different studies aren't always comparable, so it's hard to show a trend, but the liberals pretty far outnumber the conservatives, and that's for sure.

Now as I said before, to assume that this means an increase in intelligence leads to a tendency toward liberalism is faulty logic for a number of reasons, not least of which is the implicit assumption within it that people who work in academia are somehow smarter than anyone who works outside of academia. Not true at all. Level of education is only a very very very rough indicator of overall intelligence, I think, but it certainly does not follow that anybody with an advanced degree is smarter than anyone without an advanced degree.

But neither do these results prove that there has been some sort of conservative witch hunt in the academic world, as many conservatives have been claiming. This is the same sort of assumption as I outlined above; to assume persecution as the only possible reason for an underrepresentation of a particular viewpoint in a particular population is faulty logic. Especially when we're dealing with so small and specialized a segment of the population as college and university professors. To do a comprehensive study and come to some definite conclusions, we'd have to know about the number and relative strength of conservative applicants versus liberal applicants.

But until that study's done, neither side can go around asserting one conclusion or the other as fact.


UPDATE: Harvey calls my attention to an article at EvolutionBlog entitled "God Bless Paul Krugman" (read it too, you conservatives, for yea, it is relevant). The PermaLink isn't working, so just scroll down to Wednesday, April 06, 2005, and it's right there.