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Introspective Wonderland and the Ideologically Balanced Academic World

Since the election, the Democrats have been pretty clearly fated for some "What's next for our tribe?" self-examination. Some Democrats--e.g. Chris Geidner--have recommitted themselves to reaching out to convince others of their views. Yet others have determined that the Democrats failed because they just weren't liberal enough. My sympathies lie more with the former than the later, but what do I know? My knowledge of what works for Democrats extends mostly to New York, where overwhelming numerical superiority makes any need for strategy irrelevant.

But speaking of overwhelming numerical superiority and a lack of outreach, take a look at the non-news from academia. A few weeks ago the New York Times notes that liberals outnumber conservatives in academia. One would have thought a brief trip through the faculty lounge at NYU would have been sufficient, but no, the NYT reports on actual studies and all:

One of the studies, a national survey of more than 1,000 academics, shows that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was three decades ago, and it seems quite likely to keep increasing, because the younger faculty members are more consistently Democratic than the ones nearing retirement, said Daniel Klein, an associate professor of economics at Santa Clara University and a co-author of the study.

In a separate study of voter registration records, Professor Klein found a nine-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the faculties of Berkeley and Stanford. That study, which included professors from the hard sciences, engineering and professional schools as well as the humanities and social sciences, also found the ratio especially lopsided among the younger professors of assistant or associate rank: 183 Democrats versus 6 Republicans.


So academia is a fairly liberal place, something that certainly hasn't shocked any of us, even at such staunch conservative bastions as Columbia. (Hey, compare us to Berkeley and NYU and we're practically Red-State material!) That's led to some interesting and introspective commentary the new Leftie Professor blog Left2Right (Tagline: "How can the Left get through to the Right?"), which has had a bit much of the "Conservatives in the Mist" mentality decried by Jonah Goldberg, but has proven an occasional good read. Says David V.:
The exit polls show that Kerry won 55% to 44% among those with post-graduate degrees, but this split pales by comparison with the reported disparity in party affiliation among university faculty. (I have no idea whether the latter reports are reliable. Opinions?) Of course, academics are especially likely to have been alienated by the rightward shift in the Republican Party -- in particular, by the anti-intellectual spirit of that shift, as expressed in the administration's attacks on science. But I think that our blithe confidence in the integrity of our hiring practices is disingenuous. We are well aware that biases can be unconscious. Why, then, are we so quick to believe our own protestations of impartiality? Shouldn't we at least entertain the hypothesis that we are unwittingly influenced by subtle signals of a candidate's political views?

Whatever else one has to say about such ponderings, they're politically quite astute: "Hey, we don't like the Academic Bill of Rights, but maybe we are a little one-sided here, and putting our house in order would take some gunpowder from our opponent's arsenal." Not half bad politics: besides the compromise with is the very lifeblood of electoral success, the proposal seems in tune with the concept that an academia that becomes ever more divorced from the populace at large is unlikely to continue to enjoy public support. And some of the opposing commentary has been really eye-opening, including this comment by Timothy Burke.

But then there's the other side of the liberal debate, which seems determined to make certain that no further heart is won or mind is turned. Personally, I think we conservatives should link, re-link, and keep re-linking to such people, since any moderate who sees their words can't help but move a bit more towards our cause. In that vein, I requote with little commentary:

Philosophy Professor Ron McClamrock of the University of Albany, SUNY:

We outnumber them because academic institutions select for smart people who think their views through; and if you're smart, open-minded, and look into it carefully, you're just more likely to end up with views in the left half of contemporary America. Which is just to say: Lefties are overrepresented in academia because on average, we're just f-ing smarter.

And the always dependable Brian Leiter, in the comments to the Left2Right post:
As to [the intellectual merits of Republicanism], surely there isn't going to be a real argument about the fact that a lot of standard Republican positions (not conservative, not libertarian, but the kinds of positions taken by George W. Bush, the "miserable failure" as you, among others, dubbed him) are rather hard to defend if one is fully, or even partially, informed.

(Ah, I can't let that pass without comment: so the vast majority of Democratic-voting professors find "a lot of the standard positions" of the Democratic Party to be easy to defend? Oh yeah, this is the guy telling me I'm a naif because I don't expect to be drafted in Spring 2005.)

And one other priceless commentator from Left2Right:

Or look at the political inclinations of the undergraduate student body at Harvard, which, in a recent survey, went only 19% for Bush. Considering that a very large number of the undergraduates are accepted in virtue of what amounts to Red State Affirmative Action, that number is impressively low. (Moreover, I'm pretty sure I recollect that, at least in the breakdown by classes in the 2000 election, even the incoming freshmen in very dramatic proportions inclined Democratic.) Now Harvard, to this day, gets an extraordinarily high proportion of the very best students across America, as suggested by the number of National Merit Scholars, SAT perfect scores, Intel Science Award winners, etc. It's hard to look at this without concluding that there is something about intellectual ability that inclines one Democratic.

While one might think that the supersmart righties just go on to business or professional schools after college, and stay away from academe, it's very hard to see in figures like 19% (or indeed lower if one eliminates the considerable effects of Red State Affirmative Action) how that can possibly be true to any significant degree.


Let's put these comments on posters and t-shirts in some of those Purple-but-Might-Lean-Red states, especially the first comment. Such expressions of... let us be charitable and call it "confidence"... are not thought to be massively appealing to moderate voters. The marketing budget the Republicans will need to pick up gains in 2006 might fall by half.

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Comments

As with so many of us who write and think about politics you're making a mistake. You're assuming that most people give a damn. It's no big deal that a large psychographically and demographically distinct group hold similar opinions and sometimes say stupid things to justify that. Name calling / pointing and laughing does not equal 'reaching out'. Personally I'm outraged by the ongoing rightwing bias of fortune 1000 CEO's, CFO's and COO's and demand that steps be taken to restore some balance to the business community.
Martin: I'm unclear--are you saying that the quotes don't qualify as "reaching out," or that highlighting them wouldn't? My response would obviously depend on which you meant. As for the rightwing bias of CEOs: first, I'd wonder if it's as universal as in academia. (Ted Turner, media executives, etc...) But more importantly, if you want to correct the imbalance in corporate CEOs, the simple method is to become one, something that no other CEO can prevent you from doing (except via competition). As you're well aware from the high turnover rate in some corporate boards, CEOs and CFOs do not exactly have tenure tracks.
I am routinely baffled by things like this. How can anyone seriously contend that being right wing involves being less intelligent ?! If he wants to be reductionist about it (as I often am !) he could at least characterise the disagreement as "Freedom vs Ethics" !
I am suggesting that pointing to stupid people (even educated ones) saying stupid things does relatively little to reach out to anyone. Given that each side garnered something like 50m votes this time round finding people who aren't that bright on the other side is like shooting fish in a barrel. No matter how you phrase it saying 'that guy over there thinks you're dumb and he's a democrat so you should vote Republican' is pretty weak. Much like saying 'that guy over there criticised the troops and he's a democrat so as an american you have to vote republican'
But more importantly, if you want to correct the imbalance in corporate CEOs, the simple method is to become one, something that no other CEO can prevent you from doing (except via competition). As you're well aware from the high turnover rate in some corporate boards, CEOs and CFOs do not exactly have tenure tracks. No tenure tracks, but tenure is not the only way to become an entrenched member of a hierarchy. There's a lot of research been done recently about executive compensation's being poorly correlated with real performance (i.e. overinflated), due to its being set by people who are also in the executive class and who live by the Golden Rule: let me do unto this CEO as I would have done unto me in my CEO role. This research unfortunately uses a lot of fancy blue state phrases like "agency problem" and "rent seeking," so I'll have to wait until NYC/ Columbia has finished soaking through to my brain before understanding it. (Of course, economics actually is the most conservative social science, though it's libertarian more than Republican.) If the executive class has protective attitudes about maintaining executive compensation -- and not just the economically idealized desire to give only as much compensation as is efficient -- why wouldn't there also be an inclination to advance only those who think similarly to the existing class? And why wouldn't one of these similarities be political? Perhaps not to the same degree as in academia, simply because business is generally less political-ideology-oriented than academia (there's a limit on how much of your personal opinion you can put into widget making), but even in my very limited experience, I've noticed a preference among employees not to offend the political sensibilities of their superiors. The most famous political person I've met was encountered not in academia but at my CEO's Christmas party, and even if I were inclined to be rude to someone just because he's conservative, I wouldn't have dared in that particular venue. One might be able to suppress one's political tendencies more easily in widget-making than in research-doing and paper-writing, but I don't think that people in the business world are really any more high-minded about preferring People Like Us than academics are. It's just a human tendency that most people have, except for perverse folk who like to argue. Supposedly Justice Scalia hires at least one liberal clerk every term to give himself an opposing viewpoint/ punching bag.
"How can anyone seriously contend that being right wing involves being less intelligent?!" Well, I don't know if there's a difference, but it seems kinda defensible to suggest that thoughtful people in this day and age predictably would be drawn to the Democratic party, if not the Left. (Ceteris paribus, i.e.) The Democrats have purged a lot, tho' by no means all, of their public idiocies, but the GOP hasn't. I think people who believe the world is exactly 6007 years old find comfort in the GOP. Add to that deficits (if Suskind's to be believed, the current administration thinks they "don't matter"); pharmaceutical policy (whether or not you believe the line about expensive research justifying the exorbitant price for patented drugs, _no one_ believes that the industry is but dysfunctional and there's near unanimous agreement that price transparency is rather urgently needed); etc. I wish it weren't so, but Republicans, or at least right-wingers, are vastly more likely to say stupid thinks like: "We've evicted God from the classroom." "Teaching abstinence-only is necessary because only abstinence is guaranteed to prevent STDs and pregnancy." "It's not the government's money, it's your money." &c. Which I don't think amounts to the same thing as saying Republicans are stupid. But stupidity does seem more tolerated in the GOP than the Democratic party, and far more on the far right than on the far left.
The Democrats have purged a lot, tho' by no means all, of their public idiocies, but the GOP hasn't. You'll excuse me if I think this is merely a matter of perspective. I guarantee you that if we wished to thoroughly waste our time of an evening, you and I could go back and forth ad infinitum trading things said by one party that the other finds stupid. (And, of course, the fact that one side finds it stupid doesn't mean it's wrong: it should be noted that "The world is 6007 years old, even though God created it so that it looks older in order to test our faith" is a statement that defies empirical dispute.) Again, I'd point to the (eminent) Professor above who was--at least before the election--busily worrying that THE REVIVE OF THE DRAFT was upon us...
Been lurking for a while now. Had to jump in this dirty little puddle of debate. You are correct in noting that it isn't particularly advantageous for libs to note the intellectual inferiority of our opponents. that, however, is not the same as pointing out the intellectual bankruptcy of our opponent's positions. I think the two dynamics are easily conflated. Moreover, it is hard for we libs to disregard the data - by definition, exactly 50% of the population will be less intelligent thatn the mean. The fact thta they are overrepresented in red states does not escape us. So combine stupid people (empowered beyond their numbers due to the electoral college) that take stupid positions and you are left with a prescription for disaster, as far as we libs are concerned. Now, again, I concede that this isn't the "politically correct" - to coin a phrase - method of framing the issue. But it's true nonetheless.
Yes, I was worried about the back-and-forth danger. But come on: It does not defy empirical dispute. If you're willing to stretch your notion of God so far that He becomes a sort of evil genius wilfully distorting the world out of mendaciousness, you're no longer really talking about God. And I don't think worrying about the draft is as objectively lunatic as you seem to think it is. But no mind. The fact is that one of the two parties, and its corrollary ideological movement, has made itself quite willing to scant reality for the sake of a lot of voters who want their political candidates to believe in a fairy tale. A fairy tale thoroughly grounded in a respectable religion, no doubt, but I can't imagine that it's a small trouble for an academic to ally herself with a political party, the platform of which seems not to believe in evolution! (And yes, not to believe in evolution is wrong, as well as stupid. And frankly more than a little troubling.) Which is not to say that Democrats are smarter than Republicans (we're only better-looking). But it does go to say that if the nation's highest-educated found the Democratic party more hospitable, I wouldn't find it at all surprising, nor would it be necessary to result to some conspiratorial thinking about university brainwashing and hiring-committee discrimination. TtP
"Resort to," rather. Not result to.
Moreover, it is hard for we libs to disregard the data - by definition, exactly 50% of the population will be less intelligent thatn the mean. The fact thta they are overrepresented in red states does not escape us. Mike, you got a source for that statistic? (The only source I know of has been somewhat discredited.) If you're willing to stretch your notion of God so far that He becomes a sort of evil genius wilfully distorting the world out of mendaciousness, you're no longer really talking about God. First of all, the idea that the Almighty is driven by "mendaciousness" isn't generally part of that particular argument, although do please keep slighting theological discussion: as I said, it's the kind of thing that tips otherwise Blue-voters into the Red camp. But even if you were right, and not merely being sarcastic, you'd be wrong: you could easily be one kind of Gnostic and talking about the Demiurge, which is roughly speaking the same entity as what Christians might conceive of as God. (Besides which, at what point has the argument you've mentioned above become empirical?) As for the second paragraph... I think I'll hang around until one or another of my religious and yet academic readers show up.
This one is a doozy:
"It's hard to look at this without concluding that there is something about intellectual ability that inclines one Democratic."
And in China the best and brightest are members of the Communist Party, in Singapore the best and brightest are members of a very right wing party, in Japan it's...you get my point. Correlation is not causation, and that last commentator from Left2Right that you quoted (and I reference here) has clearly forgotten that. Conformist groupthink explains the uniformity of opinion on US campuses more that anything else. That and entrenced bureaucracies, 'equality of outcome, not oportunity' based AA, and "free speech for all who agree with me" PC anesthetic gas have all created an echo chamber in US academia that is astounding. But not too surprising if one knows what is meant by "The Long March Through the Institutions". If you don't know what that phrase means, you need to go back and read your early 20th Century Marxist literature.
Disclaimer: I'm currently an academic in the math/computer science circles at the University of Arizona. The previous 15 years of my adult life were spent first as a wandering hippy mystic, and then in the cutthroat rough and tumble of the internet startup world. The politics as it is played in academia is transparent, bush league and unevolved. These folks aren't as smart as they think they are, and sloppy thinking, including idealized, flawed economic models that take no account of human nature, abound. I am constantly amazed (less and less so to be sure) at the crap that passes for an argument on the social sciences or humanities side of the house, or on any political topic by hard scientists. The Cold War only ended in the sense that the outer enemy collapsed in exhaustion. The 5th Columnist Long Marchers appear to have been winning the battle in the academy here at home for quite a few decades. PS: I'm no christian rightwinger for all you lefties that are frothing mad by now. I'm a married bisexual buddhist agnostic, anarcho-capitalist, disenfranchised (drug war collateral) ex-Green in favor of radical reform of drug and gun control laws (legalize everything), letting each state decide on those things and abortion, gay marriage, etc. So I'm at home in just about no party but a party of one, myself.
I was rather hoping one of my liberal commentators would pick up on this, sparing me the point of correcting a petty error, but in answer to Mike: Moreover, it is hard for we libs to disregard the data - by definition, exactly 50% of the population will be less intelligent thatn the mean. The fact thta they are overrepresented in red states does not escape us. Perhaps a conservative member of the lower 50% whose last math course was taught in Alabama might be forgiven for asking exactly whose definition Mike is quoting? Last I knew, the word didn't mean what he thinks it does. By definition, exactly half of a population is below the median, but not the mean. (Consider a population of five, whose IQs are 90, 90, 90, 90, and 150 for a simple example.) Nah. I'm certain that this is all a Karl Rove conspiracy. ;)
Oy. Listen: Evolution _happened_. It's true. It's the way things _are_. I'm not sure to what extent that qualifies as an "empirical" issue... eh, I'll get around to looking up the precise definition of the word. It's not a slur to people of faith to say that someone who really believes the world was created ... what was it, 600? I lost count---that such a person is profoundly and importantly unserious.
Oy. Listen: Evolution _happened_. It's true. It's the way things _are_. I'm not sure to what extent that qualifies as an "empirical" issue... eh, I'll get around to looking up the precise definition of the word. It's not a slur to people of faith to say that someone who really believes the world was created ... what was it, 600? I lost count---that such a person is profoundly and importantly unserious.
I withdraw part of my earlier position and henceforth express no opinion as to how successfully the Democrats have, in fact, been at purging the idiot wing of their party. At the national level (free trade, welfare reform) it's been pretty good. But it occurs to me I do see some lunatic speeches on the floor of the House every now and then, and I cannot aver that some of them aren't protectionist nonsense, etc. So my point is limited to the observation that Democrats, being generally invisible these days, have done a better job of purging their high-profile idiocies. As have, I suppose, the Whigs.
It's not a slur to people of faith to say that someone who really believes the world was created ... what was it, 600? I lost count---that such a person is profoundly and importantly unserious. Really? And here I thought being called unserious was a slur. Profoundly and importantly more so. Which, of course, brings us to the point I was making. Perhaps you can't see your way towards regarding religion as more than a fairy tale. Might I suggest that loudly saying so is not a good way of winning votes?
Fair enough. But I'm interested in intellectual honesty and thoughtfulness, not winning elections. It's a regrettable tendency to conflate good ideas with ideas that play in the swing states. But a tendency whose time may be in ascendance, I don't know. Let me analogize: It's no slur against Jews (like me) to criticize certain bad acts by some Jews, or say, the government of Israel. It's no slur _against blacks_ to criticize, a la Bill Cosby earlier this year, bad behavior by some blacks. And it's certainly no slur _against people of faith_ to criticize a mistake that can be made by anyone, either inside or outside that group. Look, I don't believe I ever said I thought that religion was a fairy tale. Certainly my rabbi would be disappointed in me if I did. But forget your touchiness at the merest criticism of something that some (particularly daft) Christians might believe; it doesn't always amount to criticism of Christians qua Christians. (I think I'm using "qua" right but very well might be mistaken. I trust my meaning is clear.) That sort of identity politics was regrettable and rightly criticized when leftists did it; it doesn't gain any greater pedigree simply because Jerry Falwell and not Al Sharpton is claiming to speak against discrimination. But perhaps I'm missing the thrust of your objection. So to clarify for me, please: Do you not believe in evolution? Do you think that the 6000-years story of Creation---used not as religion but as science, worthy of being appended to a school textbook in the form of a disclaimer---has any integrity?
Tony: The statement about empiricism above (taken, incidentally, from an idea of Stephen Jay Gould's, not formerly known to be a creationist) was meant to indicate that a dispute between evolution and creationism is not subject to empirical proof. The argument was taken from a work of Gould's that argued the limits of the scientific method. I've mentioned nothing of textbooks: that's your assumption, because you don't feel like looking up "empirical." Look, suppose I say to you: (A) the world was created in (let's take your number) 4000 BC; (B) however, God asks us to believe in him, and sends tests of that faith; (C) one of those tests is the existence of things which seem older than 6,000 years; (D) such things are only really 6,000 years old, but were created in place so as to suggest a longer history. Forget about whether this God would be mendacious or what have you: presuming that the omniscient is unknowable, that's not a counterargument. The point is that there is no empirical proof that can be leveled against the statements above. To do so would require either a separate universe upon which to experiment, or the ability to stand beside God (who is unavailable for interview). Any proof you care to dream up comes from within the set of statements encapsulated in the argument. Does this mean that the statements above are true? Certainly not. It means that they're not capable of scientific proof, nor can they be scientifically disproven. Thus they leave the realms of scientific discussion and go simply into the realms of faith: either you believe them or you don't. Now, you might choose to consider such an argument unserious. One wonders, though, exactly how you will justify that other than to state that, at heart, you have an issue of your own faith: that the world is subject to scientific proof, and that all thing empirically unprovable cannot be. You're welcome to try alternatives to that proposition, but it's an old discussion, pursued by some deeply serious people.
Let's see if I follow you: 1) It looks as those the world is 4.3 billion years old. 2) It's possible that God made the world 6000 years ago, but did it in a way that it would look 4.3B years old. 3) God is capable of masking the true age of the universe in any way He wants, and it's beyond our observational capacity to tell if he's misled us. Therefore we cannot say with absolute certainty the true age of the universe and an argument in accord with 2) above is not subject to empirical disproof. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't we insert a "It's possible that God..." statement into 2) with any content we liked? That is, unless I mistake your argument, it looks like you've just proven that _nothing_ is capable of empirical proof! But that, I don't think, was your point. Now, fair enough. My dictionary has "empirical" as: 1 : originating in or based on observation or experience 2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory 3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment 4 : of or relating to empiricism. Which looks to me like creationism is precisely subject to empirical disproof. Faith to the contrary might indeed be outside the reach of the scientific method, but it wouldn't be beyond the limits of measurement and observation. And finally: Stickers-on-textbooks is not my "assumption," it's my "lazy reference to recent national events." No, wait, really finally this time: Do you believe in evolution or not? I'm just trying to plumb the source of our disagreement, because I don't see it.
Tony: You are correct in stating that you could substitute into "2" just about anything you wished. The question is what someone does substitute into it. For instance, there's the old Descartian discussion regarding how one might figure out whether the world is real, or simply the result of an impression left by a "malicious deceiver." As I said, the argument itself is quite serious, and quite old. As for your dictionary definition of empiricism: the meaning I had--and is normal for this kind of discussion--is the one you list as (3), capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment. Now, please show me the experiment design to disprove the system of statements I set up above. If you manage it, my hat's off to you, because I don't know of anyone who has yet. (Similarly, the propositions above are incapable of empirical proof.) You claim that this is not outside the limits of measurement and observation: how, pray tell, are you going to manage it? Finally, the source of our disagreement is pretty simple. I do believe that evolution is a reasonable theory. (I'm also not a fundamentalist, and don't find the Bible to be the literal word of God, so this isn't surprising.) However, the fact that I agree with your substantive position doesn't mean I dismiss those who think differently as "believing a fairy tale," or just casually dismiss them as stupid. And at heart, I find it a very interesting question: to what degree to I believe that the true nature of reality is determined by what I can observe (what is "empirical") and to what extent do I believe that there exists something beyond my ability to physically perceive? In trying to answer that question, I've met a number of creationists--not the "stickers on textbooks" kind, mind you--who I might disagree with, but were anything but stupid, and certainly wouldn't lead me to believe they weren't suited for academia. They believed something about the nature of the world that I did not, true, but that didn't mean I was going to start ranting about fairy stories. And I'm perfectly willing to state that the usefulness of the scientific method is bounded by the necessity to believe that what is observable is the limit of what is true--or at least that the method is usable for anything beyond non-instrumentalist purposes on such a basis. (Note that in most cases, that necessity makes little difference whatsoever. You can, for instance, believe that vinegar and baking soda release carbon dioxide vapor--to choose an elementary school experiment--not because of the nature of the chemicals, but because there exist small gremlins who continually make it so. Supposing that one posits sufficiently numerous gremlins of sufficient determinedness to make sure this always happens, and posits that their only observable effect is the production of carbon dioxide, you can't really "disprove" their existence either. It doesn't matter, because the existence or non-existence of these gremlins would make very little difference to anybody, especially presuming that the only thing they did was take care of vinegar and baking soda, and they were incapable of persuasion not to react. In most cases, the difference between the empirical and non-empirical view of the world matter very little, especially since the empirical view is not necessarily inconsistent with the non-empirical view.) In any event, that's a lot more than I wished to put into this. If you want to ask whether I think there should be creationist stickers on textbooks, no, I don't. I'm simply not as dismissive as you wish to be. On the other hand, from a pragmatic point of view, I don't think stickers on textbooks or evolution matter too terribly much. From a practical point of view, the theory of evolution is almost irrelevant for most students. We're not likely to be around long enough personally to watch ourselves evolve, nor is it something we can really turn to our advantage: we don't "engineer" evolution. In my day-to-day life, it's useful mostly as a thought-construct: the paper I'm working on now discusses the 'evolution' of corporate governance rules, for instance, and why diversity in them might be efficient. But for the most part, the reason people care about evolution is that it's considered antithetical to creationism or religion. My sense is that far from an instrumental value, most secularists want evolution in the textbooks precisely so they can sneer at religious people about believing in fairy tales; some religious people want it out because it's (trivial) instrumental value is outweighed by the fact that it diminishes their ability to teach their own articles of faith. The sneering of those with Darwin fish on the back of their bumpers isn't something I'm particularly worried about having in high school textbooks at all, and I certainly don't see a sticker regarding creationism as--in Professor Leiter's terms--the coming of a "Texas Taliban."
On most of this http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2004/12/13/tomo/index1.html On science... People who believe the world was made by God in seven days or whatever are believing in fairy tales, and I can't pretend I think otherwise since I believe it's all to do with the big bang and billions of years of time passing. I have a lot of hard evidence to support this, and while in the final instance discounting some kind of divinity is always an act of faith it's a much smaller one when science is on your side. Of course I can still respect these people despite their opinion, and I can still even respect the opinion, since it's founded on faith. However for me to treat the theory as anything more than a fairy-tale/myth/legend is intellectually dishonest on my part. Similarly if people want to teach these ideas they should do so in Relegious Education lessons, churches, synagogues, mosques and theology departments. If they want to teach geology they're going to need more than the kind of tautologies you're constructing to get through the doors. Thus when you get people asking for national parks to present scienctific and religious explanations for rock formations on an equal footing the correct response is. No, we're going to present this one as science, and this one as faith, but we're sure as hell not going to confuse the two. Of course for real equal access the faith stuff should include Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Moslem, Bhuddist and other explanations so people can really make up their mind. Just as if competing scientific explanations exist the debate should be set out for public edification.
Anthony: And it was just three years ago that I heard some Chomskyite tell me off in front of the Alma Mater statue that the US shouldn't be going to war against the Taliban, and had no right even to judge them for, say, their abhorrent practices against women, because outside of their cultural context we couldn't _prove_ they were wrong, either. Relativism's always cute. No, you got me, I can no longer observe and therefore cannot prove the age of the world being more than 6000 years. Nor the non existence of the carbon dioxide gremlins. Nor the existence of fairies. I can't prove the existence of yesterday, either, but no mind. Look, why doesn't carbon dating do it for you? It seems sufficiently rigorous to me. But perhaps that's another "rant." Toleration is of course a very important value, but when it precludes the very notion of judgment (and judging, as a wise man once said, is the very thing minds do) it takes you into Allan Bloom-land. Here's the question: You know the creationists are wrong. Yet rather than say so, you retreat from judgment. (That is, from judgment of creationists. You're quite willing to assume that secularists have some great agenda, whereas the people actually trying to ban books from curricula are merely trying to accommodate their faith. Good demonstration of intellectual flexibility.) The question for your readers is why; the question for you (i.e., the one you ought to ask yourself in all such situations) is: Am I thinking this way not because it's right but because it's easier to think this way? Am I reserving judgment on Christian conservatives because I agree with them on so many other things? (I trust you've learned by now about the myriad descriptions of the human tendency to disbelieve things they would otherwise accept as true because it causes some hurt to hold the thought in their heads? Often "cognitive dissonance," but my favorite euphemism is probably "fluidity of judicial decision making.") And as for your point about evolution being not terribly useful: Ah, in the sense that trigonometry isn't useful to most people, sure. Of course we probably ought to teach trigonometry. But trigonometry has no symoblic value about what constitutes citizenship in this country; teaching or not teaching it doesn't represent a triumph for fundamentalists or secularists and doesn't speak to the content of the public sphere in this country. No insight there, but battles about the constitutive meaning of citizenship, even when materially insignificant, are often hugely important to Americans. You might disagree about which side of that fight has the better argument. But as the GOP appears to be the party of creationism in the public schools, I refer you to my original point: Is it _any_ wonder that the majority of our nation's academics are on the other side?
Perhaps a conservative member of the lower 50% whose last math course was taught in Alabama might be forgiven for asking exactly whose definition Mike is quoting? Last I knew, the word didn't mean what he thinks it does. By definition, exactly half of a population is below the median, but not the mean. (Consider a population of five, whose IQs One of us is too clever by half. I will leave open the possibility that it is me, but... I believe that an IQ of 100 is the mean IQ. That is, there are equal numbers of people of lesser ability and equal ability. Perhaps my comment would have been more clear if I had said "By the definition of IQ"... or maybe I'm completely wrong. feel free to correct any petty error in my reasoning...
Oops! That is, there are equal numbers of people of lesser ability and equal ability should be: That is, there are equal numbers of people of lesser ability and greater ability. Anyway...
Mike: Whilst it's conceivably possible that exactly half of a population is above or below the mean IQ, it's certainly not all that likely. (Again, "exactly" is your word.) In general, any given population should have an IQ pattern that--again roughly--fits a bell-curve. This is not, however, exact, which is a good thing: what you're implying would necessitate that low- and high-IQ people enter and exit a population at exactly the same time: a stunning conservation of IQ, and one I'd love to see you back up. Most IQ tests are normed for a mean result, but as already demonstrated, the mean in a population does not have to equal the median. Whereas, by definition--by actual definition, as opposed to whatever constructive definition of IQ you're using--the median IQ of a population will be such that 50% are above or below. That is what median means, as opposed to what mean means. In all likelihood, the mean and median IQs of any given population are probably quite close. I doubt, however, that they're exactly equal.

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