We all know those ivory towers lean so far to the left that it’s amazing they haven’t fallen over. A new study aims to show how liberal academics within the social sciences would deal with fellow conservatives. Would they able to maintain their objectivity (such as it is when you’re dealing with social sciences)? The academics themselves admit, maybe not. Inside Higher Ed explains:
Just over 37 percent of those surveyed said that, given equally qualified candidates for a job, they would support the hiring of a liberal candidate over a conservative candidate. Smaller percentages agreed that a "conservative perspective" would negatively influence their odds of supporting a paper for inclusion in a journal or a proposal for a grant.
In an outcome that must be amusing to social scientists, the percentage of respondents who believed their colleagues would show bias against conservatives was around 10 to 15 percent higher than the number of respondents who said they themselves would show biases. The problem is always other people, isn't it?
The study was inspired by a quick audience poll by Jonathan Haidt at a gathering of social scientists:
At the 2011 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia polled the audience of some 1,000 in a convention center ballroom to ask how many were liberals (the vast majority of hands went up), how many were centrists or libertarians (he counted a couple dozen or so), and how many were conservatives (three hands went up). In his talk, he said that the conference reflected "a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” in a country where 40 percent of Americans are conservative and only 20 percent are liberal. He said he worried about the discipline becoming a "tribal-moral community" in ways that hurt the field's credibility.
Haidt looked deeply into issues of the psychological underpinnings of political polarization in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion, and in Reason’s May cover story, which you can read here.
Back in June, a social science study purporting to show that children of gay parents were not as happy as children of straight parents caused a stir over its problematic methodology (I wrote about it here. Short summary: Biological children of married straight parents were compared to children who had gay parents, regardless of family makeup, which skews the comparison). The study was kind of crap, but as Robert VerBruggen and Douglas W Allen have noted over at the National Review, selection samples have been a problem period when it comes to trying to analyze gay parenting outcomes.
Nevertheless, Mark Regnerus has been subject to an inquiry and audit over his work to a degree I haven’t seen of studies that have come to the opposite conclusion. Perhaps noticing the flaws in a social study with an alleged “conservative” outcome might prompt liberal scientists to start acknowledging the same problems with their own studies, but don’t hold your breath.