The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Heterodox Academy


I have posted in the past about the absence of intellectual diversity in the legal academy and the stark political/jurisprudential/methodological imbalance at the top law schools. Most of these schools are just like Georgetown Law—where most students will graduate after three years without ever once laying eyes on a conservative or libertarian professor at the front of a classroom. The Harvard Chapter of the Federalist Society held an excellent conference on this topic a few years ago, and my own short essay about this issue may be found here.

The problem is not limited to law schools. There is a similarly rigid academic orthodoxy all across campus, and scholars in other departments are finding similarly pernicious effects.

I am pleased to report that a number of these scholars and I have joined forces to shine a light on this issue and to increase viewpoint diversity in the academy. Today, we launch a new Web site and blog: Heterodox Academy.

Here is our welcome post, by the excellent Jonathan Haidt:

Welcome to our site. We are social scientists and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines. We have all written about a particular problem: the loss or lack of "viewpoint diversity." It's what happens when everyone in a field thinks the same way on important issues that are not really settled matters of fact. We don't want viewpoint diversity on whether the Earth is round versus flat. But do we want everyone to share the same presuppositions when it comes to the study of race, class, gender, inequality, evolution, or history? Can research that emerges from an ideologically uniform and orthodox academy be as good, useful, and reliable as research that emerges from a more heterodox academy?

Science is among humankind's most successful institutions not because scientists are so rational and open minded but because scholarly institutions work to counteract the errors and flaws of what are, after all, normal cognitively challenged human beings. We academics are generally biased toward confirming our own theories and validating our favored beliefs. But as long as we can all count on the peer review process and a vigorous post-publication peer debate process, we can rest assured that most obvious errors and biases will get called out. Researchers who have different values, political identities, and intellectual presuppositions and who disagree with published findings will run other studies, obtain opposing results, and the field will gradually sort out the truth.

Unless there is nobody out there who thinks differently. Or unless the few such people shrink from speaking up because they expect anger in response, even ostracism. That is what sometimes happens when orthodox beliefs and "sacred" values are challenged.

At HeterodoxAcademy, our contributors have documented the near absence of political diversity in many fields, and we have demonstrated the damaging effects that this homogeneity has on scholarship in those fields. We are not the first to do so. Scholars have been calling attention to this problem for decades… and nothing has been done.

This time will be different. We have come together to pool resources, analyze current trends in the academy, discuss possible solutions, and advocate for policies and systemic changes that will increase viewpoint diversity in the academy and therefore improve the quality of work that the academy makes available to the public, and to policymakers.

So please, browse our site. Learn more about the problem, and, whatever your politics or viewpoints, become part of the solution.

We are just getting started, but we already have a great collection of resources and some quite provocative posts. I will often cross-post here, but not always. Go have a look at Heterodox Academy.