Posted by Ginny on November 15th, 2008 (All posts by Ginny)
I want to thank David Foster for putting up his post and thus allowing me to comment in a rambling manner. I’m one of those people who doesn’t know what I think until I say it – and having a forum is better than daily analysis. (Indeed, given the results from Woody Allen’s intensive time on the couch, Jonathan is probably more justified in charging a fee to posters & commentors than are some highly paid analysts.)
Some comments assume those in the hard sciences, engineering and business are likely to be conservatives/Republicans. Since, of course, I agree on their broad picture, I haven’t nit picked. Their position echoes Horowitz’s opponents, who also assume business & engineering departments are conservative. Liberal arts & social science colleges are more heavily weighted (in some, I’m sure, Nader got more votes than Bush). But I’ve seen studies finding most colleges within universities (business, engineering, hard sciences) lean left – just not as far. Shannon notes that they are more centrist and that is probably true. And, practicing engineers and scientists may well move right. Academia attracts leftish sympathies and peer pressure is a factor.
Nonetheless, the only college likely to be majority Republican is the same that probably would do such projects as those cited by Chel and Anonymous – Ag schools. They are also often geographically separated from the university because of the land-consuming nature of their research. I support funding that research and many who share my general political positions would. I came out of one of the great American institutions – the land grant college – and respect that history.
I won’t, however, relinquish all ground. I’m not that crazy about funding projects designed to rediscover the wheel (surprising though the results may be to those who begin with faulty assumptions). Those are likely to be in the social sciences. Caveat: Of course, some grant money in the social sciences goes to quite worthy research and some in ag goes to pet – and not necessarily useful – projects. Those in both fields are human and so are granting committees.
I wonder what a survey would find that asked people to identify concepts, leading figures, etc. For instance, in which college do the majority of people know who Borlaug is but can’t define Chomsky’s political theories? Vice versa? How many have a clear idea of demographic trends and how many don’t? What was the “Green Revolution” that began in the forties? Science, like Reason, should not be worshipped for itself. Nonetheless, a person’s respect for its gifts may be more complicated to assess than some who see themselves as spokesmen for its truths understand.