If a professor teaches a subject with the point of helping students discover truth, It shouldn't matter what normative political view he/she has, as they are irrelevant to finding the truth and expressing it descriptively.

Physics and chemistry don't change based on subjective interpretations --- they either work or don't, and so should economics, psychology etc.. Either Why should any science, social or not be different?

If the basic ideas of a field do change based on the political views of the teacher, then that is a statement about the rigorousness of the field or its department, and not an issue with the personalities of the lecturers. For instance, why is it that one worries so much about bias from an English prof being an ideologue, while no one cares if a physics prof is.

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They never created a “left-wing authoritarianism”...

Left Wing Authoritarians have a philosopher or ideologist as their authority, while RWAs use the traditional authorities in their society.

...which sees gender as totally socially constructed.

Gender is by definition socially constructed. Sex on the other hand is biological.

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"Can you imagine a sociologist recommending this response to a huge imbalance elsewhere, say a [disapproved] gender, ethnic, or sexual preference imbalance among executives, top colleges, country clubs, or political offices? But when it comes to imbalances in their own profession, … HT Tyler."

This whole narrative strain is white guy identity politics, rather than good epistemological inquiry, IMO. The whole thing ("liberal" sociologists + people who compare the lack of "conservative" professors with the lack of black female mathematicians) presents itself as a type of pageant to me. It's ultimate accomplishment, as far as I can tell, is a distraction of attention from people doing better but less identity-pandering social epistemology (people like perhaps Professor Bostrom).

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A good way to investigate liberal (or other types of) bias in institutions is to examine questions asked to candidates in the interview process. Questions such as, “What have you done in the past year to promote minority rights?” would give us insight into the criteria for hiring.

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Chris is spot on about the follies of self identification; anyone who has actually taken one of these sociology courses is surely familiar with garbage studies conducted in conjunction with polls about drinking habits, and the conflicting results of said studies.

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Discussions like this get bogged down in political labeling (often of a "boo-hiss!" and "hurrah!" variety) very quickly.

Across the developed world, there is a clear tendency for academe to be socially liberal, economically collectivist, secularist, internationalist, multiculturalist. But what has characterised academic opinion has changed over time. The Nazis, for example, found academe something of a pushover (see Claudia Koonz's excellent The Nazi Conscience). Nationalism, racism and imperialism all had much support in the academy during their high periods.

Moreover, the tendency of those whose sense of identity is based on their intellect/cognitive capacity/knowledge, but whose income is isolated from commercial activity, to have anti-commercial attitudes is very longstanding. From Plato, to Chinese mandarins, to medieval clerics to modern humanities academics, the notion that one is morally superior if one is not involved in "vulgar commerce" is a repeated pattern.

The common feature I would suggest is various forms of elitism. Either the sense of being an elite against one's wider society (the current tendency) or the sense being an elite with and of one's society that is itself superior (the C19th and early C20th view, the Chinese mandarinate view). If the latter view loses academic cred, then the former becomes the alternative elitism.

After all, if one invests (or intends to invest) all that effort in cognitive skills and knowledge, there has to be some payoff. A sense of moral superiority is a payoff and one, moreover, that one can (to add to its charms) share with one's colleagues in a "club" of shared (indeed mutually-reinforcing) virtue.

Academic economists tend to not conform entirely to the pattern since the presumptions of common rationality, and that one studies markets so it is a bit hard to feel morally superior for not being a "vulgar profit-seeker", both rather get in the way.

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Studies like that that look at who votes Republican or Democrat don't have a "moderate" middle; the portion who vote Democrat is very large.

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Bill, you are completely dropping the "self described" from moderate. A self described moderate may or may not be moderate.

More numbers from the study: nationally, in the humanities and social sciences, there are 7-9 professors registered as democrats for every 1 professor registered as a republican (it's about 5:1 in academia as a whole).

Also, you might have misread your numbers. I searched the paper for the number 48 to see what you are referring to in particular, all I found was the statement that 48% of professors are self-described liberal.

If you have evidence that 48% of professors are moderate (as opposed to believing they are moderate), please post it.

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To be clear, people self-identify based on comparisons with their peer group, hence the 50% of academics self-identifying as moderate.

Other techniques of identifying political opinions can compare people to other standards.

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People may be confused by terminology. Liberalism is often referred to as "right wing". Libertarianism is "left wing".

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fascinating to see the different roles played in the comments of this article. many rather wooden and cliched, sadly too many for any intelligent observations to be made.

watch the movie "the experiment". its a film version of the Stanford Prison Experiment. if you don't know what it is shame on you and i also suggest milgram's work too.

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Responding to Chris.

Thank you for prooving my point with your numbers from the last election.

Per the paper, 48% of academics were moderates. The country as a whole, per your point, voted 53% Obama, 46% McCain. If you view the country as moderate, at 50%, then 48% academics describing themselves as moderates puts them in the middle. If you go to the paper that is the source of the article, the remainder described themselves as liberal or conservative--they weren't afraid to use those terms to describe their own selves.

What I think was interesting about the original post was that it missed the point: 48% of academics were moderates. Hard to make an argument that this 48% is intollerant, particularly when those in the study who self described themselves as liberal had the attributes of being more tollerant as intellectuals and open to new ideas than those who described themselves as conservatives. If anything, academics seem to be more open and tolerant, as a group, then the general society, based on these findings.

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Fair point, but I still doubt they'd go further, to the other examples I gave.

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Bill, your answer makes no sense.

Taking presidential elections as a barometer, the country as a whole lies at the point 0.53 x Obama + 0.46 x McCain. Do you really think 48% of academics hold views that are 0.53 x Obama + 0.46 x McCain?

I'd be really curious to see stats on professors voting. Somehow I really doubt that the 48% moderates you speak of really voted 46% for McCain (or anything even close).

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If you read the paper, you would find that the study uses standards for measure across all groups.

If you say that everything is self-referential to your own group, then you can't argue anything from the study....that doctors and dentists are more conservative than the general population...well, do you think that doctors and dentists are even more conservative because they are self referential to their group?

The irony is that 48 percent of academics described themselves as moderates. The remainder is between conservative and liberal, with liberal beating conservatives in the remainder category.

It is hard to say that academia is the liberal bastion blocking others when the largest group within it describes itself as moderate.

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Responding to Chris,

The presumption in your answer is that in the battle between McCain/Palin and Obama, that McCain/Palin was more moderate.

Independents obviously disagreed.

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