Monday, February 21, 2005

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein makes a couple of silly points regarding the Summers affair.

Bernstein approvingly quotes an anonymous commentator,
Correct me if I'm wrong, but about 6-8 weeks ago there was a flurry of activity in the blogosphere re: the dearth of conservatives/Republicans on university faculties. If I recall, the general, not to mention immediate, consensus among liberal/Democrat professors was that Republicans either didn't have the intellectual oomph to be professors, or just preferred to do other things. Natural selection, in other words, certainly not any sort of bias. We now have Harvard jumping through hoops to explain the dearth of female professors in math and science departments. They're not quite sure why this condition endures, except for the fact that it absolutely, positively, ain't natural selection. Strangely enough, this was another immediate, reflexive consensus, excepting Mr. Summers' brief but embarrassing romp off of the intellectual plantation.
It's really pretty simple: there is a long history of discrimination against women in the workplace. There is also current evidence that such discrimination exists in significant amounts.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no empirical verification of discrimination against conservatives in academia - though there is no shortage of complaints. Indeed, as I have repeatedly pointed out, there is a piece of evidence that contradicts this. Namely, arts and humanities departments are not the only ones dominated by liberals; the same goes for engineering and science departments as well, where identifying conservatives is impossible. See my previous post for a link to the data.

Bernstein then writes,
I would add that if Summers' quite measured comments have gotten him into such hot water, imagine how regular faculty, untenured faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates whose views don't reflect the politically correct mainstream are treated, and how much their careers can be placed in potential jeopardy. And then consider whether a young conservative or libertarian scholar would be wise in pursuing an academic career.
One does not need to imagine. Steven Pinker, a prof. at Harvard just like Summers, has been quite vocal in his support of Summer's statements. Is anyone calling for his resignation? Not at all. Why not? Because Pinker is a member of the faculty, a scientist, and Summers is an administrator. As such, they are subject to radically different standards: while academics generally are free to do whatever research they desire, the standard for university administrator is set at will by the institution - and a large part of the job is presenting a good image to the public. I myself have criticized Summers for making statements unsupported by the evidence; I really doubt its the job of a university president to do so.


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