The leftist university is the product of self-selection

The leftist university is the product of self-selection

According to Andreas De Block, academic research is ideologically one-sided towards the left. He predicts that if we do not act, universities will move further and further to the left. The conclusion of his book The left is smarter It is that universities are indeed the bastions of the left as right-wing critics portray them. (For an interview with De Block, see this article Winya week.)

De Block works as a senior lecturer at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. He identifies himself as politically right-wing and considers himself an exception in his field of philosophy. And not only there. The left is more or much stronger represented than the right in almost all disciplines. According to him, many scientific disciplines are too left-wing in nature, which affects their reliability. This can lead to poor quality control and bias in research areas.

The Left in Academic America and Europe

Much, if not all, came from the United States. In the United States, a very small minority of humanities and behavioral science professors are registered Republicans, while ten times that number of professors are registered Democrats. Among social psychology professors surveyed at American universities, 84% identified as “progressive” (Liberalism). The same picture applies to philosophy: half see themselves on the far left, and a third see themselves on the far left.'Liberalism'. All humanities in America are left-wing. Although there is some difference in discipline. Anthropology scores far left, and economics somewhat lower.

Europe presents the same picture: the behavioral sciences and humanities in particular are left-leaning. In distinctly left-wing disciplines such as gender studies, ethnic studies, and colonial studies, there is no room for other viewpoints. In terms of percentage it is very small. You can safely assume that if the term “studies” appears in the name of a discipline, it is left-leaning, as Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote a few years ago.

In the Netherlands, the majority of academics voted for D66 and Groen Links in the 2017 parliamentary elections, while these two parties only received a fifth of the total votes. Left-wing employees are less represented in technical universities, but they constitute the majority there as well.

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The overrepresentation of the left can be seen not only in universities, but also in journalism, media and the art world.

De Block wonders whether this means the left is simply smarter. Research shows that there are small differences between leftists and rightists, but they are not large. In America, the difference in IQ between Democratic and Republican voters is negligible. In England, people who vote Conservative have a slightly higher IQ than people who vote Labour. Furthermore, these studies show that people who adhere to extremist ideologies are somewhat less intelligent.

Self-portrait

Neil Gross, the world authority on research in the academic profession, has shown that interest in abstract ideas is more likely to be found on the left than on the right. This interest explains an important part of the university professor's political preference. This interest is not characteristic of a certain “open” personality type, but is linked to self-image. The left believes they are better off at university, while the right believes they are better off in the business world.

The leftist university is therefore a product of self-selection. Discrimination does exist: right-wing participants in a study by De Block reported significantly greater hostility than participants who considered themselves moderate. This is also consistent with his own experiences. The right is afraid to make its political preference clear to its colleagues, because at that moment you will be canceled if you go against the dominant leftist discourse.

Shouldn't scientific research be neutral?

How should we view scientific research now? Wouldn't it be better if science were worthless, and leftist hobbies like gender studies had no chance? No, says De Block, science is not value-free; in fact, the intertwining of values ​​and science is often desirable. Both scientific methods and the use of science are limited and guided by ethical standards. Climate research received higher government funding than historical research into late medieval cuisine.

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Much research in the humanities such as history, philosophy, anthropology, and literary theory is partly guided by standards. Quality is difficult to define. However, in my opinion, there is an urgent need for discussion on this topic. De Block points to a Dutch study by Gopalakrishna et al from 2022 in the journal Science One plus Which shows that nearly half of Dutch researchers do not take the integrity of their research seriously. Eight percent say they commit fraud by manipulating data.

Groupthink is disastrous for science, it happens in…
Sciences, social sciences and humanities. Without reliable empirical data, it is difficult to disprove theories or ideas. Science advances only through discussion and internal criticism. Such a process can take years.

In many cases, progressive left ideology dominates, and this applies to all disciplines, but especially to the humanities and social sciences. In those disciplines, conformity leads to a (seemingly) unified left group. Example. Growing up in single-parent families explains a large portion of poverty among black Americans. However, left-wing academics prefer to research issues of decolonization and racism rather than the causes of the large number of single-parent families.

What do we do about it?

Should the government intervene? Should there be quotas for right-wing professors, just as there are for women in business? That will be difficult. The right is usually against quotas, and the left supports positive discrimination, but not against political opponents. Should we require all scholars who publish articles on ideologically charged topics to also publish their own ideology?

American political philosopher Bas van der Vossen suggests that, as a rule, scientists should be prohibited from engaging in politics. Professional duty. It is your professional duty to make an effort not to unnecessarily complicate your academic work. If you think politics is too important, don't work at a university. But de Block rightly says that a complete refusal to engage in political engagement is almost immoral in a world where so much is seen as political engagement. As a scientist, keeping your mouth shut about politics is unethical. Indeed, a certain degree of bias is sometimes a scientific virtue, de Block believes.

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De Block advocates for a politically diverse research community working on a specific topic. Ideological diversity keeps you on your toes and has advantages over neutrality. Such an initiative has recently begun in America Herodocus Academy (HxA), which brings together thousands of students and faculty members. First, the university itself must acknowledge the problem, De Block wrote. Second: There must be a cultural change within the university. Something also needs to be done about research funding applications. This often leads to skewed results, because the priority is to strive for inclusion and diversity.

All of this is justified and much needed, but one important question remains open: Quality search. What is our standard for this? The answer to this question relates directly to De Block's book. It also addresses it by discussing the topic of peer review. “Peer reviews” are not a solution, because they are often requested from experts who have the same thinking as the researcher.

A critical book for the general public

There is a certain degree of control. Science scientists mainly publish their research results in scientific journals, while human scientists often publish books. The latter needs a very important publisher if it is to achieve the intended quality.

De Block succeeded in publishing a critical book for a wide audience. University administrators committed to diversity and inclusion should read it, too.

Andreas De BlockIs the left smarter? Ideology on Our Universities (Llano Campus 2023).

Ari Graveland He is Professor Emeritus at TU Delft. He writes regularly for Winya Week, especially about non-fiction books.

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