Why College Professors are Liberal…

In a recent editorial that appeared in the New York Times on April 5, 2005,[1] economist Paul Krugman weighed in on the liberal bias found at most major universities across the United States. He begins by writing, “It’s a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities. But what should we conclude from that?” What to conclude indeed? Normally the answer given by conservatives is that a liberal bias among university administrators (true) causes them to hire fewer and less right-leaning professors (probably also true). But is this the whole story? Krugman digs deeper and comes to some interesting conclusions.

By beginning his article with a “documented fact,” Krugman goes on to do what we all do—interpret the “facts.” His first interpretation is, “The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.” The two aforementioned studies found this to be true. Liberals don’t just outnumber conservatives in the social sciences, but in the “hard” sciences as well, physics, biology, etc. Krugman’s assessment that career choice plays a big Part 1n the lopsided leftist environment of university campuses is a good point, but is it the whole story? Far from it. Krugman goes on to further his interpretation by claiming that conservatives prefer “revelation” to “research.”

“Scientific American may think that evolution is supported by mountains of evidence, but President Bush declares that "the jury is still out." Senator James Inhofe dismisses the vast body of research supporting the scientific consensus on climate change as a "gigantic hoax." And conservative pundits like George Will write approvingly about Michael Crichton’s anti-environmentalist fantasies.

Think of the message this sends: today’s Republican Party—increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research—doesn’t respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn’t be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party.”[2]

It is at this point in his editorial that Krugman loses major credibility. He allows his own liberal bias to show through by making such an astounding leap of reason. To say that because several conservatives don’t believe in the evolutionary hypothesis or global warming makes the whole Republican Party a group of theocratic fundamentalists is a generalization, a logical fallacy. Not only that, he assumes that scholars are neutral in their political leanings, and this perceived “lack of respect for science” is what drives them left. How preposterous is this? No one is neutral. We all have a presuppositional starting point that informs our interpretations and thinking. Krugman displays this in his own article. He begins with a fact, i.e. two studies show that conservative professors are a small minority at elite universities, and goes on to interpret this fact through his assumptive left-leaning grid.

Science itself can only be “done” in an ordered, stable world. The worldview of the liberal, evolutionary college professor is one of randomness and chaos. Accurate predictions cannot be made in such a world. In order to do so, they must step outside of their system and borrow the worldview of the theist, who believes that God has created an observable, testable, and repeatable world. The claimed “mountains of evidence” are simply self-supporting interpretations that must side step the original assumption.

I suspect that the reason most professors are liberal is that they have a Messiah complex. They firmly believe that they have been called to save humanity through education. Conservatives know better. Liberalism also finds a life within institutions that are dependant on government funding and donations—in research grants and alumni contributions. Many university professors denounce the free market but could not make a living in it if they applied their classroom ideals to it. A Ward Churchill could not make it in the competitive world of commerce because he would turn off clients and drive business away. His tenured status allows him to turn out a product that only the most uninformed will listen to. Since most students do not pay for their college education, they are usually indifferent to nonsense. When the real world hears about professors like Churchill, they want him out. The dirty secret of the university is that most of what takes place in the classroom never gets much further than the campus newspaper. Krugman can’t see the truth in any of this because his presuppositions won’t allow him.


[1] Paul Krugman, “An Academic Question,” The New York Times (April 5, 2005): www.pkarchive.org/
[2] Krugman, “An Academic Question.”

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