Advancing Heterodoxy

It is hard to exaggerate how homogeneous are political views in the academic world. Law professors are the most liberal category among all lawyers who are themselves quite liberal. Many precincts within the university are even further left than the legal academy. But this nation is founded on the premise that the clash of views leads to better ideas and better policy. The ideologically monochromatic cast of our academic world should thus be of concern to many, regardless of their political perspective. That is why I am so pleased that a new organization, The Heterodox Academy, has been established to try to bring in a fuller representation of a wider range of views.

As Jonathan Haidt, one of the leading professors of social psychology, said in his welcoming post:

At HeterodoxAcademy, our contributors have documented the near absence of political diversity in many fields, and we have demonstrated the damaging effects that this homogeneity has on scholarship in those fields. We are not the first to do so. Scholars have been calling to this problem for decades… and nothing has been done.

This time will be different. We have come together to pool resources, analyze current trends in the academy, discuss possible solutions, and advocate for policies and systemic changes that will increase viewpoint diversity in the academy and therefore improve the quality of work that the academy makes available to the public, and to policymakers.

Members of this venture include well-known academics, like Professor Haidt and Steven Pinker as well as more obscure ones like this writer. We have different political ideas, but all share the conviction that the academy would be much improved by more ideological and political diversity, particularly in the social sciences.

In my own view, the advantages of greater diversity would go far beyond scholarship that is better vetted and more wide-ranging in its explorations. The current round of speech codes and norms of collegiate intolerance could not survive in a more ideologically diverse academy. If there were a critical mass of conservatives, the University of California could not get away with trying to banish statements, like “America is a Land of Opportunity” from its campus. There would be a greater concern with due process for those accused of harassment of various kinds.

But we should not minimize the difficulties ahead. The academy shares some features of a social club. Professors do not earn more money by bringing in more productive or otherwise academically meritorious people into their circle. As a result, they may choose to give a substantial priority to appointing those who add to their enjoyment of the workplace by confirming their political views and sense of self-worth. Moreover, whatever its other virtues, the relentless focus on diversity with respect to race and gender tends to bring onto campus demographic groups that are likely to reinforce ideological homogeneity. But just as other institutions, like Liberty Fund and the Federalist Society, have made a difference despite what may have seemed insuperable odds at the time of their founding, so too may Heterodox Academy.

Reader Discussion

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on September 23, 2015 at 09:31:29 am

Based on my experiences, the real problem is that "our academic world" is so cloistered on its limb of shared or competitive opinion it cannot recognize creative thought.

Our-academic-world's response to civic talk is brick walls and silence. Your excuse is that you are busy. But what makes you too busy to talk? I speculate it is personal fear. Fear that you have had your nose down in "our academic world" so doggedly that you have passed the chance to really help civic life--help establish safe living in this country.

Take the vaunted Stephen Pinker, for example. I have written to both him and his organization and called the organization--SCA--with my message: Change the name to Civic Coalition for America. Civic references the fact that inhabitants are connected because they live in the same country (or on the same globe). My concern is that no matter how you approach it, "secular" is an antonym for "religious." Secular is thus undefined until you define religion, and it is a disadvantage to retain the association with religion or none: in civics religion should be a non-issue. The impression I get is that the brick-wall-of-silence comes from the idea that SCA has too much invested in its name to change it. However, there is no excuse for not writing to tell me so. I am a concerned person and a civic person.

"Our academic world" needs to examine its goals and consider an aim such as: Empower no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill: PL&DG. Or perhaps: Enhance security for children, grandchildren and beyond.

My ideas apparently seem weak to "our academic world," but imagine what could happen if "our academic world," collaborated with a civic people weak as a civic people may be.

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Phil Beaver
on September 24, 2015 at 19:28:28 pm

Mr. Beaver:

You seem angry - why is that?
Honey may, in fact, be more effective than vinegar - and there are currently many flavors of it on the market!

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on September 24, 2015 at 22:39:11 pm

Gabe, I don't know what makes you think anger so can't answer your mind.

I have been the beneficiary of fifteen months of collaborative debate wherein blunt, tough rebuke of ideas can arise at any time. Sometimes it's only two people, but sometimes the whole room is involved or at least five or six people. Everyone is emotionless even though they may get excited about the debate. Everyone is civic but not judgmental. People come and go without objections. It's because they know they have a common goal: establishing a civic people of the United States.

I think the contributors in this forum don't realize how transparent their foolishness is. Writing that opinion does not make me mad, nor does it call for "sugar." When you write in a public forum, you are not writing to students who are looking to you for grades, so no sugar should be expected. Instead, the poster's thought should be, "Am I contributing to no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill--PL&DG--in this land and beyond? If the answer is, NO, Why is sugar called for?

Please google Theory of collaboration by a civic people . See there the product of the fifteen months of collaboration without sugar. The tell me what you think.

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Phil Beaver
on September 24, 2015 at 22:44:41 pm

that's "then" tell me what you think

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Phil Beaver
on September 25, 2015 at 21:02:03 pm

I wish you luck, but these are the same people who are now calling for the use of the RICO law to go after people who dispute their scientific views. Heterodoxy is desperately needed, but I don't know how you get the entrenched powers of their ivory towers.

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JJ Biener
on September 26, 2015 at 09:01:47 am

We propose to use physics-based ethics. It's a little stronger than evidence based strategy, because people can manipulate evidence to support their agendum. Physics does not respond to coercion. In this usage, "physics is energy, mass, and space-time from which everything emerges rather than the study of those three entities.

Religions slowly conform to physics-based ethics.

Perhaps the first step in discovering physics or its laws is to perceive discovery of fact or emergence. Perhaps the second step is to imagine a plausible explanation.

Long ago, persons across the globe imagined the sun is a god, and intellectual constructs emerged based on that assumption. We now think the sun is a nuclear reactor, but the god constructs persist and secularize. Yet, the imagined gods have not been disproved. The existence of a god is still a consideration, but the consequential intellectual constructs are of no use in settling civic affairs--no two people have the same god construct. The Pope speaking to Congress is Congress re-imposing Chapter XI Machiavellianism: government partners with church and the partners can do anything they want and the people will neither rebel nor leave the country.

Civic refers to issues that arise because we occupy the same land: street, subdivision, section, town, county, state, country and globe. The often used "social" implies preference, which citizens do not have. We must live together on the land.

People cannot self-govern, because they do not know enough. However, with a common mediator and common goals each person can both govern themselves better and supervise their governance through informed voting. Physics -based ethics allows a civic people to collaborate for no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill--PL&DG.

People have never heard to concept, but that's no reason to ignore it. There is an effort similar to ours in England, but they don't touch soft issues like abortion, children's dignity and equality and such. See http://www.peep.ac.uk/content/index.php . Also, they seem to think its OK to lie in particular circumstances and we advocate never lying, spring from Albert Einstein's example. See http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/my-friend-einstein .

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Phil Beaver
on May 04, 2016 at 15:24:14 pm

From the world’s greatest essay on political tribalism and in-group/out-group dynamics:

[P]eople’s unconscious partisan biases were half again as strong as their unconscious racial biases…. For example, if you are a white Democrat, your unconscious bias against blacks (as measured by something called a d-score) is 0.16, but your unconscious bias against Republicans will be 0.23. The Cohen’s d for racial bias was 0.61, by the book a “moderate” effect size; for party it was 0.95, a “large” effect size....

Iyengar and Westwood also .... asked subjects to decide which of several candidates should get a scholarship (subjects were told this was a genuine decision for the university the researchers were affiliated with). Some resumes had photos of black people, others of white people. And some students listed their experience in Young Democrats of America, others in Young Republicans of America.

Once again, discrimination on the basis of party was much stronger than discrimination on the basis of race. The size of the race effect for white people was only 56-44 (and in the reverse of the expected direction); the size of the party effect was about 80-20 for Democrats and 69-31 for Republicans….

People have been studying “belief congruence theory” – the idea that differences in beliefs are more important than demographic factors in forming in-groups and out-groups – for decades. As early as 1967, Smith et al were doing surveys all over the country and finding that people were more likely to accept friendships across racial lines than across beliefs; in the forty years since then, the observation has been replicated scores of times….

One of the best-known examples of racism is the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” scenario where parents are scandalized about their child marrying someone of a different race. Pew has done some good work on this and found that only 23% of conservatives and 1% (!) of liberals admit they would be upset in this situation. But Pew also asked how parents would feel about their child marrying someone of a different political party. Now 30% of conservatives and 23% of liberals would get upset….

(Harvard [has] more black students – 11.5% – than conservative students – 10% – but there are more conservative faculty than black faculty.)

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