Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Does reality have a liberal bias?

At the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner in 2006, Stephen Colbert declared that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Is this true? Consider the following few points:

(i) A recent study published in The Forum found that only 15% of professors at U.S. universities identify as conservative, while an overwhelming 72% identify as liberal.
(ii) A New York University study recently found that “individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners,” but that the reason for this asymmetry of subjective well-being is that “conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities” more than liberals.
(iii) One finds a revealing prima facie statistical relationship between education level and political orientation. (There are of course notable exceptions among both conservatives and liberals, and it’s worth keeping in mind that although an education may incline one towards a more rational, fact-based worldview, it does not entail that one assume such a posture.) Take some of the most prominent ideologues of the conservative pole: Sean Hannity, an “indifferent student,” dropped out of New York University, never to earn a college degree; Rush Limbaugh, whose mother reports that “he flunked everything,” including a Modern Ballroom Dancing course, dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University, never to earn a college degree; George W. Bush, a self-described “average student,” received “mostly Cs” at Yale University; Karl Rove, who is probably least well-known as an MC, (apparently) dropped out of three colleges (he stayed in college to avoid the Vietnam draft), never to earn a college degree; etc. One the antipode of the political sphere, one finds the paradigms of liberal thought, most of whom are highly educated, rational, and fact-based in their worldviews; e.g., Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Howard Zinn, Keith Olberman, Rachael Maddow, etc.
(iv) Take note someday of the Junk Science articles written by fideist Steven Milloy for the Opinion section of foxnews.com. Very often, one finds headlines such as “Global Warming Alarmists Aim to Lower the Standard of Living,” while just below, in the Science section, one finds headlines such as “Report: North Pole May Be Ice-Free This Summer.” I wrote Milloy about this embarrassing discrepancy—viz., that on the very same page, apposed one section apart, a pontifical opinion piece claims that arguments for global warming are specious and alarmist while a peer-reviewed science paper (or AP article summarizing the paper) states just the opposite—and his editor, Barry Hearn, replied as follows: “You'd have to ask FNC's editors why they uncritically post AP items, or site layout or anything else. […] The root cause here would seem to be NOAA's fundraising oportunism [sic] waving the ‘warming’ flag.”

It's no surprise that Bush has consistently cut funding for education. As George Orwell once said, “hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.”

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