WSJ: Campus Unicorns: Conservative Professors

29 Apr

From Shields and Dunn at the WSJ:

Everyone knows that academia is predominantly liberal: Only 6.6% of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, according to a 2007 study. But what is life like for the pioneering conservatives who slip through the ivory tower’s gates? We decided to find out by interviewing 153 of them.

Many conservative professors said they felt socially isolated. A political scientist told us that he became a local pariah for defending the Iraq war in his New England college town, which he called “Cuba with bad weather.” One sociologist stated the problem well: “To say a strong conservative political opinion with conviction in an academic gathering is analogous to uttering an obscenity.” A prominent social scientist at a major research university spoke of the strain of concealing his political views from his colleagues—of “lying to people all the time.”

Some even said that bias had complicated their career advancement. A historian of Latin America told us that he suffered professionally after writing a dissertation on “middle-class white guys” when it was fashionable to focus on the “agency of subaltern peoples.” Though he doesn’t think the work branded him as a conservative, it certainly didn’t excite the intellectual interest of his peers.

A similarly retrograde literature professor sought advice from a colleague after struggling to land a tenure-track job. He was told that he had “a nice resume for 1940.” As Neil Gross has shown, liberal professors often believe that conservatives are closed-minded. If you got to choose your colleagues, would you hire someone you thought fit that description?

Yet the professors we spoke to were surprisingly sympathetic toward their liberal colleagues. “The majority always thinks it’s treating the minority well,” said the tormented social scientist mentioned above. “That’s a basic psychological trick we all play on ourselves.” Reflecting on bias in the peer-review process, a sociologist told us: “I don’t think there is conscious bad faith going on. I think when people read things they wish to politically sympathize with, it adds brightness points.”

Some professors suggested that there are compensating benefits to being out of place. For one, it’s easier to make innovative contributions. “I really do feel sorry for your absolutely conventional liberal scholar,” a political scientist told us. He imagined that it must be difficult to discover something new from “within the framework of their thinking.” Another made the point by posing a rhetorical question: “I mean, how many ways can you talk about inequality?” Other conservatives appreciated being held to a higher standard. “You can’t be lazy. You can’t—you’re not going to be cut any slack,” a philosopher said. “I think that’s a real advantage insofar as it makes the work better.”

That underlines an important point: Political bias expresses an intellectual orientation—one that inclines us to find some questions more important and some explanations more plausible. Because of this, none of us can rely on our fellow partisans to identify flaws in our thinking. Building an academic community with varied biases, then, is essential to the very health of the social sciences. Political uniformity makes it difficult to converge on the best approximation of the truth.

It’s true that in some happy cases social science is self-correcting. But it can take a very long time. Sociologists spent decades playing down the importance of two-parent households before finally admitting that family structure matters. As a conservative in the field told us: “Basically, sociology had to be dragged kicking and screaming until it recognized that broken families aren’t a good thing. It’s like, if you have to spend decades and millions of dollars in [National Science Foundation] grants to convince astronomers that the sun rises in the east.”

Read the Rest

What does the Christian church really face after Obergefell?

22 Apr

From Jake Meador:

Hope, History, and the American Church After Obergefell
It’s a truth universally recognized by anyone who has ever talked about the BenOp that a person who expresses concern about the church’s future is in want of a person to quote Tertullian at them.

Sorry, is that cheeky? Here’s the quote and we’ll get to why it grates on my hear so in a moment: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The problem isn’t that Tertullian is always wrong. The problem is that this quote has become a sort of truism reflexively recited by American evangelicals who can only imagine that government-sanctioned opposition to the church will be a good thing for the American church. And while there will likely be some benefits to come from opposition, it’s essential that evangelicals not be overly sanguine about the American church’s short-term prospects.

The Historical Precedent for the Death of Regional Churches

The first point we need to get clear is that, historically speaking, it is simply not true that persecution always helps to strengthen and refine the church. Sometimes persecution simply destroys a church. Once upon a time there were thriving churches in northern Africa, the Middle East, China, and Japan. Then they died. (You can read about them in this fine book by Philip Jenkins.)

Those churches were all either destroyed (in the latter cases) or driven to the very edge of society (in the case of the two former groups). Indeed, what little remained of the historic churches of the Middle East has been largely eradicated by ISIS.

Thus we need to first figure out why these churches were destroyed or simply made into permanent extreme minorities. There are a number of factors in play:

In some cases, the church was closely tied to a ruling elite and when that elite was overthrown the church lost its standing and was crushed.
In other cases, the faith was actually only professed by a small minority of social elites and never penetrated into the mass population.

Finally, in still other cases, Christian identity has become conflated with a set of other characteristics or cultural values which, over time, erode the distinctly Christian characteristics of a people. So there is still a superficial Christianity, but it is badly compromised by its close ties to nationalism. Greece is a good example of this as somewhere between 88 and 98% of the population profess to be Greek Orthodox but only 27% of those people actually attend church weekly. Elsewhere in Europe the numbers are even more dire. In Denmark, 80% of the population is Lutheran but only 3% attend any kind of church service weekly. This critique also applies to cities and states in the USA that are historically Catholic, such as Chicago or Boston. The gap between those who claim to adhere to a specific faith and those who attend church weekly is enormous.
What all this means is that there are a number of conditions that have historically caused local churches to crumble and regional churches to disappear or lapse into a kind of permanent minority status. And the key thing to get clear is that this is very much a live possibility in the United States.

Read the rest

Conservative Professors’ Experiences in Left-Leaning Universities

21 Apr

From the WSJ:

Everyone knows that academia is predominantly liberal: Only 6.6% of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, according to a 2007 study. But what is life like for the pioneering conservatives who slip through the ivory tower’s gates? We decided to find out by interviewing 153 of them.

Many conservative professors said they felt socially isolated. A political scientist told us that he became a local pariah for defending the Iraq war in his New England college town, which he called “Cuba with bad weather.” One sociologist stated the problem well: “To say a strong conservative political opinion with conviction in an academic gathering is analogous to uttering an obscenity.” A prominent social scientist at a major research university spoke of the strain of concealing his political views from his colleagues—of “lying to people all the time.”

Some even said that bias had complicated their career advancement. A historian of Latin America told us that he suffered professionally after writing a dissertation on “middle-class white guys” when it was fashionable to focus on the “agency of subaltern peoples.” Though he doesn’t think the work branded him as a conservative, it certainly didn’t excite the intellectual interest of his peers.

A similarly retrograde literature professor sought advice from a colleague after struggling to land a tenure-track job. He was told that he had “a nice resume for 1940.” As Neil Gross has shown, liberal professors often believe that conservatives are closed-minded. If you got to choose your colleagues, would you hire someone you thought fit that description?

Yet the professors we spoke to were surprisingly sympathetic toward their liberal colleagues. “The majority always thinks it’s treating the minority well,” said the tormented social scientist mentioned above. “That’s a basic psychological trick we all play on ourselves.” Reflecting on bias in the peer-review process, a sociologist told us: “I don’t think there is conscious bad faith going on. I think when people read things they wish to politically sympathize with, it adds brightness points.”

….It’s true that in some happy cases social science is self-correcting. But it can take a very long time. Sociologists spent decades playing down the importance of two-parent households before finally admitting that family structure matters. As a conservative in the field told us: “Basically, sociology had to be dragged kicking and screaming until it recognized that broken families aren’t a good thing. It’s like, if you have to spend decades and millions of dollars in [National Science Foundation] grants to convince astronomers that the sun rises in the east.”

Read the rest

What has Augustine to do with Neoclassical Economics?

20 Apr

From John Mueller (full article): I’m grateful to my old friends at the Tocqueville Forum and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Patrick Deneen and Steven Brust, and pleased to join John Mé…

Source: What has Augustine to do with Neoclassical Economics?

58% of children lived with married biological parents

15 Apr

zill-figure-1-children-living-arrangements

Source

Church, FOR God, BY God. Reformed vs Evangelical Worship

8 Apr

It seems that the “church is for the unchurched” crowd in evangelicalism gets things exactly backwards. The priority seems to be to design church/worship around what is pleasing to the unchurched, then the churched, then God, sadly in that order. Shouldn’t it be exactly the reverse? Shouldn’t church be designed FOR God (what pleases Him) and BY God (according to His biblical methodology)? What does the bible say? What are the dangers of doing church according to our own designs?

Calvin: First, it tends greatly to establish God’s authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions.”

Robert Godfrey has a helpful, fair, and accurate description of what separates Reformed worship from mainstream evangelical worship in this short essay (excerpt below).

One of the challenges of being Reformed in America is to figure out the relationship between what is evangelical and what is Reformed. Protestantism in America is dominated by the mainline Protestants, the evangelicals, and the charismatics. After these dominant groups, other major players would include the confessional Lutherans. But where do the Reformed fit in, particularly in relation to the evangelicals, with whom historically we have been most closely linked?

Some observers argue that the confessional Reformed are a subgroup in the broader evangelical movement. Certainly over the centuries in America, the Reformed have often allied themselves with the evangelicals, have shared much in common with the evangelicals, and have often tried to refrain from criticizing the evangelical movement. But are we Reformed really evangelical?

One area in which the differences between evangelical and Reformed can be examined is the matter of worship. At first glance, we may see more similarities than differences. The orders of worship in Reformed and evangelical churches can be almost identical. Certainly, both kinds of churches sing songs, read Scripture, pray, preach, and administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But do these similarities reflect only formal agreement, or do they represent a common understanding of the meaning and function of these liturgical acts in worship?

If we look closely, I believe that we will see the substantive differences between evangelicals and Reformed on worship. That difference is clear on two central issues: first, the understanding of the presence of God in the service; and second, the understanding of the ministerial office in worship.

Ex-Lesbian Rosario Butterfield on How evangelicals should engage homosexuals

8 Apr
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