Every now and again a left wing academic (pardon the redundancy) states his prejudices so baldly and unselfconsciously that he provides a highly useful insight into the mind of his class. Such is the case with an essay published in the Raleigh News & Observer by William Snider, a professor in the department of neurology at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Snider was upset that a local state legislator, Phil Berger, blamed the 12:1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans in faculty positions at the University of Norther Carolina on partisan anti-Republican attitudes. Mr. Berger even “suggests that Republican job candidates are discriminated against when they apply for university positions unless they ‘toe the line from the left.’”
Dr. Snider rightly points out that there is no overt questioning of the political affiliation of candidates for academic positions at most universities. Then again, many of us who call ourselves conservative, and are called “right-wing” by our ever-so-open-minded colleagues, are not affiliated with either political party. The question asked by faculty at interviews is not, after all, “are you now or have you ever been a Republican?” The question, at interviews and at faculty meetings and informal gatherings right up until tenure, is rather “do you hold the proper, ‘enlightened’ views we demand on all important questions of the day?” Or, more accurately “you agree with all of us right-minded people on issues of race, sex, sexual-orientation, and the government’s role in enforcing good, leftist policies in all these areas, right?”
More entertaining, in an unselfconsciously ironic way, is Dr. Snider’s assertion that “it seems likely that there may be other, more objective explanations for the imbalance of party affiliation.” What are those explanations? Why, the stupidity and anti-science bigotry of right-wingers, of course. And there are facts, Dr. Snider insists—facts! “A Pew Research Survey in 2013 found that only 43 percent of Republicans believe that humans have evolved over time.” What is more, Republican presidential candidates these last few months did not express explicit support for evolutionary theory, with the exception of the non-starter, Jeb Bush. And this means that Republicans have no place in academia.
I’m sorry, how does that follow?
“The theory of evolution is the central organizing principle of modern biology,” Dr. Snider insists, and Republicans deny it, even sending voucher monies to schools that teach the theory as false. Now, as a Catholic, I have no dog in the evolution fight; as a religious matter it makes no difference to Catholics whether evolution is “true” or not in the sense of providing some grand, consistent explanation of the development of human life. But to claim that this theory is “the central organizing principle of modern biology” is to raise scientific theory to the level of political ideology. Whether a particular gene therapy is beneficial, for example, has little to do with whether the scientist working on it buys every speculation advanced by evolutionary theorists concerning how natural selection produced broad trends of evolution or specific human traits. To claim otherwise is to insist on blind, affirmative obedience to a rather intricate and abstract theory, not diligence and adherence to the scientific method.
There is more, of course. According to Dr. Snider, Republicans are Climate Science Deniers. The science tells us that the earth is warming, that it is the fault of manmade carbon emissions, and that the results will be disastrous. This is settled, Dr. Snider tells us, even though he confesses that he has not looked into the actual data. Our intellectual leaders at the National Academy of Science in the U.S. and the Royal Society in the U.K. have told us that the science is settled, and therefore it is settled. And this makes any further questioning of climate models or policy prescriptions based on them a matter of conspiracy theorizing and capture by economic interests. So much for that liberal mantra telling us all to “question authority.” After all, UNC has its own new center to staff (and use as a source for grants and other, I am certain, purely scientific, non-moneymaking purposes), so, he explains, “shut up.”
Finally, there are social issues. Dr. Snider chooses to leave aside the latest assaults on traditional values, the LGBTQ agenda and the campaign to take away the rights of students accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, he focuses on discussions of abortion—or rather, the need to police said discussions. He swings away at “catch phrases like ‘protecting women’s health’” which he asserts lack merit, being merely “manufactured to appeal to a political base.” In other words, we can talk about controversial issues, provided we do so only using arguments and facts of which Dr. Snider approves.
“The life of the university depends on rational discourse,” Dr. Snider asserts. But this rational discourse could not possibly include discussion of women’s health in the context of the abortion debate. Statistics regarding the impact of abortion procedures on mothers’ ongoing physical and mental health apparently are by nature “manufactured.” Perhaps the Royal Society has made a declaration on these issues as well? Doubtful, for these statistics are real, if inconvenient.
And this is the thrust of Dr. Snider’s problem with “Republicans.” Anyone who disagrees with him on issues he would like to treat as if they are settled is an ignorant conspiracy theorist. How convenient.
There is a 12:1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans on campuses like the University of North Carolina (the disparity is even worse in places like New England, especially at prestigious institutions). This ratio exists because people like Dr. Snider are not just running the universities; in important ways they have become the universities. When you have a 12:1 ideological advantage you need not take seriously the ideas of those with whom you disagree on political, philosophical, or moral issues. The positions of the few dissenters clearly are “stupid” because you know of no one, or almost no one, in your class (intellectuals) who shares them. Thus, you can safely demonize people who hold these views and see to it that almost none of them get onto your faculty, or get hired as petty administrators running the dorms, for example. As to anyone from the outside who tells you that you are being an intellectual bigot, they clearly are ignorant themselves. After all, Mr. Berger, the state legislator who piqued Dr. Snider’s ire, may not even hold a higher degree. And if he does, well, it is probably just a law degree, and we all “know” that people with law degrees who are not left wing professors are merely rabble rousers seeking their own political power.
It must be nice to be one of the nation’s elite, too smart to be fooled into, you know, questioning the smart elites. Now, if we can just get those stupid and evil Republicans to stop messing with our budgets, we can really get some good things done. If these attitudes are not clear examples of intellectual bigotry, then there is no such thing as intellectual bigotry. And I think we all are aware that that is not true.
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