Thursday, April 07, 2005

In which Jonah Goldberg performs feats that bend the laws of space and time

Brad DeLong observes as Jonah Goldberg shoves his foot so far down his mouth that it comes out his ass, wraps around, circumnavigates the globe, goes back into his mouth, and lodges firmly in the empty space in his upper cranium:

But Krugman also notes that engineers and other faculty in the hard sciences are also disproportionately liberal. It's not just in the humanities. Good point.

What he - Mr. Prize-Winning Economist - neglects to mention or consider is that engineers in the private sector make good money. Ditto many scientists. Indeed, I don't have the data to back this up handy, but it would hardly surprise me to find out that the most liberal members of the science faculty are probably the least likely to be able to find work elsewhere. I'm sure there's a market for private-sector biodiversity experts, but something tells me it's smaller than the market for electrical engineers. Never mind when the last time a Marxist hermeneuticist got a job with Union Carbide.

Observe my jaw, like that of all my computer scientist friends, dropping to the floor at superluminal speed. Computer science is arguably the science and engineering field in which it is easiest to be well-compensated in the private sector. Yet it is an empirical fact that only the brightest undergrads go to top grad schools, and of those only the brightest of the brightest Ph.D's get top faculty positions. Getting a lucrative private-sector position out of grad school is almost considered a consolation prize (particularly if it's a development position, as opposed to a "purer" research position that more closely resembles an academic post). Being successful faculty at a top-tier school requires a comprehensive mastery of the discipline (including strong teaching, research, and interpersonal skills, not to mention massive raw brain power) that no industrial position does. If these faculty decided to go into private industry, they would kick ass and take names, and they would make a bundle of cash along the way. Indeed, many do: top professors remain highly sought-after by private industry for well-paid part-time consulting work; and then, of course, there are professor-initiated startups.

And yet the faculty at top CS departments remain largely liberal. (Although they obviously do not conform to Goldberg's bizarre caricature of "Marxist hermeneuticists" --- erm, I thought we were talking about liberal scientists, not far-left-wing culture critics?)

Now, having said that, let's try to get away, for a moment, from the fact that Goldberg's statement is outrageously false. Let us also set aside the sloppy thinking that lets him slide from all science and engineering faculty, to "biodiversity ecologists", to "Marxist hermeneuticists" (incidentally, if one of my friends started exhibiting this kind of thought process, I would be seriously concerned --- and this is not hyperbole --- that (s)he had suffered severe brain damage).

Let's consider, rather, Goldberg's supremely asinine arrogance in how he constructs this argument. Goldberg clearly does not know a goddamn thing about science and engineering academia. I repeat: he does not know a goddamn thing about science and engineering academia. He does not know enough to make educated guesses; he does not know enough to have even the faintest throb of a gut instinct. But he's an expert in the ape-man grunts that constitute current conservatarian ideology ("Private sector good! Academia bad! Money good! Liberal bad! Oook ook!"), which enables him to deduce, a priori, the probable truth about any given subject. And he's an expert in the low, low standards of punditological writing, which permit him to describe his total ignorance with the phrase: "I don't have the data to back this up handy", as if there were some wealth of both statistical and anecdotal evidence and he just didn't have enough research assistants to compile it at the moment. Hence, he feels comfortable smearing liberal academics in science and engineering fields as unemployable jokers.

Now, this would merely be an occasion for a hearty laugh at the village idiot's expense, if not for what it represents in its broader media context. The fact is, Goldberg doesn't care in the least whether what he says is true and well-reasoned, and neither do his backers and readers. Goldberg's function is not to say things that are true, nor is his function to present a reasoned argument. Goldberg's function is to spew forth some roughly grammatical stream of words that appear to reinforce conservatarian ideology, so that his readers can listen, nod, and feel vindicated in their beliefs.

And --- this is what's really maddening, all the outrages I've brought up wouldn't matter in the least except for this point --- virtually all right-leaning commentators, running the gamut from David Brooks to Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Reynolds, whether consciously or not, perform roughly the same function, and they're wildly effective. The entire right-wing movement is like a hovercraft floating on the perpetually roaring whirlwind of sub-rational, self-reinforcing nonsense that gusts through the minds of its adherents. It goes on and on and on, and nobody stops the people who feed it; most of the time, nobody with a prominent voice even stands up to them and calls them on their nonsense. For writing this column, and numerous other pieces of garbage like it, for filling people's minds with offal, Jonah Goldberg will never face judgment; he'll die peacefully, with a fat bank account and a kid gloves obituary.

UPDATE (8 April): Urp. This post got linked by both Pharyngula and Atrios. This is way more attention than I ever bargained for. This is only worth remarking upon because, as one dissenting commenter noted, I did not provide much in the way of hard data in my previous post, and I should explain why. It's because, under normal circumstances, barely anybody reads this blog aside from myself and my friends, and more than half of the latter are also grad students in computer science, for whom the empirical evidence of liberal predominance in CS academia is confirmed every day by firsthand experience.

So, for the broader audience that may read this post: I should make absolutely clear that I do not have any systematically gathered, statistically sound evidence that CS academics are liberal. My assessment is purely based on the informal data-gathering implicit in living, working, and breathing in CS academia. As a grad student, I interact extensively with both present and future faculty in my own department, as well as with present and future faculty from other institutions at scientific conferences. And although, for the sake of professionalism, everybody largely avoids political outspokenness in professional contexts, the prevailing political climate nevertheless inevitably seeps through, in jokes and other informal social interaction. And that climate is, alas for Goldberg and his ilk, definitely liberal. To be more precise, it exhibits considerable ideological diversity, but along a spectrum with strongly progressive liberalism at one end and libertarianism at the other, and with more people on the liberal end. The fraction who subscribe to National Review-style "conservatism" is vanishingly small.

The question of why CS professors tend to have this distribution of political beliefs is an interesting question, and I'm not going to speculate about the reasons right now. But Goldberg's explanation --- they can't get jobs, those worthless liberal loonies --- well, as I've already said, it's ludicrous.

Lastly, it is probably worth further clarifying one other point. As Nicholas Thompson wrote in the Washington Monthly a while ago, even top Republican strategists have agreed for decades that scientists, as a bloc, are so liberal that it's not even worth trying to win them over. That scientists are liberal is not something that Goldberg disputes. What Goldberg insinuates is that scientists are liberal because they are unemployable.

And with that, I have wasted far too much of my life rebutting this b.s. I have some code to write.

META-UPDATE (10 April): I was going to compile a list of reciprocal links to everyone who linked to this post, but that grew impractical. Instead, I set up the hack invented by BoingBoing for using Technorati's automatic link tracker; for example, here's the list for this post. Technorati's tracking gets most blogs, though it isn't perfect --- for example, it omits DC Media Girl, a blog which I've never heard of, but which generated a fair number of referrers.

Also, if anybody's still reading, thanks to all, in comments and other blogs, for the positive response. Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about the level of vitriol on display above --- as my friends know, I tend to slip into a vindictive mode in my writing pretty frequently, and I often wonder if it's healthy. I mean, I believe my anger was justified, but I also hope that people mostly responded to what is true or thoughtful in the above, rather than taking cheap satisfaction in the anger alone. Well, OK, this is the Internet, so some number of people will inevitably do the latter, but I hope that what I write is more satisfying to people looking for the former. It's hard to judge.

OK, enough navel-gazing. Metablog mode off.


  1. Goldberg clearly does not know a goddamn thing about science and engineering academia.

    Or apparently about using a search engine. I don't have the data to back this up handy . . .

    No, that's probably not true; Google isn't exactly brain surgery. More likely, it's two other things: (a) he's bone-lazy (as you might expect from a grown man who--near as anyone can tell--never had a single ambition in his life beyond having his mama get a next-to-no-show job for him) ; and (b) like the reactionaries he works with (and was spawned by), he has no more concept of intellectual honesty than my border collie does of viral genetics.

    --Molly, NYC

  2. Writing as a self-employed, well-employed conservation biologist, let me reassure the world of the obvious -- that Jonah also knows less than nothing about "biodiversity experts." He ranks highly among the dumbest asses-with-keyboards our country has produced in our post-Lewinsky slide, and it's nice to see a rising chorus of intelligent people publicizing this salient point, over and over and over.

  3. Starting salaries at a top-tier business school for tenure-track professors are typically > what a congressman makes; perhaps Jonah would have some comments about the relative intelligence of (mostly Republican these days) congressmen and 29-year old B-school junior faculty, who are mostly liberal?

  4. Maybe Jonah is really arguing for higher pay for profs.

  5. It would nice if either you or Jonah would provide some real, empirical facts to back up your assertions. Personally, I refrain from taking postions on things that are measurable (such as the employability of specific professions) without measurable facts to support the position I take. Not very "scientific" is it? But what do I know, I obviously don't know a "goddamthing" and have have something that "comes out his ass" since I'm questioning what you believe. Or maybe I should just use stronger swear words than you? You stupid asshole mutherfucker cunthead! There, now, I feel like I'm right.

  6. "Goldberg clearly does not know a goddamn thing about science and engineering academia."

    That's true, he should have stuck to his area of expertise... Iraq.

    What?!? Why are looking at me funny?

  7. I don't have the data to back this up handy, but it would hardly surprise me to find out that Jonah still wets the bed, thus causing his mother to leave his room and sleep her fifth of gin off on the couch.

    Never mind when the last time someone found Jonah attractive enough to want to come up to his place for a nightcap.

  8. In my field, Genetics, it is much harder to get a faculty job than anything else.

    In fact, what Jonah is saying is exactly the opposite of what is true. Competition in the academic sector is much more intense than the private sector, as far as I know.

  9. Wow anonymous swearing guy, impressive words...for a scat muncher. Anyhoo, as an ME I fill out lots of surveys about salary. Try the asme, or, and, why here's a whole bunch of links: That was hard. Engineering prof's are paid very well because they have to be lured out of taking well paying private sector jobs. That's with all of the vacation time.

    Maybe professors are liberal because teaching involves helping people. A job that is beyond most conservatives.

  10. I do think there is something to the compensation angle and it is that academically successful "lefties" are (on average) more willing to work for less than academically successful "righties". It would seem to me a "social scientist" (e.g., sociologist, economist) could study if there is a different tolerance for lower compensation by self-identified liberals.

  11. Abstract Factory hits the nail on the head. Jonah has no knowledge of industry & academic in the sceince & engineering fields. I wasn't the only Democrat at my last employer, but I was for sure the only liberal on the entire staff. And the faculty of our universities is not filled with the dregs of our fields. I have a lot to say about this... maybe I should put some in my own dang blog.

  12. The important thing to remember about folks (at least in the physical sciences) is that they're trained to solve complex equations on computers. The number of well-paying jobs that this qualifys you for is substantial. I'm an astronomer, and the folks that I know who have left the field make, if anything, substantially more than academics. Here are some examples:

    1. Wall street financial analyst working on derivatives (very highly paid, and especially common in math, physics, and astronomy)

    2. Medical imaging analysis, e.g. solving the equation of radiative transfer in the body for lasers used in
    destroying tumors

    3. Public education/outreach positions (planetarium director, etc)

    4. Computer-related fields (e.g. system administrators, usually for technical positions where their knowledge of the field is a plus)

    The humanities are different, but there is an awful lot that you can do even with pure science to pay the mortgage.


  13. Sometimes I find myself reading blog entries like this, agreeing, then wonder if I'm just keeping myself in the echo chamber same as the other guys are.

    Then I realize that is what differentiates us. I continually test my assumptions against reality. The faith based crowd is already so sure they are right that they don't even bother.

  14. holy crap. that was the best takedown i've ever read. jonah must be a masochist if he responds vis-a-vis a la Juan Cole. It's like rabbit picking a fight with a bear.

  15. If a CS professor is a subpar programmer because s/he takes $70k a year instead of $100k, then is Goldberg willing to trash K-12 teachers who make $30k a year? In Goldbergistan, what other reason would one have for settling for such a salary?

  16. Preach it, brother Cog! As a faculty brat and someone who spent years trying to get an academic job in the physical sciences and failing, I know you speak the truth. I now make a nice six-figure salary in private industry while not working half as much as my friends and relatives who landed those academic positions.

    To the Jonah's of the world, facts are stupid things, to be molded to fit the 'truth'.

    Thanks for making me laugh at Mr. Goldberg's expense.

  17. Atrios day tripper stopping by to say THANK YOU.


  18. my galpal rented an apt right after jonah had been renting it. two words-- "professional cleaners". 'nuff said.

  19. Do I really need to point out that Goldberg is -- ahem -- probably not making that much money writing his childish blog?

    Could it be because he could not find higher paying work elsewhere?

    Just a thought.

  20. I have degrees in math and computer science. My ambition was always to become a professor, but I didn't (frankly, it hurts) have the talent (or ambition, perhaps - didn't work hard enough, only 50-60 hour weeks). So instead I make six figures in the private sector.. the really smart guys I knew are mostly still at universities. They are liberal because they are scientists, and have been wrong many times..

  21. A fwe weeks back Goldberg had a hilarious post, complete with misspellings, about the importance of an arabidopsis study. He thinks that the discovery of alternate methods of inheritance (via RNA or mitochondria) is de facto proof of intelligent design.

  22. ("Private sector good! Academia bad! Money good! Liberal bad! Oook ook!")

    Goldberg's function is to spew forth some roughly grammatical stream of words that appear to reinforce conservatarian ideology, so that his readers can listen, nod, and feel vindicated in their beliefs.

    We shouldn't forget there's a lot of money in these "pundit" scams.

  23. My border collie is pretty smart.

  24. I love you man.

    I have spent the past 4 years trying to kick liberal asses out of their complacency, and take on these lying assholes.

    I have no use for the wimpy vichy Democrats who want to waive the white flag and surrender. GO OUT AND KICK SOME RIGHTWING ASS!

    They are dumber that spit, and can't stand being agressively confronted.

    They are the qintiessential bullies.

    More comentary likes yours, PLEASE! Don't just point out where these morons are wrong. Humiliate the fuckers!

    Make being associated with these tools like being smeared with Afrcan Killer Bee pheremone near a hive of pissed off bees.

    --Hesiod Theogeny

  25. Rightwingers eat shit (at least, when their not ripping you off or sexually abusing your chilren in bible class), and they love it!!

    Liberals are generally good, smart & sincere people.

    This is FACT & not opinion.

    The proof is visible all over the world.

    Next time you have to pee, do it on a right-winger--They are perfect urinals.
    (But most liberals are too damn nice to do that).

  26. The fact is, Goldberg doesn't care in the least whether what he says is true and well-reasoned, and neither do his backers and readers.

    This is the definition of "bullshit" as elucidated by Harry G. Frankfurt in his monograph.
    Bullshitting, as he notes, is not exactly lying, and bullshit remains bullshit whether it's true or false. The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world: he "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

  27. I completely agree with your conclusion. The problem is that if they aren't punished for spouting lies, then they have absolutely no incentive to stop telling lies.
    I think it's time some lawyers at a progressive institution comb through conservative publications to find opportunities to sue them for libel. I know that libel laws are pretty conservative in the U.S., but I'm sure we could still take down one or two pundits, which might set an example.

  28. Since I've got an advanced degree in the physical sciences (only an MS - didn't have ambition enough to work the long hours to get the doctorate, much less a faculty job in academia. Can't complain about the private sector wages though.), and a liberal/progressive inclination, I'll pile on and chip in my 2 cents.

    Frankly, I'm a bit surprised to find that there are more liberal vs. conservatives in academic positions in science and engineering (since these fields are traditionally old boys clubs). But I guess this shows that liberalism tends to attact anyone with training in and talent for both factual analysis and critical thinking. In short, liberal ideas are prefered by those who understand and thrive in the reality-based universe.

  29. As one of the avowed liberals in my Electrical Engineering department 40 years ago when I graduated (Teaching staff was 3 or 4 wingnuts, 3 or 4 liberals, and the rest--15 or so--indeterminate) I have had a long career in Industry, sometimes being surrounded by wingnuts but usually by apolitical people, and making Industry standard salary (now over $100K which Reagan/Bush inflation has made worth not much more than the $7K I started out with 40 years ago. I work for a company that has an Engineer's union (although my work group didn't join the union until 10 years ago) as well as a strong (but weakening as the Bushees erode union power) general employees union. The company is right, the employees are slightly left, and the company is still here manufacturing export products.
    I don't know what the makeup of my old EE Department is 40 years later, but my university was in a red state that is now turning blue (or at least purple) so it could be that there are blues in the University now like there were 40 years ago.
    All of which I guess doesn't prove all that much.

  30. It seems, to me, fairly simple. Most folks who understand the basics of logic and the fundamental science that underlies all the various fields (or physics, 'cause it's all physics in the end anyway, right?) can't stand to read the drivel Jonah writes for longer than two seconds. He and the rest of his bunch of whackos can't think straight. They sound just like the folks who say things like "NASA never made it to the moon!" and "there are alien spacecraft at Area 51!". They're conspiracy theorists hiding behind a thin veneer of political whitewash, unable to argue their way out of a one-way street. It's the opposite of the beauty of, say, a well-constructed logical argument. I've found that among my coworkers (I'm a computer programmer as well) who tend to be more conservative there's a lack of understanding of the basic tenants of science and physics. Of course, this isn't always true (I know several highly-educated folks who cling tightly to conservative ideas, although they employ much nicer arguments to defend their beliefs). Nevertheless, for Jonah and his ilk whose writing stinks to high heaven and whose mental arguing capability is worse, there is nothing there to attract an active and creative mind. Ditto Fox, ditto Michelle Malkin, ditto Bill O'Riley, ditto Ann Coulter...

  31. yoo librul compooter sientists gonna appreciate George Bush when yoo lern how he has made DARPA stop wasting its money on dumm bloo sky projects (like that interweb thinggy) so that it cab focus on delivrabuls luke heer

    That is, if CS faculty are liberal now, what are they going to be when they have had a few more years of slashing DARPA funding for university research and being told that their assistents have to be US citizens.

    By the way, do you know how to hack a Deibold electric vote counting machine ? Don't do it, but, you know, an occasional anonymous hint that maybe they don't really want to mess with computer scientists might be a good idea.

  32. I think there are a number of small-c conservatives in science faculties, mainly becuase the small-c view protect s their salaries and consulting fees. Classic old-fashioned REpublican types with a libertarian bent. But there are not large-C Jonah-type Conservatives because they can see that the wingnuts aren't wearing any clothes on teh religio-social issues.

    An average faculty position in the biological sciences attracts ca. 400 applications from talented postdocs--people who have spent years earning their PhDs then MORE years doing their postdocs. Assistant professors are getting older becuase it takes longer to be competitive for these positions. My many friends in industry say they don't want academic science becuase they want a job, not an all-absorbing life.

    I don't think that the Big-C conservatives "get it" because they like having it easy. And not being intellectually oriented, they also don't understand that ambitions can be paid in currency other than greenbacks.

    THe other thing is that no group is more part of the REality Based community than scientists, and no group more opposed than the Big-C Conservatives.

    --science Prof

  33. I have wondered for years why academics seem more inclined to be left-wing than usual. It can't be the "no experience of real life" thing that they are often accused of; many, particularly in industry-related fields (as opposed to the usual stereotype of "academic" meaning "obscure post-modernism and research into fifth-century drinking songs") have plenty, and it doesn't seem to make any difference.

    I've seen it in professional scientists, mathematicians etc too, and, biased and awful as it may sound, the only connection I can see is that these people are paid to think, they enjoy thinking, and they've got used to thinking about everything, even politics.

    I'm not familiar with Jonah Goldberg but reading some of his work, it seems quite apparent that thinking is not what he's paid to do.

  34. You do not identify idiots by whether they are right or wrong, you do it by observing their thought process.

    The Goldberg thought process looks like this:

    {\emptyset} -> "a priori bias"

  35. I teach and have worked in industry. Guggenheim, Associate Dean, Founding heads, Managing Director in family. Can't think of one who measures success in terms of income. Money's nice, but only part of the package.I concur with the general remarks, but would like to add that Goldberg and company do what they do for a living, not out of any sense of conviction. Pay scales vary wildly. Fox talking heads earn seven figures or more. Goldberg will be lucky to crack six. They're all angling for an audience to increase income. Hence, the pandering to bigotry. No sensible person can take anything they say or write seriously. I'm not sure Jonah knows how to learn more. He deserves sympathy as much as contempt. It can't be easy trying to sound clever while understanding so little.

  36. Followed the link from Atrios. Civil Engineer here.. don't know if my prof's were liberal or conservative, but I will say they some of the brightest people I have ever met.

    If I were you I'd look into a new career path. you have a way with words... impressive


  37. On a second thought, I think Goldberg has also a wrong concept on the causality of political afilliation.

    He wants us to believe that liberals become biodiversity experts (and generally scientists), but it is rather the other way around. When biodiversity experts want to describe themselves with political labels, they look for a category which is closest to their views. It just so happens that "anti-evolution conservatism" is the least attractive choice. On the other hand chairs in religious studies will make a different political choice.

    And by extension, on average scientists will rather vote for empiricism than dogmatism. If this approach is the prevailing one, then the whole issue of "liberal infested academia" is a fallacy. A scientific academia could not exist without being overwhelmingly non-conservative.

  38. Not a statistical survey, but most people I know (a self-selected set) in CS academia, research, and startups, are liberal, those that aren't are libertarian.

    If you consider an engineering approach to problems (what are my metrics, how am I meeting them) or the startup approach to a problem (what is my business plan, have I satisfied my investors) the Bush administration is a failure. Jobs flat across four years, market flat, deficits up, debt up, abortions up, Iraqi death rate no better than under Saddam (but we've privatized their hellhole, that's got to count for something, right?), bin Ladin still at large, anthrax poisoner still unidentified, A.Q. Khan still loose in Pakistan, North Korea developing nukes and missiles, strong possibility of an Iran-friendly "democratic" Iraqi government, unfounded mandates to meet ridiculous educational goals -- the only thing that this government has actually delivered (even to the fundies) is tax cuts, and those we clearly cannot afford in the long run.

    And the conduct of the Iraq war; holy crap, what a disaster that has been in the cost/benefit department. We cannot even certainly say that the Iraqis are "better off"; it's entirely possible that they were better off under Saddam and sanctions. We can hope that things will improve, but we're still at the "hope" stage.

  39. This echoes one comment from above, but as a doctoral student at a business school, I would say the political valence here definitely skews leftward. It would just be a massive career liability for professors to avoid nuance in their arguments or to fail to periodically test their assumptions about how the world works.

    But (contra that National Review asshat) I'm picking a non-academic career path largely for the lifestyle: more pay for fewer hours, plus I get a freer hand in picking where I'm going to live. But to be honest, it's also about risk aversion: While I have a healthy enough ego, I'm not sure if I've got the goods to come up with three to four pathbreaking ideas (over 7-10 top-tier journal articles) to earn tenure at a decent school. Often, it's the savvy risk-takers who survive and thrive business academia.

  40. I'm an engineer with a degree in Math and an MSc. degree in Engineering. I've worked as a mid-level manager in the Oil industry and I've held a senior executive position in an Internet company. (I've also worked as a unionized grave digger).

    I'm always surprised by people who state, as though it were a truism, that businesses are more efficient than any other system known to man. I've seen more corruption, waste, nepotism, and sloth in the oil biz and the internet than I ever saw as a grave digger. If you want examples I have a gross of them.

  41. When I was a younger man I was told--several times over a period of months--that engineers were not really all that bright, but they really were quite good at looking up things in charts and tables, and filling in boxes on forms.

    The man who told me this so many times was an engineer and knew quite a few engineers, having worked at an Air Force base for some years.

    I have no reason to disbelieve him.

  42. When I was a younger woman, I was told -- several times over a period of years -- that anonymous signers were not really all that brave, but they really were quite good at putting forth b.s and bile, and filling in boxes on comment forms.

    The man who told me this so many times was an anonymous signer and knew quite a few anonymous signers, having worked for an invisible ink factory for some years.

    I have no reason to disbelieve him.

  43. Hey, easy on the border collies folks. Mine knows about 100 words and can tell shite from shinola.

    Whups, caught me in a whopper ... he's really an Aussie.

  44. Where does the old adage, 'Those who can't, teach.' fit in with all of this?

  45. The data would be mildly interesting here. I strongly suspect that career is much less of a predictor for ideological bent than is geography. That is, before I looked at it, I predicted that our author lives in a blue state -- and sure enough, UW is in Seattle, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic. I am a CS professional (sadly, I had to settle for a private sector six-figure income instead of the greater intellectual rewards of academia), and it has been my experience that the conservatives in this profession largely come from red states.

    It has also been my observation that most of the top engineering schools are in blue states, and that most computer scientists -- even in the private sector, Jonah -- are strongly liberal. I'm private sector, at the top of my field, and certainly very well compensated for my work, none of which in any way dissuades me from being a bleeds-blue, canvassing door-to-door in Florida liberal.

    But then, I've only worked in Michigan, California, and Washington, so again my data are suspect. I can't imagine this data would be all that difficult to collect, if anyone really cared. But while there is no comprehensive data emerging on this critical issue, the anecdotal evidence from the field seems to contradict Jonah Goldberg's thesis.

    Shocked. Shocked, I say.

  46. Wait...I get it.

    So the reason the hard sciences are lefty is (solely) because the market gives smart techy conservatives better paying options.

    The reason the humanities is lefty, on the other hand, cannot even begin to be adequately explained by the fact that conservative people who can read and write well, remember and regurgitate facts, and think analytically and creativity would be signficantly more likely to join the private sector than the academic (and even more so once the academic sector becomes liberal by this systematic choice of conservatives, leading to a long-term equilibrium significantly more disperate than the initial preferences would suggest).

  47. I argue with the term "wildly successful," unless the blogger means "well paid for not firing a single neuron." In terms of convincing other people about the superiority of their arguments, they are only successful with right-wing true believers, who are like the Barbara Cartland fans of politics.
    Remember her? She was the romance writer who basically wrote the same story over 200 times--virginal blonde wins over rougue and hold out until wedding night. She had thousands of fans because, not in spite of, the fact that she never once wrote an original story.
    The reason Goldberg, Limbaugh, Savage, et al can make a ton of money is that there are conservatives who want to read the same world view over and over. Maybe that's what this blogger means by "wildly successful?" Also that the mainstream press is whipped by them all the time.

  48. Electrical Engineer in the house ... Goldberg is an idiot. Other than cold warriors I worked with in the defense industry back in the day, I have trouble indentifying one conservative EE among my collegues. There's one small "l" libertarian, but the rest range from liberal to leftist.

    And I'm at a venture funded startup, so, yes there are liberal capitalists.

    The premier trade magazine in the electrical engineering business, EE Times, has been known to run articles about government technology policy that could be considered "liberal", since they question the divine right of government power.

  49. In which Jonah Goldberg performs feats that bend the laws of space and time

    You didn't say it, so I will: Jonah and his ilk are black holes of ignorance.

  50. Just as another (anecdotal) data point, I'm a grad student in computer science at the University of Utah - yes, that's right, in the reddest of the red states. I am also a pretty flaming liberal (blame it on my parents).

    Whenever I would talk to my parents on the phone and we would discuss the latest Bush administration idiocy, my dad would ask if there was anyone at school I could discuss politics with. I kept reassuring him that, in fact, most people I knew in the department had a liberal or at least libertarian bent so , although politics wouldn't come up a lot, people would generally be in agreement and certainly not of the Jonah-type school of thought.

    Now, it is also true that most grad students and faculty are not originally from the state (maybe about 10%), and of those 10%, a majority probably lean right. I'm not sure what this means (do all the locals want to teach at BYU? is Utah just that good at attracting talent?), but the environment definitely feels liberal.

    The undergrads are a different story, but I'm happy I was able to convince my class why unverified electronic voting (no paper trail) is a bad thing.

  51. A fwe weeks back Goldberg had a hilarious post, complete with misspellings, about the importance of an arabidopsis study. He thinks that the discovery of alternate methods of inheritance (via RNA or mitochondria) is de facto proof of intelligent design.

    Somebody needs to whack that man upside the head with the Big Book of Endosymbiosis.

  52. I am an EE, with 17 years in telecommunications. My experience would suggest the vast majority of people in the industry would self-identify as conservative. Obviously there are nutcases on both ends of the spectrum, but isn't it obvious that the people who are high achievers both in industry and academia are somewhat imbalanced in life skills? In other words, trying to say that 'professors are smarter, and liberal, thus the liberal path is the correct path', is a poor argument, just as it is to say that professors are losers and thus liberal. Anyone here have a real argument?