A Question of Bias

My good friend Joseph Bingham is finishing up his Law degree over at the University of Chicago and I constantly rely on him to find all sorts of news goodies for myself.  Considering his interests, most of them concern policy, politics, and economics, and I must admit that sometimes I have no idea what he\’s talking about or why anyone should care about what he posts. I\’m reasonably certain he feels the same about my own interests. 

However, a few days ago he posted a gem from Megan McArdle on the question of bias in the university. Her post, \”What Does Bias Look Like?\”, is an interesting read on the scientifically-proven disparity between liberals and conservatives present in the university system (and covering all disciplines). In her post, she attempts to explain the actuality, reason, and nature of this bias.  In her discussion she fields several possibilities for this statistic that don\’t include bias, but what I found most interesting were her discussion on the danger of eliminating \”out groups\” (whether on the basis of race, ideology, religion, or sex) from academia:

Unless we assume what to many liberals is \”proven\” by their predominance in academia–that conservative ideas have no merit–leaving conservatives out means that important viewpoints are excluded.  We are never the best interrogators of our ideas.  It requires motivated critics to lay bare our hidden assumptions, our misreading of the data, our factual inaccuracies.  No matter how scrupulously honest you try to be, you are no substitute for an irritated opponent thinking, \”That can\’t possibly be right!\”

 No matter how one considers him or herself––liberal vs. conservative; liberal-critical vs. evangelical; maximalist vs. minimalist––I think we can all agree that McArdle is probably right.  No matter how discerning I am on my own, there are things that I will miss.  No matter how many people look at my work, if they all agree with my conclusions, they will not question my methods or my precision.  I know that I learn more from, and provide better work because of, those people who disagree with me. 

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

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