Tom Levenson responds to the articles by John Tierney and Megan McCardle which ask why conservatives are so rare in academia (in science, anyway, creationism might have something to do with it. Just saying). Anyway, Levenson makes a good point, although I think he misses one thing:
…the only other Haidt evidence Tierney references comes from an email from an allegedly victimized student:
“I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”
O. K. class. What does this complainant get wrong?
I’ll give you a hint. Look again at this sentence:
Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished.
That is: this student says that he or she is “certain” that her/his results would break consensus, and hence, inevitably, would languish in conspiratorially enforced obscurity.
Uh, kid. Listen up: When you already know what your research will reveal, what does that tell you?
It ain’t research.
You have no knowledge to “contribute to the knowledge base” if the conclusions you propose to add to our collective store of human wisdom is what you already know by some process other than the “research” you propose….
[This] is another way of saying that this student found it impossible to do the actual hard work of science: construct testable hypotheses, and experiments in which the results may in fact confound your expectations. If you won’t do that, you can’t make it science … and Hey, Presto! another conservative is discriminated against.
The other point to be made is that, in science, if you have the data to support your claims, and your claims overturn a key concept, that’s a great way to launch a career (or get tenure, etc.). Initially, it might be hard: as Levenson notes, you’ll have to do a lot of heavy lifting, some (or much) of it political. But revolutionary findings will out.
Or you can take your ball and go home (and work for a faith tank).