Damn those Liberal Professors

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Are university professors really that liberal? My experience with four years in engineering school suggests that my math, science, and engineering professors more or less stayed out of politics. If anything, I would say that they were all over the map on their political identity, but probably leaning towards conservative politics (on average). So where do the universities get their reputation for being so liberal?


I would say from the humanities, in particular in the faculties of psychology, sociology, and political science. Most of these professors believe in well thought out social policies are necessary to better society. And this contrasts with most libertarian thinkers who believe that governments should stay out of social policy altogether. So universities in general are branded as "liberal" even though maybe 10% of their professors are true liberals.


So how did these professors in the humanities become so liberal? Could it be that they have read a lot? Especially in their subject field? Do they not write papers that are subject to panels of their peers?  One does not become a Ph.D. in sociology by watching Fox News. 


These professors have studied failures and successes of various progressive policies over the past 150 years. They believe that minimal government intervention usually means a society that has great difficulty in moving forward. They see when the masses are unhappy, they tend to find a charismatic leader, revolt, and overthrow governments. If governments are not able to proactively engage with their society, they don't last long. So these professors have adopted liberal politics in which government is more intertwined with the people than libertarian thinkers would like.


Let's take a look at those who oppose liberal professors.


Rather than conducting a study on reasons for poverty and designing policies around those reasons, the real solution is just to cut off all forms of social assistance. The able-bodied recipients will just find jobs. The less than able-bodied will turn to family or charity. If they can't get support, too bad. No Ph.D. is required to reach this conclusion.


For those cut-off recipients who turn to petty crime to fund themselves, just hire more police officers and build more jails. Common sense, right?


Rather than building a comprehensive addiction centers, just tell those with addictions to stop doing what they are doing if they want a better life. This would sure cost a lot less.


For those citizens who find themselves in dysfunctional neighborhoods, well, if they can't afford to move out, they get what they deserve. So simple!


To be fair, many progressive causes have been tried and found not to work very well. I just might be working in one of them. I work at local college and help students who did not get a good high school education. They are in their mid 20s or older and see their lack of education is holding them back in life. So they make the sacrifice in time and a little money. I say "little money" because the provincial government is covering most of the expense of their upgrading education.


I would divide my students into three groups. The first group are very committed in their studies and have arranged their life for academic pursuits. I have helped many of them move on to nursing, engineering, IT, social work, trades, and other faculties. This first group becomes more productive citizens. The second group also give a reasonably good effort. But after two or three semesters, they realize the long path they still have to travel. They usually return to similar work they were doing before. But with greater literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills, they can perform this work a little better, which helps the overall economy. And maybe they finally find a promotion or two in their working life. And the last third really don't do much with their education. For different reasons, they just occupy some class rooms for a semester or two, then fail themselves out. 


To a critic of progressive causes, my occupation is worthless to society because of the obvious one-third failure rate. But for those students who got a hand-up, they have taken the government's investment in them and used it wisely: for themselves, their family, their community, and eventually government coffers as education usually means paying higher taxes later in life. The value of my occupation all depends on what angle one is using.


Is the government really getting value for its investment in my students? I really can't say. I'm not sure the economic models are sufficiently strong enough to predict the benefits of upgrading education. I suspect the politicians of the past have deemed adult education is a good thing and allotted some funding for it. And current politicians have left that funding in place. We have had some adjustments in our budget over the years, but I'm too far down the hierarchy to really know why.


I think my occupation is typical of progressive causes. There never can be a 100% success rate. For example, treatment for addictions usually has less than a 20% success rate. And more resources in a school in a low income neighborhood may be a great difference for a few students, but inconsequential for many. It's really hard to accurately measure a lot of these benefits. Despite this


I think if the liberal professors were more honest with the public in that their solutions are only their best, albeit educated, guesses. And they could tell us that not all best guesses work out. Then maybe we might take a different approach to using the knowledge of human nature provided by the humanities.
















Tubularsock Added Jan 30, 2018 - 12:18am
Now Dave in Tubularsock’s way of thinking things maybe are just backward.
Those students that don’t fit themselves into the square hole of society because they are round pegs may be the ones on the right track.
It might be that as usual society is just asking the wrong question and some (usually the brightest) just aren’t willing to cooperate.
And when you stand back and take a look at society in general where is the advantage to the individual to join up?
A stupid dead end job that you get and then can never leave because you start buying things to “make you happy” and are forced to pay off so as to get more things to “make you happy” but none of it EVER makes one “happy”!
Getting married?
Buying a house?
ADVANCING ........... to where exactly?
The fact is ........... one is ALREADY THERE!
It’s an inside job and EVERYTHING comes from the inside out not the other way around.
The “other way around” is just incorrect training which ends up contributing to the drug and alcohol use when they start to wake up that society has LIED to them!
opher goodwin Added Jan 30, 2018 - 8:00am
I've no time for liberal professors. I want my professors to be full-blooded commies!
Makes sense to me. People who study the subject and understand it are intelligent people and are bound to be very left aren't they?
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 30, 2018 - 8:54am
Congratulation to get involve in the next generation.  Look at it this way.  Those people will be adding to Canada for 40 years plus.  So far by the free choice of the citizens they have put in a 20 year investment in education.  The reason I am saying a free choice because public education started by the votes of local communities.  It grew into the present national conglomerate. 
My son-in-law is doing the same thing as you Dave.  My daughter is not a professor at a college but is the university's archivist and does have her PHD.   I think that when you get into the weeds of history the majority of what is read is the failures in a tiny area of history so they ave a great general knowledge but in reality it is not a knowledge that they vetted because their isn't enough time.  So they like us are taking the opinion of others.  and who are the others today. liberals.    
She knows the effort of getting a PHD so they tend to believe them before others.  They think being an expert is important because in their own life getting to be an expert took most of a decade to achieve.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 30, 2018 - 8:58am
Professors should be respected, whatever their political ideology, as authority figures, although they ought to stay away from politics in the classroom.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 30, 2018 - 9:17am
Progressivism is the belief that experts make better decision that the citizens.  Now why wouldn't a person that spent a decade to become an expert not believe it .  They believed being an expert was worth a decade of effort.    The problem is that history has shown that when experts run a government that society has a class structure and that those in the lower class are in effect lesser humans and are considered as servants to government.  They are expendable.
wsucram15 Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:04am
I have legal professors, therefore mostly conservative. Some are liberal..but not many.  Interestingly enough, none of the ones I have spoken with..like Trump. 
Most of my prior 6 years of college had some liberal Professors that kind of made that known.  But in most classes, its not really part of the curriculum.  Although I had an advanced programming class for business that the head Technology Professor and I were the only ones in a class of senior college students, who knew who Snowden was and what he had exposed.  So I would call him more progressive than not, he spent about 30 min of class time..with diagrams, explaining what Snowden had exposed.
That kind of thing is really complicated and beyond the one or two sentence explanation people can handle anymore.  But I bet him no one knew..and I won that one. People that rejected the idea..simply ignored what he said, which was a mistake..best  summary I ever heard. Both for and against.
So while there is an argument for "liberal professors"..Im gong to say, it comes from the home and questions are expanded on from there. They make you question things like philosophy, theories and ways of doing things..
George N Romey Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:34am
Funny when I went to business school in the 90s we were taught globalization would make the world much richer.  It did, for a select few.  Yes some have been taken out of dire poverty but they are still in poverty.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:39am
Dave, my own experience with professors was primarily in the STEM field, and was back in the mid-70's, so the problems that conservatives talk about (liberal indoctrination of students, prohibition of discussing conservative talking) wasn't something I encountered. I do remember the chemistry professor I had for organic who had a buzz cut, big glasses, brought in a liter beaker of coffee each class, and who taught us how to synthesize mescaline. Try to figure out his stance.
I have had familiarity with professors who teach a liberal arts field, music, over the decades. I would say that music professors are most interested in teaching the craft of music, along with the theoretical basis for how music is put together. I've not sensed much indoctrination through their efforts unless you believe that instilling a strong sense of discipline is some form of indoctrination.
I know that this is not a humanities example, but you see many folks who now claim that only STEM courses are free from liberal bias. I would say that is an exaggeration at best.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 30, 2018 - 11:00am
Guys, people who complain about liberal indoctrination don't mean your math class, your engineering class, your chemistry class.....
My goodness is this intentional cross-talking?
Bill H. Added Jan 30, 2018 - 11:21am
Great article, Dave-
Most of my advanced education was in electronics engineering, specializing in radio and antenna design. I never really observed any political leanings, nor was there ever any discussion of politics during the 5 years I spent in two different schools within any of the classes.
I suspect this stigma simply comes from the fact that the majority of professors are highly educated and tend to use logic and open discussion as part of their interactive process with their students, rather than trying to relay information with a simple gut reaction or personal opinion. And of course in many cases, facts can be uncomfortable to people that tend to mold their lives around simple political opinions, platforms, or deep beliefs.
As an example, one could only imagine someone like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity teaching a class on climatology or marine biology. I'm quite sure the opinions and denials would overtake any form of logical analysis or discussion, along with making sure not to cover any facts that may indicate human effect on either climate or fish populations.
Dave Volek Added Jan 30, 2018 - 11:22am
Thanks all for responding. One of the fun things of Writer Beat is that the responses seldom go in the direction I had thought. Certainly true of this article.
I had a little trouble understanding your response. It seems you are challenging the materialistic "pursuit of happiness" many of us have latched on to, and I'm not quite seeing the connection to the article.
You have the article into an important direction: the validity of the expert. There have been too many examples of experts making decisions for others, and the expert is totally wrong (and usually unrepentant).  I think we are already moving away from this expert relationship. Decision-makers are using experts as a source of extra knowledge that can be applied to the decision rather than some infallible source of wisdom. 
I went to Wikipedia and got this definition of progressivism:
Progressivism is the support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform.
I'm not sure how that lines up with your version. For me, I believe there are situations when governments should stay out of people's lives and situations that require collective action to resolve, especially when the free market seems lacking. When collective action is required, the investment put into that action should produce more benefits than the cost of that investment.
Dino, Jeanne, George, EABC
Your experiences seem to confirm that universities are not infested with liberals.
Dave Volek Added Jan 30, 2018 - 11:29am
It's hard for me to see how extreme right-wing thinkers would have any use for psychology, sociology, or political science. Hence, these fields are filled by more left-leaning thinkers.
Bill H.
That picture of Rush Limbaugh teaching any kind of university class is scary.
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 1:33pm
"Most of these professors believe in well thought out social policies [you mean government mandates, fines, taxes, programs, usually with themselves, or people just like themselves, helming the whole thing] are necessary to better society [the INTENTION might be to "better" society but as most of the economics professors know, the good intentions all have unintended consequences that worsen society]. And this contrasts with most libertarian thinkers who believe that governments should stay out of social policy altogether [most libertarian thinkers aren't hired by Ivy League universities for precisely that reason]. So universities in general are branded as "liberal" even though maybe 10% of their professors are true liberals."
A mere 10%, eh?
Well, Volek, despite your honest claim in another thread that you suffer from a mental disability, I'd say that was pretty sharp thinking you displayed above.
It's hard to describe the confidence I feel in your powerful intellect and cognitive kinetics (four years in engineering school? I mean, WOW!!! And believe you me, your engineering smarts are always in evidence!).
Now, I know you're a busy guy — heck, someone as smart as you must be providing deep-dish, high-falutin' consulting services to all those important social policy movers and shakers, who don't have a selfish bone in their liberal bodies, but on the contrary, are only out to better society through "well thought out" social policies (and the more well thought out, the better. It's best not to leave anything in society to the spontaneous interactions of private individuals, each with his or her own goals, agendas, and purposes; because if we did that, society would be in complete anarchy! Right? Right!); so we certainly can't expect you to spend 15 minutes online doing a little research on this topic. I mean, we all know that you could do such research if you wanted to. You just don't want to. And frankly, you don't need to. Just reading confident statements such as:
My experience . . . 
If anything, I would say . . .
but probably . . .
I would say . . .
fills me with pride at having a Canadian Cousin as bright as you, and allays any fears one might have that you're just a bullshitter who loves the performance spotlight for the sake of virtue signaling.
Give us more.
Thomas Sutrina Added Jan 30, 2018 - 3:39pm
David V.,  we all know that bills are named to represent the vision desired by the legislators and often the actual content of the bill will create the opposite, example Affordable Care Act by all measure is not affordable from the start.  Only promise made by Obama and the Dems that was kept is that the poor will have insurance.  What was promised and never came to be is that the medical providers would agree to the ridiculous low payments provided by ACA. 
So David V.,  the actual principles one can derive from actions of progressive is opposite the dictionary definition of 'progressive.'   And even at a historic perspective progressivism creates a class society which is similar to the class societies of monarchs, communism, dictators, caliphates, etc.  Compared to parliamentary democracies and American Federalism progressivism is REGRESSIVE.    
All governments from time immemorial have advisor that are 'experts.'  The issue is whether the people are subservient to the government of whether the government is subservient to the people. 
Dave Volek Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:04pm
As best as I understand Obamacare, it was a compromise which kept the insurance companies in charge of the cash flow, which allowed the companies to scoop a little profit for their owners. I think Mr. Obama would have preferred a total government run system, like it is in most western countries. Maybe he saw Obamacare as step towards that goal. I don't know. Neither Obamacare nor the previous system was that great in my opinion.
Your paragraph on progessivism isn't making much sense to me. Without progressive social programs, western countries would eventually evolve into a 20% overclass who have benefits of wealth and a 80% underclass who would do all the dirty work and can barely keep a roof over their head. Not a good recipe for civil order.
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:35pm
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:37pm
western countries would eventually evolve into a 20% overclass who have benefits of wealth and a 80% underclass who would do all the dirty work and can barely keep a roof over their head.
That's right! Just like Haiti!
As we all know, Haiti began as a pure, laissez-faire capitalist economy with private property, division of labor, and legal enforcement of voluntary contracts. Now look at it!
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:40pm
As best as I understand Obamacare, it was a compromise which kept the insurance companies in charge of the cash flow, which allowed the companies to scoop a little profit for their owners.
Yup! You understand Obummercare best of anybody I knows. Them greedy insurance companies be scoopin' everything for they-selves! Best let govment do the scoopin'. They scoop more kindly and gentle-like.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:47pm
A. Jones,
Please note, it's against the rules to post more than two comments in a row.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 5:49pm
Mr. Obama would have preferred a total government run system, like it is in most western countries.
Yup!!! Dat's right!!! And we 'mercans hate it when you Canadians travel south to the U.S. to get your surgeries and treatments done right the first time — on your own schedule — rather than waiting your turn in the govment queue for your govment-run care. That's downright selfish of you!
And 'Merca should do what most western countries doin'. Most western countries have state-run telecom systems. 'Merca has a private system. Dat not right. 'Merca should also have a govment-run telecom system.
By golly.
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 6:01pm
"Even as the economy continued its modest recovery in recent years, there was one critical missing element: wages. Despite unemployment declines, wage gains remained tame. Thankfully, that's now coming to an end.
A new survey out by the target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Association of Business Economics finds that companies are starting to boost pay for their workers in order to attract and keep productive, skilled employees in a tighter labor market.
That adds to mounting anecdotal evidence of a wave of pay raises, bonuses and new investments by major corporations fueled by the passage of Trump's tax cuts in December — evidence of a surge in economic growth."
Katharine Otto Added Jan 30, 2018 - 6:23pm
I've done both, with undergraduate degree in liberal arts and then science courses as prerequisite for medical school, then medical school.  The advantage of a liberal arts education is the exposure to a wide variety of ideas, and even "liberal" professors have some obligation to present alternative viewpoints.
The biggest difference is "liberal arts" professors don't have "practical" skills that can get them education-specific jobs in the private sector.  They tend to become what I call "ivory tower elitists" who have grandiose notions of how things ought to be but no experience putting their ideas into effect.  A notable example of "progressivism" gone sour was Woodrow Wilson, a university professor then president of Princeton, who became US president.  He attempted social reform through government intervention and got us the Fed and World War I. 
There's no place for politics in the basic sciences, except within the school culture itself.
No one has addressed the system itself, and you didn't mention the ages of your students.  I believe even those who fail have benefited by the exposure to unfamiliar concepts, and they may make use of those later.  Also, I believe the social stigma of returning to school later in life is unhealthy.  Why shouldn't adults be allowed to attend regular high school classes? Isn't there some age discrimination here?
I don't believe in home schooling, because the socialization kids (and adults) get in classrooms is also educational.   
A. Jones Added Jan 30, 2018 - 7:11pm
I don't believe in home schooling, because the socialization kids (and adults) get in classrooms is also educational.
"National Home Education Research Institute president Brian Ray...says socialization is not a problem for the vast majority of homeschool students, many of whom are involved in community sports, volunteer activities, book groups or homeschool co-ops. 'Research shows that in terms of self-concept, self-esteem and the ability to get along in groups, homeschoolers do just as well as their public school peers,' says Ray.
Ray cites a July 2000 study by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute in which counselors watched videotapes of homeschooled and schooled children playing. The counselors, who did not know which children were from each category, noted that the homeschool students demonstrated fewer behavioral problems than their peers—a result that Ray attributes, in part, to homeschoolers’ main role models: 'Public school children have, as their main role models, peers, while homeschool students have as their role models, adults,' he explains."
Socialization: Tackling Homeschooling’s “S” Word
George N Romey Added Jan 30, 2018 - 7:17pm
Wilson was notorious for looking down on the masses. He was an elite that thought the masses needed to be heavily controlled. In reality he was very naive evidenced by the creation of the Federal Reserve.
Tubularsock Added Jan 30, 2018 - 7:51pm
Dave, chalk it up to a Tubularsock rant and we'll go from there.
Thanks, great post.
Bill H. Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:20pm
A. Jones - We all have seen how well home schooling has done for children in the past, as an example, the Turpin family children in Perris, CA.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:50pm
  I was in STEM, graduated EE. Worked, got fed up, quit, self studied law and philosophy. I was called into Deans office a few times, for stuff I had said. Yeah, they can be political, students are too busy to do anything, too scared to say anything.
  I think in STEM you have to know your stuff to pass. In sociology or philosophy - its nonsense. They get the kids to read bits of this and bits of that to fit a narrative. What they have done to the Liberal arts is beyond the pale. Liberal arts are supposed to be about how to think.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:53pm
Tubularsock re "Those students that don’t fit themselves into the square hole of society because they are round pegs may be the ones on the right track."
I think you make a very good partial point, very relative and true but not near 100%. The kids who get the A's end up being the go-along-to-get-along types.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 30, 2018 - 10:56pm
re "Wilson was notorious for looking down on the masses. He was an elite that thought the masses needed to be heavily controlled. In reality he was very naive evidenced by the creation of the Federal Reserve.  "
He got hoodwinked by Colonel (Whore) House. Its all in The Creature From Jekyll Island.
Passion Blues Added Jan 31, 2018 - 5:27am
I've been to college a few times. It took me a while to obtain that little slip of paper, 9 years. I am the square peg in the round hole! But there was always someone around to help. I finally made it.When my daughter came to me, and told me she was dropping out of college to go work for The Disney corporation, I was worried, but give years later she owns her own business and home, very successful. College is not for everyone, no matter what the politics.
Passion Blues Added Jan 31, 2018 - 5:28am
5 years....not give
Doug Plumb Added Jan 31, 2018 - 7:02am
People that can start successful businesses are as valuable as the best educated and most highly placed IMO. Its not easy, you have to listen to your critics and accept advice from people who know better and not trust your instincts too much. People you don't like often give the best advice 8-). You have to be organized, conscientious and have a memory like an elephant. You have to work ALL THE TIME. This is all just wisdom, and you can't get that from school nowadays.
  Schools should teach it, they should especially teach natural leaders it. Personally I don't like being a leader and I'm not very good at it.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 31, 2018 - 8:49am
It's against the rules to post more than two comments in a row.  
Tamara Wilhite Added Jan 31, 2018 - 10:02am
It isn't the issue that there are liberal professors.
The issue is that they are discriminating against conservative students in general class and admission to graduate programs, as well as discriminating against conservatives in hiring. That's proven through the drifting to the left of the academy over the years.
A Confession of Liberal Intolerance

Survey shocker: Liberal profs admit they’d discriminate against conservatives in hiring, advancement
Dave Volek Added Jan 31, 2018 - 11:42am
Thank you for your thoughtful responses. You have introduced several points that warrant their own article.
University professors--and liberals in general--tend to live in a dream world. Good ideas are great, but trying to implement them is not that easy. And when mistakes happen, the experts tend to blame other forces or sweep their work under the rug. We really need to rid ourselves of the "cult of the expert" while still using the expert's training and talents.
My sister home-schooled her 9 kids. The oldest is 27 and youngest is 10. My sister made sure they had social outings, so there are no problems with socialization: they are quite well adjusted kids. None are into alcohol or drugs or sex. None have a strong materialistic nature to them, so buying things is not their high. The older ones have gone on to secondary education. Since about 14 years old, all have little jobs here and there for their spending money. Home schooling does work quite well for some families.
My students are anywhere from 20 to 50 years old. We have actually had a few functionally illiterate people come though our doors. If they are ready to work hard, we can get them to a Grade 10 level in a couple of years. 
But this education is expensive. Doing some quick math in my head this morning, I figure the government spends about $2,500 per student per course. And when only 1 out of 3 students is truly successful, one has to wonder whether this investment is worthwhile.
As I said earlier, I am at the bottom of the hierarchy here, so I don't get much analytics from management. Are our figures comparable to 10 years ago? Or other educational institutions? I can't say, but I'm happy to have this job.
And it is indeed a great experience to go to university. If one puts in a reasonable effort and still fails, there is still an education happening.
Dave Volek Added Jan 31, 2018 - 11:59am
I went to your links. The first link is typical of Christians who refuse to shut up with their evangelizing. If Fred is unable to convert Mary and Mary tells Fred to stop preaching, then Mary is discriminating against Fred. There's an intolerance on both sides of this fence.
There is some degree of truth to the second link. While universities should welcome a culture of open dialogue, there are professors who are indeed intolerant of differing viewpoints.
I have tried to elucidate this paradox in my article and comments here. Most conservative viewpoints on social issue really don't need a university education to understand the conservative solution very well: just use a little common sense, right? Whereas liberal viewpoints have their solutions often backed up by academics. 
For example, conservatives believe that criminality can be dealt with mostly by police, prosecution, and prisons. Put the bad guys in jail to limit their harm and send a message to those who are thinking about being bad. The humanistic science known as "criminality" sees the reasons why crimes are committed as a complex process--which then requires complex solutions. It's hard for these two mindsets to understand each other and work together.
If the liberal approach is indeed so flawed, then we might as well dismantle most of the sciences such as psychology, sociology, and political science.  Most conservative thinkers I know don't see much use for these sciences.
Tubularsock Added Jan 31, 2018 - 12:28pm
Doug, Tubularsock agrees that not EVERY round peg is “on the right track” and yes as you point out that it is not a 100% but Tubularsock enjoys round pegs as opposed to the “go-along-to-get-along types”.
In fact it is the “go-along-to-get-along types” that are the true detriment to a society!
And besides, it is usually the round pegs that provide the drugs to the “go-along-to-get-along types” when the “go alongs” wake up to the fact the society has lied to them all their working years.
Ian Thorpe Added Jan 31, 2018 - 2:21pm
Dave, psychology, sociology, political science and the rest are not sciences, they are pseudo-sciences. There are no repeatably demonstrable scientific principles in any of them. For the most part they are about opinion, at best they rely on statistics. The eminent physicist Richard Feynman had some enlightening opinions on the topic.

Here is what he had to say about them in a BBC interview in 1981 (if the linked doesn't work - it's blocked in the UK - I've included an important section from the transcript:

“Because of the success of science, there is a kind of a pseudo-science. Social science is an example of a science which is not a science. They follow the forms. You gather data, you do so and so and so forth, but they don’t get any laws, they haven’t found out anything. They haven’t got anywhere – yet. Maybe someday they will, but it’s not very well developed.

“But what happens is, at an even more mundane level, we get experts on everything that sound like they are sort of scientific, expert. They are not scientists. They sit at a typewriter and they make up something like ‘a food grown with a fertilizer that’s organic is better for you than food grown with a fertilizer that is inorganic’. Maybe true, may not be true. But it hasn’t been demonstrated one way or the other. But they’ll sit there on the typewriter and make up all this stuff as if it’s science and then become experts on foods, organic foods and so on. There’s all kinds of myths and pseudo-science all over the place.

“Now, I might be quite wrong. Maybe they do know all these things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. See, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have about checking your experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something.

“And therefore, I see how they get their information. And I can’t believe that they know when they haven’t done the work necessary, they haven’t done the checks necessary, they haven’t done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion that they don’t know and that they are intimidating people by it. I think so. I don’t know the world very well but that’s what I think.”

To be fair, such disciplines seek to answer the great questions that have puzzled us since men first stood erect, and to offer understanding of very complex processes which can only be rationalised in equations involving all variables and no constants. Then there is the unpredictable and occasionally volatile human element, which defines what these sciences are attempting as the natural territory of philosophers.
The point that Feynman was making is that rather than acknowledging this limitation, experts in these fields present their findings as truths, without employing the same rigor as in the physical sciences.

In the interview, Feynman singled out nutrition as an example, which he acknowledged as having made progress  as far as the scientific method is concerned (although everyone is still getting fat, so they have not moved on much since 1981). There is, however, another social science whose “experts” have come to influence the lives of almost everybody on the planet. And it fits perfectly with what he was describing and that is ECONOMICS.
I have a qualification in economics, and will gladly admit that the subject is more akin to the dark arts than science.
Dave Volek Added Jan 31, 2018 - 3:09pm
I have to agree with most of what you said. Experts in these fields know they are dealing with probabilities and should not be presenting their positions as black/white solutions with no shades of grey. When things don't turn out well, it brings discredit to the science.
I see signs that we are moving beyond the "cult of experts" thinking. The decision makers should see the experts as additional source of knowledge and perspectives, not as a final solution. 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 31, 2018 - 5:04pm
Autumn: What's the point of the rule? I find multiple comments easier to read than long ones.
A. Jones Added Jan 31, 2018 - 7:34pm
A. Jones,
Please note, it's against the rules to post more than two comments in a row. 
I didn't notice that rule on your policy page.
A. Jones Added Jan 31, 2018 - 7:38pm
A. Jones - We all have seen how well home schooling has done for children in the past, as an example, the Turpin family children in Perris, CA.
That's a great example of the typical homeschooling situation, Bill H. You're almost as intelligent as Volek — and you don't even have a mental disability to blame.
Hey, back at ya':
See this link for the typical public-school-educated students.
Katharine Otto Added Jan 31, 2018 - 8:19pm
There is a disturbing trend toward calling everything a "science."  But even so-called "hard science" can be pretty sloppy, based on some of the studies I read.  In the medical field, this is particularly notable and irksome.
The field of nutrition is of particular interest to me, but it's very to pin down in any reliable way.  Food fads and FDA food scares scramble the picture, as do advertising, diet advisers, and everyone with a fetish to promote.
"Political science" is not a science, nor is economics, "social science," or philosophy. Nor is "climate science" a science.  Medicine is not science, in the true sense of the word, because the same treatment doesn't work in all cases.  We are dealing with probabilities.  That they are not "science" doesn't invalidate them, though. 
It doesn't have to be "science" to be a valid body of thought.
A. Jones Added Jan 31, 2018 - 8:26pm
We are dealing with probabilities. 
You're claiming that if a systemized body of knowledge deals only with probabilities, it's not a science?
Autumn Cote Added Feb 1, 2018 - 5:04am
Because each comment causes our email system to email every person on this thread alerting of the fact a new comment has been made.  I also think it's distracting to the conversation and unsightly.  
It's the 11th bullet on the "we reserve the right to" list.
Bill H. Added Feb 1, 2018 - 11:31am
A. Jones-
Both  are not examples of typical public school educated students. Both of these kids are examples of the influence of ultra-violent video games that fuel hate and violence at a young age, along with being NAZI wanna-be's. Their lust for weapons was also not a product of being in a public school. The fact that both of these kids were taking anti-depressant drugs also fits in with commonalities of past mass shootings.
If you want to throw some blame on the real cause of this tragedy, go no further that the typical "clueless" parents of these kids. It is not a result of the "liberal public education system".
If anything, these kids were influenced by ERW beliefs, as was the shooting by William Edward Atchison at a New Mexico school.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 1, 2018 - 2:30pm
Autumn, on the three comment rule, you told Ben : "Because each comment causes our email system to email every person on this thread alerting of the fact a new comment has been made.  I also think it's distracting to the conversation and unsightly."
I think you just made the case for sub threads on comments.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 1, 2018 - 2:38pm
A Jones, hey lay off public school education, I went to a public school and had a fine education which included the liberal arts and natural sciences. The school was founded in 1548 when King Edward VI granted a charter to the burghers of Shrewsbury to found a school 'for the education of sons of gentlefolk'. Any member of the gentry who could afford the fees could send their boys there.

British state schools on the other hand have become indoctrination centers.
A. Jones Added Feb 1, 2018 - 5:54pm
Both of these kids are examples of the influence of ultra-violent video games
Both  are not examples of typical public school educated students.
Interesting sentence construction. From the standpoint of formal logic, it doesn't say what you think it does. When you write, "Both X are not Y" it literally means, "both, taken together, but not individually", leaving open the possibility that one X is Y. "Both parents aren't male" leaves open the possibility that one parent is male (i.e., one parent, but not both).
What you probably meant was, "Neither one is an example of typical public school educated students."
And the example you cherry-picked — the Turpin family — isn't typical of parents who homeschool their children.
So much for logic.
And so much for your argument.
A. Jones Added Feb 1, 2018 - 5:57pm
It's the 11th bullet on the "we reserve the right to" list.
Thanks. I probably got tired after reading up to the 10th bullet point.

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