The Leftward Lean of Academia Is Not a Conspiracy (Part II)

APU
4 min readSep 18, 2020
academia Part 2 Deel

By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business, American Public University

This is the second of a four-part series examining the popular notion that colleges and universities are staffed preponderantly by liberals.

Disclaimer: The below discussion makes some generalizations regarding political affiliations and views among majorities for higher education employees and other demographics in American society. While these generalizations are supported by data, obviously there are always exceptions, and as such nothing in this article is intended to cast labels on or make assumptions regarding the views of any particular individual. Furthermore, the thoughts below are not intended to be representative of American Public University System or any of its faculty or staff, beyond the named author of this article.

In the first part of this series, I explained how the leftward political lean of academia in the United States is not a conspiracy of loyalty, but rather a product of critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills applied to modern social issues. Now let’s see how that manifests itself in the controversy over climate change.

Many conservatives argue that climate change is not real, or that if it is real, it isn’t a product of human activity. Where does this idea come from? Generally, it’s comes from a lack of understanding of climate science, and specifically of the difference between climate and weather.

Indeed, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma put his ignorance on full display when he brought a snowball into the Senate in 2015 to convince everyone that climate change was nonsense because it was cold outside that day. President Trump has also spread these ideas as well. He’s gone so far as to argue — with no factual basis for these accusations whatsoever — that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to topple the U.S. economy.

As Trained Scientists, Most Academics Generally Accept the Reality of Climate Change

On the other hand, most academics generally accept the reality of climate change and view it as an urgent problem that must be addressed. Why? Because they are trained scientists and they recognize the logical reasoning fallacies in the conservative view on this issue — namely wishful thinking and arguments based on ignorance.

Wishful thinking here comes in the form of explanations for climate change that don’t involve humans at all. It’s a lot easier to sleep at night believing that the warming shift in the climate has nothing to do with us, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if global warming wasn’t our fault? Then we don’t have to change anything, and we don’t have to feel guilty. Fossil fuel companies can continue polluting the environment, and we can continue living our lives with no consideration for our environmental distress. This would clearly be the preferred narrative. Never mind that the evidence doesn’t support this at all.

Argument from Ignorance Is Another Well-Documented Logical Reasoning Fallacy

Argument from ignorance is another well-documented logical reasoning fallacy. It can occur when an individual who doesn’t understand something makes up an explanation to ease the discomfort that comes from not knowing the real answer.

In this case, Trump doesn’t understand climate science so he argues — without evidence — that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. This explanation also has the added benefit of creating an external threat (China) on which to project our frustrations. That would be better than taking the much more difficult — but honest — road of acknowledging that climate change is real, that all human beings have had a hand in creating this crisis, and that we all need to do our part to end abate further damage.

Trained scientists and critical thinkers can look at climate science data derived from the rigors of the scientific method and recognize global warming for what it really is and how it is actually caused. In a series of carefully controlled experiments in which confounding variables were isolated or removed, NASA found repeatable and reliable results. More than 97% of trained climatologists agreed with the validity of the conclusions. These are steps that must be taken to guard against self-deception.

In the next installment, we’ll look at the public controversy over arms control and how best to stop gun violence in America.

About the Author

Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Public University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Public University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.

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