Can Biased Universities Add Value?

To say knowledge and experience informs behaviour is superficially true. Upon examination though we find there is another aspect. Of all the experience we have had and of all the knowledge we possess, what of it is primary and what is secondary of even later?

The concern

One dimensional though is the result of a particular ordering and weighting of knowledge and experience. If I am bitten by a dog when I am four, do I develop a fear of dogs, or do I pose the thought, “It seems I don’t know how to behave around dogs, and I must learn.”

I am pretty sure a fear of dogs is the more common outcome.

We hold beliefs that are entirely one-dimensional and because they are emotionally attached, we don’t often re-evaluate them. That leads to several unfortunate outcomes:

  1. We see supporting evidence much more easily and ignore the rest.
  2. We treat people with other views as somehow defective.
  3. As people try to debate us, we become strident before open-minded. That leads to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance tends to reinforce our opinion and demonize others.

The result is polarization. Polarization has negative effects on overall outcomes.

An easy example.

Suppose a basketball team is composed of the best player at every position. Would they win for sure? Maybe most of the time but not all the time. Why is that? Because the best players want to be the ones with the ball. Five players cannot have it at once. How do they behave without it. Teams are built with supporting skills, which are not necessarily the highest skills.

If there is no mutual support it gets worse. If the team polarizes, you end up with five individuals playing the other team. One player, no matter how skilled, could not beat a high school team.

Teams win. Exceptional players contribute, but by themselves cannot win.

Take a university

What is the strength of a department at a university? Diversity of thought, experience, and knowledge is best. Debate, sharing new things found, and finding consensus opinion  provides value.

What if just one viewing point is allowed to prevail. Then you can learn very little. The Earth was center of the universe for a long time. Refinement of the principle thesis is possible, but no significant advancement. You have to be willing to step into the opposite side of the argument, or at least the unknown, to advance.

In universities today, diversity is unwelcome. It is far easier to revile the other view, than it is to refute it. People are lazy. When confirmation bias fails, there is fear. Cognitive dissonance is unpleasant. The lesser one, the evil one, won.

How far from reasonable is it now?

That’s a hard question. It assumes each participant is equally capable of presenting their position. Most likely they are not. So maybe people who start from a left leaning position are more capable and their view would prevail unless outnumbered. If they end up with a numerical advantage too, eventually everyone will all be of the same ilk. Just varying degrees of it.

Eventually the “others” will be shut out. Fewer promotions, smaller or no grants, shut out of publications.

It once was theoretical, but now it has already happened.

In March 2021, The Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, published the results of their study on academic freedom. As expected the social sciences and the humanities tend to be left leaning. Ratio of left to right 27:1

You would think STEM fields would be immune as they all deal with provable and disprovable subjects. Still about 5.7:1 favour the left.

In some objective evidence based subjects, climate science being one, a 2018 study found the ration was 27:1 in the geoscience, and 25:1 in environmental sciences.

People are incentive driven

If your career depends on the approval of others, for promotions, grants, and publication, you would be a mentally challenged person if you did not notice the advantage to being on the left. Incentives rule so we can expect eventually everyone will be on the left except possibly some already retired, or independently wealthy, who are studying and doing research for fun.

I wonder what students come to believe?

Where it could lead

There is an opportunity for someone to begin a university where both the left and the right are tolerated but neither is allowed to dominate. The only opinion that will hold is the one supported by strong evidence and rigorous reasoning.

You have a right to your opinion, but there is no right you have to make someone else take it seriously.

Essentially, you can present anything if you show your work. Objective work without political ideology seems like a benefit for all of us.

I wonder how much it would cost to set up such a university. Does anyone know how to crowdfund a billion dollars?


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

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