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Religious bases for the conservative imagination, academic environments for inquiring minds

Richard Abrams, professor emeritus of history | January 21, 2010

Interesting question.  An old friend of mine whom I’ve known since 4th grade and who has always been something of a Republican, recently asked me the same question.  There are two answers to the question:  (1) academics, especially those in the social sciences and humanities, are likely to be better informed than most and therefore are more sensitive to the injustices of the world;  (2) conservatives tend to be more sensitive to economic ambitions and are less likely to settle for the relatively low income possibilities in an academic life.  And then there are the religious bases for the conservative imagination, a state of mind less likely to find comfort in the inquiring approach to knowledge that characterizes most academic environments.

Comments to “Religious bases for the conservative imagination, academic environments for inquiring minds

  1. Personally I support as limited government as possible. That means I oppose most of what government does right now. Notably is the public school system. Liberals in the humanities reinforce the cycle by teaching a crop of new liberals.

  2. The academics may be too learned for their own good and pay little head to faith and even common sense at times. They do, in many cases, look beyond the mark.

  3. I agree with your comment, sir. “Professor Abrams’ first answer is a logical, obvious deduction, and his comment re religious bases seems very plausible. However, I am curious as to his second answer. While I find it plausible, it would be nice to see it backed up by observations.”

  4. I agree with Professor Abrams. The conservatives I know (and I consider them reactionaries rather than conservatives) read People magazine, don’t watch the national news (except for some programs on Fox), take no interest in international affairs, don’t read newspapers, distrust science and medicine, and express intolerant opinions whenever the mood strikes them.

    These are members of my family–in-laws, cousins, the various girlfriends of my brother. They do indeed seem to lack intellectual curiosity, although they tend to know a lot about TV scandals like that Kate & 8 show. They’re xenophobic–don’t travel out of their comfort zone. They’re defensive. They claim to be religious, but some of them don’t bother to attend church. Their worldview is curiously circumscribed; they believe “everything happens for a reason”and they don’t wonder why some people get killed in a natural disaster or plane crash and others survive. They just celebrate the survivors as chosen by God; by implication, those who did not survive deserved to die buried under rubble, etc.

  5. “And then there are the religious bases for the conservative imagination, a state of mind less likely to find comfort in the inquiring approach to knowledge that characterizes most academic environments.”

    What a shamelessly conceited remark. The attitude of this man embodies what average Americans find to be most detestable about American academia. While accusing his opposition of lacking inquisitiveness and of cerebral simplicity he publishes a response to this intriguing (and quite damning) question that caustically dismisses his ideological opponents as 1) “less informed” 2) possessing “a state of mind less likely to find comfort in the inquiring approach to knowledge”. This is what the tenure system does to the thinking man. The thinking ceases and the platitudes roll off the tongue like verses of poetry.

  6. Professor Abrams’ first answer is a logical, obvious deduction, and his comment re religious bases seems very plausible. However, I am curious as to his second answer. While I find it plausible, it would be nice to see it backed up by observations.
    I have been living in socialist countries for the last 15 years. I’m curious to know if the same holds here (Paris) — i.e. if academics are overwhelming liberal in a socialist system, (that is, if socialism can be considered liberal)… I will report my findings for those interested.

  7. I think it’s because academics think they can solve everything. If only their smart way was implemented, things would be better. I don’t think it’s because conservatives value money more. Liberals think they can change the world through policy, and conservatives are okay with limited government.

    Personally I support as limited government as possible. That means I oppose most of what government does right now. Notably is the public school system. Liberals in the humanities reinforce the cycle by teaching a crop of new liberals. Professors are paid by the state. It makes sense that statists will appreciate this system.

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