Why are scientists leftist? Shouldn’t they be neutral?

If science is supposed to be objective, then why are not scientists politically neutral?

Erik Engheim

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I just saw this questioned posed recently, I thought this was indeed a very interesting question. Embedded in this question there are so many misconceptions about science, culture and politics, which are very common in society today.

Are Scientists More Likely to Be Leftist?

Before answering this, we might actually try to establish whether scientists are indeed leftist? As it turns out, a lot of famous scientists were not only a little bit leftist but quite radical:

  • Albert Einstein — One our greatest minds ever, wrote Why Socialism, which details why he was a socialist.
  • Bertrand Russell — A noble laureate and British polymath who contributed to logic, set theory, artificial intelligence, computer science and mathematics. He was vocally championed socialist, liberal and pacifist ideas.
  • Stephen Jay Gould — Prominent American evolutionary biologist. Gould was inspired by many ideas from Karl Marx, even if he did not consider himself a Marxist.
  • Marie Curie — Who discovered radioactivity worked extensively with liberal and socialist politicians.

What about contemporary scientists? There is a Pew survey political views of American scientists:

Slightly more than half of scientists (52%) describe their own political views as liberal, including 14% who describe themselves as very liberal. Among the general public, 20% describe themselves as liberal, with just 5% calling themselves very liberal…. just 6% say they are Republicans.

The US has of course just two parties which means a number of nuances are lost. What do we find if we compare political preferences of scientists and the general public in a country with numerous political parties represented in parliament? This is a comparison from my native Norway:

Party preferences of Norwegian scientists and citizens compared. More socialist towards the left of chart. Source: Survey of Forskerforbundet members in 2017

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Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.