Dick Armey, retiring majority leader of the House of Representatives, created such a stir recently with comments about liberal and conservative Jews (the latter have all the brains, Armey said), that another aspect of his comments attracted less notice: Science, according to Armey, is the stomping ground of conservatives. “Conservatives,” said the Texas Republican, “have a deeper intellect and tend to have occupations of the brain in fields like engineering, science and economics. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to flock to occupations of the heart.”
Armey spokesman Richard Diamond concedes he has no evidence to back up Armey’s claim, although he insists that his boss stands by it. “It’s his perspective about how people think,” says Diamond.
Nor does a search for scientific evidence turn up much research into the broad political leanings of scientists. Neither the major scientific associations nor the polling firms were aware of studies.
Anecdotally, however, it’s not hard to find blue chip scientists who take issue with Armey-including some of the 53 Nobel laureates on the board of the Federation of American Scientists, a social policy organization often described as a “liberal think tank.”
“Armey is just completely wrong,” says Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin. “I have lots of political conversations with other physicists and my impression is that, on average, physicists are extremely liberal in their politics. I certainly am.”
Nobel chemist Roald Hoffman of Cornell objects to Armey’s “assumption that occupations of the brain are somehow better than those of the heart. That’s crazy. The United States is not a computer . . . For (solving human problems), we need both the brain and the heart.”