Scientists campaign against Republican, conservative brains
June 7, 2012 1 Comment
Back in April, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater was hosting a speaker promoting a new book titled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality. (Read Jonah Goldberg’s take on the book here) It’s become a refrain of mine that no one should be shocked at liberal bias in media or academe. But that a campus would sanction an event branded with such a patent insult is a new low for discourse. Doubtless, the glorified ad hominem that Republicans are wired to deny reality would go unnoticed by the campus’s “Civility Project,” which rather than treat civility seriously, reinforces notions of victimhood and grievance.
Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard has managed to capture the zeitgeist of liberal academics who try to analyze conservatives. The New Phrenology, as he calls it, has roots as far back as the “F Scale” psychological test of the 1940s. It was meant to gauge one’s conservative tendencies. The “F” stands for Fascism.
Looking at more recent studies of the same vein, Ferguson finds some recurring faults. In a couple of cases the sample groups consisted entirely of college students. Hormonally-driven and still maturing, these folks are hardly suitable representatives for the population at large. Furthermore, the subjects were also disproportionately Asian-American and female. One study assessed subjects’ conservatism by asking whether they felt “powerful” that day. The methodology leaves much to be desired.
Remember when Farleigh-Dickinson University’s Public Mind Institute reported that watching FOX News makes you dumber? They recently touted the study’s results were “confirmed” with a follow-up. But by asking the same questions as the first time, they repeated the same mistakes. A self-reporting NPR or evening news consumer is going to get a solid block of news, but a watcher of a 24-hour cable news network quite possibly could miss out on substantive programming. And the questionnaire’s focus on Syria favors a misguided, cosmopolitan set that believes the UN might actually be effective. It’s not FOX News but The Public Mind Institute that has made the world dumber with its junk studies.
Meanwhile, one Marcus Arvan has attempted to pin conservatives on the pages of a journal called Neuroethics. The determinism implied in the journal’s title is striking; as if morality were some lightning to be captured in a materialistic bottle. Arvan alleges conservatives share in a “Dark Triad” of personality traits, among them a Machiavellian bent. It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just what people label realists when they don’t like what they have to say.
But on the contrary, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann finds evangelicals to inhabit a fantasy land. She sees her native tribe of secular liberals as results-focused, but evangelicals as strangely obsessed with self-improvement and how people could be. Last time I checked, it was liberals who were pie-in-the-sky, swaying to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Serious Christians remain firmly rooted in reality, thanks to a cognizance of sin. Among other things, this is the idea that no one, not even ourselves, is perfect or perfectible on this Earth. The Incarnation excluded. Far from enabling delusion, real knowledge of sin and fallenness equips Christians with an ideal, double-edged skepticism. Like the kind that informed America’s great system of governance.
If anyone, it’s secular liberals who ought to be concerned for their own views of reality. Progressives can’t question the very thing they’re progressing toward. There’s no room for genuine critique if there’s a real war on with capitalism, patriarchy, scientific illiteracy, or some other ill of preference. And, as with war, secular liberals demand that problems be dealt with centrally and in totality. This embarrassing prescriptivism should have died with eugenics and all the other awkward progressive-era vestiges long ago.
Still, we are burdened with the unquestioned assumptions of the liberal-scientific consensus. We’re not allowed to question computer models of climate change. But the layman recognizes the hubris in forecasting a city’s weather one month in advance let alone global conditions one hundred years hence. On policy, the consensus demands economy-crushing carbon taxes, lest famines and war break out. But these conditions prevail already.
It’s maddening that the liberal-scientific consensus recuses itself from the possibility of error. Meanwhile, it treats people and the environment as fragile and unable to adapt–in fact, in need of a strong, capable hand–a scientific and liberal hand. On this view, everything is material, knowable, and solvable. Their knowledge is so certain that even their critics’ reasons for criticism can be deconstructed with empirical precision.
No one likes to deal with this kind of impenetrable certitude. All the more that liberal scientists and academics should abandon their shameful quest to dismiss conservatives with the cudgel of science. Then we can get around to solving real problems.