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The republican brain on science

by Donald Prothero, Aug 29 2012


A Review of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why they Deny Science—and Reality by Chris Mooney, John Wiley, New York, 327 pages.

Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

—Stephen Colbert

 

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.

—Isaac Asimov

 

You can’t convince of believer of anything, for their belief is not based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.

—Carl Sagan

 

Hearing the speakers at the GOP convention spout their ideas this week, I’m again reminded that an entire American political party is proudly and openly espousing views that are demonstrably contrary to reality, from claiming that rape does not cause pregnancy, to claiming that global climate change is a hoax, to even weirder idea, like the bizarre notion that the President of the United States is a Kenyan Muslim. For years, I’ve puzzled over why people can believe such weird things as creationism or other kinds of pseudoscience and science denials. In my 2007 book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, I devoted an entire chapter to asking why creationists can so confidently believe patently false ideas, and refuse to look at any evidence placed in front of them. I’ve compared it to Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, where Alice steps through the mirror and finds that the objects and the landscape look vaguely familiar—but all the rules of logic are reversed or turned inside out. How can people continue to believe things that are clearly wrong, and refuse to change their ideas or look at evidence?

It turns out that human brains are constructed very differently than what we would like to believe. As described by  Chris Mooney (2012) in The Republican Brain: The Science of Why they Deny Science—and Reality, our brains are not logical computers or non-emotional Vulcans like Dr. Spock, but organs in emotional animals who navigate the factual world to fit our beliefs and biases. Mooney explains this by starting with an anecdote about the Marquis de Condorcet, an important figure in the French Enlightenment (he helped develop both integral calculus and also wrote many important works on politics and philosophy). Condorcet believed in the Enlightenment ideal that humans would always be rational and guided by reason, and persuaded if logic and evidence were considered—and lost his life in 1794 during the irrational, emotional, highly political Reign of Terror. Even though Enlightenment philosophy and political science long argued that humans are rational animals, modern psychology and neurobiology  have shown this is not the case. Humans filter the world to see what fits their emotional and cultural biases, and easily neglect evidence and information that does not fit  (confirmation bias). Even more to the point, we are prone to what psychologists now call motivated reasoning—confirmation bias, reduction of cognitive dissonance, shifting the goalposts, ad hoc rationalization to salvage falsified beliefs, plus other mental tricks cause us to constantly filter the world. Our minds do not behave by objectively weighing all the evidence and listening to reason, but instead acts as if we were lawyers seeking evidence to bolster our pre-existing beliefs. Instead of the Enlightenment ideal that humans would change their minds when the facts go against them, motivated reasoning explains why humans are adept at bending or ignoring facts to fit the world as we want to see it.

In particular, our brains are governed by several different, often conflicting factors. What psychologists call System 1 are the rapid-fire emotions and reactions that date back to some of our earliest ancestors, and are controlled by the most fundamental animal parts of our brains, such as the limbic system and the amygdula, which are responsible for fear, feelings of pain, and our “fight-or-flight” response. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brain show that these regions are highly active in a politically conservative brain when they are processing information. System 2 is the more rational, slow-moving, thoughtful conscious process of thinking things through and trying to arrive at rational decisions. The studies of people’s brains by fMRI show that this type of rational, slow decision making is controlled by the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC), which tends to be active in brains when they are confronted with new information.As psychologists have shown, most events in our life are first filtered through the emotional System 1, so that even if System 2 is working in a fully rational way, it is biased by what our emotional System 1 has told it. Our memories, too, work this way, so if we have a set of associations of a certain concept, such as “Sarah Palin”, the associated memories with that stimulus (e.g., “woman,” “Republican,” “pregnant unwed teenage daughter,” “death panels,” “wrong about Paul Revere”) are immediately triggered and become part of the processing of any new information about that subject. As Mooney (p. 32) describes it:

To see how it plays out in practice, consider a conservative Christian who has just heard about a new scientific discovery—a new hominid fossil, say, confirming our evolutionary origins—that deeply challenged something he or she believes (“human beings were created by God”; “the book of Genesis is literally true”). What happens next, explains Stony Brook University political scientist Charles Taber, is a subconcious negative (or “affective”) response to the threatening new information—and that response, in turn, guides the types of memories and associations that are called into the conscious mind based on a network of emotionally laden associations and concepts. “They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs,” say Taber, “and that will lead them to construct or build an argument and challenge what they are hearing.”

We are all guilty of this to a greater or less extent, but Mooney (2012) explores some of the recent research that explains the psychological roots of these beliefs. Individual belief systems, world views, and cultural biases have been categorized in research on cultural cognition by Yale law Professor Daniel Kahan and his colleagues along two main axes. Along one axis, humans range from Individualists (people who value the individual over society, believe we are all responsible for our lot in life, and should be punished or rewarded for our choices or faults, and the government should not step in to change this) versus Communitarians (people who value the common good over the individual welfare). On the other axis, the beliefs range from Hierarchical (believing society should be highly structured, orderly, and stable, including rankings based on gender, class, and race) versus Egalitarian (believing everyone should strive for more equality and less hierarchy). When people are given all sorts of psychological tests or respond to a series of polls, they tend to break out into discrete clusters along these axes. American conservatives are, not surprisingly, very Hierarchical and Individualist. American liberals tend to be Egalitarian and Communitarians.

For whatever reasons we become liberal or conservative (largely their upbringing in a conservative or liberal household, but other life events sometimes change this), most humans immediately identify with one or the other of these clusters, and this forever influences what they will think and what information they will absorb for the rest of their lives—unless a traumatic event changes them. These sets of beliefs or associations are strongly connected to one’s sense of belonging to a community, and to our sense of well being, and (for some) our sense of purpose or meaning in life, so they have strong emotional reinforcement that prevents them from being overturned by something as simple as facts or rational argument.

Consequently, one of the classic Enlightenment views—that rational arguments and evidence will eventually win out—turns out to be wrong in many cases. For people who have strong emotional and community connections to a belief system (whether it be a religion or a political party or whatever), their minds are preparing arguments against anything that weakens or challenges that belief (like a lawyer preparing his slanted case to defend one side of an argument), not listening to reason or evidence. Thus we have “smart idiots”—people who are actively engaged in an argument, well educated, and smart by any standard measure—but who have selectively biased what they have learned so they can argue against reality if it is important to defending their community and belief system. This is really discouraging to those of us who are battling irrationality. According to the Enlightenment view, truth, reason, and evidence should eventually persuade anyone, but what psychologists have shown is that the diehard creationists, climate deniers, and anti-vaxxers (along with other true believers) cannot be persuaded this way.

In fact, exposure to the facts can actually cause a “backfire effect”, so they react to such challenging information by clinging to their own beliefs even more firmly and becoming more entrenched in their world view, using the tricks of motivated reasoning, such as ad hoc rationalization or moving the goalposts. Psychologists first documented this in the cases of religious sects which set a date for the Rapture, sold all their worldly possessions—only to have the prophecy fail them (as happened on May 21, 2011, and again on Dec. 21, 2011, when evangelical minister Harold Camping prophesied the end of the world, and it made worldwide news). In each such case, we saw classic examples of motivated reasoning. Instead of admitting the prophet was wrong, the followers (and sometimes the prophet) clung even more strongly to their failed belief system, and rationalized its failure by saying “The Rapture did occur but it was invisible” or “Our prayers were so powerful that God spared the world.” Thus, Mooney argues that all our efforts to educate doctrinaire conservatives in hopes of changing their minds are in vain, since evidence and reason don’t work. Only some external factor which makes them change from their conservative stance and open their minds to other viewpoints have any chance at success.

Mooney (2012) also describes research which shows that conservatives (especially modern Republicans) are particularly prone to deny scientific realities such as evolution or climate change. Studies by John Jost and colleagues at NYU  have shown a whole set of personality traits associated with the Hierarchical-Individualist conservatives versus the Egalitarian-Communitarian liberals. Conservatism also tends to be associated with a variety of other personality traits, including dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, fear of death, fear of change, less openness to new experiences, less “integrative complexity” in their thinking, less “nuanced” thinking, more need for “closure”, and so on. Liberals, on the other hand, are characterized by some of the opposite personality traits: rejection of dogmas, tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty, less fear of death or change, more openness to new experience, curiosity about the world, and more complex and nuanced thinking without the need for simplicity or “closure.” Thus, you find more artists and musicians and entertainers (“liberal Hollywood”) already have personalities that fit the open, experimental view of the world, whereas conservatives tend to be found in highly traditional institutions, like the church, business, and the military. By their very nature, academics and scholars tend to be more open, questioning, prone to complex nuanced thinking, and comfortable with uncertainty, so it is no surprise that liberals tend to dominate the university (except maybe in departments like engineering or business, where the thinking is highly structured and the field is relatively unchanging).

More to the point, scientists also tend to be people with many of these liberal traits (especially open to challenges of dogma, curious, and comfortable with ambiguity or no simple answers), because these are the traits that make a scientist successful and explain why science works. By contrast, someone with diehard Conservative personality traits, or strong religious beliefs that bias their perspective on life, will view scientists with suspicion or scorn any time they discover an “inconvenient truth” that threatens or challenges their comforting belief systems about the world. Hence, the widespread attempt to smear scientists and claim their research is motivated by greed for research grants in the global warming battle  and other battles over the environment, or the claim that all scientists are atheists in the creation/evolution wars, or the idea among the anti-vaxxers, AIDS deniers, and “quack medicine” pushers that scientists and doctors are in cahoots with Big Pharma.

To be fair to both sides, Mooney (2012) points out that not all examples of science denial are on the right wing. There are certain ideas, such as the vaccine fears of the anti-vaxxers, and fears of nuclear power, or of scary oil company practices like fracking, that are predominately held by liberals and environmentalists. But there are important differences here. Adherence to pseudoscience and anti-science is not symmetrically distributed between the left and the right. Ideas such as anti-vaxx, anti-nukes, and anti-fracking are not held uniformly by the majority of liberals or progressives, but only a tiny subset, whereas studies show that the ideas of creationism and global climate change denial are virtually universal among American conservatives now. More importantly, none of these ideas (anti-vaxx, anti-nukes, anti-fracking) are held by a majority of the national leaders of the Democratic Party, nor are they being actively written into law across the nation (with a few local exceptions). By contrast, nearly all conservative politicians in the modern GOP must at least pay lip service to a litany of dogmas, from lowering taxes, cutting spending on the poor, and boosting military spending, to opposing abortions, birth control, and stem-cell research, to homophobia—and, in this last few years, they must also toe the line with denying global climate change, and throw at least a bone to creationism. These are important distinctions, and explain why the antiscientific attitudes of American politics are not evenly or symmetrically distributed.

As Mooney (2012) reminds us, one personality trait that characterizes most American liberals is an open, questioning attitude about their beliefs, and a respect for science. In the case of fracking, nuclear power, and anti-vaxxers, the scientific community has either spoken clearly (vaccines do not cause autism), or the scientific data are not in favor of the diehards and fearmongers (nuclear power is not perfect, but all forms of energy have drawbacks, and we need power from somewhere; fracking might lead to a few cases of groundwater contamination, but so far there is no sign that it is always a problem). When scientists speak clearly and present their evidence, and liberal politicians respect their opinions, only minorities of liberals end up holding the unscientific or pseudoscientific views, and no policy changes occur. By contrast, when conservatives were or are in power (as in the Bush years of 2001-2009, or in many state governments now), laws are passed either hindering scientific reseach or outright denying scientific reality, from climate change, to evolution, to stem-cell research, as well as laws about abortion, birth control, and homosexuality.

All this research about our psychological dark sides is highly discouraging. It shows that reason, logic, and evidence cannot win when emotion or dogma clouds people’s judgment, and even better education does not necessarily change people’s false beliefs. It may only mean that people with these pre-existing biases become dogmatic “smart idiots”, fighting scientific reality from a fortress of myths and misconceptions that no one can release them from. It explains why creationism has always held sway over about 40-45% of the American population, despite decades of effort in education and huge scientific advances and changes in our society. Apparently, the only way to change this is to change the culture, so that religion does not hold such a strong grip on us. In the case of things like environmental issues, climate change and peak oil and population worries, it apparently takes really scary external demonstrations of reality (like the Cuyahoga River catching fire, or record deaths from heat waves or smog, or record oil prices) to get people to change their minds and come around to realizing what scientists have been saying for years. Thus, for much of the anti-science, the change will come, but only in the form of external events that force us to address reality.

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125 Responses to “The republican brain on science”

  1. mike says:

    It sounds like a book I have to get.

    I think the reviewer downplays the errors of the liberals, however. We have to be careful of pointing out the timber in the conservative eye while missing the timber in our own eye. Now as a gay atheist farmer, you can bet I won’t be anywhere near the RNC, but lately I’ve come to loathe some of the anti-science crap among the liberal Left. Prothero misses a few key areas:

    –The “organics” movement. This is an agricultural cult based on the Naturalistic Fallacy, irrational fears of “chemicals” due to a faulty understanding of toxicology, and sympathetic magic, whereby the ingestion of “healthy, natural” foods has quasi-healing properties. Hands down, “organics” converts come from the liberal class.

    –The anti-genetic engineering movement. This fear-based group is as virulently anti-science as the anti-global warming cult. They spread misinformation on the Internet and in their articles, regardless of how many times their cherry-picked “studies” have been debunked. They have their own clutch of fake experts to spread the panic, and they even disrupt and destroy field research on new genetically engineered crops. By interrupting progress in agricultural science, these idiots are posed to do more actual damage to people than the idiots in the creationism movement. Almost all of them are liberals like me.

    –The “complementary/alternative medicine” dunces. Naturopathy, homeopathy, Reiki, herbal remedies, this whole raft of quackery is largely the province of liberals. When it comes to medicine it seems they’ll believe anything besides the scientific consensus because, like the anti-global warming dunces, they see everything through the lens of conspiracy. You’ll find many, many liberals spending money on this crap.

    –The peak oil cult. Funny Prothero should mention peak oil briefly and then quickly move on. While the phenomenon of depletion and decline of oilfields cannot be denied, Prothero skips over the apocalyptic crackpots that have pretty much ruined the peak oil awareness movement. These Internet prophets, composed largely of atavistic agrarian romantics, liberal America-haters, and environmentalists with a Luddite streak, have made ridiculously intemperate predictions that keep failing, yet they continue to hew to their apocalyptic scenarios.

    There’s a complementary book to be written here….

    • Donald Prothero says:

      I was trying to keep the list short so the post didn’t become too diffuse, but I agree that some of those movements are equally unscientific. However, my key point is that they are held by a minority of liberals, and they are NOT being pushed as national policy by the mainstream Democratic Party, so they are relatively harmless minority ideas. By contrast, climate change denialism is an official GOP position, which caused us to lose 8 valuable years under Bush as his oil company hacks did all they could to stop or deny it. Likewise, Bush endorsed intelligent design creationism while in office, and already GOP legislatures in 3 states (Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas) have passed or tried to pass creationist school policies, and a large majority of GOP voters are also creationists. THIS is where science denial is dangerous: when one party makes it part of their platform because a majority of their voters believe it, then enact it as policy when they hold power.

      • mike says:

        You’re right about the “mainstream policy” angle, but just keep an eye on the issue of genetic modification. Already many Democrats are for labeling, so there’s bound to be some unpleasant surprises ahead.

      • Tony Frost says:

        Actually, herbal / complementary / natural meds have a longstanding belief and tradition in western states such as Utah and are a strong part of the Morman tradition. Hence the interest in it,too, by Senator Hatch (R-Utah).

        Genetic engineering is widely despised among southern and mid-west agricultural states, too.

        So would not agree that these are stereotypical ‘liberal’ positions. They may be evidence of ignorance and lack of education, but those people follow both donkeys and elephants. In my view, it is about time we saw people in those additional dimensions rather than reducing issues such as these to the irrelevant, dichotamous (sp?) liberal / conservative mutual vilification of the bigot. America never used to be like that.

      • tmac57 says:

        America has always been like that.
        Sorry to bust your bubble.
        Just like the ideal of “The good ole days”,the ideal of the ‘bipartisan days’ is grossly overstated.

    • CJ says:

      Everyone holds some dogma beliefs. But, they just don’t see it as dogma when it is their own belief. Dogma is what the other guys believe.

    • Justin says:

      I highly disagree with the statement that liberals are highly egalitarian by the definition given. They are certainly communitarian but in order to change the current flow of society in economics and wealth distribution, liberals use classification and identification which divide groups into separate factions and works one group over the other(even if the group that benefits gains more prosperity adding to a more equal society as a whole). By using class division, egalitarianism is completely thrown. A radical egalitarian individual would work on ideas that revolutionize the citizens as a whole for the benefits of greater equality. A lesser egalitarian would pick and choose one over another so liberals are certainly not greater egalitarians than conservatives. Both want the well being of their selves first then everyone else second. Altruism is coincidental or in good war movies which are fiction.

  2. Max says:

    Are Chinese Communists liberals or conservatives?

    • noen says:

      There is a section in his book devoted to understanding how it works in say the former USSR or other communist countries. The short answer, probably too short, is that the political system selects for authoritarian personalities who will rationalize away their basic beliefs in order to fit in with the ruling dogma.

      • Max says:

        So it doesn’t matter whether the dogma is for tax cuts or tax hikes. People supporting either side of a political issue can be equally dogmatic.

      • noen says:

        Tax policy is not a feature of the brain. Resistance to change and novelty seeking are. Change frightens people who are highly resistant to change. Fear triggers responses that cloud rational thinking. Example is the Sheriff in Texas who is afraid that Obama and the UN are going to invade his county. Probably not a rational fear.

      • Max says:

        The co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate “gives President Obama and Democrats a chance to draw a clear contrast in 2012 by promising not to cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security benefits.”

        See the irony in the Progressive Change Campaign Committee resisting change?
        Nobody wants change that goes against their interests.

      • noen says:

        @ Max — I am not sure that putting the US 2.5 trillion in debt, not balancing the budget for 30 years, eliminating social security and making those on Medicare pay in 4,000 a year more, raising taxes on the poor and middle class and cutting the taxes of the very rich to nearly zero represents progressive change.

      • Max says:

        You won’t balance the budget without reining in Medicare and Social Security.
        http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/08/comforting-little-lie-seniors-all-tell-themselves

        Teachers unions resist changes to tenure.

        If by “change” you meant “change toward the left” then “change” just becomes a code word for leftism, and right-wingers resist change/leftism by definition.

    • Justin says:

      Conservative because they liberalized with Nixon and have since then maintained and tweeked their system to conserve their hold on the citizens and through this added millions to their capitalism. If the Tienanmen square protest would have been successful then they would’ve been a liberal society.

  3. Max says:

    Are 9/11 truthers liberals or conservatives?

    • Donald Prothero says:

      I don’t think 9/11 Truthers are clearly one or the other but both, which is why Mooney didn’t give them as an example, nor did I.

      • Max says:

        So you omit evidence that doesn’t fit your world view.

      • tmac57 says:

        Clearly irrationality does not fit neatly into a dichotomy.

      • Student says:

        That would be a valid comment if they were all Liberals.

        Since Mooney did not know, the guess that it’s a mixture is fair to both sides-Prothero chose the neutral option as opposed to placing them in the conservative camp, which should be obviously justifiable-the source, Mooney, doesn’t cite a political motivation for them, so he doesn’t suppose one.

        If I don’t talk about chess when I’m covering the Olympics, I’m not “omitting” things that don’t fit my world view: I’m covering what I’ve got my evidence for and making statements based on them. To make uninformed comments with a conclusion apart from a neutral one would be improper.

        So, which two points do you want to “omit”, Max?
        Prothero is: A) Neutral, and making no comment on political mindsets with respect to 9/11 truthers.
        B) Pro-Liberal, and is making the assertion that the Conservatives are more likely 9/11 truthers.
        C) Pro-Conservative, and is making the asseriton that the Liberals are more likely 9/11 truthers.

        Considering that no major candidate of either party is an open 9/11 truther.

      • Max says:

        They’re trying to explain why one party denies reality and the other party doesn’t. Here we have a case where members of both parties deny reality, which suggests that what’s behind it is something separate from party affiliation.
        If you want an analogy, suppose I show that a drug is better than a placebo for one group of patients, but I don’t mention that it’s no better than a placebo for another group.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Neither mainstream Democrats or Republicans are truthers. Go to a site like dailykos.com or firedoglake.com on the liberal side, and you won’t find any 9/11 truther nonsense. The same goes for redstate.com or freerepublic. The 9/11 truthers are pretty much in the domain of the libertarians and the Ron Paul followers.

    • Beelzebud says:

      I think you’ll find these days that the vast majority of truthers are the Ron Paul followers and the Libertarians.

      • Max says:

        I’m not sure how to count them, but there are definitely 9/11 truthers at anti-war and Occupy Wall Street protests, like this acupuncturist who says she co-founded 9/11 Truth L.A. and has been working with Mike Gravel.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_43QskdkRXQ

        You can get a sense of it at enduswars.org, whose list of supporters includes the Green Party, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, DailyPaul.com, and a bunch of 9/11 Truth groups. Their Archive Section 2 is all about 9/11 Truth.

        So whether they’re neo-isolationist libertarians or they’re anti-Capitalist Marxists, the common thread is that they’re all against U.S. wars. And because 9/11 was a justification for war, many of them say it was a pretext, or a false justification, and some inevitably say it was a conspiracy.
        Similarly, libertarians see Global Warming as a pretext for leftist policies, so many of them conclude that it’s a hoax. Similarly, anti-Zionists see the Holocaust as a pretext for the establishment of the State of Israel, so many of them deny the Holocaust.

  4. Max says:

    “except maybe in departments like engineering or business, where the thinking is highly structured and the field is relatively unchanging”

    What changes faster, Chemistry or Chemical Engineering?

    • Student says:

      I’m not sure, but as an Engineering Student, I can say that most of the standards documents we use for calculations, especially in Fluid Dynamics, date back to the 1960s. A great deal of the work we do is to do with making verifiable, justifiable assumptions, and working out what error they induce, with a background in Static and Dynamic Physics, Electrical Systems, and a little Chemistry (My University does not offer dedicated Chemical Engineering streams). Much of what we learn is background knowledge, and we’re encouraged to look stuff up later in relevant standards and theoretical texts, or Peer-Reviewed Journals. So we focus more on application than theory, and so we’re applying what we find, as opposed to questioning what we find.

  5. Max says:

    Tolerance my ass. Read “The High Price of Telling the Truth About Islam” by Eric Allen Bell, a liberal New Ager who shot a documentary about Islamophobes protesting the Murfreesboro Mosque, but then learned the other side of the story.
    http://frontpagemag.com/2012/eric-allen-bell/the-high-price-of-telling-the-truth-about-islam/
    “Given the incredible density of the popular Liberal mind, how the readers of my articles were unable to see how the beliefs of Islam were in direct conflict with human rights, gay rights, women’s rights and basic Democratic Values, I wrote a final piece called, ‘Are You In Favor of Human Rights?’ and that one of course got me banned from Daily Kos.”

    • noen says:

      The list of irate wing-nuts butt hurt over being banned from Daily Kos is rather long.

      “Loonwatch unconditionally attacks criticism of Islam but they refuse to criticize the many, many Islamic clerics and terrorists who are hurting people in the name of Islam.”

      Why yes, it is intolerable when people don’t pay attention to the things I want them to. It’s unforgivable when Loonwatch reports that “Breivik was inspired by the entirety of the anti-Muslim Islamophobic industry, the self-styled “neo-Crusaders” and “Counter-Jihadists”. Instead of the real culprits, the Norwegian people, who only brought it on themselves by their PC restrictions on his hate speech. Anders Breivik is the real victim of Norwegian liberal fascism.

      Everyone knows that Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Debbie Schlussel and Geert Wilders have been unfairly smeared in the lame stream liberal media.

    • MadScientist says:

      To be fair, the Islamic Agenda sounds just like the Christian Agenda. Less real education, more belief, more oppression of women and minorities, etc.

    • Student says:

      [This is a long rant, you might want to skip the ramblings of a barely sane student responding the the nuttery of a seemingly ignorant film-maker turned pariah for being apparently a complete and utter wingnut]

      I’ve just finished reading this, and, to be honest, I’m kind of shocked at how ignorant Bell started off as. Was he really suprised that Islam is a terrible belief system. Was he under the impression that Christianity was substantially better? I mean, he likes to call liberals dense, but was he really that ignorant about a subject he was to make a documentary on? This is a revelation to him? Most of us have known about the horrors of Sharia law for years: Afghanistan showed us the brutality it could commit, and the oppression is caused. What relation was this to the mosque? Apparently none-someone just educated him on Islam and he became a vocal opponent of it whilst he was supposedly documenting a completely seperate case of religious oppression.

      Both Christianity and Islam directly oppose Human Rights, Gay Rights, Women’s Rights, and democracy in general. This is nothing special to the Islamic community. Both of these religions are full of the potential for being exploited for agendas which we’d rightfully decry. But apparently thinking that the Islamic community deserves the same right extended to the Christian on to build there own places of worship, and do their worship, which has nothing to do with allowing them to enforce their rights on non-believers, or even in some ways on believers, is a cognitive dissonance. Apparently we should have a problem with supporting the right of the Murfreesboro Imam to Free Speech, whilst we allow the Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals and preach violence and hate, we should be criticising those who would perform their religion peacefully for the actions of those who would do harm. I guess we should let the Christians know they’re responsible for the actions of the Pro-Life abortion clinic bombers then.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to hate the person, or organisation, or their speech, and still want that to be defended-it’s one of the founding principles of America. What happened to “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”-heck, he even concludes on this note! Thinking that these people should not be attacked with violence for building their community is not unreasonable, how does this make anyone dense?

      Should they wish to impose their values on others, we’ve provisions in place-which, unless we are truly unfortunate, will continue to seperate religion and states.

      Hell yes-these religious governments, these theocracies are terrible things. Which is why most of us oppose the introduction of Christianity(As the dominant religious movement) to the government of our nations: We recognise that it’s got as much potential for ill as Islam, and it’s got as much rational justification (None). Heck, in Britain, up until 2008, blasphemy against Christianity was still against the law (Though no-one had been convicted since 1921, one only has to look at the history of the Whitehouse cases to realise the amount of use Christians used it to stifle alternative points of view). Islam is not the only religion to have performed monstrosities as government, and it should be prevented from doing so (Preferably by people being smart enough to reject these barbaric beliefs, but baby steps, I guess): That shouldn’t blind anyone to the real issue: The crimes of the Taliban, or any other government who would use Islamic law, do not justify the discrimination against peaceful Muslims, any more than the crusades justify the burning of churches. They’re not even a part of the same conversation. Sure, there are those convinced that “Islam is a religion of peace.” But that’s not really the issue, is it?

      Finally, anyone who would label the criticism of his position “How and Why Loonwatch is a Terrorist Spin Control Network” is clearly not interested in good discourse. It seems the largest of the backlash is he intended to do one thing, report on the oppression of these Muslims, found out that Islam is terrible, and starting going on about that instead. I mean, really? He thinks that his entire audience is naieve enough to believe that Islam is good, and that he’s somehow telling them something they don’t know when talking about a different subject.

      “Given the incredible density of the popular Liberal mind, how the readers of my articles were unable to see how the beliefs of Islam were in direct conflict with human rights, gay rights, women’s rights and basic Democratic Values”

      Considering the distaste he shows for his previous audience-I’m not suprised, and continuuing to show it here wins no supporters. Moreover, when your articles critical of those who criticise them accuse them of being Terrosist sympathisers, when you seemed to be blaming all of the religious for the actions of the few, far removed geographically (I mean, come on, even the most anti-theistic of us don’t hold individual Christians responsible for the Crusades, we hold their faith responsible, and we don’t try to prohibit it, we try to inform people), you’re not going to get very far: You’re making the accusations of conspiracy theorist and “Islamophobe” seem more accurate. He’s digging his own hole.

      What I really don’t get is, how in light of his conclusion
      “And by the way, I still believe that unless they break the law, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has a legal right to build their house of worship. We don’t have to like it, but then again the First Amendment was designed not to protect popular ideas – as they don’t need protecting – but to protect unpopular ideas as well. This is something you won’t find in any Islamic country and it is also something worth protecting – even when the so-called “religion of peace” tries to shut you down.”
      what the point of his turning from documenting the religious discimination against the Muslims to commenting on the horrors of Islam-he seems to have assumed ignorance from his audience from the start and then gone on to confirm it through their reactions to his work, and become more incensed.

      Yeah, I’d call him a loon. He’s a bad documentarian, and poor at discourse. I mean, really, at what point will he realise that people wanting to allow Muslims to practice their religion peacefully is not at all in contradiction with Human Rights: They have the right to their religion, and so long as no-one is oppressed against their will, then what’s the issue? Liberals aren’t asking for Islam to become part of government.

      All in all, it reminded me of listening to someone rant about “Prayer being banned in schools!”, as opposed to “Mandatory prayer in government funded schools is not allowed, individuals are allowed to pray.” The nut always is able to frame a neutral position as the exact opposite-I give up, let’s put “In No God We Trust.” on money. Or in my case as an Australian, change our national anthem to “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free [of god]“

  6. Janet Camp says:

    I’m with Mike and I’m not so sure that altie-type liberals are a minority–any data on that? Even some people I greatly respect for their scientific efforts on matters of public health support the labeling of GMO, because “people have a right to know what they’re eating” (which of course implies there is good reason NOT to eat GMO food). The NY Times published an emotional plea from Sean Lennon to stop industry from fracking on his family farm (or the area of the farm) and the piece was full of flaming faucets and “toxic” chemicals and practices.

    Liberals simply (as a group) have little science background and are quite postmodern in their attitudes. They fall into the false equivalency trap with ease. I feel, as a liberal with a science background, that I’m in some relatively small “elite” group that is disdained by both of the other majority sides.

    • mike says:

      Oh, yeah, the “postmodern” thing too! Oy vey, talk about an example of liberal idiocy….

      I was an English major but decided to forgo a PhD partially because of the “deconstruction” fiasco.

    • noen says:

      ” I’m not so sure that altie-type liberals are a minority–any data on that?”

      Yes, there is data to support Chris Mooney’s thesis that motivated reasoning is more prominent on the Right than the Left. He also points out that the rigid hierarchy on the right tends to maintain false beliefs even when they are detrimental to the group as a whole whereas on the left false beliefs come under greater scrutiny and will be winnowed out more quickly.

      In his conclusion Mooney writes:

      “If anything, I come out of a yearlong immersion in this research with a newfound admiration for conservatives.”

      “The Republican Brain” cannot be legitimately used for bashing the right.

  7. rhea says:

    Extreme Republican positions are a relatively new development, and represent a minority of this nation. Polls show that most Americans support abortion, with some limitation. Most do not support a flat tax, and want the rich to pay higher taxes than the poor. Most support Medicare and social security. Most believe present weather anomalies are a result of global warming. Most want the government to take care of infrastructure. Most support public schools and affordable college education. The only place where numbers support the religious conservative cause is evolution, and that belief on its own has little effect on gov’t support of infrastructure, etc. Even the stand on marriage equality is changing; it’s seen a dramatic growth over the last decade.

    The fascinating thing is that, when put to a vote, these issues lose. I don’t believe that they lose because there is a serious psychological divide between most conservatives and most liberals; I believe they lose because the liberals have been singularly inept at spreading their worldview, and conservatives have taken over the dialogue. Add Citizens United and the misleading ads it makes possible to the mix, and you get what we have today.

    Authoritarian, hierarchical belief systems don’t inevitably end up creating individualistic worldviews where the gov’t refuses to do anything about a hurricane in a major city. I’m a medievalist, and I assure you that the deeply religious medieval world was anything but that. The deeply religious Ottoman world was anything but that. Even the deeply religious worlds of Saudi Arabia and Iran today are anything but that. We really need to stop the hand wringing and take over the dialogue.

    • tmac57 says:

      I believe they lose because the liberals have been singularly inept at spreading their worldview, and conservatives have taken over the dialogue.

      Given the list of what the polls show that you previously reported,it would raise the question of “Do the majority of those polled realize that they are really more in sync with the liberal worldview,and why do they not see that?”
      It also makes me wonder who is doing the polling for the GOP,and why do they consistently seem to be out of step with the majority?
      Of course,the obvious question also is, are any of those polls accurately reflecting the sentiments of most U.S.
      citizens ?
      The spectacle of this last 4 years of partisanship,has been a petri dish for social psychologists to study for generations into the future. I hope that they can gain some value from studying it,because there seems little value experiencing it.

    • Phea says:

      Extreme Republican positions are anything but new. In fact not that long ago, many weren’t all that extreme, they were the law. I can remember when abortions and homosexuality were illegal and racial and religious discrimination and segregation were the norm. Not all that long ago, there was prayer in the classrooms, divorce could be difficult, and there was no swearing on television, The country, the world, overall, is a lot more liberal now. The average person has a much more liberal world view.

      • tmac57 says:

        I believe that you just described the ‘country’ that the Tea Party is talking about when they cry:
        “We want our country back!!!”
        They will not admit this openly,unless you catch them in a ‘friendly’ environment.

    • Student says:

      I think you’re on the right track. The support of views which are known to be bad is more related to the nationalistic aspirations of the Right and their general charisma in advocating the power of the individual. Motivating a large hotbed of religious people to vote for overtly religious politicians as opposed to steadfastly neutral and in opposition to religion in politics doesn’t hurt them either.

      In Australia, we’ve got a similar problem: Our Right is led by a leader who is generally seen as the embodiment of many Australian stereotypes, and is a charismatic leader, whilst his opponent, the Prime Minister, is not, and is disliked for deposing the previous one. Despite the fact that, for the most part, the policies on the Left are more helpful to them, people are being swayed.

      I’m perpetually mistified by this constant badgering about “Welfare queens” and “Dole Bludgers”. Poor people on welfare, or with child support or income support, whingeing about non-existant non-working people getting by on government money, whilst in actuality, they’re the beneficiaries of the money they keep saying should be cut. It seems low budget television (Our public television Current Affairs shows are shocking mixes of pseudoscience, nonsense, blatent advertising, and reports on welfare cheats who got caught-the important part being, they’re caught and that people aren’t getting away with it) has had it’s effect.

  8. Carter says:

    It’s funny you think liberals don’t have dogmas. Some of them are:

    Homosexuality is normal. Approval of homosexuals is mandatory. Diversity is strength. We should spend more money on education. Most problems can be solved by more education. There’s no such thing as race. All races are equally intelligent. The moral and political aims of liberalism are scientific. The moral and political aims of liberalism are the highest good. Liberalism does not involve the imposition of morality. Progress is good. The present is superior to the past.

    • mike says:

      Call Carter’s comment The Parade of Straw Men.

      • MadScientist says:

        Yeah, no smoking within 100 yards. Then again it sounds like a smoke-induced thing.

      • Student says:

        Actually, some of these are true, just not Dogmas.

        Homosexuality is normal. It occurs, it’s normal. In fact, it occurs in a variety of animals. What do you mean by normal v abnormal? If you mean it’s a smaller number, then I guess it’s abnormal. Who was saying it has to be “normal” though? What would the normality of it mean?

        Approval of homosexuals is mandatory.

        No, the discrimination against homosexuals is banned. Like all discrimination. You can disapprove, just don’t do anything about it. Like I disapprove of your bigotry.

        Diversity is strength.

        It is. Having a diverse accepting community breaks down tribalisms, which is undoubtedly a good thing.

        We should spend more money on education.

        The US education system isn’t exactly standing out. Every US politician should be concerned about that. If you think paying less will fix it, ok, I guess. If you figure paying the same will change anything, I guess we’re at an impasse.

        Most problems can be solved by more education.

        “Most problems”: Define these problems. Social ones? Yeah, most of them. Scientific ones? DEFINITELY.

        There’s no such thing as race.

        This one’s not worth responding to. It’s a flat out lie.

        All races are equally intelligent.

        Show that they’re not. There’s little genetic difference, an extremely short timeframe for such changes to occur evolutionarily, and there’s no reason to suppose they aren’t. The fact that you’re racist isn’t justified by this thinking, you were called out on this months ago.

        The moral and political aims of liberalism are scientific.

        No one said this.

        The moral and political aims of liberalism are the highest good.

        All political views believe this: They believe their course is the best one. Pointless insult. Disagreeing about methods doesn’t change the fact that everyone believes in their method.

        Liberalism does not involve the imposition of morality.

        No-one said this. Liberals believe in laws, we don’t allow murder, rape, assault. We don’t believe in the imposition of an individuals personal religiously motivated religious “Morality” on others.

        Progress is good.

        Look at now. Now to the past. Now back to now. It’s better now. DEAL WITH IT. Conservatives believe a lack of progress is good. Neither of these sayings get to the root of what progress and conservation either group believes in. And if you want to define liberalism this way, I warn you, you leave yourself in the position of defining Progress is not good, which doesn’t do you any favours if you think the world is less than perfect.

        The present is superior to the past.

        This is objectively true. Lives are longer, people are healthier, people are more healthy, and people are more free. Get your head out of the 1950s.

      • Phea says:

        I suppose the question is, “Where do liberals draw the line”? I agree that people shouldn’t be harmed because of their sexual preferences. I believe sexual attraction and urges are hardwired, and have very little to do with “choice”. That, however cannot be the only criteria considered, or it would justify any act that deviated from heterosexuality. If it is, then the pedophile is no more guilty of wrongdoing than a man who shouts profanities because of a brain tumor.

        One of my favorite hypothetical examples is consenting cannibalism, where some enjoy eating human flesh, and others consent to being eaten after they die. It hurts no one, other than the rather disgusting feeling the average person gets when thinking about it,(but we all know, THAT’S not a valid reason to prohibit a person’s behavior).

        So… exactly where do liberals draw the line? Now I am a liberal myself, but conservatives get so beat up on here, I figured I’d ask an intelligent question for them.

      • MajorityofOne says:

        I draw the line at harm. If after a person dies, his canibal friends eat him and no one gets sick or diseased from doing so, where’s the harm?

        With pedophilia, there is an obvious victim and as a society, we have to protect our children. Same as with murderers and those with brain tumors causing them to go nuts. They do harm and society should protect themselves.

        What is the harm a homosexual does? What is the harm a woman does by having an abortion if she does not want to breed? If you didn’t know she had was pregnant, and there was a device she could go into her bathroom and use to get rid of “unwanted products of conception” and again, you knew nothing about it, who is she harming? You could say an embryo, but she doesn’t want that embryo to be there and if she had used birth control, she wouldn’t have an embryo then either.

        The line has to be drawn at harm. There’s no other standard we can use. And, a good dose of mind your own business.

      • CJ says:

        All Dogmas are true to those who believe them, and just dogma to those who don’t. Everyone holds some false dogma beliefs. But they can’t see it in themselves.

    • noen says:

      “Liberalism does not involve the imposition of morality.” — All political parties are about what values we ought to have. If you believe your r@cist ideas should hold in the majority you should try to convince others you are right. But your failure to convince others that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites does not imply that tolerance and non-discrimination for black and gays is a horrible imposition on your beliefs. It means that society has rejected your r@cist and homophobic bigotry and intolerance.

      • Max says:

        Whether blacks are intellectually inferior to whites is a matter of science, not values.
        See my post below about Stephen Jay Gould.
        http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/08/29/the-republican-brain-on-science/#comment-79457

      • noen says:

        It is racist because “blacks” do not exist as a viable object of scientific scrutiny. They exist solely as a social class created by arbitrary features that have no basis in biology as distinguishing so-called “blacks” from putative “whites”.

      • Max says:

        Is this racist?

        “Pinpointing Kidney Disease Risk in African Americans”
        http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/october2011/10312011kidney.htm
        “In 2010, several NIH-funded research teams linked kidney disease risk to variants in a gene called APOL1. About 12% of African Americans have 2 copies of the APOL1 variants that increase the risk of kidney disease. These variants weren’t found in people from other continents.”
        “These findings explain nearly all of the excess risk of non-diabetic kidney failure in African Americans. African Americans with no variant or 1 variant have about the same risk of end-stage kidney disease as their white counterparts. People with 2 APOL1 variants have greatly increased risk of particular kidney diseases — by 17- to 30-fold.”

      • noen says:

        Max said: “Is this racist?”

        No, of course not. “African American” is not a race.

      • tmac57 says:

        Which ‘blacks’ are we talking about again?

      • Max says:

        Doesn’t matter. You can say the same thing about any two groups, conservatives and liberals, atheists and theists, whatever. Intellectual inferiority is still a scientific question, and rejecting science out of fears that it would undermine morality is what Creationists do.

      • noen says:

        If there were such a thing as IQ, which there is not.

      • Max says:

        I didn’t say IQ. Do you suppose there’s no such thing as intelligence or cognitive traits either? What do you think about Mooney’s book about the Republican brain?

      • Student says:

        You’re putting the cart before the horse Max. Define the racial groups, and define the “Intelligence”, and test for it. We’ve no reason to suspect a significant difference, so there’s no reason to assume one. If you look for one and find one: Cool. If you don’t find one: cool. Until then, making any statements about racial intelligence differences is unscientific in the extreme.

        And of course, if you can accurately define races genetically, you’re doing well, and if you can define intelligence, you’re doing better, and if you can attribute things to race and not education, lifestyle, or socioeconomic status, you’re a shoe in for your Nobel. The reason most serious scientists avoid this is because of the difficulty in designing any sort of study of this sort.

        Mooney’s book is provocatively titled “The Republican Brain”, but it isn’t about the brain structure of Republicans. It’s about thinking, and Motivational Reasoning, and the prevalence of these in political ideaologies. All of which are easily analysed. Your false equivalency eats itself.

  9. David Hewitt says:

    Dr. Prothero–The Vulcan is MISTER Spock (while on the job, anyway–just “Spock” on Vulcan and in the bar after work). Dr. Spock was NOT from Vulcan, as far as we know.

  10. rhea says:

    @carter, we all have dogmas. YOUR particular dogma has been ascendant for the last thirty-forty years, as your side has excelled at disseminating its beliefs when it comes down to acting in ways that make a difference–ie, during VOTING. My side has sucked. This is why a progressive citizenry has spent thirty years voting for politicians who are actively trying to destroy progressive policies.

    The difference is not the psychology. The difference is in marketing. It’s as simple as that.

  11. Max says:

    From Nonsense on Stilts by Massimo Pigliucci
    “Carl Sagan, as we have seen, exaggerated the environmental dangers of the smoke rising from the burning of oil fields in Kuwait, but at least he had the grace to admit his mistake and even to use it for pedagogical purposes. [Stephen Jay Gould] simply seemed to reject out of hand even the remotest possibility that human cognitive traits may vary from one population to another because of variation in human genetic material – a claim that would be absolutely uncontroversial were we talking of any other trait in any other organism.”

    • Student says:

      Extroadinary claims require extroadinary evidence/

      If someone wants to claim a difference in intelligence, it’s up to them to prove it. Gould may have been wrong about the skull measurements. I guess it’s just a shame that skull measurements don’t give any indication of intelligence, or cognitive function.

  12. Canman says:

    I thought Andrew Ferguson’s reveiw of Chris Mooney’s book was just devistating:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/new-phrenology_644420.html?nopager=1

    Judith Curry also shredded it with a post that included the wonderful subheading,”Neurotrash”:

    http://judithcurry.com/2012/03/29/republNican-brain/

    Still, I’ve got a copy on my Kindle and have started reading it. It’s fun to read something trashy once in a while.

    • tmac57 says:

      Are you reading it like a lawyer prepared to demolish it in court,or are you reading it as you would something that you already agree with? (or something in between)

      • Canman says:

        I’ll admit I’m reading it as the former. Chris Mooney really lays it on thick with his science says liberals are more nuanced and open to experience with, get this, more integral complexity. If he ever has to up his word count , he should change all occurances of “science says” to “social science says”. Richard Feynman on social science:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaO69CF5mbY

    • MadScientist says:

      Ah yes, Curry starts out by saying she has never read the book BUT she’s going to talk about it anyway. Oh yeah, she’s a good writer.

      • Canman says:

        Judith Curry did her shredding Drudge style by farming out the actual shredding. But she does pose an interesting question:

        “Multiple choice test: Republicans are more skeptical than Democrats about climate change because:

        a) A defensive ideology is hardwired into their brain

        b) A growing distrust of scientific institutions because of the politicization of science”

        Might Occam’s razor apply?

      • MadScientist says:

        I don’t see what Occam’s Razor has to do with it; false dichotomy comes to mind though.

      • Student says:

        Especially since a) A defensive ideology is hardwired into their brain, is true for everyone. Not just Republicans.

        I do like the statement about politicization of science. Yes, the peer review process is a sham, it doesn’t happen. No, people live on practically nothing for 7 years to get their doctorates because they want to use their powers for politics.

        Yeah, the well known tendency to hold onto accepted ideas is far less likely than a global conspiracy amongst liberal scientists!

      • tmac57 says:

        My take on politicization of science,is that it’s not science itself,but people outside of science that are doing the politicization,so those are the ones who we should be skeptical of.
        Science has it’s own internal skeptical process,that works in a much more rational,if not perfect way.

  13. Chris Howard says:

    I’m old enough to remember liberal, and moderate republicans… I miss them, a little. My states current republican party has officially stated that they are opposed to critical thinking?! What are the words to “Oh, Canada.” again?

  14. Clara Nendleshaw says:

    I feel this article creates an undue juxtaposition of an irrational and a rational camp. In my experience most liberals are equally irrational, it’s just that their ill-founded opinions accidentally happen to coincide with more reasoned opinion. But while liberal thought is generally much more sturdily based in reason than conservative thought, most liberals are just as irrational as conservatives, as will become apparent when you ask random average liberals good questions about why they think what they think.

    • tmac57 says:

      Really…why do you think that?

    • noen says:

      Your personal anecdotes are not evidence and can therefore be rejected as irrelevant. No one is saying that only liberals are rational or they are never irrational. Nevertheless, studies *do* show that there are differences in thinking styles between personalities traditionally associated with liberal and conservative. This is widely accepted as fact.

      To explain the discrepancy the book proposes that those groups and individuals who are more open to change and willing to engage in nuanced thinking are more likely to self correct and reach the correct conclusion than those who have black and white thinking styles, feel threatened by change and authoritarian will not.

      And he has research to back it up.

    • Student says:

      Whilst I’ve no idea of the numbers, I’ve found that many people I agree with on political issues, have reasons I can’t fathom any rational reason for holding. I’ve got to get my hands on that book to look into the way they tested for reasoning behind beliefs as opposed to simple correctness.

      • noen says:

        One chapter, chapter 13, is co-written with Everett Young and cites his PHD dissertation

        “Why we’re liberal, why we’re conservative: A cognitive theory on the origins of ideological thinking” Stoney Brook University 2009

        And in his concluding chapter about “automatic selective attention for negative simuli” he references: Luciana Carrego et al. “Automatic conservatives: Ideology-based attentional asymmetries in the processing of valenced information” PLoS One, Vol 6, No. 11. Nov. 9 2011

      • noen says:

        Abstract from above

        “Research has widely explored the differences between conservatives and liberals, and it has been also recently demonstrated that conservatives display different reactions toward valenced stimuli. However, previous studies have not yet fully illuminated the cognitive underpinnings of these differences. In the current work, we argued that political ideology is related to selective attention processes, so that negative stimuli are more likely to automatically grab the attention of conservatives as compared to liberals. In Experiment 1, we demonstrated that negative (vs. positive) information impaired the performance of conservatives, more than liberals, in an Emotional Stroop Task. This finding was confirmed in Experiment 2 and in Experiment 3 employing a Dot-Probe Task, demonstrating that threatening stimuli were more likely to attract the attention of conservatives. Overall, results support the conclusion that people embracing conservative views of the world display an automatic selective attention for negative stimuli.”

      • Clara Nendleshaw says:

        Is that ‘the research to back it up’? Seriously, is that it?
        And that is used to paint a picture where half of Americans are rational and Democrat and the other half irrational and Conservative, even though the real world is manifestly different?
        And you thought you could get away with that on a skeptical website?

  15. Mark Milton says:

    I think it has just as much to do with not believing the actual scientist..remember scientist for the most part work for the government and they may feel that the science they claim is more about getting more tax-payer money to fund their projects or just to keep their jobs.

  16. d brown says:

    i have read of 3 tests of brains that showed some are fear full all the time. after the tests were done the data that the subjects was read. in all the new kinds of tests the people who were not like the rest of us said they were socially constructive. nobody knew what they said they were until after the testing. their brains acted differently from tghe morm. then it was found they said they were cons.

  17. Paul Rubino says:

    “An ENTIRE political party” espouses weird views on rape and the president is a kenyan muslim? The “ENTIRE” party? Proudly and openly?

    Really? Show me an open and proud display of the rape and kenyan beliefs by any mainstream person in the republican party. Don’t choose the fringe elements that are present in any group. Maybe show a convention speech to prove the ENTIRE party – proudly and openly – is espousing these radical views. I want to see you prove your assertion or admit you’re a liar. All i’m asking for is proof of the ENTIRE party, proudly and openly.

    • Student says:

      The Rape stuff was spoken about by a Senator. Paul Ryan had some interesting views on that one. I’m doubtful of the Kenyan Muslim part, from what I remember, that was largely Fox, and Trump.

      Mind you, their views on homosexuals, creationism, and the virtue of religion in politics are well known to be an important part of their base-they’re just not quite so stupid.

    • tmac57 says:

      What he said was “…I’m again reminded that an entire American political party is proudly and openly espousing views that are demonstrably contrary to reality…”,and then goes on to name some examples of those views that we are all familiar with,that have come from various actors in the GOP. That is not the same as saying that all of those issues are “openly” endorsed by all of the GOP,but at different times,and from different GOP members of congress,(both state and federal),many have voiced those issues (especially against AGW),and have been on the wrong side of reality.
      Even Romney’s recent quip (bad joke?) about “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate,” ,is likely a dog whistle (bullhorn?) to the birther element of the GOP,with so called plausible deniability on Romney’s part (and that’s coming from the putative head of the party).
      It is disingenuous to pretend that those examples are not widely held in the GOP,when we have been inundated with a drumbeat of that kind of nonsense for the last four years…and longer.

  18. Canman says:

    I haven’t got to the part in “The Republican Brain” about fracking yet and I’ve never read anything on the web by CM about fracking, so I’m kind of surprised that he seems to be supporting it. On DeSmogBlog, where he often posts, there are tons of anti-fracking posts from other bloggers:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/search/node/fracking

    • noen says:

      See: “What the Frack is True?” Chapter 12 page 219.

      See also Chris Mooney’s article on fracking for Scientific American, which is unfortunately behind a pay wall.

  19. Jim Howard says:

    “Hearing the speakers at the GOP convention spout their ideas this week, I’m again reminded that an entire American political party is proudly and openly espousing views that are demonstrably contrary to reality, from claiming that rape does not cause pregnancy, to claiming that global climate change is a hoax, to even weirder idea, like the bizarre notion that the President of the United States is a Kenyan Muslim.”

    Of course nobody at the GOP convention said any such thing. You are blinded by hatred and so can’t be taken seriously on anything remotely political.

    • tmac57 says:

      But, in fact those ideas are very much accepted by many in the GOP,so if you closely parse the above statement by Donald,you will see that you have no leg to stand on.

      • Max says:

        When I first skimmed over that statement, I totally misread it, and thought it was saying that the whole party denies Global Warming, with some members accepting even weirder ideas like Obama being a Kenyan Muslim. But after closely parsing it, I see that Jim Howard’s interpretation is correct. Prothero implied that so many speakers at the GOP convention said rape doesn’t cause pregnancy and Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, that the whole party proudly espouses these views.

      • tmac57 says:

        I disagree ( See my sub comment at #17). What I would say is that using the phrase “…an entire American political party…” was carelessly all inclusive.

        Having said that,take a careful look at the 2012 GOP platform,and see if you can detect any departures from reality,keeping in mind that this is really a watered down carefully crafted (softened for the mainstream) document.

    • Max says:

      From Andrew Ferguson’s review that Canman linked to above

      http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/new-phrenology_644420.html?nopager=1
      “Conservatives also have a more accurate view of their political opposites than liberals do. Seriously—studies show it, Haidt says. Asked to answer a questionnaire as they think a typical liberal would, conservatives are correct far more often than liberals who are asked to fill it out as a typical conservative. Liberals, for example, assume that conservatives would disagree with the statement: ‘One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal.’”

  20. d brown says:

    There are new tests of the brain that show how it is actually acting. I know of three different sets of tests with different kind of tests that showed many people with a strong reaction to things that the rest of us simply do not notice. In all cases the personal information from the people tested showed those said they were socially conservative. The data is there. It looks like many of us send their lives being fearful, and its not their own doing. Maybe can’t help looking for things to be afraid of, and people who will protect them. From something they can’t name but do feel.

  21. Living in the Balance says:

    Hello people!

    I have recently become agnostic after a long period of hesitance. I was a Catholic most of my life and then became an atheist for almost a year. To really confirm my agnosticism I wrote a piece called “The Greatness of Agnosticism” in which I deal with the inherent problems of believers and atheists and conclude with a paragraph on why agnosticism is a union of opposites and the better choice.

    Check it out, I promise it’s worth it.

    http://livinginthebalance.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-greatness-of-agnosticism.html

  22. Trimegistus says:

    Liberalism in a nutshell: “OUR irrational beliefs and crackpot notions are TRUE!”

  23. d brown says:

    Reality has a liberal bias.

  24. Max says:

    Republicans must have sluggish schizophrenia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sluggishly_progressing_schizophrenia

    “Only a crazy person could oppose Socialism.”
    -Nikita Khrushchev

  25. Canman says:

    Some critics of “the Republican Brain” have brought up a number of issues that CM states as facts or false facts that are really opinions. These include “Obamacare raising the deficit”, “tax cuts raising revinue” and “the stimulis increasing jobs”. In reading his chapter on economics, I found a new one: debt ceiling denial. Is he talking about the long term problem of our balooning national debt? No, he is talking about the short term quick fix of raising the debt ceiling, based on his interveiws with republican turncoat Bruce Bartlett.

    The national debt and climate change are both similar, denial inducing, long term problems. Liberals like CM seem to be in denial about the former. Reason’s Matt Welch sumerises it well:

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/09/05/denialist-democrats

    So does Remy Munasifi:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoS52fVtVQM

  26. TPaine says:

    Both major U.S. political groups are blind to some realities. Because of the size of the parties, and the historical momentum behind their movements, anyone putting themselves in one of those two boxes is necessarily contaminated with their parties dogmas.
    I chose to exit the “D” box because of it’s obvious denial of reality and inability to do arithmetic.
    These same reasons (and many more)keep me from jumping into the “R” box
    So, I’m no longer in a big box (is the independent box more like a mesh cage?) and while I’m waiting, I think I will read the constitution and bone up on economics. They appear to have banned those types of books in the big box parties.

    • tmac57 says:

      If you can discover the ‘truth’ in economics,please get back to us,because millions of words and thousands of books have been written about that subject over the centuries,and still some very very smart people who understand the subject more than you or I ever will,have almost diametrically opposite ideas on it.

      Examples: John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek

      Also,as regards the constitution (of the U.S. I assume) goes,although it is a great achievement in philosophical reasoning about how a society should govern itself,it was not handed down by some omniscient being who had all of the answers for all time,so treat it with respect as a great intellectual work,but realize that those framers weren’t the last, or the only great thinkers,and the constitution is still a living document.

  27. Canman says:

    I’m finished with “the Republican Brain” and have a few things to say about CM’s conclusions.

    A lot of the characteristics that he attributes to conservatives seem to apply to climate alarmists. These include authoritarianism,
    black/white thinking, emotionalism, fear of change, motivated reasoning, the need for closure (government must do something right now!) and even his “smart idiot” effect. His positive conservative quality, loyalty, also seems to apply to the alarmists. They won’t even acknowledge the lack of openess evident in the Climatgate emails.

    Their black/white thinking is particularly evident. Bjorn Lomborg is often called a denier. This is not because he is denying AGW is a problem (he’s not), but because he’s not recomending that the world drop everything, and start cutting carbon, regardless of feasability or effectiveness. CM used the shortlived Heartland unibomber billboard campaign as an example of climate skeptic black/white thinking:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/us-and-them-psychology-behind-heartland-institute-billboards
    This thing was almost universally denounced on the leading climate skeptic blogs. The only blogger I saw defend it was this character:
    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/what-im-going-to-say-will-upset-a-few-people/

    The most distressing of CM’s conclusions is that debating with conservatives is useless because of their closemindedness. This is also a black/white position. Closemindedness is something that happens over a range, not a binary feature. By not debating on the issue, alarmist are ignoring the unconvinced on the low end of the scale. And make no mistake about it, it is the alarmist side that is refusing to debate and complaining about false balance in the media. There was a time when liberal media figures like Phil Donahue and Larry King were eager for debate with opposing veiws. My climate debate wishlist is coming up.

    • Canman says:

      Canman Climate Debate Wishlist

      Al Gore vs Christopher Monckton — Two non climate scientists who have assumed prominent positions for their respective sides. They also both elicit similar distain from their respective opposite sides. Gore has recently complained about the lack of coverage that AGW is getting. Debating Monckton might be an effective way to get some coverage. Gore once generated a huge amount of attention for NAFTA by debating Ross Perot on Larry King’s CNN TV show.

      Joe Romm vs Peter Huber — Two MIT alums who are energy
      experts with diametrically opposed veiws on the subject.

      Naomi Orestes vs Joanne Nova — Both write a lot about behind the scenes financing and influence.

      Michael Mann vs Steve McIntyre — The two most prominent opposing figures in the controversy over Mann’s Hockey Stick Chart.

      Bill McKibben vs Philip Stott — Both have an old time preacher like style.

      Thomas Freidman vs George Will — The admirer of China’s “enlightened” leadership vs the libertarian drifting conservative.

      George Monbiot vs Matt Ridley — Two philosophically opposed Brits.

      Peter Sinclair vs Elmer Beuregard — Two sarcastic videographers. Peter Sinclair of “Climate Crock of the Week” vs Elmer Beuregard of “Minnesotans for Global Warming”.

      Chris Mooney vs Anthony Watts — The expert on climate science communication vs the highest climate blog traffic communicator.

      • tmac57 says:

        Why didn’t you pit Christopher Monckton against Peter Hadfield? Oh wait…that’s already been done.

        Unless I missed one,the only climate scientist listed there is Michael Mann,so he should go up against Lindzen to make it more fair.But,a traditional debate format is really useless in these kind of arguments,because of the ability to ‘Gish Gallop’ a complex issue.The format that WUWT attempted in Monckton v Hadfield,was much preferred,as far as getting the facts on the table,despite it being a hostile venue for Hadfield,but as far as I am concerned,Hadfield mopped the floor with him anyway.

  28. Canman says:

    I’ve never heard of Peter Hadfield, but everyone has heard of Al Gore.
    You have a point about Mann and Lindzen both being “climate” scientists and they could probably have a good debate. But there’s more to climate change than hard science. There’s issues of policy and openness. In the case of hockey stick, there are claims of harrassment, well funded campaigns and whitewashes. The hockey stick and the Climatgate revelations about it have become icons in the public’s perception. Mann and McIntyre are the main opposing figures in this drama. McIntyre seems like a low key, polite and technically competent man. I don’t see him as a “Gish galloper”.

    • tmac57 says:

      Maybe you have heard of Peter Hadfield by his online name Potholer64? See this video for some of his excellent work:
      http://youtu.be/CY4Yecsx_-s

      • tmac57 says:

        Correction, that is Potholer54 by the way.

      • Canman says:

        I watched some of Hadfield’s videos and he appears to be beating Monckton. I find it hard to beleive he couldn’t trip Monckton up on stage, on some science point. Where Monckton’s side has the advantage and Hadfield’s side is least comfortable is on policy issues.
        The Rosencranz Intelligence Squared Series had three climate related debates:
        3-14-07 Global Warming is Not a Problem
        1-13-09 Major Reductions in Carbon Emissions are Not worth the Money
        5-8-11 Clean Energy Can Drive America’s Economic Recovery
        The climate action side lost all three by the audiance vote. While this could have been gamed, my impression from watching all three was that they lost because the other side’s arguments had more substance. It was not “Gish galloping”. Most of the issues covered were not hard climate science.

    • Max says:

      Real scientists debate in the scientific literature.

      • Canman says:

        That doesn’t mean they can’t debate about policy for the public.

      • tmac57 says:

        The point is,that it doesn’t really mean anything,because the audience may be biased and their responses to debating points do not necessarily reflect the validity of the arguments employed,due to differences in the rhetorical skills of the participants.
        Using Monckton as an example,although he has been widely exposed as using fallacious arguments and flawed and manipulated data,he is a clever and glib presenter,who could easily sway an audience who didn’t know better,against a lesser prepared opponent.

  29. RThomas says:

    *Sigh* this again. I’m a atheist Republican who has spent quite a bit of time in a lab and have lots of fancy advanced degrees.

    I have a liberal friend who went into a long rant about on the Republicans who are “anti-evolution” after the 2004 election. (I have a degree in Evolution, Ethology, and Ecology myself). She was correct, but she also fervently believed in palm reading. This idea that the left has that somehow they are “more scientific” is simply wrong. I know too many of them who are as clueless about the world around them as any Evangelical on Evolution.

    The main difference is that the Republican anti-science crowd is on the hot button issues.

    • Beelzebud says:

      It’s not that the left-wingers are all science minded people that don’t fall for bullshit. It’s that for the right-wing, their loony positions are held by people in power.

      Global warming is a hoax, women can “shut down” a rape pregnancy, belief in creationism and rejection of evolution; there are all things that Senators, presidential candidates, from top to bottom on the Republican side have said.

      I don’t recall reading much about palm reading from prominent Democrats.

      You may be right about regular people, but as far as the political parties go, I just don’t see Democrats embracing these backwards anti-science views.

      • Max says:

        Even if that were true, I’d ask why right-wingers with loony positions are elected before asking why Republican brains are inferior.

  30. Jim W says:

    re: response #1 “liberal” mike
    -conservative posing as “liberal like me”
    I call liar.
    He says “America-hating liberals”. Dead giveaway right there! Libs do NOT talk like that.

    What should also be included, as proven by the first response, is the evil genious and amorality of the reactionary to pose as anything, including his opposite, and put words into the other mouths side for political gain.

    Right out of Karl Rove’s playbook on projection.

    “Gay atheist farmer” please! “mike” is not, he is a conservative and lying. And as we have seen before, conservatives are not even all that good at it.

    It speaks for itself.

    A compensatory,fake pro-consevative book stealing from the former will no doubt be written to buy the political right more time. Lying bastards.

    -I’m liberal and atheist for real.

  31. Canman says:

    Republican Brain Update

    Chris Mooney’s buddy Dan Kahan of the Yale Cognition Project just released a study that included a “republican brain hypothesis”.

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/12/04/often-wrong-never-in-doubt

    Recall that the Republican brain hypothesis predicted that cognitive reflection would be negatively correlated with right-wing ideology. “This hypothesis is not confirmed,” concludes Kahan.

    Also

    Kahan notes in passing that social psychological research has found that political independents and libertarians score better on the cognitive reflection than do liberals or conservatives

    Hmm, maybe this science isn’t so suspect after all. In fact, it’s starting to look more and more robust.