Cutting Through The Crap

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black And White



What do global warming and our economic crisis have in common? Probably much more than the word "meltdown." But for my purposes, it's this: Republican denialism. Confronted with compelling data and a great preponderance of expert opinion, they have a predictable and nearly unanimous response: say "no," do nothing, dig in. One can only wonder what it is about data, reality, and rejection by the conservative mind.* And, it's pretty obvious, fundamentalist religion and conservatism. It can't be coincidence that the bonds are so strong.

It's hard to be a meta-thinker: sensing from a distance one's own thought processes, it seems to me, requires a kind of effort of which many may be incapable, and others simply unwilling. Inside our heads, we are held captive by our personal neural pathways, unable to think beyond how we're wired. Nor able to see the diagram. To the extent that who we are is determined by our unique electrophysiology -- more than any of us would like to believe, I'd say -- we can see only so much of ourselves. If I'm pre-programmed to think in certain ways, it follows that I may not only be unable to change it, but even fully to witness it. I see you; I don't see me.

I read an article the other day that touches on it all, and rings true. A few key points: in troubled economic times, religiosity increases; the "religious impusle" appears in-born, and there are reasons why it may be so, evolutionarily; lots of four-year-olds have invisible friends; meta-thinking might be disadvantageous, if quick action is needed. Stuff like that.

The article isn't fully persuasive: it leaves open the question as to, for example, if kids get imaginary friends independent of religious indoctrination from parents. Still, I've found evolutionary explanations compelling. Unlike those who say you can't have a moral center without God, I say there are moral "truths" that are evident from the need to bind together to survive.

I sort of understand why it is that we deny -- or fail to recognize -- our own narrowness. We're led around by our brains, obedient and blinkered. But why is it, I wonder, that there are (at least) two such different ways of human data processing? I've referred elsewhere to studies that show repeatable and predictable differences in the makeup of "liberal" and "conservative" brains, and of how the two differ when presented with facts. Reading comments on this, or pretty much any political blog, one is convinced in a millisecond: produce data, discuss. Some will see black, some will see white, and there will be no common ground, nor any admission of the slightest possibility of misapprehension.

(Actually, that's not entirely true: liberals are much more inclined to allow for opposing views. Which goes a long way toward explaining how the "bailout bill" includes so much in the way of tax-cuts, and not enough in the way of spending. And why the Republicans are still complaining.)

It's not hard to understand how humankind benefits from an ability to assemble data and draw logical conclusions. It's less easy to comprehend the value of the opposite. Presenting alternative ideas and explanations: I get that. Spirituality: I get that, too. Have it, even. But seeing a herd of mastadons coming at full gallop and saying they're mice, or arguing that those aren't hoof-beats, they're the sound of gods chuckling: I haven't figured out how that wiring made it past the primordial ooze.

And, since this is Darwin Day, I should add the obvious: why is it that evolution denialism is the exclusive province of the right-wing brain? If you need religion, fine. Have it. But why select one that requires you to deny what is known and demonstrable? Why can't belief supplement and augment our ability to live in the world as it is? Why the need to remake it as it's not? Where's the additive value of that? It's almost enough to make a guy question evolution.

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* Yes, yes, I know: there are economists who think there's no crisis, and there are scientists (although a great many of them really aren't) who deny anthropogenic climate change. And (liberal mind, here) I admit I'm neither an economist nor a climate scientist. But I can count, and I can evaluate many, if not all, arguments. There are people out there happily saying things which are indisputably false. For that matter, there are still people who think the moon landing was faked, and that Saddam Hussein planned 9/11.

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18 comments:

Frank Drackman said...

Sorry, I missed Al Gores Scientiffic Credentials...here's my problem with Global Warminn
17 Degrees in January: Global Warming,
97 Degrees in July: Global Warming
And how do you really know what the temperature was on February 12th, 2009 B.C.? much less 20,000 years ago, if you really think the Earth is that old... And if evolution really happens, where's my Tail!!! Would come in really useful for all sorts of things...
Next thing you'll be tellin us how Black People got Rhythm cause of their differently wired Medulla Oblongata or something...

Frank

Anonymous said...

Who are you referring to on the right that is denying we are in an economic crisis? I don't know anyone that denies it, just people who differ on how to correct it, if that's even possible. My problem with global warming and many other conservatives I know is again not with it's existence but rather how to fix it.

pillpusher said...

It's clear that conservatives and religionists are a lesser group. They're fortunate to have us higher-thought people around to lead them. We're obviously wired to think intelligently, while they're wired to be stupid. They should be our servants.

Sid Schwab said...

pillpusher: I hadn't thought of it that way, but I like the way you think.

Sid Schwab said...

Frank: while it was 17 degrees here in January, Australia had record heat waves and forest fires. And guess what? It's possible to deduce ancient temperatures by several methods. You can look it up or ask a climatologist. That's what Al Gore did.

I think you should be happy if you have opposable thumbs; many vertebrates at your stage of evolution don't.

As to the Black People comment: I almost rejected your response because of it, but the rest was so revelatory I figured others needed to see it.

Bill said...

Well, Sid, you are on some shaky ground here. If the "conservatives and religionists" that you hate so much are born that way, then you hating them is not much different from hating blacks, who are born that way. In fact, if you vote against a conservative who was born that way, if the same as someone voting against BO because he was born black.

Huh. Sid Schwab, racist.

Bill

Anonymous said...

There's a book out called "Kludge" which, as I understand it, explains that "survival of the fittest" is widely misunderstood. 'Fittest' is relative to the other creatures around. The cromagnon was more fit than the neanderthal and thus prevailed. The important thing is that this says nothing about how optimal the cromagnon was, only that he was more fit than the neanderthal. Which evidently is not saying much.

--Sam Spade

Frank Drackman said...

Psst Sid, in January its SUMMER in Austrailia, hence the heat waves...Its Freaky I know, somethin about the Vertex of the Equinoxes or something...
and you're the one sayin peoples brains are wired different...
Evolution might be true, but then how do you explain the sucess of "The Jerky Boys"?? Huh Smarty?

Frank

Sid Schwab said...

Bill: big difference between strongly disagreeing with, being maddeningly frustrated by, completely unable to understand... and hating. But probably you're congenitally unable to see the distinction.

Bill said...

Hate: 1 a: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b: extreme dislike or antipathy

No, we all see it in you, Sid. You're in denial. And hateful.

Bill

AnnaN said...

I would argue that people who push certain nonsensical viewpoints have agendas, whether personal or social. And some are just downright insane.

Frank Drackman comes across as a man scared of his tenuous hold on his position in this world. Global climate change is a dire situation for mankind. The world will recover, it always does, but humanity might not.

Denial helps those who can be overwhelmed by the enormity of that which confronts them. He can denounce climate change and not even know how past earth temperature cycles are deduced, which shows that he has done absolutely no research into the issue. Ignorance allows day to day functionality.

Sid Schwab said...

Bill: it's really easy -- and extremely common -- to pass off criticism as some sort of mindless hatred. What Bush did to this country, for example, or the Republicans' overt and clearly stated policy to destroy Obama whatever the cost to the country they claim to love: those I things I hate, all right. But to imply that it's simply a derangement -- as Krauthammer so famously claimed -- is to deflect the points and simply to ignore the message. Call it what you will: hatred, frustration, whatever. The point is there is much to criticize. And people like you who prefer to ignore it by claiming those who criticize are simply blinded by hate, are guilty of something far worse than those who committed the reprehensible acts in the first place.

And, may I remind you once again: you are free not to visit. Perhaps you'd be happier reading Hinderaker and Malkin all the time. Less cognitive dissonance, less need for the sort of reflection that, we've established, is so foreign to the conservative mind.

Frank Drackman said...

Tell the truth Sid, you didn't know Australia had opposite seasons than North Amercia did you?? Its cool, I didn't realize it either till I went there...wondering why it was so effin cold in July...

Sid Schwab said...

Frank: huh #55.

AnnaN said...

I take it back. I should have read the rest of his comments. That'll learn me.

Frank is doing nothing more than trolling and pushing buttons.

Google, I love thee.

Frank Drackman said...

Sid: Duh# 555

YOU were the one who was so impressed with the Austrailian January Heat Waves...I was the one who tactfully pointed out that January is SUMMER time in Austrailia, so heat waves aren't really that unusual. Come talk to me when it snows in July. In North America.

Sid Schwab said...

Jesus, Frank! I KNOW it's summer in Australia. My point is that they've had RECORD heat waves, as in, y'know, climate change. Have you ever followed a thought where it's trying to lead you?

You're the warming denier. YOU talk to ME when it's winter in July in NA. Then, I'll listen.

Dale Stanbrough said...

Frank,

I'm around 18kms from where some of the fires claimed lives in Australia, and I can tell you that we just had a heat wave like no other.

First time ever for 3 days in a row over 43C, highest ever temp recorded (46.8).

That on top of a 10 year? long drought. I can tell you people in my corner of Australia know it's summer, and we also know it's a summer like no other.