Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Bad Brain

So now I know, finally, why I am a conservative. I have a "bad brain!" Just ask author (and obviously liberal) Chris Mooney. The revelation comes to us from Jonah Goldberg, writing at, in an article entitled Republicans Have Bad Brains?

Interestingly, one of the examples used to show conclusively that conservatives are unable to process reality, weigh facts, or understand nuanced and complex situations is their skepticism of global warming. Every liberal knows that the earth is getting warmer, and that man is to blame for it. Except, according to an article at the American Thinker by Randall Hoven, entitled Global Warming Melting Away, by the government's own statistics, the earth appears to be cooling. Worse, the cooling appears to have been going on for 14 years.  Even worse still, the evidence that carbon dioxide, and thus man is to blame could just as easily be explained by the rising federal deficits. Both have a correlation coefficient of 0.91. Lots of things can be paired, and found to correlate. Such reasoning leads to such superstitions as that burying a potato in the garden would cure warts. It doesn't, but people seemed to find some sort of correlation.

But back to Goldberg and my bad brain, Goldberg writes:

Of course, Mooney believes he's simply going where the science leads. Consider that one of the more famous studies was conducted by liberal researchers at University of California-Los Angeles and New York University and published in Nature Neuroscience. Subjects were asked to spot the letters M or W on a screen for a fraction of a second. It turns out that self-described liberals did somewhat better on the test than the conservatives.

What does that mean? Well, according to the researchers, it means: "Liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty." Liberals are also "more likely than are conservatives to respond to cues signaling the need to change habitual responses," NYU says.

Translation: Conservatives literally aren't smart enough to be spell-checkers at an M&M factory because they won't be able to understand quickly enough that the occasional W is just an upside down M.

The data might be correct, but as with Mooney, the conclusions are beyond absurd. London's Guardian newspaper responded to the study by declaring, "Scientists have found that the brains of people calling themselves liberals are more able to handle conflicting and unexpected information." The Los Angeles Times announced in an editorial that the study "suggests that liberals are more adaptable than conservatives" and "might be better judges of the facts."

Huh? The test didn't measure "informational complexity." It measured informational simplicity. As Slate's science columnist William Saletan notes, the study actually excludes complexity and ambiguity. It measured response times to a rudimentary visual acuity test. Almost by definition, conscious thought isn't part of the equation. My hunch is that Socrates would do very poorly hunting and pecking for Ms and Ws on a screen, too.

What books like Chris Mooney's do is once again allow liberals to pat themselves on the back and feel smug because of their "superior" intelligence. They are the self appointed "anointed" ones, who should rule by virtue of their vastly superior thought processes, and conservatives should just sit down and shut up.  But junk "science," superstitions, and lazy PC thinking is not a substitute for rigorous reasoning from facts.  In deciding which policy prescriptions will lead to prosperity, liberty, and opportunity, the issue is not who is smarter, but who is more correct.

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