<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Uretsky Cons Have Little Use for Science

Conservatives Have Little Use for Science


There’s a growing body of science distinguishing liberals from conservatives. While the most important study may still be “Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults” which appeared in Current Biology in 2011, there are two more recent studies, “Differences in Negativity Bias Underlie Variations in Political Ideology” from the June 2014 Behavioral and Brain Sciences and “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues” published in the American Journal of Political Science in September 2014. That one says that liberals and conservatives smell different from each other, and prefer the smell of their own people.

Other studies are more amusing, like Experian Marketing Services report that when it comes to fast food, the most liberal customers eat at Au Bon Pain. while conservatives opt for Schlotsky’s Deli and Whataburger. Similarly hunch.com (now owned by e-bay) reported that liberals prefer strawberry jam on their PBJ sandwiches while conservatives, by a margin of 19%, prefer grape.

While the studies fail to provide an explanation of how we got this way, there is still a fairly consistent pattern – liberals are more inclined to accept new ideas, conservatives avoid anything new and different or even difficult to understand (“Political Ideology, Exploration of Novel Stimuli, and Attitude Formation” from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2009) That pattern repeats itself over many studies.

Since the underlying function of all animals is simply species survival, both attitudes are useful. Liberals are ultimately responsible for the expansion of the human race into new regions, finding which foods are safe to eat, which animal species can be domesticated, and that it’s possible to live in New England if you wear a winter coat, but it was conservatives who came along later, and learned from the liberals’ experiments, especially the failures.

That has been a reasonable pattern over millennia. The trouble is, time is running out if it hasn’t already. While the data on climate change is absolute, House Speaker John Boehner said “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change ... But I am astute enough to understand that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs. That can’t be the prescription for dealing with changes in our climate.” The 2009 statement on climate change from 18 recognized scientific organizations stated “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” That was the year that Michele Bachmann said, “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful, but there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas … It is a harmless gas.”

Translation – we’re getting nowhere trying to discuss science. We’ve been treating Republicans as people we can reason with and all the evidence says they’re hard-wired to reject new ideas. In the hunch.com report, when conservatives were asked “what’s your idea of exotic ethnic food?” conservatives were 94% more likely to consider occasional Chinese takeout to be exotic ethnic food (liberals were 31% more likely to cite Pan-Asian/French as exotic.)

We are out of time. The world really is coming to an end, okay? And in this case we can’t continue talking to Republicans as if they were rational adults because in this case, their innate conservatism and resistance to trying something new is destroying the planet.

This is not chicken little stuff, this is real, and yet we’ve gone from trying to save the Earth to wondering what parts of the country will still be fit for human habitation fifty years from now, and whether midtown Manhattan can be used for oyster farming because Republican senators thought the Kyoto agreement was “... designed to give some nations a free ride, it is designed to raise energy prices in the United States...” As for a carbon tax, in March 2013 Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, held a news conference to introduce a resolution opposing any new national tax on carbon emissions. He’s lined up plenty of support among conservatives and industry groups, from Grover Norquist to the National Federation of Independent Business. Rep. Scalise was concerned that the tax would raise the price of gasoline.

The coming election doesn’t matter as much as the 2000 Presidency or the 2010 election that led to gerrymandering the House for a decade, but it matters all the same, and this is where turn-out counts. This would really be a good time to get excited, make a note on Facebook, and even offer to drive somebody to the polls. There aren’t going to be many opportunities left.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@outlook.com.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2014


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