Friday, May 4, 2012

Left-Right, and the Way We Believe 2

   Let's examine briefly here the seeming difference between the two patterns of behavior associated with the right and left side of the brain.
   Those who utilize their right side of the brain tend to allow feelings and emotions to guide their actions and thoughts, rather than logic. There are many definitions of the word "logic" depending on what context, or field of study it is being used in. In the context we are examining here we can say logic is the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference. It examines general forms which arguments may take, which forms are valid, and which are fallacies.
   Facts take precedence over imagination for left brain utilizers, as well as being detailed oriented, rather than abandoning the parts that make up a situation or argument for a preference to examine the situation or argument as a whole.
   Right thinkers relate to symbology and the visual field when relating to the environment, as opposed to left brain users who tend to rely on language and audio cues.
   Left brain people tend to believe in results derived by mathematics and science, results arrived at through observation, experiment and pier review, which can be repeated by others, and refined to approximate empirical truth as it exists in nature, where right brain users allow difficult to prove or reproduce legends and myths to help form their world view.
   Right brainers "believe," those myths and legends to the degree the myths and legends are no longer myths and legends but are elevated to representations of fact with real, concrete consequences in the real world. Left brainers "know," and are certain of their knowledge, by the use of the scientific method, which is nothing but a self-correcting system to ferret out knowledge of the real world as it exists in nature.
   Left brain thinkers tend to be "reality oriented," basing their world view on the world as it is presented to them. Right brain thinkers tend to be "fantasy oriented," basing their world view on what they wish the world was like, rather than how it actually is.
   The righties tend to be impetuous and amenable to taking large amounts of risk, while lefties tend to be practical and non-risk takers, preferring to know an outcome before committing to a course of action.
   On and on.
   Clearly according to this hypotheses, the general differences between these two personality types are dramatic, and if true, which observation would tend to substantiate, especially using Congress as a model, poses a difficult problem for those of us who wish to coordinate strategies to move our civilization in a forward manner, and effectively deal with the many real and dire problems said civilization is experiencing at this time, and in the future.
   Personally I prefer to face the world and base my world view on facts and not myths, but that's just my left brain talking.
   It is my belief that the majority people that inhabit this planet also base their world views in the real world of facts, And a majority enjoy the fact based fruits of science and technology, such as television, electricity, cars, airplanes, trains, electric cheese straighteners, sewing machines, ATMs, nanny cams, cell phones, iPhones, Kindles, books, recorded music, broadcast music, trips to the moon, and robots sent to the other planets, etc. etc. etc.
   These people use reason and facts every day of their lives... except for certain subjects. And that's the rub.
   Religion and politics being the two most divisive subjects that these same people will not alter their views upon even when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
   Here's what Sam Harris, noted neuroscientist, author, skeptic, and devil worshiper has to say about this very issue:
"Jesus Christ - who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens - can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy. Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must, civilization is still besieged by the armies of the preposterous. We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd could be possible?"  -Sam Harris, "The End of Faith, Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason."
   Full disclosure... I agree completely.
   Politics seems to be the other subject that a large proportion of the populace are adamant about, and so are resistant to change, or nonconformity, especially those who affiliate themselves with one of the two major political parties. Independent voters, who make up a little less than a third of voters, are of course the exception... maybe.
   Here's a very recent example which demonstrates the same abandonment of a factual reality as a political issue from our very own Rachel Maddow from last Sunday's "Meet the Press:"
   It's true that these two republican operatives, Alex Castellanos and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, may have secondary motivations other than just pure ideology, still they do demonstrate the rights ability to enter into an alternate universe of their own making when it suits their purpose which is always to further their agenda. In their world 1 + 1 = 3, and no amount painstaking factual argument and presentation of the facts will dissuade them of that conclusion. And today's conservatives, especially those involved with the so-called Tea Party movement display a tendency to be more aggressive, and without empathy and conscious. Castellanos and Rodgers constant interruptions of Rachel and Hillery, never allowing them to complete their statements without opening their yaps and rudely butting in, demonstrates this, as did Rep Michelle Bachmann when she was pit against poor defenseless Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
   But let's examine the differences between republicans and democrats briefly, which parallel what we discovered with the left/right brain hypotheses
   Michael Shermer, well known American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, international sex symbol, and person unable to make a short, concise title, has written a book. It's called "The Believing Brain, From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths."
   This could fit right in to the conversation we are having.
   In this book there is a chapter entitled, "The Power of Political Beliefs, or Why People Divide Themselves into Liberals and Conservatives."
   See what I mean about those titles.
   In this chapter he cites a 2003 paper from Stanford University social psychologist John Jost, and his minions, entitled "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," which was published in the prestigious journal "Psychological Bulletin," which I'm told was a synthesis of 50 years of findings published in 88 papers encompassing 22,818 subjects that led the researchers to conclude that conservatives (i.e., republicans, right-wingers, Tea Baggers) suffer from something called "uncertainty avoidance," and "terror Management," with a deep felt "need for order, structure," and "closure" along with "dogmatism (the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others)" and "intolerance of ambiguity," all of which leads to "resistance to change" and "endorsement of inequality" in their beliefs and practices.

   "We regard political conservatism as an ideological belief system that is significantly (but not completely) related to motivational concerns having to do with the psychological management of uncertainty and fear. Specifically, the avoidance of uncertainty (and the striving of certainty) may be particularly tied to one core dimension of conservative thought, resistance to change. Similarly, concerns with fear and threat may be linked to the second core dimension of conservatism, endorsement of inequality (refers to a situation in which individual groups in a society do not have equal social status, social class, and social circle)."

   What does this mean? It means that the general consensus is that conservatives fear fear and uncertainty, so much so that in order to remain certain about everything, which alleviates fear, they are inherently resistant to change of any kind, as well as an acceptance of a strong class system, which if you happen to be at the top of, also alleviates fear and uncertainty, which conservatives are afraid of.  
   Well there it is. Unequivocal, empirical evidence that conservatives are slightly insane, and so fearful of anything that might shake up their world view, like the theory of evolution, global warming, same sex marriage, etc., etc., etc., that they will do anything to maintain their fantasy of dogmatic realism, and will demonize or attempt to destroy those who disagree with them, and which also explains conservative needs to indoctrinate the young and those who don't know any better to conform to their ideals, simply so they will feel better about themselves in the false idea that the more there are of them the more truthful is their beliefs.
   But resistance to change can be an awkward comforter. That is almost the same as an inability to change, and that is a perilous trait when the world around us changes all by itself, very, very, rapidly.
   The dinosaurs were not able to change fast enough to deal with their changing climate, and what happened to them?
   Besides movies by Steven Spielberg, have you seen any dinosaurs lately?
   These implied traits attributed to conservatives, coupled with the large percentage of truly sociopathic individuals within the population as a whole, and the unscrupulous practices of those in positions of power in industry, who themselves are inflicted with said traits and only feel safe when they continue to do the only thing they know how to do, make more money at any cost, creates a powerful dilemma for our society as a whole.
   An inherent dilemma that will not go away any time soon.
   And one in which we must be ever vigilant.
   To compare the liberal view point of what it is exactly that they are, I turn to former president, and social scientist, John F. Kennedy, who said in 1960: "If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."
   Actually, Dr. Shermer's conclusion in this chapter does not come to the same that I have raised, not precisely. I invite you to read it for yourselves, dear readers, and I say it is well worth the read. 
   He doesn't precisely deny it either.

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