Bad Science: Do Liberals Have Better Brains?
By DonPMitchell Posted in Technology — Comments (18) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
New of a neuroscience study hit the mainstream media last week, that NYU professor David Amodio had proven that "liberals" have brains that processed new information more effectively than "conservatives". Kudos to William Saletan, at Slate.com, for some much-needed debunking:
Saletan is by no means a conservative himself, but he seems to value the concept of truth more than some people in the soft sciences.
He criticizes several details of the study, which was based on "conflict monitoring". I'll let you read the article. My own criticism would extend to questions of how one even scientifically classifies a person as "liberal" or "conservative". Are we talking Goldwater conservatives here, or Jerry Falwell conservatives? Is a hardline doctrinaire Marxist a progressive open-minded liberal thinker?
The tendency to medicalize unpopular behavior is often suspect. We all do it, when confronted with a person who believes something we do not, we are quick to say they are stupid or crazy. But when the scientific establishment does this formally, it is more serious, and there has been extensive criticism of this practice in psychology and psychiatry (e.g., Michel Foucault). Now we see political belief medicalized by liberal scientists, attempting to prove that conservatism is neurologically inferior to liberalism.
It also seems to me that folks like Amodio and previous authors of such studies like Frank Sulloway at Berkeley are failing to cite prior art. Psychologists in the Soviet Union proved long ago that anti-leftist thinking is a psychologically defect. They benevolently treated folks for this disorder by imprisoning them in mental hospitals.