Friday Fluff – June 17th, 2011

By Razib Khan | June 17, 2011 2:46 pm

FF3

1) Post from the past: The biological bases of behavioral variation.


2) Weird search query of the week: “clothedpornstars.” OK, so now I know what this is. But are there stars in this kink-genre?

3) Comment of the week, in response to “Does heritability of political orientation matter?”:

” This is why heritabilities of being conservative and liberal can remain the same over time and across cultures, even though conservative and liberal can mean very different things in different contexts.”
Possibly, but there’s a physiological basis underlying the liberal/conservative bias. The latter has been traced to differencies in dopamine neurotransmitter chemistry which are innate to the individual:

http://www.americanthinker.com//blog/2010/11/genetics_and_politics.html

This does not change with external circumstance. Accordingly, Liberals are feelings-driven and respond to political issues emotionally. They cherry-pick facts that support their pre-conceived conclusion. Conservatives are logic-driven, weigh all the facts and reason sequentially to a conclusion. Liberals cherish security; Conservatives cherish liberty. All else stems from those values.

4) And finally, your weekly fluff fix:

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  • ST

    Hahaha, what a bizarre comment.

    Yeah. I’ve seen some Tea Party rallies. If that’s what “logic-driven” looks like I fear for humanity.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #1, i’m not totally unsympathetic to some of the tea party’s sentiments. but i think it is important to observe that politics is mostly rooted in sentiments, logic is but its slave. i have little patience for anyone on the right or left who claims that their politics are ‘rational’ and ‘scientific’.

  • ST

    Razib, strictly speaking about polemic American politics, it’s undeniable that there is one side that far more deeply values the findings of the scientific community. It’s the side that is more friendly toward teaching evolution in schools, recognizing that allowing gays to marry will not hurt the “sanctity” of anything and taking steps to combat global warming.

    That being said, emotions often run high on both sides and trying to quantify that is a minefield. Hell, people get passionate about supporting science – and that’s cool. And there are some liberals who adopt positions that fly in the face of evidence. And there are some conservatives who do support scientific ventures (mostly for military reasons… but that’s a whole different argument.)

    But on the whole, it’s crystal clear which side favors science-friendly policy more. That is very much worth acknowledging.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    recognizing that allowing gays to marry will not hurt the “sanctity” of anything

    that doesn’t have anything to do with science (i don’t have a problem with gay marriage, but i’m suspicious of much of the social science in this area pro or con because of issues having to do with the robustness of a lot of research in this area, period). the left, and society’s attitudes in general, have changed a lot in a generation on gay marriage, and it has nothing to do with reviewing the peer reviewed literature. on the contrary, i think the peer reviewed literature is following social cues to be frank.

    in any case, i agree that american conservatism has an oppositional attitude toward science, and that most scientists tend to lean to the political left. but there’s a whole area of science going back to sociobiology where it is the cultural left which has strenuous objections (with the occasional weird volley from evolution-skeptic conservatives). i grant that some of the objections are based on scientific critiques, but a lot of them are not, and have to do with deep-seated cultural objections to the idea of there being a biological basis in aspects of human behavior.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    also, #3, some of your issues are obviously american-centric. that’s fine, but it goes to the question of context to the “right-left” axis.

  • ST

    I threw in the gay marriage issue because the “sanctity” argument is based on an irrational idea of intrinsic specialness that exists apart from anything empirical. But I will happily agree that the evolution and global warming issues are vastly more a matter of science itself vs. ideology.

    I mean, these are not minor issues. Evolution is no small deal in the science world, as I’m sure you realize. Yet in the ’08 GOP primaries, when asked who doesn’t believe in evolution, three Republican candidates for president raised their hands, including Mike Huckabee, who was no small player.

    Climate change has the full force of science behind it, and will have an enormous impact on millions, perhaps billions of lives globally. Yet American conservatism roundly either rejects the data upfront or plays down its significance.

    Say what you want about the roots of sociobiology. Obviously liberalism isn’t about science so much as it is about a set of preferred values – and there are some evidence-rejecting liberals that drive me absolutely nuts. I can’t STAND 9/11 truthers, for example. They embarrass us all. But I think it is completely fair to state that the modern liberal movement is clearly a greater friend of science than modern conservatives, and I’d even venture a guess that your average liberal understands it better too.

    (Regarding your follow up in comment #5: I’m sticking to an American context for two reasons. Because I understand it pretty well and feel comfortable commenting on it, and because our friend who made the comment you highlighted above clearly set the stage for this to be an America-centric conversation because of the think-tank url he cited as a source)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    But I think it is completely fair to state that the modern liberal movement is clearly a greater friend of science than modern conservatives, and I’d even venture a guess that your average liberal understands it better too.

    i freely grant that american conservatism as it is currently constituted has an inordinate suspicion of the culture and institutions of science. and lot of this has to do with the fact taht religious conservatives are a larger and larger proportions of the movement, even at the elite levels. and, that suspicion is reflected back as well. it’s not something i’m personally too happy with obviously. as for your second point, you might find this interesting:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/03/the-republican-fluency-with-science/

  • ST

    That is fairly interesting!

    Though the differences seem small with the exception of evolution, which I must emphasize again to be a huge deal.

    There are some things in that survey that really seem to fly in the face of intuitive logic. Do more people in general really understand plate tectonics than understand that the Earth is not the center of the solar system? That strikes me as unlikely. I hope you understand if I’m a little skeptical that this survey is a complete and accurate reflection of reality.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    “Do more people in general really understand plate tectonics than understand that the Earth is not the center of the solar system? That strikes me as unlikely. I hope you understand if I’m a little skeptical that this survey is a complete and accurate reflection of reality.”

    google “miller” and “science literacy”, he’s done decades of research on these questions, some of it internationally. similar proportions in western europe give the weird solar system result. my explanation for the geocentricism is that people are giving the intuitive answer without thinking about it. most humans don’t live in a scientific universe, unless primed to answer scientific (e.g., in a classroom) they’ll give you a pre-scientific answer. the more educated and intelligent are more well equipped to resist this reflex because of training and natural disposition.

  • ST

    If it’s a about resisting a reflex, is it really a matter of scientific literacy or is it a gauge of something else? I mean, if people reflexively answer that the Sun goes around the Earth, even though they know otherwise, then that wouldn’t be a matter of literacy so much as mental laziness, i.e., it’s not what you know so much as how you think. That would fit with a perception that with a college education comes better critical thinking skills.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    it’s not what you know so much as how you think. That would fit with a perception that with a college education comes better critical thinking skills.

    the correlation is pretty strong though that you can substitute one for the other, right? some of the stuff isn’t about intuition (e.g., the nature of the atom, etc.). the intuitive geocentrism just sticks out like a sore thumb is all.

  • Mercy

    @ST the joke that “reality has a liberal bias” actually gets at the heart of this, once you remember that our understanding of reality is constantly changing. Much of what we are currently finding out about our world hits people with right-leaning/authoritarian biases pretty hard, for instance global warming, which suggests that the activities of high status people might be detrimental to the rest of us, that the weak need to constrain the strong.

    But if overpopulation were a huge problem, you’d see the opposite trend, with left-leaners developing strong cases of epistemic closure to avoid the evidence. So it’d be unwise to think too much of yourself for ending up on the right side of history.

    Of course thinking everything should balance out like that is exactly the sort of bias a wooley headed lefty like me should come up with- what was Cosma Shalizi’s quote “coming up with imaginary consolations for real problems” – and there’s nothing that says that openness and conscientiousness aren’t obviously preferable or undesirable traits to have, just because they are also the source of political division!

  • ackbark

    contra Bruce,

    I’d say the antagonistic reaction against socio-biology among many on the left (not me!) demonstrates fairly directly that leftists actually prioritize liberty because the objection is basically against the idea that we may have no control in this, and that reason and logic have limits in how convincing they will ever be to someone –which I think has been more than adequately borne out by every single part of our current political debate.

  • ackbark

    Actually what’s most interesting about that post about science literacy is that moderates are dumber at every point!

    Because the more ‘moderate’ you are the less you know. They’re just hedging until someone changes the subject.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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