Research on Authoritarianism and Religion

Originally published elsewhere on 01/17/2011

I happened across an article today entitled Predisposition for Religion Can Spread Quickly by LiveScience writer, Wynne Parry. Parry quotes economist, Robert Rowthorn, as saying:

All people who work in this area know there is a genetic basis to being religious, in the sense there is a genetic basis to all human behavior…

I found myself wondering why Prof. Rowthorn isn’t studying the genetic underpinnings of economic behavior since this is his area of expertise.

Rowthorn’s research article is available online as a pdf: Religion, fertility and genes: a dual inheritance model. Professor Rowthorn sets the stage for his paper by asserting:

It is widely agreed that religion has biological foundations—that belief in the supernatural, obedience to authority or susceptibility to ceremony and ritual depend on genetically based features of the human brain.

The empirical basis for his assertion is research which supposedly has demonstrated a genetic basis for the traditional moral triad of authoritarianism, conservatism and religiousness.

You may not be aware of this, but researchers in the social sciences have been trying to paint conservatives as authoritarians since the early 1950’s. According to Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism, a handful of Marxist intellectuals sought to discredit their opponents by attributing their political positions to a psychological pathology. In 1950, Theodor Adorno fired the opening salvo by stating in his book, The Authoritarian Personality that conservatives scored higher on the F-scale (“F” for Fascism) than others. This kind of analysis immediately appealed to other left-leaning individuals because instead of addressing their political opponents arguments, they could simply dismiss conservative positions as being an expression of a psychological defect. And by the way Robert Rowthorn is himself a Marxist economist according to Wikipedia.

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“Think Progress” can’t “Think Science”

Adapted from an article I originally posted elsewhere on 2/7/2011

In this article Brad Johnson of Think Progress attempts to mock and belittle Krauthammer’s statement that:

In science, you can actually deny or falsify a proposition with evidence. You find me a single piece of evidence that Al Gore would ever admit would contradict global warming and I’ll be surprised.

Krauthammer is referring to an essential property of scientific method. Here’s a chart published by a professor at University of Winnipeg which briefly summarizes how scientific method works.

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There really are people who have “evil hand issues”

Originally posted by me elsewhere on 01/28/2011

Perhaps you saw the episode of the TV show, Angel, in which Lindsey explains that he has “evil hand issues”. It turns out that there are real people who suffer from something resembling Lindsey’s issues called “alien hand syndrome.” Wow. To read more about the real syndrome, check out this BBC article. The poor woman in the article had undergone surgery which sliced through the corpus collosum that normally connects the two hemispheres of the brain. As a result, one hemisphere was unable to exert any control or influence on the other. She ended up having two consciousnesses emerge following surgery, and one of them wasn’t so very nice. Fortunately after a long struggle doctors were able to get her on a medical regimen that ameliorated her condition.

On a much lighter note, those of you who have followed the Angel series and want to have a refresher on “evil hand issues” can do so by watching this clip: