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Scientific' Study Boils Conservatism Down to a Brain Problem


"Notice 'normal' brain structure is always the liberal."

A group of British researchers believe they have found why people are conservative: it's a brain disorder of sorts.

Scientists at the University of London say that conservatives have an enlarged "fear" area in their brains, and smaller areas associated with courage and optimism. The London Telegraph reports:

Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.

On the otherhand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.

The researches say there is a direct correlation between the sizes of those areas and one's political views.

"We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude," Prof Geraint Rees, who led the research, told the Telegraph.

He added: "It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude."

But there's just one problem: the research only studied a total of 93 brains -- three politicians and 90 students.

The website Gawker gives the study the treatment it's due in a paragraph mocking the scientists' conclusions:

So there you have it. I don't think it's wildly extrapolating or jumping to any conclusions to say that this study definitively proves that conservatism is a brain disorder. I think that's been proven by this 90-person study. Conservatives are all stupid brain-damaged idiots who are stupid and brain-damaged. And idiots.

It ends with an appropriate one word sentence: "SCIENCE."

Wesley Smith over at First Things points out a couple more flaws in the study:

Notice “normal” brain structure is always the liberal.

Besides, what is “conservative” in the UK, may be middle of the road in the USA.  Does that mean our conservatives’ brains are even more convoluted?  And again, some people become conservatives after being liberal.  Look at Ronald Reagan and First Things founder, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

And while he contends political views are largely shaped by experiences, he wonders what might happen if the study's conclusions actual gain traction:

But, if its all in our hard wiring, we’d better make political views a suspect category for civil rights and hate crime protection. After all, we shouldn’t punish or discriminate against anyone for being who they are.


Tommy Christoper over at Mediaite notices the study was commissioned by actor Collin Firth in a "light-hearted" attempt to discredit conservatives, and it has yet to be peer-reviewed.

"I took this on as a fairly frivolous exercise: I just decided to find out what was biologically wrong with people who don't agree with me and see what scientists had to say about it and they actually came up with something," Firth admitted.

It's probably fair to say this is a case of an already-held conclusion (not simply a hypothesis) searching for evidence.

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