An interesting study by Cornell University in New York has found that when it comes to the sciences, those on the left and those on the right have very different interests. However, despite these differences, there is one subject that both sides of the political aisle agree on, and that's their fascination with dinosaurs.
According to The Guardian, Michael Macy, director of the social dynamics lab and author on the study says that "conservatives [and liberals] can agree about dinosaurs, but not much else.”
Getting help from researches at Yale, and the University of Chicago, Macy poured over millions of books purchased by people of one political persuasion or another. The results were that both sides were interested in the sciences, but the two very rarely overlapped in type.
The researchers marked people as liberals or conservatives based on the political books they bought from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, two of the largest online booksellers in the US. Multiple books were used to define people’s political leanings, including Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father and Mitt Romney’s No Apology. The researchers then looked at what science books the people bought too, and sorted them into fields such as medicine, psychology, climatology and oceanography.
The results showed that liberals generally preferred basic science, including physics, astronomy and zoology, while conservatives favoured the more applied and commercial sciences, with topics ranging from criminology and medicine to geophysics. Books on dinosaurs, and palaeontology in general, were popular in both groups, as was veterinary medicine. “The more the science gets away from anything remotely politically relevant, the more likely it is to serve as a bridge,” said Macy.
When it came to the specific scientific books liberals and conservatives read, they couldn't be more different. Conservatives are more apt to introduce God into the mix of science, leaning more on books from authors like Jonathan Wells, or Robert Jastrow that favor intelligent design. Meanwhile, those on the left would prefer books that lean more heavily on evolutionary thought, such as those written by Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan.
“We have to find ways to keep the two sides talking to each other, or at least aware of, and preferably respectful of, each other’s positions,” says Miles Hewstone, director of the Oxford Centre for the Study of Intergroup Conflict.
It would appear that the missing link to keeping us talking to one another might just be giant lizards.