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October 20, 2004

Jaw dropping....

This post over at Panda's Thumb leaves me speechless, Social Darwinism and “The Political Brain”. It starts:


By “conservative,” I mean those political and economic ultra-conservatives who oppose taxes of all kinds, promote free-market economics, and generally oppose government intervention in anything. By “liberal,” I mean anyone from, say, a New Deal Democrat to a member of a European social democratic party.

So, the rest of the essay starts out with an assumption that anarchocapitalists ("conservatives") and the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" ("liberals") are the totality of the political landscape. There are so many bizarro assertions, but the irony is where Matt Young says conservatives don't care about people who aren't close to them, he seems to care little about the ideas of those who are not ideologically in his camp (these typologies must come from a data vacuum). Also, note this howler:

Thus, a liberal feels compassion for the poor, the underprivileged, the oppressed, whereas the conservative feels compassion primarily for those people like him or her, or close to him or her in some way. I do not mean to imply that feeling more compassion for those closest to you is pathological, but it should not preclude compassion for others as well.

No shit sherlock, if you're a Darwinist you might have heard of kin selection or reciprocal altruism, so no, it's not pathological if by that you mean that things that are adaptive are not usually considered pathological.

This is not to say that biology has nothing to do with political preference, or that the variation in human personality does not have a correlation with political orientation. But if this sort of stuff is going to be talked about, you should show a little more nuance and not set up strawmen like a YEC.

(via Abiola)

Related: Ron Bailey's pathological conservatism is a pretty good illustration of the logical end point of this sort of thinking.

Addendum: My girlfriend is of the opinion that the above post was a bit boorish and not as even keeled as is my norm. I have to admit that this is probably true, but I didn't have more than 5 minutes to devote to this particular act of deconstruction, but I was appalled that the furtherance of the public knowledge of evolutionary biology was hitched to such a naive and patronizing post. Frankly, it was the exact sort of thing I meant when I talked of scientists often being very stupid when they wander off their reservation, as the post seemed minimally informed by history, political philosophy, psychology or sociology.

Posted by razib at 08:14 PM