Saturday, January 22, 2011

Social Darwinism part xxxx

One of the uglier features of life in USA is the persistence of a pseudo-scientific mutation of Calvinism called Social Darwinism.  The Calvinist part teaches that the rich are rich because they are especially blessed by God.  The Darwinian gloss came in the late 19th century when a bunch of (mostly English) cranks came up the theory that the rich were genetically superior--that evolution had blessed them and had equipped them to rise to the top of the social heap.

One of the more famous proponents of Social Darwinism in USA was a professor at Yale by the name of William Graham Sumner.  When Thorstein Veblen was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, he took a class of Sumner's and was appropriately horrified.  Veblen would spend the rest of his life shooting holes in Sumner's ugly teachings.

Veblen would argue that far from being the most evolved, the rich were the folks who retained the most primitive characteristics known to humanity such as a willingness to steal and disrupt the lives of others.  He would classify these creatures as members of the Leisure Class and he would describe them as the most dangerous and ridiculous.  If there WERE any examples of folks who were more highly evolved, they would be the inventors, engineers, and others who were creating the parts of the emerging industrial giant that was USA.

As if to prove Veblen's thesis, some British scientists have recently discovered that there are actually physical differences between Leisure Class brains and the more advanced variety.  The Tory brains have larger reptilian "fight-or-flight" centers.  These findings would go a LONG way towards explaining the appeal of a Sarah Palin who is about as reptilian as anyone in public life.

Tory voters found to have larger 'primitive' lobe in brain
Last updated at 3:17 AM on 29th December 2010
Our political allegiances could be hard-wired into our brains, neuroscientists believe.
Researchers have found evidence that the brains of conservatives are a different shape to those of Left-wingers.
Scans of 90 students’ brains at University College London uncovered a ‘strong correlation’ between the thickness of two particular areas of grey matter and an individual’s political views.
Self-proclaimed right-wingers had a more pronounced amygdala - a primitive part of the brain associated with emotion.
It is an almond-shape set of neurons located deep in the brain's medial temporal lobe.
However, those aligned to the left had thicker anterior cingulates - which is an area associated with anticipation and decision-making.
The research was carried out by Geraint Rees director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience who said he was 'very surprised' by the finding, which is being peer reviewed before publication next year.
It was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by actor Colin Firth as part of his turn guest editing BBC Radio 4's Today programme but has now developed into a serious effort to discover whether we are programmed with a particular political view. more
Liberals, Conservatives Have Different Brains
By Nick McMaster, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2011 7:37 AM CST
(NEWSER) – Here's a study sure to stoke controversy—British researchers have found that political orientation correlates to the relative size of certain parts of the brain. Liberals can boast of thicker gray matter at the anterior cingulate, while conservatives can brag about their bigger amygdalas, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. How all this plays out in decision-making is unclear, but researchers thinks it's worth exploring.
"It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes," says one neuroscientist. more

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