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Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species?
February 29, 2008 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species? Get this: Everyone in our sample was an American, a teenager, and belonged to the same major religious tradition of Protestantism. In these respects they were culturally uniform. But some belonged to conservative denominations such as Pentecostal and others to liberal denominations such as Episcopalian. As Ingrid combed through the data, which involved tedious hours in front of the computer, the differences that began to emerge were astounding. It was as if these conservative and liberal religious youth were--different species. [via 3quarksdaily]

Original research.

Some background on David Sloan Wilson
posted by sisquoc15 (86 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Warning! Metaphor dangerously overextended! Warning!
posted by tkolar at 11:29 AM on February 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Are your hooks flailing wildly?
posted by aramaic at 11:29 AM on February 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


...and someone just called me a jabbering nincompoop.
posted by tkolar at 11:30 AM on February 29, 2008


Liberals place a high value on individual autonomy and decision-making. ... Conservatives place a high value on obedience to authority.

Which is funny, because IMO, I think many people would characterize the classic definitions of liberal and conservative as being, if not the exact opposite, then clearly different than how this author has. Conservatives are traditionally "get those government goombahs out of my life and let me keep my guns," while liberals make a "government is good so let's tax the wealthy" appeal to their own brand of authority.

Things have turned on their heads, apparently.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:31 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good god, this is even stupider then it sounds in the FPP.
These kids obviously belonged to the same biological species but their cultures transformed them into different creatures as far as their response to their environment was concerned.
In other words, worldview affects how people view the world. STUNNING. I assumed he would be showing how liberals and conservatives don't reproduce with eachother, which would have been wrong but at least would have got the definition of 'species' correct. Instead, he just shows that kids have different experiences during the day.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on February 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


this is wee todd did.
posted by vronsky at 11:33 AM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


This study has overlooked a critical area of differentiation between the two species:
Liberals walk like this, while conservatives walk like this.
Amirite?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:34 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before it gets crazy in here, I just want to point out that Wilson is talking about cultural species, whatever that means:
"These kids obviously belonged to the same biological species but their cultures transformed them into different creatures as far as their response to their environment was concerned."
posted by rush at 11:37 AM on February 29, 2008


Damn it, delmoi.
posted by rush at 11:38 AM on February 29, 2008


Imagine if we had three or more parties! Then it'd be "Liberals walk like this, Conservatives walk like this and the Chucklehead Fucknuttists walk like wabba wabba wabba amirite?".
posted by not_on_display at 11:39 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Things have turned on their heads, apparently.

Eh, perception diffs. Everybody's attitude is "get those government goombahs out of my life, except where I think it's important they interfere." With many (but by no means all) conservatives, it's "stay away from my guns and money, but sure, feel free to tell people which consenting adults they can sex with and how they can go about doing it." With many (but by no means all) liberals, it's "stay the hell out of my personal life, but force the rich to help the poor whether they want to or not."
posted by middleclasstool at 11:41 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apparently the Chucklehead Fucknuttists are wearing corduroy pants.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:42 AM on February 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the word "species" ... it actually has a meaning. Kind've sad, because there are interesting observations to be made by someone interested in understanding instead of coming up with the funniest headline. I strongly recommend The Authoritarians for a non-stupid take on this.

Cool Papa Bell. Those definitions are just doxa. Conservatism is at its heart meant to be a preservation of (mythical or not) traditional societal structures. Liberalism is an attempt at maximizing individual liberty (and/or equality as a means to that end). The U.S. is a strange place, because it began with barbarically conservative society, but some radically liberal laws and weak government at that. Those have been in tension the entire time.
posted by Humanzee at 11:43 AM on February 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Be in quick before they all go.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:44 AM on February 29, 2008


In conservatives, it's called a "cloaca".
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:44 AM on February 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


the whole "species" premise is so absurd that I couldn't bring myself to even click the link.....
posted by HuronBob at 11:48 AM on February 29, 2008


With many (but by no means all) conservatives, it's "stay away from my guns and money, but sure, feel free to tell people which consenting adults they can sex with and how they can go about doing it." - middleclasstool

Just so. For many of us, it's not rules we're looking for, so much as instruction.
posted by rush at 11:48 AM on February 29, 2008


Well, I certainly wouldn't produce viable offspring with one.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:49 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think this was addressed in Collapse with the example being that Iceland has a conservative culture, which makes sense in their niche. With limited natural resources, drastic social experimentation could have potentially catastrophic results for their society, whereas in societies with more robust survival strategies, conservatism can be stifling and an impediment to improving the standard of living. Perhaps this dymanic is playing itself out in red state/blue state America (which is actually more of a blue city/red rural area divide) to a certain extent. But I feel like this is something most of us already knew intuitively, and the species analogy is completely overblown.
posted by SBMike at 11:55 AM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Time to set up the camps then.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on February 29, 2008


Conservatives are traditionally "get those government goombahs out of my life and let me keep my guns," while liberals make a "government is good so let's tax the wealthy" appeal to their own brand of authority.

Or so conservatives would like us to think. Conservative anti-government propaganda never once squared with their aggressive moralizing against abortion and religious neutrality in public life, and foreign policy abroad. I can't think of anything more disobedient than taxing the wealthy.
posted by Brian B. at 11:55 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


In conservatives, it's called a "cloaca".

Liberals are from venus, conservatives are from uranus?
posted by fleetmouse at 11:56 AM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, since it turns out Those Guys aren't really human, it's really best to cage them all up to keep Them from doing any more harm.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:57 AM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Fortunately if theres one thing I've learned from online conservatives defining what a "conservative" is, it's that pretty much no one actually meets their definition of conservative. So the number of unpeople we'll have to humanely destroy will be close to zero.
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If men are from Mars and women from Venus, where do liberals and conservatives come from?

The premise is flawed (and idiotic). And thus begins 100 words of epic failure.

You know, it's a funny thing, this internet of ours. There are articles on any number of sites which have been so insightful, so intelligent, that not only would I be worse off for not having read them, but the presence of such an article on a site will sustain my readership of that site for long after the article is written, even if the rest of the articles are more pedestrian. Sites like Arts & Letters Daily, the Modern Word, Metafilter, even Slashdot (for the comments). A lot of mefite's blogs fit this category as well. Even sites that I find myself disagreeing withalmost always these days, like Commentary or National Review, will at least take less unexpected positions on or approaches to issues that merit reading.

But never once have I had this experience with the Huffington Post, despite all the metafilter, digg and reddit links that have taken me there over the years. Not once. I don't believe I can name a website aspiring to traffic in commentary and analysis that is so eminently dismissable as the Huffington Post. Patronizing opinions, presented glibly and superficially, best suited for consumption during study hall between geometry and 9th grade social studies. What a dismal collision of word and thought.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:06 PM on February 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


Should have been "1000 words of epic failure" in my comment above. The typo was wishful thinking.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:07 PM on February 29, 2008



Well, I certainly wouldn't produce viable offspring with one.

I use my seed to block the seed of other rival mates without actually producing viable offspring.
posted by tkchrist at 12:15 PM on February 29, 2008


The premise is flawed (and idiotic). And thus begins 100 words of epic failure.

Thanks for warning us that you're about to start a 100 word rant.
posted by mosch at 12:16 PM on February 29, 2008


Might human behavioral diversity be understood in the same way as biological diversity?

No.

When we crudely refer to different cultures, might they be like different species that survive and reproduce in different ways?

No.

Author's bio?

David Sloan Wilson uses evolutionary theory to explain all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life,

Oh. OK, got it. Done paying attention to this guy.

Now, are liberals and conservatives different psychologically? Some theory says yes. In his book Moral Politics: How LIberals and Conservatives Think, George Lakoff argues that the major difference between liberals and conservatives lies in how they process fear. He traces that, in turn, to family models: families built on an authoritarian model, which he calls the "strict-father model," produce children who construe the world as dangerous and come to believe that society is best governed by punishing wrongdoers, restraining impulses, protecting the home and family from security threats, and emphasizing self-reliance or self-protection. He contrasts this with 'nurturant' families who identify a separate group of threats and emphasize self-nurturance. I do think Lakoff's work is significantly biased toward liberal philosophies, but the nuggets are quite good: in my experience, liberals and conservatives do fear different things and react differently to their fears. And the place to look for the origins of fears is definitely within childhood and family teaching.

Lakoff is a linguist, not a psychologist, but his approach is far less hooey-filled than suggesting that people who behave differently are different 'cultural species.' You know who else believed in 'cultural species....'

Here's a little "Moral Politics" self-diagnostic quiz-toy thingie.
posted by Miko at 12:19 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel: I've not read Huffington so I'll have to brave it sometime and see if you're right. I can tell you if you're in the mood for some truly dismal collisions of word and thought you can check out Townhall on any given day.
posted by Tim McDonough at 12:25 PM on February 29, 2008


Things have turned on their heads, apparently.

Yeah, funny how that works, innit? When Clinton was in power they were all "ZOG IS TRY'NA TAKE OUR GUNS TO START THE ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT RULED BY THE UN COMPULSORY ABORTIONS FOR ALL" and we were all "no, you can't declare yourself a 'sovereign citizen' with the county sheriff as the highest authority", and now that a more or less openly fascist government is in power, we're all "would you please stop spying on us and torturing in our name and massacring little brown people for no particular reason?" and they're all "why do you hate America so much?". Almost like they were lickspittles all along, they just didn't like the particular taste of the spittle.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:33 PM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did you sleep through the Clinton years decemberboy? Do you write for the Huffington post? Or are you wee todd did?

The two Balkan Wars, Somalia, prisoners taken and tortured in S. Arabia? The airstrikes on Iraq and Sudan?

Here

Do you have a clue how many of Ameica's wars were started with a Democrat in power? Might surprise you.


"That might indeed really be the only real "difference" between the mainstream of the Dems and the mainstream of the GOP: the former will frame wars in "humanitarian" terms whereas the latter will frame wars under the pretense of "national security." Assuming that the Democrat half of the War Party is in control starting January 2009, we can expect plenty of humanitarian bombs to be dropped on civilians in Darfur, as well as humanitarian massacres of Iranian civilians. Perhaps this will appeal to the "nurturing parent" schema held by their supporters: "we had to destroy a few hundred thousand or more lives in order to make the world a more gentle loving place." It'll be some sort of rubbish along those lines no doubt, and I'm sure that there will be plenty of Dem activists singing "Kumbaya" as villages burn, water sources are poisoned, children starve, and cronies' pockets are lined with plenty of greenbacks."


wake up and smell what you're shoveling man.
posted by vronsky at 12:50 PM on February 29, 2008


Yes, the thing we really need right now is people claiming a biological distinction between liberals and conservatives. Nothing encourages compassion and compromise like viewing those you disagree with as a different (and therefore inferior) life form.
posted by almostmanda at 12:51 PM on February 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, since it turns out Those Guys aren't really human, it's really best to cage them all up to keep Them from doing any more harm.

Caging them is far to costly. What we need is some sort of answer to the problem of Them that ends the question once and for all, a sort of final solution.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:01 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Remember, peeps, we're talking about religious liberalism and conservatism within a Protestant framework, not exactly the same as the social and political liberalism and conservatism most of the comments seem to be about. Sure, there's a correlation, but there's not a direct 1-to-1 relationship.

I haven't done any research, but I can imagine that there would be all sorts of differences between Pentacostal and Episcopalian families, including economic level, business sector, race, education level, etc. This is addressed in the study (pg 9-11), but doesn't seem to be addressed as much as maybe it should be. A lot of these factors are more subtle than just looking at a family's tax bracket.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:03 PM on February 29, 2008


I read something roughly a year ago that suggested that conservatives and liberals are actually *physically different* in the way that their brains work. Can't remember much else about the article though, unfortunately, but I do remember it seemed interesting at the time. I will admit to having a liberal problem with my memory: pot.
posted by jamstigator at 1:05 PM on February 29, 2008


"Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species?"

Yes, they're both subhuman. Live beyond your labels, folks.
posted by Eideteker at 1:19 PM on February 29, 2008


Things have indeed turned on their heads - I agree with pastabagel's assessment of the HuffPost. I still go there, because it has a useful collection of links down at the bottom. The stuff above that is mostly dross.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:27 PM on February 29, 2008


Huh. I read an article about this study in The Economist this past week, and it made no mention of this 'different species' bullshit. I thought this summed it up pretty well:

"Dr Wilson suspects that the liberal package of individualism and confrontation is the appropriate response to survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection, and the consequences for a group's stability of such dissent are low. The conservative package of collectivism and conformity, by contrast, works in an unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium."
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:30 PM on February 29, 2008


Terrible science is terrible.
posted by silby at 1:30 PM on February 29, 2008


the Democrat half of the War Party

Sorry dude, you lost me there. No, I don't want to hear more about what Dr. Paul will do for America, not interested, thanks. Yeah, yeah, no difference between the two parties, all beholden to corporate interests, no, still not interested. Yeah, sure, Lew Rockwell wrote all that racist stuff in Dr. Paul's newsletter, I believe you. No I do not want a bumper sticker. Would you please leave me alone?

I just think there's, basically, no difference between the parties.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:31 PM on February 29, 2008


And for the record, I didn't particularly like Clinton at the time either, but not because I thought Janet Reno was an agent of the ZOG One World Government trying to exterminate well-meaning Nazis like Randy Weaver (like a two-bit pot dealer), which was the point of the post. Boy, though, he sure looks a lot better in comparison now, don't he? How many Americans died in Somalia and the Balkans, again?

Also, "we todd did"? Classy, guy. Classy indeed.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:38 PM on February 29, 2008


Ron paul is a nutter, and denial is denial. and so it goes.

(but I see you have september gurl lyrics on your profile, so I forgive you.)
posted by vronsky at 1:41 PM on February 29, 2008


(but I see you have september gurl lyrics on your profile, so I forgive you.)

Aw, if you're into Big Star then I can't really be mad at you. Fight the real enemy and all that.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:57 PM on February 29, 2008


i guess the catholic kids were all too busy playing bingo
posted by pyramid termite at 2:06 PM on February 29, 2008


Regarding Huffington Post (disclosure: I blog there), it would not be one of the most read blogs on the net if all of its content were terrible. Barbara Ehrenreich is always great. Arianna herself has good insights (her quip that the MSM has ADD while the bloggers have OCD is an accurate reflection of a real problem with current media)-- her post about microtrends v. macrotrends on Hillary and Obama seems dead-on to me.

Sure, there's lots of crap too-- but that's hardly unique to that site!
posted by Maias at 2:09 PM on February 29, 2008


Warning! Metaphor dangerously overextended! Warning!

I tend to think that one can see evolutionary and selective processes at work in far more than the biological realm. The word "meme" is used but generally in an entirely too limited way. By viewing history, one can see that religions, governments, corporations, and so on have competed, cooperated, evolved, practiced parasitism, filled "ecological" niches, and gone extinct.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:29 PM on February 29, 2008


Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species?

No.
posted by sophist at 2:46 PM on February 29, 2008


I tend to think that one can see evolutionary and selective processes at work in far more than the biological realm. The word "meme" is used but generally in an entirely too limited way. By viewing history, one can see that religions, governments, corporations, and so on have competed, cooperated, evolved, practiced parasitism, filled "ecological" niches, and gone extinct.

Metaphors are often useful at a general level of discussion. However, they frequently fail quite badly when you try to get too detailed with them -- for example, by attempting to map the evolutionary concept of "Species" to the political groupings of "Conservative" and "Liberal".

There may be an apt comparison from some aspect of evolutionary biology to these groupings, but "Species" ain't it.
posted by tkolar at 2:51 PM on February 29, 2008


"Species" ain't it.

What about Species 2?
posted by Artw at 2:58 PM on February 29, 2008


What about Species 2?

Liked it better than the first one, myself.
posted by tkolar at 3:00 PM on February 29, 2008


Do you have a clue how many of Ameica's wars were started with a Democrat in power? Might surprise you.

Hmm...let's see: the Quasi-War and War of 1812 happened before today's Democratic and Republican parties formed. James K. Polk, the Napoleon of the Stump, was a Democrat and started the Mexican-American War. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was president when the Civil War started. William McKinley, a Republican, started the Spanish-American War. Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was president when the US entered World War I, but the war had been going on for three years and our ships had been attacked by a belligerent. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, was president when the US entered World War II, but the war had been going on for two years and our ships had been attacked by a belligerent. Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, was president when North Korea invaded South Korea to start the Korean War. Truman was also president when the US violated the terms of the Geneva Conference and laid the foundation for the Vietnam War, which Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, escalated by sending combat troops in 1965. George Bush 1.0, a Republican, was president when Iraq invaded Kuwait to start the Gulf War. George Bush 2.0, a Republican, invaded Iraq to start the Iraq War.

So, two Democratic and two Republican presidents started wars under false pretenses. (Mexican-Amercan War, Spanish-American War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War.) Several Democrats were president when other countries started wars and we defended our allies or fulfilled our treaty obligations. Finally, Democratic presidents won World War I and World War II.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:56 PM on February 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Arianna herself has good insights

Really? Is she a conservative or is she a liberal this week?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:08 PM on February 29, 2008


Barbara Ehrenreich is not always great. She is great only about 90% of the time. Sometimes she is only pretty good.
posted by hexatron at 4:09 PM on February 29, 2008


I read David Sloan Wilson's latest book Evolution for Everyone and found it really fascinating, I learned a lot. Some of the visceral dismissals in this thread demonstrate more an ignorance of his work and positions than a deep understanding of the subtleties of what he's saying.
posted by stbalbach at 5:03 PM on February 29, 2008


I find it odd to characterize someone who identifies with the "major religious tradition of Protestantism" as a 'liberal'.
Slightly less-conservatives walk like this, slightly more-conservatives walk like that.
posted by signal at 5:24 PM on February 29, 2008


stbalbach writes "Some of the visceral dismissals in this thread demonstrate more an ignorance of his work and positions than a deep understanding of the subtleties of what he's saying."

Well, that may be true, although certainly nobody here can be faulted for not knowing, but anyone who uses a term like "species" to refer to some sociological concept is making it very hard for me to take him seriously. I am biased going in, but I think confusing scientific terms like that isn't going to lead to greater understanding.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:38 PM on February 29, 2008


I would like to urge my fellow liberals to undertake an aggressive, species-wide breeding program, so that we can win out over this other species which is competing with us for our ecological niche.

I am willing and able to do my part.
posted by Flunkie at 5:43 PM on February 29, 2008


I don't actually find this article as ludicrous as most of you.

I think the use of the word "species" is unfortunate, but he's pretty clear that he means that liberals and conservatives occupy dramatically different cultures.

The point is that he does have data: kids who self-identify as conservatives spend their lives in dramatically and quantitatively different ways than kids who self-identify as liberal. I have to say that after spending reasonable quantities of time with self-described conservatives, I do believe that it's an alien culture, one I cannot understand. I've had more empathy with Indonesian peasants than with self-described conservatives, and the key difference is a complete lack of respect for other cultures and viewpoints on the part of conservatives. I can play music with a Palestinian guy in an Istanbul hookah bar or talk with a Korean theology professor in a club, and while there's an obvious gap between us, it's possible to completely respect the other's viewpoint -- or at least to be polite enough to pretend that you do.

Tolerance is alien to the new Conservative moment. They do not want to be a part of the Brotherhood of Man; they wish to rule all other humans; I cast them out, I reject them, I wish them terrible tribulations until they understand that all men are their brothers; because of the decent into insanity of so many millions in the most powerful country on Earth, our healthy future is in doubt as never before.

We are dramatically different cultures. There will be a permanent war between our "soft" culture and their "hard" one until one or the other is eradicated. As resources become increasingly tight and people are forced closer and closer, such paranoid uncooperative world-views will more and more be revealed for the psychopathy they are.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:03 PM on February 29, 2008


I cast them out, I reject them, I wish them terrible tribulations until they understand that all men are their brothers;

You sound just like them.

I find that both sides display this "hard" culture intolerance you speak of. I think they're very similar and the differences are on the surface. To me, the differences that would matter would be differences of character, but neither side is more "fair" or "tolerant" or "kind" or "reasonable" than the other. But both sides really really think that they are.
posted by Danila at 7:52 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some of the visceral dismissals in this thread demonstrate more an ignorance of his work and positions than a deep understanding of the subtleties of what he's saying.

Perhaps, but my dismissal is not at all 'visceral,' it's intellectual. I've done quite a bit of thinking and reading about the trend of evolutionary theory as applied to modern-day sociology, and the great bulk of it is flat-out BS which is rejected by most evolutionary biologists. Sloan may be different, but if he aligns himself with that group in his own bio, I think it's incumbent upon him to show how his thinking is deeper than theirs; and equating behavior with species does not move very far in that direction at all.
posted by Miko at 9:17 PM on February 29, 2008


neither side is more "fair" or "tolerant" or "kind" or "reasonable" than the other. But both sides really really think that they are.
That's baloney.

Generally speaking, and obviously there are exceptions, conservatives are intolerant, while liberals are intolerant of the intolerant.

So yeah, in some sense, they're both "intolerant". But there's a significant difference between what they're respectively intolerant of.

The idea that "gays, abortionists, latte-drinkers, and people who read the New York Times are destroying America" is "intolerant" in the same sense that "people who think that gays, abortionists, latte-drinkers, and people who read the New York Times are destroying America are jerks" is "intolerent" seems, to me, flatly absurd.
posted by Flunkie at 9:19 PM on February 29, 2008


You know who else believed in 'cultural species....'

You seem to be going at it biologically, perhaps a condemnation of evolutionary psychology? Of course biologically conservative and liberal humans are the same species (though, biologically, "species" can be an arbitrary division, the arbitariness doesn't apply here), but to my eyes political ideologies, as an example, undergo evolutionary processes - "monarchy" evolved into or was replaced by "democracy", more or less, though it is hard to define the unit of selection here. The idea is something about looking at "America" or "The Republican Party" or "Wal-Mart" as (nested, hierarchical) supraorganisms. (For biological examples, see endosymbiosis, the endosymbiotic theory for mitochondria, and the hypothesis that a sort of tame HIV is necessary for placental reproduction.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:47 PM on February 29, 2008


Generally speaking, and obviously there are exceptions, conservatives are intolerant, while liberals are intolerant of the intolerant.

I disagree. Liberals seem intolerant of Republicans, large families, traditional Western values, born-agains, people who believe in creation, southerners, corporations, anyone who unashamedly likes to make money, those who practice abstinence, gun-owners, black and Jewish conservatives, the US military, homeschoolers etc. Liberals on campuses drown out conservative speakers, assault them, try to get them banned. That's not "tolerance". Liberals feel free to throw out the racist insults if it's a black conservative they're insulting. Liberals are always talking about doing terrible things to conservatives. Liberal Hollywood is certainly not tolerant of conservative values.

Posts like this are another example of liberal intolerance (and this sort of thing nearly always comes from liberals). Too many liberals are dead-set on proving that conservatives are fundamentally different, a different species. Didn't they have their study a few years ago proving conservatives are less intelligent?

I think one of the worst aspects of intolerance is the dehumanization of others. Here on Metafilter, conservatives are likened to Nazis and deemed the worst people in America. And that's just the worst, most obvious stuff.

I am not saying that conservatives are somehow more tolerant than liberals. But I am saying that liberals have no special claim on tolerance.

But there's a significant difference between what they're respectively intolerant of.

Well yes. What conservatives refuse to tolerate you see nothing wrong with, and vice versa. You believe that you are RIGHT and TRUE, well, so do they. Both sides fling about epithets like "evil", "stupid", "bigoted", "hateful". You are really saying that liberals don't claim that conservatives are "destroying America"? So what's the difference? Oh, because liberals are the one, true ideologues, right.

Both think they have the moral high ground, and both think that their positions are so obvious it's a matter of objective truth. Thus, both see the opposing side as some malignant, dangerous "other". I think you should not feel as comfortable as you do dismissing millions and millions of your fellow "world citizens" as being somehow just more evil than you are. lupus_yonderboy is calling all conservatives psychopaths for goodness sakes.

Both sides have their beliefs that they think are absolute truths. Each side thinks the other is dangerous. And within both groups, there are people who are capable of tolerance, kindness, compassion, fairness as well as cruelty, bigotry, and hatred.
posted by Danila at 12:18 AM on March 1, 2008


I disagree. Liberals seem intolerant of: Republicans,

At a national level, Republican legislation seems to be geared towards tax cuts for the rich, increasing corporate welfare, and cutting welfare for those who need it. In short, it's redirecting money from those who need it to those who don't. And that's without getting into the Republican social platform.

large families, traditional Western values,

Re: large families, liberals are the side that are trying to make sure that all children in those large families matter.

born-agains, people who believe in creation,

In other words people who lie to children and abdicate moral responsibility (in the born again's case by thinking that being "Born Again" erases everything and in the creationists case by thinking that alegiance to a book means that nothing else matters, particularly not evidence).

southerners,

Normally two species here. Those who vote Republican when it is even against their own short term interest, and those who fly the flag of the Confederacy - i.e. venerate those who went to war with the rest of the United States in defence of slavery.

corporations, anyone who unashamedly likes to make money,

Corporations and those who unashamedly like to make money tend to find the easiest way to make money is by ripping people off. And if you actively want a fairer world, those who rip people off are the opposition.

those who practice abstinence,

Utter rubbish. The intolerence is for those who want to force others to practice abstenance and wreck the education system. As a rule, liberals don't care what you do in the privacy of your own home (provided it's safe, sane, and consensual) - and abstenance is one of those options. However those who want to teach abstenance-only sex education are another matter - abstenance only doesn't work.

gun-owners,

Urban/rural split that's correlated with liberal/conservative. People who live in environments where shooting a gun in a random direction from just about any point will hit either a person or a house tend to detest them - people who live with enough land around that it won't hit someone tend to like them.

black and Jewish conservatives,

That's exasperation.

the US military,

Evidence? Most sensible liberals detest most of the uses to which the military is put (like getting half a million civillians killed in Iraq and making refugees of millions more) but not the soldiers themselves. Making the World Safe for Stan

homeschoolers

Depends why. But two of the major reasons for homeschooling are the Christian Homeschoolers (who normally object to the curriculum because they want to lie to children) and people who don't want everyone else to get a decent chance at education.

etc.

You've only given three categories on that list - those who lie to children and otherwise try to poison the well of discourse, those who actively harm others in the pursuit of money

Liberals on campuses drown out conservative speakers, assault them, try to get them banned.

Drown out, possibly. But I'm interested in your evidence of assault - and a list of speakers who have actually been banned rather than just a few hotheads wanted banned. (If Ann Coulter is on the list, I'm not surprised as she's actively tried to stir up a lynch mob).

That's not "tolerance".

No - because the groups you mentioned that don't receive tolerance are actively trying to make things worse and less tolerant. Liberals offer tolerance until individuals or groups have shown by their actions that extending tolerance to them means that others will have it significantly worse. The main difference on the tolerance front is that from the core Conservative approach you need to demonstrate that you should be tolerated - from the core Liberal one you need to demonstrate that you shouldn't be.

Liberals feel free to throw out the racist insults if it's a black conservative they're insulting.

Evidence?

Liberals are always talking about doing terrible things to conservatives.

Evidence? Particularly evidence that this reaches the levels of what influential conservative speakers and thinkers (starting with Coulter and Limbaugh) do say should happen to or they want to see done to liberals.

Liberal Hollywood is certainly not tolerant of conservative values.

Which conservative values would those be? Many films have a very liberal bent - many don't.
posted by Francis at 3:03 AM on March 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Generally speaking, and obviously there are exceptions, conservatives are intolerant, while liberals are intolerant of the intolerant."

You obviously missed the Nader thread.
posted by Eideteker at 5:22 AM on March 1, 2008


t to my eyes political ideologies, as an example, undergo evolutionary processes..."monarchy" evolved into or was replaced by "democracy", more or less,

Historians simply do not think this way. There are not clear social 'evolutions' from one system to the next, in an orderly progressive fashion. Historical events and social organizations are more complex and chaotic than physical processes. Monarchy did not evolve into democracy; some anthropologists might argue that democracy was the first or original state oh human social organization, only to be later perverted into power structures like theology and monarchy. There are also any number of paths of social organization that are not linear and progressive, but fluid, as ruling systems have risen and fallen through time. It can't be said that one 'evolved' into the other. Importing ideas from one discipline to another may yield useful metaphors or models, but when the metaphors only penetrate to the very shallowest level of analysis and fail upon deeper examination, they are just gimmicks. And 'species,' in this article, is a gimmick. The premise is ...claptrap.

There are such serious limitations and lousy consequences to applying biological determinism to human moral, social and political decisions that attempts to do so are perfectly deserving of dismissal. It's fine to argue about the psychological and behavioral differences of conservatives and liberals, which can definitely be identified, but let's do it within the scope of disciplines that have actually developed legitimate, broadly accepted, coherent and systematic models for quantifying and explaining those differences - anthropology, psychology, sociology.
posted by Miko at 6:49 AM on March 1, 2008


A lot of this has again generated into mere doxa. I mean seriously, liberals hate big families? Plenty come from big families. The idea that conservatives inevitably like big families is ludicrous too. It really depends on who that familiy is.

The real problem here is that there's a fundamentally different manner in which the two groups are perceiving the world around them, and their role in it. My principle objection to this piece was that use of the word "species" is guaranteed to derail it into madness, instead of focusing on the underlying, interesting differences. Namely, many if not most self-identified conservatives cleave to their value structure because they have been told that it's right. By their parents, their community, by people they trust. Thus, the big problem with gays, sexually promiscuous people, etc. is that they're breaking the rules that hold society together. Liberals generally don't give a crap about that, and want people to be able to do whatever makes them happy, provided they don't hurt anyone. Thus the set-up for an epic, unresolvable conflict: liberals aren't even on the team, they're actively rooting for the team to lose, and conservatives are out to impose their own personal soul-crushing laws upon those who have no interest in living under them.

All the hate, and invective and general bad-dealing come from the fact that it's humans fighting this struggle, and that's what humans do. That said, there's a MASSIVE difference in the levels of violence and oppression that the typical members of each group are willing to carry out. This isn't a matter of opinion, but of scientific research carried out over many years. Once again, I recommend The Authoritarians as an example of this.

On a personal level, I've seen how conservatives often times don't even really hear the things they're saying. My grandmother is one of the sweetest people I've ever met, someone who'd happily share everything she had with anyone, even though she has almost nothing. That said, she'll casually advocate genocide and (I'm convinced) not even realize what she's saying. Like many conservatives, she's rooting for the home team so much, that when some group of people she's never really met (gays, muslims, etc) seems to threaten it, they become a threat to be destroyed.
posted by Humanzee at 6:49 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


On reread, I should mention that evolution is chaotic and complex as well, and also does not proceed in an orderly and progressive fashion - it may not be "more" complex. Someone would be bound to say it sooner or later, so I'll note it now. But my basic point stands: that the developments of social systems don't arise purely through the constraints of evolutionary principles.
posted by Miko at 6:55 AM on March 1, 2008


You obviously missed the Nader thread.

Well, he's a fucking splitter. Death to splitters!
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on March 1, 2008


Liberals generally don't give a crap about that, and want people to be able to do whatever makes them happy, provided they don't hurt anyone

But the part that becomes harder to explain when discussing 'team' is the fact that liberals like social support. They are the ones wanting to even the playing field, provide basic insurance, retirement, food stamps, free lunch, and college aid to people who weren't born with abundant resources. I think the difference lies in a way of defining who's on the team: liberals would generally say not that there's no team and that the team should go out of existence and we should all pursue individual happiness; they say that we're all on the same team, to help one person is to help everyone, a healthy educated populace enriches all our lives, and using government to deploy resources allows the greatest number of people to pursue individual happiness. Conservatives define 'team' as more personal and closer to home, and prefer to share resources in extra-governmental ways, through family and church and private networking; the 'us' is more tightly defined, and that of course gives rise to a bunch of 'thems' who should be doing fine on their own in their own teams.

Only the problem is that the distribution of the conservative 'teams,' and the wealth within the 'teams' of old social and relational networks, is not even or fair. It is not as though team membership is open to anyone.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on March 1, 2008


Not necessarily, there is the concept of positive and negative freedom. Negative freedom is the removal of onerous restrictions (you can't be gay, blacks are slaves, etc). Positive freedom is empowerment. If you rigorously applied the bill of rights to a population of landless serfs, they would nontheless live as slaves, without any freedoms whatsoever. Some level of economic equality is absolutely necessary for individual liberty.

If you're merely making the point that liberals form social networks, that they adopt an "us vs. them" mental framework when they encounter opposition, then I concede the point. Liberals are humans, and they are flawed in that way just as conservatives are. That said, I think that the underlying philosophical framework is -in it's broadest strokes- as I said. I think that the broad strokes are interesting because they suggest that certain dialogs are a priori unconstructive, while perhaps suggesting other approaches.
posted by Humanzee at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2008


Also, it should be constantly on anyone's mind when discussing this stuff, that there's often a huge gulf between the philosophical underpinnings of any belief structure, and the actual attitutdes of people who claim to adhere to it. I've certainly encountered a number of self-professed liberals who've advocated a kill 'em all approach to certain foreign affairs, and accused me of being a terrorist-loving America-hater when I disagreed with them (even accused my ideas of being "dangerous"). That's why actual research is so important ---this stuff can really only be described statistically, in terms of likelihoods of beliefs, or correlations between beliefs.
posted by Humanzee at 7:35 AM on March 1, 2008


Also, how the fuck does someone say Species II was more enjoyable that Species? Unless you're out to enjoy it in terms of sheer awfulness that's just crazy talk.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2008


Eloi. Morlocks.

Nuff said!

;-P
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2008


Also, how the fuck does someone say Species II was more enjoyable that Species?

Number of minutes of screen time that Natasha Henstridge spends naked.
posted by tkolar at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2008


So I went ahead and removed all the bits about "social/historical change isn't linear, orderly, or progressive," because, yeah, what you said.

Historians simply do not think this way.

Argument by authority.

There are not clear social 'evolutions' from one system to the next, in an orderly progressive fashion. Historical events and social organizations are more complex and chaotic than physical processes.

More complex? Sure. Exempt from selective pressures and adaptive processes? No.

Monarchy did not evolve into democracy ... There are also any number of paths of social organization that are not linear and progressive, but fluid, as ruling systems have risen and fallen through time. It can't be said that one 'evolved' into the other.

As I said, trying to define a universal unit of selection is difficult here, and I hardly claim to have a complete theory, but specific cases are easy enough to find. One easy example is corporations and companies today. They are under strong selective pressures and those that fail to adapt to the business environment fail. They fill niches and engage in all sorts of competition, cooperation, and mixtures of both.

You seem to be arguing with the fear that the next step in this is "The Whites/Liberals are more highly evolved than the Blacks/Conservatives." or "LOL all of anthropology and sociology are WRONG," both of which are silly. What this does allow is a perspective where monotheism was better adapted than polytheism in ancient history and thus polytheistic religions either adapted monotheism (as there is evidence for in very early Judaism) or failed.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:58 AM on March 1, 2008


No, I'm not arguing from fear, I'm arguing from contempt for an argument that at best an inept metaphor and at worst a complete misapplication of the theory of a discipline.
posted by Miko at 12:52 PM on March 1, 2008


I'm not saying it's a metaphor. I'm saying that biological evolution is only a subset of a wider evolution.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:10 PM on March 1, 2008


I'm not sure biologists, in general, would agree with that. That's the realm of philosophy. Evolutionary theory doesn't aim to explain extra-biological phenemona (and I believe, simply isn't equipped to).
posted by Miko at 2:26 PM on March 1, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim: The problem here, and this is what really bugs me when memetics is used as more than just a metaphor, is that the power and triumph of biological evolution comes from the "grand synthesis" of two different theories, Darwin's natural selection, Mendel's rules of inheritance. From there, the field of quantitative genetics was able to create statistical models with profound predictive power.

Biological evolution is not just "adaptive processes" it's a specific type of adaptive process, working on a specific system with some built-in constraints that allow us to say that next year's fruit flies will almost certainly not have mammalian eyes. And actually, we can say that an "intelligent designer" is quite unlikely because the cladistic trees produced by intelligent designers creating things like musical instruments, are very different from the cladistic trees produced by natural selection and Mendelian inheritance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:41 PM on March 1, 2008


Miko: Unfortunately, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There is no lack of biologists who overgeneralize evolution. The same is true of economists, but they don't get called on it as often.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:00 PM on March 1, 2008


I believe the aphorism is, "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:40 AM on March 2, 2008


It's still just as true the other way.
posted by tkolar at 9:38 AM on March 2, 2008


Number of minutes of screen time that Natasha Henstridge spends naked.

That's... reasonable I guess. But you have to watch Species II to get to them.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2008


That's what the Internet is for.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2008


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