The so-called Republican brain, with its deep resistance to yielding before mere scientific evidence, has played an indispensable role in the making of modern science, long before the emergence of the Grand Old Party.
A new term of political opprobrium has been loosed upon the world: anti-science. Like many terms of abuse, it is easier to convey its meaning by an illustration than by a rigorous definition. For example, “If those damn Republicans weren’t so anti-science, we might have a chance of dealing with global warming.” Here’s another example: “Those damn Republicans are so anti-science that they want to see creationism taught in schools.”
As these two examples show, anti-science is a phenomenon that is mainly found among Republicans. Indeed, according to Chris Mooney’s new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality, the Republican penchant for denying science is so pronounced and marvelous a phenomenon that in order to grasp it we must turn to the latest revelations of neuroscience.
The source of the problem, Mooney tells us, lies in the Republican brain itself. It is not that Republicans have smaller brains. Their brains can be just as big as or even bigger than those possessed by Democrats. But Republicans are hard-wired to have an insatiable craving for certitude. They ferociously resist any evidence that might force them to change their deep-seated convictions. Liberals, on the other hand, are more open-minded and tolerant of uncertainty, just like scientists themselves.
You don’t need rocket science—or neuroscience, for that matter—to get the gist of Mooney’s argument. Conservatives wouldn’t be conservatives if they liked change; liberals wouldn’t be liberal unless they did. This neatly explains why conservatives hate to change their minds, while liberals simply love to. Indeed, some liberals have changed their minds on so many issues so often that they finally got sick and tired of it all and have turned into conservatives from simple exhaustion.
Yet even if all this is true, what does it have to do with science? Does the mere refusal to change your mind make you anti-science?