Refusing to Evolve

A Guest Commentary
by Michael Ford

CROSSETT, Ark. (Sept. 15) – A study published this week in Nature Neuroscience and reviewed in Slate Magazine verifies something most intellectuals already knew: Liberals are smarter than conservatives.

“In a rapid response test—you press a button if you’re given one signal, but not if you’re given a different signal—the authors found that conservatives were ‘more likely to make errors of commission,’ whereas ‘stronger liberalism was correlated with greater accuracy.’ They concluded that ‘a more conservative orientation is related to greater persistence in a habitual response pattern, despite signals that this response pattern should change.'”

Does anyone really find this surprising? A habitual response pattern merely indicates someone who is strongly resistant to change, or as they like to call themselves, traditionalists. It still bothers me that the word tradition has positive connotations for most people. For me, tradition has always meant “refusal to evolve.” Shouldn’t we all be constantly looking for new, improved ways to do things, rather than repeating ourselves, calling it tradition and tricking ourselves into believing it’s a good thing.

America still practices quite a few traditions that any decent, open-minded person should be ashamed of, such as only allowing opposite sex to marry, not giving women the right to choose, selling anyone a gun, mistreating immigrants and, of course, invading third-world countries to obtain a finite resource while ignoring genocides. Conservatives would suggest we do those things simply because, well, it’s tradition. However, at one time, slavery and not allowing women to vote was also American tradition.

That said, you would think everyone would conclude that change is good and tradition (or habitual responses) is bad, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Back to the study …

“‘Liberals are more likely than are conservatives to respond to cues signaling the need to change habitual responses.’ The study’s lead author, NYU professor David Amodio, told London’s Daily Telegraph that ‘liberals tended to be more sensitive and responsive to information that might conflict with their habitual way of thinking.'”

When I think of habitual responses, I think of the response I get when asking conservatives why they still support President Bush: “He’s a good Christian man that’s against abortion!” The irony in such a response is staggering considering the president is responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths. If I was going to support Bush, I would at least come up with a more believable reason, such as his contributions to the English language.