Friday, September 4, 2009

"Conservatives Without Conscience"

Many Americans often mistake book smart with judgment and experience. I have worked with mostly Ivy League colleagues in both corporations and at Rutgers University for several years who have very high IQs often encountered among scientists and engineers. Many of the NeoCons who did most of the planning for the Bush/Cheney regime are very bright and are now in exalted places such as Harvard and Berkeley or have high level jobs in Think Tanks, Lobbying Firms, or corporations.

I had one colleague named Roger who had a Ph.D. at Harvard with an IQ of 168 and Ed whose family was from China who was equally bright from Caltech. I talked a lot with both and found them able to think very clearly about chemistry and research. But an emotional component interfered with their ability to really do top-notch research which often delves into the unknown and they could not often get beyond what they learned and their flawed judgement got in the way of solving problems.

Judgement resides in the pre-frontal cortex which allows us to moderate our primitive and fast acting fear brain or Amygdala and our emotional part of our brain. Populations that have evolved in more recent centuries were influenced by extended conflict such as the Low Land Scots, Orthodox Jews, and other populations. It is no accident that the Scots and Scot-Irish from Northern Ireland have been so belligerent. The Low Land Scots had to be paranoid and aggressive to survive so those who were not did not survive. The conflicts in Appalachia still continue among families and even family members to this day.

Most of the authoritarian Republicans come from East Texas and other areas they immigrated to such as parts of Southern California and Republican states generally and tend to be of Scot or Scot-Irish origin. They were the immigrants who did the type of dangerous work that slaves and others would not do. They are very tough.

These same characteristics tend to make them ultra-religious. When pre-frontal cortical control becomes less effective, our emotional brain takes over. This can be seen in studies on Parietal Epilepsy where at the University of California, San Diego, studies have shown that those with this malady become very religious and these individuals think they talk to God or even think they are God. This inability to control is also exhibited in the area of adultery which is highest by far in the religious south. Both divorce and adultery is the highest in the country there.

That is why so many top Evangelical religious leaders have been involved in sex scandals. It also explains the high rate of crimes committed during the Bush administration too, most of which have not been discovered if my guess is correct! The liberal Northeast have the lowest adultery and divorce rates. Last year Catholic Massachusetts had only about a Two Percent Divorce rate!

The understanding that the prefrontal cortex is involved in control was first realized when a calm and smart railroad supervisor during the late 19th century had an accident where a rail spike went through his prefrontal cortex, but did not kill him. After he recovered his personality changed and he had many emotional outbursts, lied, stole stuff, cheated others and had lots of affairs, a complete change from his former personality.

More recently before seat belts, a genius Mensa postal worker was a passenger in an auto accident and hit his head on the dash board. He lost consciousness for several days, but recovered. All he cared about was passing his IQ test so he could remain a member of Mensa. His test score was exactly the same as before so he was very relieved. When he went back to his pre-automation postal job, he found he could no longer had the judgement and planning ability to do his job!


Conservatives Without Conscious by John W. Dean

Historically, for reasons I have enumerated in the past, in modern history starting with the Nixon Administration and accelerated by the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations including the congress and Senate, the vast majority of scandals involved Republicans by a large margin as revealed by Republican John W. Dean (Watergate witness and Nixon's lawyer). In the book
"Conservatives Without Conscience," dedicated to Barry Goldwater, Dean cites scientific studies that Authoritarian Republicans in Chapter Three of Authoritarian Conservatives, the large majority breed in the Republican Party Now represented by the religious Right. Bob Altemeyer, in "What Happens When Authoritarians Inherit the Earth? A Simulation, "Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, vol. 3, no. 1 (December 2003).

Page 227 of John Dean's book footnotes and references on Altemeyer's book. ... "Our conscience is the part of our minds that makes us feel guilty: (1) We can feel guilty because we did not do the right thing (but instead did nothing), (2) (more commonly) we can feel guilty because we did something wrong. Conscience, or (perhaps more usefully) the strength of someone's conscience, is a very tricky thing to measure. It is a very private experience ... Using indirect methods Altemeyer used the Hidden Observer technique "He asked a group of high-scoring right-wing authoritarians he had tested earlier--who almost across-the-board had strongly agreed with a statement about the existence of an Almighty God who will judge each person after death ...

He got some surprising answers. About a fifth said they had some doubts about God's existence of "an Almighty God who will judge each person after death" which they shared with some others. About a third had secret doubts about the existence of God, but told no one."

In Chapter Two Conservatives Without Conscience pp. 39, scientists such as Milgram at University of California, Berkeley found earlier "that conservative authoritarian personalities can commit atrocious acts by ignoring their consciences such as those working for the CIA or armed forces ignore their consciences to carry out orders that defy well-known international laws? They just follow orders as Eichmann did according to study in Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) which Milgram agrees with. Milgram observed in fact, the lesson of his work was that ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terribly destructive process. ... Milgram revealed that for a remarkable number of people, it is very difficult to disobey authority figures, but quite easy for them to set aside their conscience."

Imagine what would happen if our government really watched what corporations do behind the cover of respectability? Why did Greenspan ignore the suffering of Americans losing their homes due to subprime mortgages since 2001? Why did most of the people still follow orders after knowing the obvious corruption in the subprime housing market? Why did the rating agencies continue their illegal activities? Why did Wall Street devised the plan to defraud investors by Enron and other corporations?

Where has integrity gone in our rush to continue making more and more money? Why did the public invest in tobacco companies long after they knew that it causes cancer? We are all guilty. Unless we change, our civilization will die like all others from an excess of corruption.

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