A growing body of research conducted by political scientists, social scientists, evolutionists, psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, and geneticists suggests that Republicans and Democrats are born that way.

In his newly released book, The Republican Brain, Chris Mooney calls upon this research to argue that conservatives and liberals have different brains and that beliefs held by one group are genuinely confounding to the other. The tendency towards resisting or embracing change, for instance, appears to be biologically determined, as does the ability to tolerate ambiguity or to perceive nuance. 

Apparently, those who believe that Obama is a Muslim, abortions increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, the Founding Fathers worked indefatigably to end slavery, global warming is a myth, or the theory of evolution is just plain wrong can’t help themselves from doing so, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

But, I am not much comforted by a belief, mine, that liberals stand on moral high ground because, despite the fact that I have a very high tolerance for ambiguity, this feature has not always served me well. In general, I have done poorly on multiple choice tests, as an example, because A, B, C, and D have often seemed at least partially correct. And, while this tendency towards waffling might seem funny on its face, it points to a deeper problem I have: a capacity for hypocrisy.

Like many of my liberal brethren, I believe war is bad, capital punishment is barbaric, violence is abhorrent, and abortion is every woman’s right, and if asked I will tell you so. But, for someone like me, this is more the truth about my beliefs: war is bad, but I wouldn’t mind dropping a bomb or two on Syria’s Assad; capital punishment is barbaric, but I say we should fry Liberia’s Charles Taylor; violence is abhorrent, but, if anyone were to harm a hair on my daughter’s head, I would run a dagger through his heart; and abortion is every woman’s right, except my own.


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