Sunday, December 09, 2007

Neuroscience and Fundamentalism - Social Policy Implications

Having banged heavily on conservative and racist just-so stories about genetic determinism, IQ, and eugenics for the past month or so - here now is a heavily value-laden perspective from the other side of the political fence. What types of socio-political policies are warranted and appropriate on the basis of the neurological data and hypothesis set forth in this article? Murray and Herrnstein didn't hesitate to propose policies in their polemical "The Bell Curve" - so surely there are evaluative, psychological, educational, and security policy implications resulting from the fact that there may well be a neurological basis for inflexible, dogmatic people who are stuck on stupid?
Do extremism and an unconditional adherence to religious dogma result from a failure of a portion of the frontal lobe to fully develop or, if fully developed, to activate? Studies suggest that faithful adherence to a single reasoning strategy on tests such as the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test means that parts of the frontal lobes are inactive, have failed to fully develop, or have even been damaged. Thus, unqualified disdain for divergent beliefs,for personal interpretation, and for creative theories like Darwin’s theory of evolution, may indeed have, at least a partial, biological explanation: a reduced utilization of that section of the brain which has played such a vital role in humanity’s creative advances—the frontal lobes. By unconditionally obeying religious tenets—or any dogma—some people may be relying on the phylo-genetically older, more posterior portions of the brain that store knowledge and enable consistent or stable behaviors and, unknowingly, circumventing the portion which has been gifted to humans alone through evolution.
Doesn't the natural implication of congenitally "stuck-on-stupid" folks gobbling up the lion's share of welfare state benefits clearly compromise the aim of resource optimization in an increasingly resource scarce world? This is a condition for which one can easily screen and objectively document.