If many social ills derive from lack of self-control and poor judgment, governments should foster conservatism.
Choose to Control Yourself
A paper in PNAS found that conservatives have more self-control than liberals:
Evidence from three studies reveals a critical difference in self-control as a function of political ideology. Specifically, greater endorsement of political conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with greater attention regulation and task persistence. Moreover, this relationship is shown to stem from varying beliefs in freewill; specifically, the association between political ideology and self-control is mediated by differences in the extent to which belief in freewill is endorsed, is independent of task performance or motivation, and is reversed when freewill is perceived to impede (rather than enhance) self-control. Collectively, these findings offer insight into the self-control consequences of political ideology by detailing conditions under which conservatives and liberals are better suited to engage in self-control and outlining the role of freewill beliefs in determining these conditions.
This led to a variety of responses from other science media. Dawn Fuller on PhysOrg summarized the three studies, explaining that one’s beliefs about free will are crucial to the exercise of self-control, and conservatives tend to believe in free will with its associated value of personal responsibility.
The association of conservatism with personal responsibility was also clearly made on Science Daily.
“Effective self-control comes down to the extent to which you believe that you can control your behavior,” Clarkson said. “At the end of the day, the default seems to be that conservatives more strongly believe that they can control their behavior … than liberals.” And conservatives do control their behavior better than liberals, according to the study.
This value spills over into beliefs about others’ responsibility:
Differing perspectives on free will could explain several political differences among conservatives and liberals, the researchers surmised: One who believed less strongly in free will might arguably be more likely to attribute poverty, addiction and other hardships to sociological, economic and other factors beyond individual control. Such individuals might thus conclude, as many liberals do, that people struggling deserve government help. On the other hand, a believer in free will might be more likely to think people cause their own problems and should also solve them, rather than relying on government support, a typical conservative position.
Clarkson believes, therefore, that programs to encourage more self-control need to start with ideology about free will.
The old canard that Republicans are anti-science is not supported by data, new studies admit. A Pew Research survey reported on PhysOrg by Seth Borenstein says, “There is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the public’s attitudes on science.” Gaps between the consensus and the person depend on age or what the issue is more than political party. Results vary whether the issue is fracking, global warming, GMO foods, space exploration, vaccination, and other hot topics. Another PhysOrg article reported that views on environmental issues show a stronger link to political ideology, but race, age, religion and education are non-trivial factors. Perhaps this is because environmental issues so strongly overlap with government regulation—a dislike among many conservatives.
Jeffrey Mervis at Science Magazine implies that the findings were unexpected among scientists. “Contrary to perceptions, politics doesn’t always drive public views on science issues,” his headline reads. Later, he has to correct scientists’ gut feelings:
The poll also casts doubt on many scientists’ belief that people would be more supportive of scientists’ views on controversial issues if they just knew more about the topic. In only three of the 22 topics was a person’s level of education or general scientific knowledge (as judged by answers to six questions) a significant factor in their views. One was animal research, where only 31% of persons with a postgraduate degree oppose the practice, compared with 56% of those with a high school education. (The other two issues where education appears to shape a person’s stance were nuclear power and GM foods—in both cases, more knowledge leads to greater acceptance.)
But if so many well-educated, intelligent people take issue with “scientists’ views” (if there is such a broad category), would this not cast doubt on the credibility of scientists? It might lead outsiders to think that “scientists” comprise a special interest group that get locked into a herd mentality. Mervis didn’t consider that possibility.
Mervis and his “scientists” should go out and mix with real people more often. But that would require personal responsibility, which presupposes free will. Evolutionary scientists deny the existence of free will. That’s why they are liberals. That’s why they lack self-control, following the “consensus” like lemmings.
Want a healthy society? Promote conservatism. Self-control has many societal benefits: care for the environment, excellence at work, better parenting, cleanliness, voting, taking care of one’s health, and much more. The more conservatives in society, the less government hand-outs would be needed. Government dependence would shrink, taxes would go down, and free market economics from all those responsible entrepreneurs would create a boom in prosperity that could be exported abroad. A lessening of entitlement spending (the largest share of the federal budget) would leave more money for scientific research. If scientists were really scientific—if they followed the evidence—they would take our advice and stop the nonsense about the “Republican war on science.” Science needs more responsible citizens and fewer pot-smoking, mantra-chanting, food-stamp-recipient, occupy-wall-street dopeheads who defecate in the street and expect someone else to clean it up.