Monday, January 07, 2013

The Liberal Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science -- and Reality

A while ago a 'bat named -- wait for it: Mooney -- wrote a risibly tendentious book by that title, except it was called "The Republican Brain," and it was all about the science of how Republicans deny science -- you know, like our crazy belief that world temperature hasn't risen in the past 16 years, or how high taxes retard economic growth.

But it turns out he was all wrong, and that the most sophisticated, cutting edge research proves -- as we've been documenting here for years -- that liberalism is a mental and spiritual disorder with devastating consequences, both personally and collectively, locally and cosmically.

This is all explained in McGilchrists's The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, although you have to read between the brains, since the book is refreshingly free of the kind of demagogic misuse of science that Mooney and I engage in. Nevertheless, turna'bat is fairplay, so here we go.

The first half of the book is a lengthy summary of research into the different hemispheres, while the second half of the book is more speculative, and attempts to use this research to shed light on western history, from antiquity to the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution, and on into modern and postmodern times.

Those latter two -- modern, and especially postmodern -- are of the most interest to us, since these are the worlds brought to us via all those "scientific" and rational assumptions of liberalism. As we know, liberals don't only control the levers of government, but their worldview permeates academia, the media, and the culture more generally. It is the shallow water we must swim in and the air we sophicate on.

Let's begin with the very different manner in which the two hemispheres see and experience the world. No, let's actually begin before that, with the stipulation that man has two cerebral hemispheres for a reason, and that they are complementary, not antagonistic. Or, they are at times antagonistic, but in such a way that it redounds to the benefit of the person "above" them.

McGilchrist (who, I should make clear, comes at it from a purely secular perspective) compares them to "opponent processors," through which "mutually opposed elements... make possible finely calibrated responses to complex situations" -- as when one hand pushes gently against the other hand in order to thread a needle.

Perhaps the most provocative research finding is that our primary experience of the world is located in the right hemisphere, whereas our abstract "mapping" of this same world is located in the left.

Frankly, I don't think we need all this brain research to tell us something we all know -- that there is a primary, lived experience of the whole of reality, over which we superimpose an atomized grid of knowledge. In my book I use the symbols (n) and (k) to distinguish the two. Not surprisingly, it turns out that there is a neural substrate for (n) and (k), but that doesn't mean that knowledge of either type can be reduced to neurology.

Rather, we begin with the principle of the Person, and it is not possible for a Person to incarnate in the absence of the "opponent processing" of the "divided" brain. But of course, the divided brain isn't really divided at all; or, to be perfectly accurate, it is divided so as to be united at a higher level. A non-divided brain couldn't possibly host the unitary person.

Yes, you could say the hemispheres are distinct but undivided, like a certain godhead we know. Which is why we don't subjectively feel as if we are two different persons. We are aware of the input from both sides, but there is something in us that unproblematically (heh) unifies the two -- and it's not just "two," because, as McGilchrist explains, there is also a front-back structure in the brain, i.e., frontal to hindbrain, and a top-down one, i.e., cortex to mammalian to reptilian to Sharpton brain.

(In fact, perhaps only the left brain sees the brain as divided; indeed, McGilchrist points out that the right brain is able to take the perspective of the left into consideration, since it is part of the "whole," whereas the left cannot do this vis-a-vis the holism of the right. It reminds me of how conservatives must deal with liberal arguments, since they permeate the culture, whereas it is possible for a liberal to live in an entirely friction-free cognitive world, since he must go out of his way to deeply understand the conservative point of view in a way that is unfiltered by the left wing hate machine.)

Now, when I say we "unproblematically" (heh) unify our knowledge and experience, I obviously mean problematically, because that's the whole problem, isn't it? We can be anything from a garden-variety neurotic who has difficulty integrating his primitive-down and civilized-up, to a completely psychotic person whose left brain has hijacked his entire personhood, to a tenured Marxist who hasn't left his left brain in 40 years.

But under the best of circumstances, we are all faced with this problem of integration, especially in the contemporary world, since there is a virtually infinite amount of data to consider, so much that no single person could ever literally do it. Which is one of the main reasons left wing ideologues take refuge in their simplistic left brain fantasies of cognitive and social control. This is also what allows the typical low-information liberal voter to nurture his delusions of adequacy.

To cite one glaring example, when monohemispheriacs such as Mr. Mooney talk about the Republican "war on science," what they are mostly referring to is the conservative resistance to scientism. And the resistance to scientism comes from the right brain, which knows full well that scientism is not true because it cannot possibly be true. And it cannot be true because the right brain is precisely what mediates our connection to being as such. The right brain knows of what it speaks, even if it must express itself via the mythopoetic.

One doesn't have to be aware of brain research to understand why the fantasies of scientism are delusional. In every branch of science, the persistent application of purely "left brain" scientific methods has resulted in a right brain view of the world. This is the proper Circle of Being, whereby experience starts in the right, is broken down and categorized by the left, and then re-dreamt by the right.

In physics, for example, we have the uncertainty principle, complementarity principle, and nonlocality. In logic we have Gödel, in math Cantor, in biology Rosen. Such "transformative developments," writes McGilchrist, "validate the world as given by the right hemisphere, not the left." I call them the fundamental orthoparadoxes of (k), and no worldview can hope to be adequate without taking them into consideration.

One way of looking at left and right brains is to see them as processors of Absolute and Infinite, respectively; or of container and contained. Can Absolute "contain" Infinite? No, there is something "above" both, although here we are getting into areas where cutandry language begins to fail. In short, such meta-metaphysical questions can only be handled by the right brain, via poetry, myth, scripture, or the perfect nonsense of coonspeak.

I don't have much time this morning, plus my brain's a little rusty after the extended slackoff, so I guess I'll continue this tomorrow, the weather in my head permitting.

Liberals can fix the weather in the world, just like Mr. Gore said. But what's to be done about the weather in their heads?