They’re on to me!!!

Joe Miller and William Briggs apparently spoke on a Conservative radio show about a new brain study that has them in a tizzle. Now, brain studies which attempt to draw conclusions from “activity”–images where the exchange of oxygen are highlighted by pretty neon colours in the brain–are notoriously fickle. To me there have always been an indeterminate amount of dots to connect between x behaviour and y region of the brain being active during that behaviour. So this is less about the study, to which I am largely skeptical, and more about the hilarious and improbable panic displayed by Miller and Briggs:

Joe Miller and his guest William Briggs, a statistician and adjunct professor at Cornell University, had a long discussion about the recent UCLA study. According to a release by the University of York, the study sought to understand how the posterior medial frontal cortex influences ideology, specifically religion and nationalism.

Using transcranial magnets, the researchers were able target and temporarily shut down the region. Subjects were asked questions about death and to rate a negative essay about the United States they were told was written by an immigrant. The result of the magnetic destimulation of the area of the brain in question resulted in less belief in religion and greater acceptance of immigrants.

This prompted Briggs to fear that the study would lead to “eugenics” targeting conservatives.

Considering “religion” and “nationalism” are absolutely taught behaviours, there is no way to detect their presence in a newly fertilized zygote, and thus no way to terminate a zygote with these qualities (deemed, perhaps not unfairly, undesirable to progressives). So right away we’re off to a bad start.

“Basically what they’re doing is they’re trying to bring back eugenics even, in a way,” Briggs said, his voice wavering. “Because they’re identifying what they say are biological constituents for belief. Therefore they’re able to test for these biological constituents.”

This is a pretty stunning error. There is a much needed moment to slow down and define precisely what we mean by “biological.” Neurology forms because of biological constituents, yes, but it is influenced by its input from environment. It sounds like we’re stumbling down the nature/nurture distinction which desperately needs to be retired. It doesn’t really exist, because our nurture affects our nature (and frequently vice versa).

He worried that people might think he was joking or being paranoid.

“But no, this is exactly it,” he continued. “There was a story this week too.. that some employers are now asking for DNA samples, not just to detect potential medical maladies, but to look for these kind of character traits they think they have identified that make one a lesser person.”

I mean, as I said, causative mechanisms from “having a trait in DNA” to “having that trait’s phenotype” are far from a straight line. There is no way anyone with even basic genetics literacy would actually support this. While I imagine employers are trying to do this, it’s not immediately apparent why so-called liberals would favour it.

Then, here’s the bombshell:

Miller then hinted that the magnets may be used by transgender people against people of faith.

I don’t know if paranoid is my word of choice. “Improbable,” perhaps.

“The whole transgender crowd, they see their main opponent as being those of faith and so obviously they’re going to use any aggressive tactics they can to move forward that agenda,” Miller said. “This is still minority opinion though, right? In psychology and elsewhere?”

There it is folks. I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. Screw fact-checking, consciousness raising, building community resilience, leafleting, campaigning, and education.

I’m using MAGNETS.



  1. kestrel says

    So you’re going to just… sneak up on people, and… glue magnets to their heads without them noticing? What? ***bangs head on desk***

    The whole thing is just incredibly frustrating. How would one educate someone who can’t see how ridiculous this is. Don’t these people ever think things through?

    Another thing that struck me: ” “The whole transgender crowd, they see their main opponent as being those of faith “. Gee whiz. I wonder if that’s because “those of faith” keep attacking them? Trying to stop them from peeing etc?

    Christ of the Andes. There are some amazingly dim people out there.