#0018 Conservatives and progressives think differently (part II)
But this isn’t about the accept/reject-ability of homosexual behavior in my own eyes or even in God’s eyes; the theme of this series is much broader in scope than that. This blog is about the traditional Christian’s seeming inability to make sound moral decisions for themselves and the forces and factors that hinder them from doing so. If you’ve read my book: The Jesus Clone or my blog, you no doubt have gathered that I can be rather heavy-handed with my criticisms of conservative, tradition-centered Christians; but I have tried to remain objective—careful not to criticize actual persons—as I point out flaws in the general convoluted tenets and practices of conservatives and as I challenge many of the things they tend to proclaim about God, salvation and so on. On the flipside of that coin, I am certain there are many conservatives using their doctrinally and/or Biblically-based views who’d love to go toe-to-toe with someone like me and my progressive views. Why we are so passionate in our opposing views and from where these passions originate are central to our discussion today and throughout this series.
My postulation is that this passion or impetus originates from within our individual brains. In the book A Whole new Mind, author Daniel Pink says there are essentially two categories of thinkers—L-Directed and R-Directed. He claims that people’s thoughts originate either in the left hemisphere of their brain or the right. It’s not that we don’t all use both sides of our brain, because we do and we must (unless there has been some kind of physical impairment to either side due to a stroke, for example); but each of us tend to originate our thinking predominately from one of these sides. L-Directed thinking has until quite recently been thought of as the more important or serious part of the brain.
As far back as the age of Hippocrates, physicians believed that the left side, the same side that housed the heart, was the essential half. And by the 1800s, scientists began to accumulate evidence to support that view. In the 1860s, French neurologist Paul Broca discovered that a portion of the left hemisphere controlled the ability to speak language. A decade later, a German neurologist named Carl Wernicke made a similar discovery about the ability to understand language. These discoveries helped produce a convenient and compelling syllogism. Language is what separates man from beast. Language resides on the left side of the brain. Therefore the left side of the brain is what makes us human.
This view prevailed for much of the next century—until a soft-spoken Caltech professor named Roger W. Sperry reshaped our understanding of our brains and ourselves. In the 1950s, Sperry studied patients who had epileptic seizures that had required removal of the corpus callosum, the thick bundle of some 300 million nerve fibers that connects the brain’s two hemispheres. In a set of experiments on these “split-brain” patients, Sperry discovered that the established view was flawed. Yes, our brains were divided into two halves. But as he put it, “The so-called subordinate or minor hemisphere, which we had formerly supposed to be illiterate and mentally retarded and thought by some authorities to not even be conscious, was found to be in fact the superior cerebral member when it came to performing certain kinds of mental tasks.” In other words, the right wasn’t inferior to the left. It was just different. “There appear to be two modes of thinking,” Sperry wrote, “represented rather separately in the left and right hemispheres, respectively.” The left hemisphere reasoned sequentially, excelled at analysis, and handled words. The right hemisphere reasoned holistically, recognized patterns, and interpreted emotions and nonverbal expressions. Human beings were literally of two minds.
A Whole New Mind (Part One Chapter One: Right Brain Rising): Copyright © 2005, 2006 by Daniel H. Pink
I will be referencing this book throughout this series to point out different ways L-Directed and R-Directed brains are evidenced in the way people think, behave, how they see things and even how they process and interpret reality. In respect to this series we will also tie in the two different kinds of thinking process into why specifically conservatives and progressives see things differently, but why they are so passionate about their own views and at the same time so disgruntled by the views of those in the opposing camp. This book was written quite recently (within the past 10 years) and the excerpt above is siting research that also took place a relative short time ago (within the last 60 years or so). This discovery was so significant and such a game-changer in the field of brain study that the baton has been passed to others and the quest for knowledge through research continues today. Scientists are able to monitor and map activity in the different hemispheres as well as specific regions of the brain as a person receives a variety of sensory stimuli. This technique is pretty compelling and conclusive. How is this relevant to our quest for a better understanding about God and deeper relationship with Him and Jesus? It is very helpful, if we are open-minded enough to follow the clues and make the connections. Despite the fact that the book and the research are relatively recent in making their appearance on the planet, it’s a pretty safe assumption that this new news to us humans is old news to the creator.
The L-Directed and R-Directed brains and all of the personality traits and opposing perspectives that come out of them have been in place for eons. We weren’t privy to the why people weren’t able to get along for millennia; but the evidence of it happening fills up volumes and volumes of history books. In the very next installment in this series we will begin to discuss these same L-Directed and R-Directed effects as they have been playing out in the world of Christianity. Topics of discussion will include: dissident beliefs lead to the formation of new denominations; The Bible is compiled by L-Directed thinkers; Right v. wrong-based theologies were most likely penned by L-Directeds and have been enforced and propagated by same; others.