Friday, May 04, 2012

Why Conservatives and Republicans Believe in Anti-Gay Pseudo-Science

I have written many times abut the bogus "research" of discredited frauds like Paul Cameron and time and time again we see "ex-gay" leaders fall off the wagon, if you will, yet conservatives and large percentages of Republicans (at least of the Christofascists variety) continue to believe the worse kinds of anti-gay propaganda that is churned out by hate groups like Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and Conservative Values Coalition to name but a few.  One cannot but wonder why are those in the far right so willing to believe disproved claims about gays.  Are they that ignorant and stupid, or are they merely believing what they want to believe because of their own screwed up psyches?  AlterNet has an article that looks at the question. Here are highlights:

On May 8, North Carolinians will vote on a constitutional amendment that defines a marriage between a man and a woman as the “only domestic legal union” the state will recognize -- thereby barring LGBT marriage equality. The amendment would also ban civil unions, and end domestic partner benefits, like prescription drug and health care coverage, for the partners and children of public employees. At its deepest level, this issue is about fairness for everyone under the law. But less mentioned is that it is also about science, and what’s factually true.

Many voters who go to the polls to support Amendment One will do so believing outright falsehoods about same-sex marriages and civil unions. In particular, they hold the belief that such partnerships are damaging to the health and well-being of the children raised in them. That is, after all, one of the chief justifications for the amendment.

According to the pro-Amendment One Vote for Marriage NC, for instance, “the overwhelming body of social science evidence establishes that children do best when raised by their married mother and father.”  .   .  .  .  “Overwhelming body of social science evidence”? “Documented social ills”? Is this really true? Are same sex marriages and civil unions bad for kids?

Well, no. Indeed, as I report in my new book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality, the claim that the kids won’t be all right in same sex marriages or partnerships now rates up there with a number of other hoary old falsehoods about homosexuality: the assertion that people can “choose” whether to be gay; the notion that homosexuality is a type of disorder; and the wrong idea that it can be cured through “reparative” therapy. All of these claims are explicitly disavowed by the American Psychological Association (APA).

In a moment, I want to explore the underlying psychology behind how conservatives, especially religious ones, can believe such falsehoods. But first, let’s dismantle, on a substantive level, the idea that research shows that kids fare worse when raised by two parents who are of the same gender.
[T]he relevant science shows nothing of the kind. “Beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents…have no empirical foundation,” concludes a recent publication from the organization. To the contrary, the association states, the “development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”

So how can Christian conservatives possibly claim otherwise?  Well, one favored approach is literally citing the wrong studies. There is, after all, a vast amount of research on kids in heterosexual two parent families, and mostly these kids do quite well—certainly better than kids in single-parent families (for obvious reasons). Christian conservatives then cite these studies to argue that heterosexual families are best for kids, but there’s just one glaring problem. In the studies of heterosexual two-parent families where children fare well, the comparison group is families with one mother or one father—not two mothers or two fathers.

 But wait: Don’t Christian conservatives want to be factually right, and to believe what’s true about the world? And shouldn’t a proper reading of this research actually come as a relief to them, . . . ?

Christian conservatives utterly fail to get past their emotions, which powerfully bias their reasoning. Indeed, science doesn’t just demonstrate that the kids are all right in same-sex unions. It also shows how and why some people reason poorly in highly politicized cases like this one -- and, in the case of the anti-gay views of Christian conservatives, rely on their gut emotions to come up with wrong beliefs. Here’s how it works.

 When people are looking for evidence to support their deeply held views, the science suggests that people engage in “motivated reasoning.” Their deep emotional convictions guide the retrieval of self-supporting information that they then use to argue with, to prop themselves up. It isn’t about truth, it’s about feeling that you’re right -- righteous, even.

The average conservative, much more than the average liberal, is having visceral feelings of disgust towards same-sex marriage. And then, when these conservatives try to consciously reason about the matter, they seize on any information to support or justify their deep-seated and uncontrolled response -- which pushes them in the direction of believing and embracing information that appears to justify and ratify the emotional impulse.  And voila. Suddenly same-sex marriages and civil unions are bad for kids. How’s that for the power of human reason?

In the end, however, facts are facts -- and emotions and gut instincts are an utterly unreliable way of identifying them.  .  .   .  the latest research makes it more untenable than ever to base public policy on gut-driven misinformation.

In my view, the far right has nothing but contempt for objective reality and scientific truth.  They embrace whatever lies and bullshit that supports their preconceived beliefs and go on willingly embracing rather than have to rethink their prejudices.  What I find frightening is that our military is full of Christian conservatives.  Does this perhaps explain in part the nation's repeated entry into disastrous, winnable wars like Iraq and Afghanistan?  If far right military leaders follow the pattern described in the article, no wonder they keep claiming that the USA can "win" in Afghanistan. 

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