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Progressive Progress

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As a biologist I tend to observe the behavior of conservatives in the way that I would observe bird behavior, or the behavior of, say, skunks. There has always been material available for study -- in the corporate newspapers, talk back radio and TV breakfast shows, but in recent years blogs and comment threads have provided a mass of new observational material.

Conservatives and progressives are rigidly defined on threads and easily recognized and identified, with no one in between (although some conservatives purport otherwise, pretending to be skeptical about some issue when it is clear they are not), and so their behaviors are clear.

Conservatives are hard-wired people with rigid responses and fixed thought patterns. No "ideas" as such, just learned or imitated answers to everything. Firmly, fixedly, believing things that are not true; firmly not believing things that are true. No sense of history -- facts are fixed like a string of beads with no time depth -- and this gives conservatives the ability to believe contradictory things. What seems to be hypocrisy is simply an inability to connect events in time and space.

They believe that they have, and are believed by progressives to have, gut reactions to things. That would be an almost admirable, certainly understandable trait. Instead they have learned responses.

It is no coincidence that so many political conservatives are also highly religious -- the pattern of intellectual activity is the same, questioning is discouraged, rote learning and obedience to authority is encouraged. When faced with a question the response by both religious and political conservatives is the same -- "What does it say in my particular holy book/policy document/constitution/Crichton blockbuster?" or "What does my pastor/president/shock jock/god say?" Having settled on what they believe to be the authorized answer, they stay with it, for eternity.

And this is what drives progressives mad on blogs -- identical comments keep coming, day after day, year after year, as if they have never been said before, never been answered before. Whether the topic is climate change, or gun ownership, or the economy, or terrorism, or evolution, or justice, or Iraq, the same responses keep coming. There is no debate, no changing of mind, because there is, to a conservative, only one answer, and they have been given that answer, by a higher authority. And they are passing it on to you.

This kind of behavior, on threads, is what drives progressives mad. When faced with a question, progressives consider the source of an answer, look for alternative answers, consider evidence, debate, think, change their minds. They understand that no answer is set in stone, that times change, ideas change, people change, evidence accumulates; and that following a leader is a sure recipe for falling off a cliff.

Conservative problem solving was probably adequate in the distant past when there was little change, year to year, decade to decade, in environment, society, population size and culture. And every theocracy of the Middle east, or Europe, or central America or Africa; every oligarchy, every kingdom, every dictatorship, was delighted that they could tell the citizens what was what and how to think and the citizens would, miraculously, think that and consequently do this.

Not so useful in recent times though, as populations grow, CO2 fills the atmosphere, war and terrorism threaten and societies and cultures change and evolve. These days we need people to think for themselves, and evaluate evidence, and be flexible, and adapt, and come up with new ideas and solutions. We need, in fact, progressives.

Always progressive on the Watermelon Blog.