Sometimes my faith in progress is shaken. How can it be that educated, seemingly responsible persons wilfully regress to the science and religion of the seventeenth century and demand that the rest of us defer to their regression? Why do so many DUP politicians deny scientific facts and set up in their place the mythological texts of a nomadic people whose navigational skills were so limited that they stayed lost in the Sinai desert for 40 years? These are apparently sane, educated people, some of them with graduate and post graduate degrees. How do they manage to keep evidence and knowledge so separate from belief and behaviour?
While many of us are creationists and are happy to accept the Genesis myth as a metaphor for the process of creation by an intelligent Creator, the Caleb Foundation, described by Liam Clarke as the DUP Militant Tendency, and its DUP associates, insist on literal Young Earth Creationism of a universe just 6000 years old. There’s Mervyn Storey, for example, who wants us to believe, and also teach in second level science classes, that the Giant’s Causeway is a consequence of Noah’s Flood, however much the geological evidence may suggest otherwise.
Young Earth Creationism is just one of several regressive DUP memes. They also do homophobia and their own version of the US Republican Southern Strategy, substituting sectarianism for racism. To rise through the ranks of the party, it is essential to be strong on at least one of these memes.
Paul Givan is an example – a rising star, making a name for himself with his infamous conscience clause aimed at restricting equal rights, specifically the rights of gay people. Thanks to a Sinn Fein intervention, his conscience clause is “dead in the water,” as reported the other day by the Belfast Telegraph. Givan now keeps his meme afloat with his concern about how people with deeply held religious beliefs are treated. Naturally, he is a young earth creationist as well as a homophobe.
Jude Collins asked a while back, whether Givan is a Christian or a hypocrite. The same could be asked about Nelson McCausland, an Oxford graduate who should know better or Edwin Poots who at least has the excuse that he didn’t go to Oxford, or Storey or Wells or Simpson or . . . well just how many more?
It may be that they can’t help it. Emerging neurological researches that compare the brains of US conservatives with the brains of US liberals suggest that conservative and liberal brains are wired differently. Liberals have more grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain, which gives them more cognitive and emotional control. Right wingers, on the other hand, have an enlarged amygdala, the seat of the emotions, which, uncontrolled by a decent sized anterior cingulate cortex, makes right wingers overly emotional, overly reactive to perceived threats and more fearful of change.
The research does not go so far as to say that conservatism is a pathological condition. However, if we remember how threatened conservatives have felt, at the sight of children, whether immigrant children being transported on buses in the US or little girls walking to school in Belfast, the term “pathological conservatism” seems not unreasonable.