Can we channel the right hemisphere to fix our politics?

  • Can we channel the right hemisphere to fix our politics?

    Posted by Daniel Jones on November 27, 2023 at 8:53 pm

    Hello all,

    I would love to see this group become more active, as I think the most immediate need for which we can apply the work of Dr. McGilchrist is in bridging our political divide.

    We know that the RH is the seat of empathy and we know that empathy is one of the defining features of humanity. What I see in politics is, especially in America, but really all over the world, is a growing inability to empathize with someone who holds different political views than us.

    I for one am someone with some strong political views, but I can almost always understand where someone with the opposite view is coming from. When I can’t, I don’t presume those people are crazy or evil, I assume something is wrong with my own understanding of the issue. So, I seek out people who can help me to understand where others are coming from.

    But I believe this approach is increasingly rare. Rather, when people discover that someone else has a very different take on an issue or a person than they do, they look for what must be wrong with that person. Is it a low IQ? Bad parenting? A lack of real world experience? Or are they just plain rotten? More often than not, we’ve decided the person must be just plain rotten and must be stopped.

    What can we do to breed more empathy in our political systems?

    Charles Rykken replied 6 months ago 4 Members · 17 Replies
  • 17 Replies
  • Don Salmon

    November 27, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    well, Daniel, one thing you could try is not to have your first post be an attack on everyone in a discussion.

    Did you see where I asked you about my comment on human caused climate change?

    Did you see that, as of 2007, there was still no way to determine if a person who accepted the science on human contributions to climate change was of one political orientation or another?

    So I’ll ask you a question or two and see if we can listen to and respect each other.

    1. Tell me how one’s view of the science related to climate change is associated with one or another political view.

    2. My understanding is that the climate change issue has been purposely politicized because there is an assumption that any way to address it involves government overreach and undemocratic manipulation of markets. So my question is, given that over the past 4 to 5 years, a majority of conservative politicians now accept the science regarding human contributions to climate change, if I think that government, market AND personal responsibility are all needed for a solution, does that mark me as a close minded, bigoted person unable to see the “other” side? If you think so, what “other” side are you referring to?

    By the way, if you want to put a label on me, I don’t consider myself Left or Right (I am of the opinion that at best, those terms were already useless when I was close to your age, in the 1970s). Contemplative anarchist (a la Gustav Landauer and Aurobindo Ghose) is the closest I’ve ever found to something I resonate with, though the Catholic view of subsidiarity comes fairly close as well.

    • Don Salmon

      November 27, 2023 at 9:01 pm

      In case you don’t recall, I’m referring to a post where you criticized everyone else in the post as being lost in the LH and unable to empathize with other points of view.

      not a great way to start.

      But I’m eager to get to the same goal as you. In 2019, I invited 20 people – 10 liberals and 10 conservatives – to a group meeting to experiment with each person attempting to amiably and empathically articulate the view of those who disagreed with them. It didn’t go well, but I’d love to see more attempts like that.

      • Daniel Jones

        November 27, 2023 at 9:13 pm

        Hi Don. I see you misunderstood my reply in another discussion and thought it was a reply to you. No worries, mistakes happen. That’s not this discussion, though. Onward.

        • Don Salmon

          November 27, 2023 at 9:20 pm

          Hi again Daniel:

          You know, I’m going to offer you a little challenge.

          Do you want to attempt a conscious dialog?

          There was an 8 part PBS series several decades back. A liberal and conservative were invited on a specific issue. My favorite episode is when a Leftist pro Castro intellectual was invited and a Rightist anti-Castro intellectual was invited.

          The format was:

          First guy states his position, 2<sup>nd</sup> guy restates it to first guy’s satisfaction.

          The anti-Castro guy went first. The pro-Castro guy LITERALLY could not get ANY words out of his mouth that were negative about Castro.

          It was a model of how NOT to have a dialog.

          So here’s an idea. I got the impression from your first comment – in which you took everyone else to task for being biased, lost in the LH, having no empathy for the ‘other side’ – maybe you could try a more dialogic approach:

          “Hi folks, I’m Daniel, I’m working on a book on how we can communicate our different views in a respectful way. I’m going to start by modeling this.

          I think ‘x” about this particular issue. I’m now to going to try to describe the opposite position, and make an attempt to say how I see the validity of it from others’ perspectives”

          or something like that.

          I don’t know if you saw my comment about climate change, but that could be a great place to start.

          What do you think?

          (by the way, even if your comment was not to me, would you possibly be willing to acknowledge it may not have been as ideally dialogic as you might have wished? And if you want to start with climate change, I’d love to start there. As far as I can see there is now almost universal agreement on the science, but intense disagreement about the means. I’d love to explore what it would be like to have a calm, empathic, gentle dialog about the means.

          Congrats, by the way – this is an urgently needed practice. Let’s see if we can model it together!

          • Daniel Jones

            November 27, 2023 at 9:27 pm

            Hi Don. I respectfully request that we keep comments here germane to the actual discussion proposed, rather than bringing in fragments of other discussions. Thanks for your cooperation.

            • Don Salmon

              November 27, 2023 at 9:28 pm

              I just set a private message to you. If you don’t see it, feel free to write me at Thanks!

    • Charles Rykken

      December 17, 2023 at 12:58 am

      I have not made this a special area of investigation but a quick and dirty search on Google Scholar returned this reference.

      Taken from “Meta-analyses of the determinants and outcomes of belief in climate change”

      “Recent growth in the number of studies examining belief in climate change is a positive

      development, but presents an ironic challenge in that it can be difficult for academics,

      practitioners and policy makers to keep pace. As a response to this challenge, the current

      paper reports the first meta-analysis of the correlates of belief in climate change. Twenty seven variables were examined by synthesizing 25 polls and 171 academic studies across 56

      nations. Two broad conclusions emerged. First, many intuitively appealing variables (such as

      education, sex, subjective knowledge, and experience of extreme weather events) were

      overshadowed in predictive power by values, ideologies, worldviews and political

      orientation. Second, climate change beliefs have only a small relationship with the extent to

      which people are willing to act in climate-friendly ways. Implications for converting skeptics

      to the climate change cause – and for converting believers’ intentions into action – are



      “The largest demographic correlate of climate change belief is political affiliation.

      People who intend to vote for more liberal political parties are more likely to believe in

      climate change than those who align themselves with relatively conservative political parties.

      The tendency for (conservative) Republicans to express more skepticism than (liberal)

      Democrats has long been identified within the U.S., and has been credited with contributing

      to a growing ideological gulf between skeptics and non-skeptics.5-8 The current data further implicate political alignments in acceptance of climate change; its effect is roughly double the size of any other demographic variable. “

      I wonder how you can say there is no such correlation. Have you bothered at all to even try to validate that assertion? I try not to sound academic but big assertions like that should have as references peer reviewed articles. My article search was less than five minutes. I am sure I could come up with a considerable bibliography on this topic with a few hours effort. I don’t have that kind of time at the moment.

      BTW, I have no idea why the 403 Forbidden appears below. A simple copy/paste led me directly to the article.

  • Sophia Hughes

    November 27, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    For starters this conversation is all left brain and will continue by nature to be divisive. Try with the basics. Play within matter instead.

    • Daniel Jones

      November 27, 2023 at 11:52 pm

      The original post, I believe is what you’re looking for. Focus on that and offer what you have. Don’t let the irrelevant replies distract and divide and I’ll try to do the same.

    • Don Salmon

      November 28, 2023 at 2:38 am

      Sophia, I agree with you. I’d prefer not to engage this way. I was hoping with some simple logic to draw Daniel into a compassionate, open minded interest in exploring multiple perspectives, but I don’t see any possibility of that yet.

      • Daniel Jones

        November 28, 2023 at 4:34 am

        Hey Don. I’m right here. I actually started this discussion, so you can address me directly like an adult. You might try not condescending to everyone you write to. Most people don’t appreciate that and it doesn’t reflect well on your character. Take care.

    • Don Salmon

      November 28, 2023 at 2:39 am

      However, I haven’t given up hope!

      Do you have any concrete suggestions how to open up a more experiential, integrated R/L brain exploration?

  • Sophia Hughes

    November 28, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Serious imaginative play among adults

    Here’s how we can consult empathic right brain wisdom. Enclose a small space on the ground, a tabletop or a tray. Consider that space a world. Sand, as ground in the tray will give you more options when you place within the small space small objects as representatives of the problem you want to address, whether it be politics, human relations family dynamics, migration, war or something else.

    Observe that small world. You can then improve upon it by adjusting the arrangement, having a mostly nonverbal dialogue among the parts. The area is a microcosm and a liminal space for change. The left hemisphere will have learned from the right.

    Much better yet, include up to four friends in the play thereby expanding the scope of the learning. Everyone wins. You will have bypassed the divisiveness of words. You will have effectively listened and responded to the state of things.

    • Daniel Jones

      November 28, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Very interesting concept. Have you tried it or seen it done?

    • Charles Rykken

      December 17, 2023 at 1:21 am

      I have a strong background in science in spite of the fact I am a serious arts and humanities person. I believe that when discussing science you must have access to data. By access I mean not only the actual data but the competence to understand what it says. An example of a lack of understanding is the work done by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on behavioral economics where they demonstrated that only a minority have more than the foggiest comprehension of basic statistics. As you are well aware, as a student of psychology, statistics has become a mainstay of epistemological assertions in almost all areas of science except mathematics. Ironically, statistics I am sure you also know about the fact that psychology has the worst record in the recent replication crisis. When you are discussing qualitative aspects of relationships with no reference to grounding discussions, especially in the case of discussions about a scientific topic like climate change, you are leaving out the most important elephant in the room. There is a very interesting talk at TEDx by the Law professor at Yale, Dan Kahan

      <yt-formatted-string force-default-style=””>Are Smart People Ruining Democracy? | Dan Kahan | TEDxVienna</yt-formatted-string><yt-formatted-string force-default-style=””>

      BTW, I am a poster child for the “science curious” I am a polymath in philosophical journalism. What that means is I am interested in any topic that has relevance to philosophical questions like what is reality, truth, beauty, the good etc. Presently I am in the middle of a full immersion in genetics, evolution and neuroscience.

  • Sophia Hughes

    November 29, 2023 at 4:58 am

    I did a case study of it for my dissertation . The Group Sand Tray: A Case Study 2004. I have done it very intermittently since 1996 or thereabouts. It goes unnoticed since it’s mostly nonverbal. It’s access to what the right brain can tell us about how things are and how to proceed.

    • Charles Rykken

      December 17, 2023 at 1:01 am

      References please!

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