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Can political party predict adultery?
Ever notice how people with conservative sexual attitudes seem to still cheat at the same rate as their more liberal peers? A new study says you're onto something.
As a general rule, the more politically conservative an American is the more restrictive their sexual attitudes will be. This generalization is supported by polling data, showing that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that premarital sex is acceptable, claim to have more partners, and are more likely to admit to having solicited a prostitute.
Likewise, more conservative respondents are less likely to say that they or their spouse have cheated during their marriage.
However, one cannot help but notice that these differences in opinion don’t always correlate to differences in actions. Democratic president Bill Clinton was impeached over an affair, but Representative Tim Murphy and Senator Larry Craig have also been notable for their sexual choices despite being conservative on issues of sexual morality.
Looking to these discrepancies, Kodi Arfer of UCLA and Jason Jones of Stony Brook University sought to find out if the behavior of Americans is in line with their values by taking advantage of the Ashley Madison leak of 2015, which revealed the personal information about the users of the website.
By comparing the information in the leak to voter registration lists in five states, they were able to determine which party has the most cheaters in it. Their study, first published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is full of surprises.
Wait, Ashley Madison? What’s that?
Ashley Madison is a dating website focused on people who are already married or in relationships. Given that the website formerly used the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair” it’s reasonable to assume that the people with accounts on the site were not exactly saints.
The researchers understood that asking people who have very restrictive ideas on sex to tell if they had ever deviated from the norm was unlikely to produce accurate data. To get around this, they turned to the Ashley Madison data since there is little other reason for a person to be on the site other than to find extramarital sex.
Did they use leaked data for scientific research? Isn’t that unethical?
The authors acknowledge that the initial data was released by unethical means but compare not using it to shutting the stable door after the horse has left. Comparing data which is now out in the world to data which is publicly available is hardly unethical, even if the personal information of the people who used Ashely Madison should never have been released.
Now to the good stuff, the party that cheats the most is….
The study found that Libertarians were the most likely to be members of Ashley Madison, with 1 in 300 members being on the site. Democrats were the least likely to be on it, with no more than 1 in 700 members using the site. Greens, non-affiliated voters, and Republicans fell in between these two extremes.
The initial results are detailed in this graph.
This data doesn’t account for gender differences in party membership though. Given that the Libertarian Party in the four states that were covered here is 63% male while the Democratic party is majority female, the data might be just showing that men are more likely to cheat.
To get around this, the researchers did another analysis of the data which accounted for the gender gap. The results were similar, with Libertarians and Republicans being the most likely to be using the website and Democrats still bringing up the rear. The results for the state of New York are shown here:
What does all this mean?
The authors of the study say that their findings support the previously argued stance that “people with more sexually conservative values, although they claim to act accordingly, are more sexually deviant in practice than their more sexually liberal peers.”
These findings become particularly strange when you realize that adultery is the one point of agreement between sexually liberal people and sexually conservative people, in that almost everybody agrees it is unacceptable behavior.
Why might this happen?
The authors of the study can only speculate on why members of parties on the right would commit adultery at a higher rate than those on the left but do give a few ideas. Chief amongst them is the concept that the atmosphere of sexual conservatism, which guts sexual education and reduces overall knowledge of human sexuality, provides an environment where adultery is, ironically, more likely. They argue:
“It would make sense if less sexually knowledgeable people were worse at sexual self-control. More religious people may also have difficulty with sexual self-control if they attempt to rely on supernatural help to restrain their impulses. Perhaps expanding sex education and weakening taboos against the mere discussion of sex are ways by which society could reduce the incidence of adultery.”
It must be noted, however, that conservative Oklahoma had the lowest proportion of voters using the cheating service while liberal California had the highest. This suggests that cultural conservatism might not be the only factor involved.
Similarly, the Libertarian party is not necessarily conservative on sexual issues but is instead insistent that sexual morality is not a proper domain for government intervention. This makes the simple claim that “people who are sexually conservative are more likely to commit adultery” unable to fully explain the data.
Is a person who preaches certain moral values more likely to deviate from those values? The findings of this study suggest that this might be the case, or at least that holding a moral value is no guarantee of exemplifying it. While American politics are unlikely to divorce themselves from sexual morality anytime soon, we can at least look forward to many more moments of schadenfreude for years to come.
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.