Life in the Box: Brains and Curiosity and Moyers


Are you a fan of Bill Moyers, the outstanding television journalist whose work has spanned decades on public TV? His documentaries, interviews, and weekly series have taken us around the world and through the mind with topics as far-ranging as politics and alternative healing, creativity and religion, tragedies and triumphs.

I was sad when he retired in 2015, but glad to stay in the Moyers loop with emails that keep me posted on current thought. As in the Huffington Post, some articles are pulled from major news sites.

moyers-with-guest1-smMoyers’s rich body of work has been part of American culture for decades. I admire him so much, not just journalist to journalist, but as a human being. His interviews show him to be a deep, smart, well-informed and caring person. He seems to cherish the search for truth—in its many forms.

I got to speak with him once. I was last in line for an autograph session that followed a speech he gave in Des Moines. At that time, I was an exhausted television producer who had been trying to cut back on stress and excessive work hours. I had heard Bill say he was attempting the same, following a heart attack. So, I asked him if he really had been able to cut back. He took a deep breath, considered the question, and shook his head regretfully. I felt good to know I wasn’t the only one, and at the same time felt a human connection to this man. 

bill-w-guest2-smThe fact that he’s liberal is not as important as the fact that he’s open-minded. Curious. He’s never been curious just about other liberals, either. He has such a sense of fairness that his interviews always include probing questions about the plausibility of any claims—be they politically charged or not.

Probing questions. Yes! One of his television series was called “A World of Ideas” and that still fits Bill to a “t.” He’s so curious about everything that he just can’t rest. Yeah. 

brain-color-fleurs-smOkay, now here’s some news. There are some amazing new brain research studies that explain some differences between liberals and conservatives—in their involuntary brain reactions!! Conservatives viewing the same visuals as liberals will react more quickly to “threats” and have stronger “concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity.” (See the link to Chris Mooney’s 2014 Mother Jones article, below.)

Wow! That explains so much!

Mooney’s article concludes that “we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble.”

Is it just DNA? Hard to say. I share DNA with conservatives, libertarians, and don’t-care-a-bit-ians. However, knowing that we fear differently and are comforted differently makes so much sense.

I’m still pondering this. Meanwhile, I poked around a bit, looking for a conservative journalist to compare with Bill Moyers. There are none. Is it possible that you can’t be open-minded and conservative at the same time? You tell me.  Meanwhile, take a look at some of the links below. ‘Ta!

nancy heather brown author

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process—both inside and outside the box.

Commune with Bill Moyers and his decades of curiosity on his up-to-the-moment web site.

Bill Moyers interview with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.

Chris Mooney’s 2014 Mother Jones Article summing up biological differences between liberals and conservatives.

Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. 

ABC news article on fMRI differences in what areas of the brain are most used.

Long article summarizing lots of studies, including Pew trust, and a chart between very liberal to very conservative

Us Vs Them (Conservatives are good, Liberals are bad)

Us Vs Them (Liberals are good, Conservatives are bad)

Top 25 Journalists Conservative and Libertarian
Rush Limbaugh is #3 on this list— but he’s not a journalist!