On the website of the newspaper in Syracuse, New York, yesterday, a psychotherapist with a degree from Yale Divinity theorized that conservatives are a different breed of human.

Literally.

That the reason some people are conservative is that a biological aspect of their brain predisposes them to be such.

“Conservatives,” proclaimed the Rev. Michael Heath, “are simply a variation of the human species.”

He went on to advise normally configured humans, liberals, to exercise compassion and understanding for those afflicted with conservatism, but warned that there should be no tolerance for their exploiters – the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck – and concluded that freedom of speech was a liberty best kept on a short leash.

In short, the supposed reverend explained differences of philosophy by claiming a difference of biology. Those who disagree with us, he implicitly told his liberal readers, are different from us. It is not a matter of choice, logic and perspective, it is a function of handicap. It is not that conservatives are persuaded to believe differently, it is that they lack the innate ability to see things as liberals see them.

“Conservatives are simply a variation of the human species.”

This is not a new argument.

It is applied to a new group of people, but it is in no way a new argument.

The belief that the human family has inferior branches is as old as bigotry, as common as man’s intolerances for other men. The notion that the “human species” has “variations” gave us slavery and Jim Crow, and the Final Solution.

In human history we've heard people argue that "Blacks are simply a variation of the human species" and "Jews are simply a variation of the human species." We've heard those arguments and, after much tragedy and pain, rejected them. We have learned the danger of seeing others as different or inferior.

The dehumanizing of an out group is a sinister technique shouted by the likes of Hitler and Pol Pot. Hitler excommunicated people from the human family because of their religious heritage, and Pol Pot did the same on the basis of their politics.

“Conservatives are simply a variation of the human species.”

In America’s history of political pluralism and free speech, disagreements of philosophy have typically been seen as differences of perspective and belief – not biology. We have believed that these disagreements are addressed by persuasion, by a resort to logic, by the arena of debate. The freedoms of speech and press, for example, presume that people are persuadable, and that an idea can be advanced by its free expression. Further, they are built upon the belief that the free, vigorous and far-ranging expression of opinion helps the entirety of the society by allowing its best ideas to rise to the top.

The deliberative nature of our national Congress presupposes that the truth well presented is embraced.

The Rev. Michael Heath, a latter-day prophet, would have us see things differently. As opposed to philosophy coming from reason, it comes from DNA and is innate. Sadly, his view claims, some have a developmental disability by virtue of their genes or brain chemistry. The Lincoln-Douglas debates, in this light, were a complete waste of time then, as those belonging to the conservative “variation of the human species” would side with Lincoln and the normal people would side with Douglas. The Federalist Papers, largely conservative in philosophy, would only have been persuasive to those biologically predisposed to conservatism.

Beyond that, the reverend’s assertion of variations in the species has other problems.

For example, what of people who change philosophies in the course of their lives, moving from one party to the other or changing, with their changing circumstance, their political view? Have those people gone through some biological process, or suffered some physical injury?

And what of race and gender ties?

In America, a disproportionate number of conservatives are white people and a disproportionate number of black people are liberal – at least as indicated by party affiliation. Does the reverend believe that the biological tendency to conservatism or liberalism is racially linked?

If not, then why the seeming racial correlation?

And if so, how does he explain the fact that in Europe most white people are liberal and in Africa most black people are conservative? Did crossing the Atlantic in centuries past scramble the biology of people?

“Conservatives are simply a variation of the human species.”

It also seems that the reverend’s Yale Divinity education may not have included much perusing of the scriptures. The second great commandment, as Jesus called it, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

That is because your neighbor is “as yourself.” We are of one flesh and form, made in God’s image, a family tree without deformed branches.

There is no division in the human family, the species does not have variations, people are people.

And they each have brains and backgrounds.

And those brains and backgrounds take them to different places.

What is frustrating to the good reverend is that other people’s brains and backgrounds don’t always take them where he wants them to go.

And instead of seeking to persuade them through logic and reason or an appeal to morality, he demonizes them and marginalizes them by declaring them subhuman.

In the past, such an approach has drawn forth a hearty, “Sieg heil!” or been followed by the burning of a cross.

But such philosophical totalitarianism is not new to men of the cloth. Giordano Bruno encountered it in the form of Clement VIII.

The reverend is wrong. There are no variations of the human species.

There’s only you and me, and we just disagree.