Rather, people care about their groups

Another interesting item from The Righteous Mind. People don’t vote on self-interest all that much – that is, “self-interest is a weak predictor of policy preferences.” [p 85]

Rather, people care about their groups, whether those be racial, regional, religious, or political. [p 86]

Or all those in sequence, which confuses things; or all those in sequence plus others plus all those not so much in sequence as in competition all the time, waxing and waning depending on which is most salient at any particular moment. That’s my gloss, not his, but I think it has to be right, since we’re all part of all the groups he named plus a bunch of others, and they’re not all equally salient at every moment.

But anyway, the basic idea is useful and suggestive. A lot of us have experienced our atheism becoming less salient while our our membership in the gender group “women” has become more so, lately. We’ve experienced this so strongly that many of us express considerable hostility to the atheist “movement” as such.

Why is this? I don’t even need to explain it, do I. It’s because big chunks of the atheist movement have taken to using a fairly large number of women as verbal punching bags, using gender-specific words and sexual disgust as boxing gloves. That makes our gender group a lot more salient while it makes our atheism group seem hostile.

I wonder how that’s going to work out over the long haul. I don’t know, and I wonder.

Only the best people turn up this road

Speaking of righteous and unrighteous, I’m still reading the Jonathan Haidt book. (I read several books at once, so that I’ll be sure to confuse them all.) I’m quite liking Part One, which argues for the primacy of intuition over reasoning. I’ve seen a lot of it before but not all of it, and anyway it’s presented well. It’s convincing.

Like the bit on p 55 about William Wundt and “affective primacy.”

Affect refers to small flashes of positive or negative feeling that prepare us to approach or avoid something. [Read more...]

Reading Jonathan Haidt

I’m reading Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. So far I’m finding it less annoying than other stuff of his I’ve read. I think I’m seeing a flaw, though, but maybe he gets to what I think is missing later on.

Groups are useful, so cohesion is useful. Religions foster cohesion, and are an efficient way to discourage cheaters and free riders. People behave better when they think someone is watching.

Groups can do things that individuals can’t do.

Haidt thinks modern intellectual types – people like him, people like me – overvalue individuals and undervalue groups. [Read more...]