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May 17 2012

The unbearable squishiness of Jonathan Haidt

I’ve been reading Jonathan Haidt’s work over the years with an attitude that follows an unfortunate trajectory, downwards. At first, it was with interest — his ideas about moral intuition being defined by a kind of emotional response first with the intellectual response forming a veneer of rationalizations after the fact seems valid. But then he went off on this “moral foundations” stuff, where he identified different axes of motivations, like care vs. harm, and then the axes started proliferating, and pretty quickly it all became a lumpy mush without much utility. He’s succumbed to Labeling Disease, something that hits some psychologists hard, in which they observe that which they measure, stick a name on it, and try hard to reify it into existence, even if it has no correspondence to any substrate in the brain at all. Id, ego, superego, anyone?

Then he won a Templeton Prize, shredding most of his credibility. Lately he’s been wandering around in a fog of sincere open-mindedness, letting his brain sublimate into a kind of misty moral ambiguity that looks more like blithe nihilism than anything else.

And now he’s done an interview on Freakanomics, where glibness rules, and manages to be so vapid I’m completely turned off to the new book he’s flogging. He did manage to solidify my opinion of him, though…just not in a good way.

He’s got to earn that Templeton, first of all.

People who share sacred objects and then circle around them can then trust each other and function more effectively, particularly in intergroup competition. I believe this is in fact why we evolved to be religious. But the sacred thing at the center does not have to be a god. It can be a flag, a book, an ideal, or a social institution such as marriage or science. The New Atheists are mostly men of science, or men who claim to speak for science. But when you make science sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are stupid, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone. You’ve got science on your side, after all. (I argue in my book that the New Atheists get the science mostly wrong.) The religion/atheism debate is therefore particularly prone to straw men and smug declarations.

There is so much wrong with that paragraph — it’s like an artful collage of the dumbest statements made about atheism in the last decade. Let’s take them apart piece by piece.

First, define “sacred”. He’s using it as a synonym for any ideal, including secular ones: I’d say, for instance, that the American constitution has been an important rallying point for my country for a few centuries. It’s a good idea and expresses lofty sentiments well while also detailing the pragmatic work of operational government. It’s a good focus for effective functioning in other words; but I would say that at exactly the point where it starts getting treated as “sacred”, it’s utility becomes compromised and it becomes less effective as a tool for advancing the causes of the governed. I would also say that this is a strength of science, as well: it isn’t sacred at all! It’s a flexible process that works and emphasizes results, not the ritual of going through the motions (although some aspect of the formalisms of grant writing are verging on arcane theology, I think).

But that makes his statement about the New Atheists even more nonsensical. Not one of us, Dawkins or Stenger or Harris or Cornwell or any other individual with a career in science, claims to “speak for science”. How would you even go about doing that? Are we oracles now? All we can say is that we have some well-honed expectations of what is involved in making and supporting a scientific claim, and religion doesn’t meet the standard, ever. Is Haidt willing to step forward and claim that Christianity, for instance, is a reasonable and scientific perspective on how the world arose and how people interact with one another? I think not, unless he’s angling for another Templeton.

It’s true that I think some of my opponents are stupid, but not all; I think religion has recruited many of the great minds of history and harnessed many of them in futile endeavors to justify at great length the emotional and moral intuitions of deeply superstitious and wrong people. But I dare him to read anything by Ray Comfort or Sye Ten Bruggencate or random contributors to the letters page of small town American newspapers and not realize that you are dealing with people operating well above their competencies.

I love the comment that “the New Atheists get the science mostly wrong.” Oh, really? Which science, the stuff that says there is no evidence for a god’s existence on even the most general level, let alone in the detailed mythos of each cult? Be specific. But if you’re going to tell me I have to read the book to get any glimmerings of where New Atheism is going wrong on the science, forget it — I lost interest about 4 paragraphs ago.

Speaking of smugness, he discloses that he was a political liberal, but has become a centrist.

I have the personality traits, occupation, social network and lifestyle of a liberal. It was over-determined that I would be a liberal. But in 2005 I changed my research direction. I had previously studied how morality varied across nations. After a second Democratic challenger lost to George W. Bush, in part because they failed to make compelling moral arguments, I began to study left and right in the USA as though they were different cultures. Which they are. I tried to apply a cultural psychology framework to the research, meaning that I tried to understand each side from inside. I tried to get a feel for what each side held sacred, and for what values and virtues they were trying to implement in their political and economic programs. At first I disliked watching Fox News and reading National Review. But within a year, I began to see that the conservative vision of morality, history, and economics was just as coherent as the alternative liberal vision.

Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered. Some of them struck me as quite good, e.g., the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order; the principle of federalism (which failed spectacularly on civil rights, but is valuable in most other cases); and the glorification of earned success while being critical of efforts to achieve equality of outcomes without attention to merit. I now hold the view that left and right are like Yin and Yang. As John Stuart Mill put it in 1859: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

OH WAIT: META ISSUE. Haidt is the guy who’s claim to fame is his investment in the emotionality of moral decisions…yet here he is, claiming to have shifted his entire stance by studying both sides of the political aisle. Where his research consisted of forcing himself to watch Fox News. Does anyone else see a problem with this? And doesn’t the fact that research can lead one to change that much mean his research has just been shot in the kneecaps?

I would also suggest that the conservative vision might be internally consistent (I’m one of those New Atheists who doesn’t exist, who agrees that there are intelligent people working in religion and politics for odious and irrational ends), but it also has to cohere with reality. Case in point: The Texas Board of Education. There’s a perfect example of conservatives struggling to make their beliefs consistent with the truth by lying and concealing the facts.

Then, when it’s time to get specific about what conservatives offer that liberals don’t, he fails spectacularly. Does he really think that liberals reject institutions and traditions? That broadly defined federalism is something liberals uniformly oppose? Or that they ignore merit in trying to achieve equality? He’s been watching way too much Fox News.

And I really detest the false equivalence of treating right and left as yin and yang — it only works in the sense that you could call thoughtful charity and murderous psychopathy yin and yang, too. There’s also a difference between a conscientious, cautious conservatism and the raving lunacy of the contemporary Republican version of conservatism: only a deluded moron or a particularly smug and oblivious upper middle class dilettante could possibly be moving to the right in the American political climate.

There’s the general issue that not all moral beliefs should be regarded as morally equivalent — there are a great many sincerely held beliefs built on error that lead to horrendous consequences — everything from belief in faith healing to decisions about environmental policy based on biblical precepts. Richard Dawkins wrote about this issue in The God Delusion:

Humphrey suggests that, as long as children are young, vulnerable and in need of protection, truly moral guardianship shows itself in an honest attempt to second-guess what they would choose for themselves if they were old enough to do so. He movingly quotes the example of a young Inca girl whose 500-year-old remains were found frozen in the mountains of Peru in 1995. The anthropologist who discovered her wrote that she had been the victim of a ritual sacrifice. By Humphrey’s account, a documentary film about this young ‘ice maiden’ was shown on American television. Viewers were invited

to marvel at the spiritual commitment of the Inca priests and to share with the girl on her last journey her pride and excitement at having been selected for the signal honour of being sacrificed. The message of the television programme was in effect that the practice of human sacrifice was in its own way a glorious cultural invention – another jewel in the crown of multiculturalism, if you like.

Humphrey is scandalized, and so am I.

Yet, how dare anyone even suggest this? How dare they invite us – in our sitting rooms, watching television – to feel uplifted by contemplating an act of ritual murder: the murder of a dependent child by a group of stupid, puffed up, superstitious, ignorant old men? How dare they invite us to find good for ourselves in contemplating an immoral action against someone else?

Again, the decent liberal reader may feel a twinge of unease. Immoral by our standards, certainly, and stupid, but what about Inca standards? Surely, to the Incas, the sacrifice was a moral act and far from stupid, sanctioned by all that they held sacred? The little girl was, no doubt, a loyal believer in the religion in which she was brought up. Who are we to use a word like ‘murder’, judging Inca priests by our own standards rather than theirs? Perhaps this girl was rapturously happy with her fate: perhaps she really believed she was going straight to everlasting paradise, warmed by the radiant company of the Sun God. Or perhaps – as seems far more likely – she screamed in terror.

Amazingly (to people like Haidt who may not have even read what he criticizes), Dawkins discusses this by pointing out that it’s a complex issue, that those Incan priests were not stupid or evil, but that they were operating under false assumptions. But ultimately, our moral foundations must be compatible with reality — and basing them on a deep belief that the Sun God must be propitiated is not reality.

And finally, Haidt moans about how there aren’t enough conservatives in academia.

My field – social psychology – is similar to most of the other social sciences, and to the humanities, in having hardly any conservatives within its ranks. Since I believe that left and right are like yin and yang, and that “morality binds and blinds,” this is a bad state of affairs. Science as an institution works well NOT because each scientist is an open-minded genius, immune to the confirmation bias. We’re normal people, and we each try to confirm our own theories. But the institution works well because there are so many others out there who have no vested interest in confirming our theories, and who are looking hard for disconfirming evidence. But when we study any issue related to the sacred values of the left – particularly issues related to race, prejudice, gender, or the psychology of conservatives – this dynamic of disconfirmation breaks down. Most people want to believe certain things (e.g., that stereotypes are caused by cognitive errors, rather than by observable differences among groups). There are no conservatives out there who can say that (in rare cases) the emperor has no clothes. Politically correct errors are tolerated; offensive truths are shunned.

Of course if he believes there’s no real difference between left and right, it’s a problem that the right is poorly represented in academia.

But what if there is a real difference, a difference of substance, in how left and right approach the evidence and how they respect the methods of science? I think the field of social psychology is suffering because they haven’t hired enough serial killers for their tenure line positions. They’d certainly do a good job of making psychologists question their assumptions about the importance of health, happiness, and security in human welfare, and also, someone would be around who could finally intimidate those prissy-pants on the Human Subjects Review Board. Should we complain about the deficiency, or should we recognize that some behaviors are antithetical to the cooperative and responsible pursuit of knowledge?

The problem isn’t that academia excludes conservatives. It’s that it is a rare conservative who doesn’t prioritize the moral foundations (to use Haidt’s own terms) of respect for authority and loyalty to the ingroup above breaking through conventions and assumptions to test the truth. Also, it’s the rare conservative who will accept a job with high admission requirements that also pays a pittance.

So I’m really unimpressed with Haidt. I wish him well, though, and hope he lands that cushy job as a commentator on Fox News and the National Review (I hear there’s an opening at the latter, now that Derbyshire has left.)


(Also, Sam Harris has a good response to Haidt.)

141 comments

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  1. 1
    Desert Son, OM

    Thanks for this post. You’ve summed up what I’ve been thus far unable to articulate to myself about problems I have with Haidt’s work. I didn’t know he’d won a Templeton, either, so that’s also helpful to learn.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  2. 2
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    I have a diagnostic rule that if someone who *isn’t* identified as an atheist activist starts talking about New Atheists, they are very very very very likely to be spouting bullshit. So far, it’s quite a robust test, with no false negatives that I can recall. It’s pretty disappointing to find that writers that one has enjoyed (including de Botton and Haidt) are, at least sometimes, vapid idiots with romantic, almost Kinkaid-esque images of religon and a complete inability to grasp how many people are harmed thereby.

  3. 3
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    Of Haidt’s work, I’ve only read The Happiness Hypothesis. I’m a psychologist, and since what he’s basically doing is comparing various philosophical and religious ideas about what leads to happiness with contemporary research findings. Some ideas pan out and are useful, some don’t, and his summary of the research is reasonably good. I don’t recall any yammering on about New Atheists in that book, though, so that might account for why it’s reasonably good.

  4. 4
    mythbri

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Consistency is not something that is praise-worthy if someone consistently puts themselves in the awkward position of having to justify and/or validate things that are untrue or harmful, or both.

    Opposing views can very rarely be given equal moral weight. To believe that progressivism and conservatism balance each other out and are therefore to be equally valued (especially in the U.S.) is to ignore the harm and inequality that affects our society as a whole.

    “Offensive truths” – what does Haidt mean by that? Does he mean empirically-based facts, or the wrong and ill-conceived conclusions that can be drawn from them? It’s an empirically-based fact that women and minorities do not have proportionate representation in the Senate or House of Representatives. One could conclude that either this is due to historical disenfranchisement, or due to inherent inability of these groups. That doesn’t give these two conclusions equal merit, and while the latter is certainly offensive, it isn’t a truth.

  5. 5
    DaveL

    Some of them struck me as quite good, e.g., the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order;

    Haidt should never be permitted to speak of the “moral order” created by conservatives’ valuation of tradition, purity, and fealty without being reminded that this “moral order” includes the Holocaust, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Slavery, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, etc.

    the principle of federalism (which failed spectacularly on civil rights, but is valuable in most other cases);

    Except conservatives show no interest limiting the power of a central government that they control. Federalism is not really a conservative principle – as Altemeyer found, RWAs really don’t have principles – it’s an expedient that they turn on and off as necessary to maximize their own power.

    and the glorification of earned success while being critical of efforts to achieve equality of outcomes without attention to merit.

    Again, paying attention to what conservatives do vs. what they say reveal they have no interest in meritocracy or personal responsibility. When they talk about these things they’re really talking about preserving and hiding privilege.

  6. 6
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Glad to see you taking on Haidt.

    I have the personality traits… of a liberal.

    “Liberal” as defined outside the U.S., IMO.

    Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered.

    I’m sure that being white, male, and affluent helped him lose that “repulsion and anger” right quick. (I can’t speak to his sexual orientation or identity.)

    There’s also a difference between a conscientious, cautious conservatism and the raving lunacy of the contemporary Republican version of conservatism…

    If the first is “conservatism” in the political sense, the only real difference is in manner. Old-school conservatives as we think of them, like the late William F. Buckley, hid the same rotten ideas under a layer of erudition.

    Haidt moans about how there aren’t enough conservatives in academia.

    Here’s a quarter, Jon. Call Naomi Schaefer Riley and the two of you can cry into your coffees together.

  7. 7
    carlie

    The New Atheists are mostly men of science, or men who claim to speak for science.

    The women of New Atheism apparently don’t exist in his world.

  8. 8
    Ingdigo Jump

    and the glorification of earned success while being critical of efforts to achieve equality of outcomes without attention to merit.

    Blaming the victim got it.

    Seriously, this guy is a pure asshole.

  9. 9
    Ingdigo Jump

    Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered.

    OH hey, a conversion story! I was lost and wicked, but once I gave up all my anger I was able to find the light!

    There’s also a difference between a conscientious, cautious conservatism and the raving lunacy of the contemporary Republican version of conservatism…

    If he actually gave a shit about his ethics and the study of morality he should be very very interested in WHY one co-opted the other.

    Haidt moans about how there aren’t enough conservatives in academia.

    Haidt demonstrates why there should be a lot less that if, we were a true meritocracy. What was that he said about the value of “unearned merit to generate equality” or some bullshit? Again he just demonstrated that the conservative “consistency” is basically elitism and hypocrisy.

  10. 10
    Ingdigo Jump

    . I now hold the view that left and right are like Yin and Yang. As John Stuart Mill put it in 1859: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

    Hey a Golden Mean fallacy AND an appeal to authority!

    Please mr man…tell us women and gays and darkies how we NEED a “party of stability”

  11. 11
    Sastra

    But when you make science sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are stupid, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone.

    Here’s a strange contradiction: the people who worry the most about “adopting an arrogant and dismissive tone” when you tell religious people they are wrong seem to be the same people who think it’s not a good idea to tell religious people they are wrong. We should understand, not condemn. Religion is comforting, therapeutic, useful, uplifting, communal, etc. Most folks would be lost without it; leave the Little People alone. Atheism, even if true, is not for everybody.

    Which sounds very arrogant and dismissive to me — of both sides. Another strange contradiction.

  12. 12
    Ingdigo Jump

    Sorry for hogging but this guy just pissed me the right off (maybe because I just lost my fucking job due to the “party of stability”

    the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order

    Translation: the institutions that keep the little people in their place. This guy is a right asshole who has decided “hey I’m comfortable, therefore the conservative narrative is appealing to me!” His line about how both histories are equal narratives is pure bullshit.

  13. 13
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Sastra

    Conservative values are all about ORDER, keeping people in their proper place. Those with wealth deserve their success, and everyone else needs institutions in order to cope.

    What’s sad is that they are right, those orders of institutions are needed to keep people satisfied or at least not screamingly rabid about how they are shit upon by the status quo. Again this asshole pisses me off because he has the privilege, and is saying that we ALL need a party that keeps things the way they are.

  14. 14
    Louis

    Carlie, #7,

    Hush now. Men talking. Sammiches, STAT.

    Louis

    P.S. And on that note I’m running away for fear of being detesticulated with extreme and justified prejudice.

  15. 15
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Please mr man…tell us women and gays and darkies how we NEED a “party of stability”

    Given the fallibility of humans and the issues – cognitive biases, personal ego, tunnel vision, etc. – that can afflict people’s approach to undertakings, it’s useful, when you’re trying to make the world a better place, to have some people around who are inclined to ask questions like “how exactly?” or “how will this be paid for?” or “is there maybe a better way?” – but who are actually willing to have their concerns satisfied, and get on board once they are.

    It’s difficult to imagine a greater failure in this regard than the American right…in pretty much every period of history.

  16. 16
    Anthony K

    Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered.

    I was raised by conservatives. I’m unimpressed by people that are astounded to find that they’ve been living in a bubble and assume everyone else was, too. I’m a liberal despite overwhelming exposure to conservatism, if not because of it.

    But I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone who studied morality would come to the conclusion that the loftiest of all perches is atop the fence.

  17. 17
    mythbri

    @Azkyroth #15

    Exactly – a mixture of practicality and idealism are good for any kind of large undertaking, and improving society as we know it is a large undertaking. As you said, there’s a huge difference between constructive criticism and general destruction, or between collaboration and obstructionism.

  18. 18
    Ingdigo Jump

    Given the fallibility of humans and the issues – cognitive biases, personal ego, tunnel vision, etc. – that can afflict people’s approach to undertakings, it’s useful, when you’re trying to make the world a better place, to have some people around who are inclined to ask questions like “how exactly?” or “how will this be paid for?” or “is there maybe a better way?” – but who are actually willing to have their concerns satisfied, and get on board once they are.

    I fail to see how this is at all related to conservatism and not just “not being a wide eyed naive zealot”. Again given what we know of the fallibility of humans, anyone who does care about the issues would want to make sure they’re actually helping. We see that in activism groups, we see people do that naturally too (and we see Conservatives FAIL to do that).

    The idea that we need a political party to question whether we should be treated as fucking people for the greater good is beyond hateful and moronic.

  19. 19
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Prior to his publishing this book, I predicted:

    Haidt has a lot of interesting research, which has recently added up to his declaring himself a centrist and no longer a liberal. Of course we have to wait for his next book to hear his explanation. I suspect [...] slowly coming to terms with evidence that some people were more likely from birth to end up as conservatives, Haidt’s own empathy has made him feel ever so sorry for them and can’t we all see that these poor conservatives really mean it.

    I wonder what happens when he realizes that some people were somewhat more predisposed to become fascists.

    I still haven’t read the book yet so I don’t know if I got it right, but I’m sticking with my prediction; haven’t seen anything to contradict it yet.

    That said, his actual research is just fine. He (as part of Ravi Iyer’s research team) was able to give us quite a useful understanding of libertarians:

    Libertarians tend to be male. And they score lowest of any group on measures of empathy.

    “They are therefore likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

    “…libertarians look somewhat like liberals, but assign lower importance to values related to the welfare or suffering of others.”

    “…libertarian independence from others is associated with weaker loving feelings toward friends, family, romantic partners, and generic others… Libertarians were the outliers.”

    “Self-Direction was the most strongly endorsed value for all three groups, but for libertarians the difference was quite large. If libertarians have indeed elevated self-direction as their foremost guiding principle, then it makes sense that they see the needs and claims of others, whether based on liberal or conservative principles, as a threat to their primary value.”

    Full text free at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1665934

    Seems to be a common problem with many scientists — the research itself is fine — his interpretation of that research, maybe not so reliable, especially when he gets to write a book all by himself with no peer review or even coauthors to argue through it.

  20. 20
    Ingdigo Jump

    Seems to be a common problem with many scientists — the research itself is fine — his interpretation of that research, maybe not so reliable, especially when he gets to write a book all by himself with no peer review or even coauthors to argue through it.

    Perhaps he should have had a partner to act as an agent of stability?

  21. 21
    SallyStrange

    Thanks for this. My mom recently gave me a copy of Haidt’s “Righteous Mind” in an effort to convince me to be less confrontational or disdainful of religious claims (it was after I repeatedly reminded her that people who believe that god exists are simply WRONG, full stop).

    It’s not working.

  22. 22
    Ingdigo Jump

    Also, again I have to wonder why this is a one way street? Has he said anything about conservatives being more understanding to liberals? Or is that his new “centrist” view makes him feel obligated to share the good news to those nasty nasty intolerant liberals?

  23. 23
    Eamon Knight

    I mostly liked The Happiness Hypothesis, but I think Haidt’s gone downhill since (and in a direction pointed to by the flaws in that book, ie. let’s just appreciate everyone’s viewpoint because it comes from their basic psychology, even if it requires overcompensating for our natural pro-self bias). I’m reading the last chapter of Pinker’s Better Angels, in which he discusses the underlying psychology of the decline in violence. He frames his exposition in terms of Haidt’s Moral Foundations (the original five), though even more in terms of [mumble's -- sorry I'm not near the book at the moment] Relational Models (the two taxonomies roughly inter-map). Pinker argues that human violence has declined precisely as we have moved away from an emphasis on (using Haidt’s terms) Purity, Authority and Loyalty towards Care/Harm and Fairness — IOW, as we have become more psychologically “liberal”. Even modern conservatives are where liberals used to be — it’s getting harder to justify eg. outlawing certain sexual behaviours on the grounds of “yuck” or blind obedience. So to hell with Haidt’s false equivalence — we are better off by ignoring some bits of social-psychological baggage that worked for small foraging bands, just as we need to train ourselves into restraining our natural taste for sweets and fats that developed in the days when dinner was A) uncertain and B) often had to be chased down.

    And if academe skews liberal, well, maybe it’s because of Colbert’s Rule: reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  24. 24
    mythbri

    @ Ing #22

    It’s true. Pointing out intolerance is the new intolerance. Pointing out sexism is the new sexism. Pointing out racism is the new racism. And pointing out classism is the new class warfare.

  25. 25
    Ingdigo Jump

    And of course the irony is that since the liberal values, if I’m reading some of these excerpts and links right, promote fairness and tolerance; he’s focusing on promoting tolerance to and of the group that doesn’t need it as much!

  26. 26
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    As to what Azkyroth and Ing disagreed over: The trouble is that in a normal universe a balance of (literal) liberalism and conservatism would be a good approach to policy positions. It’s just that conservatism has come to be defined as the most extreme, vicious, power-grabbing narcissism imaginable. Those who call themselves conservatives in the US bear no resemblance at all to the concepts of pragmatism or a reasonable cautionary check on exuberance.

    As in all things, we’re so fucking stupid and parochial (not to mention having a stunningly short historical memory) we don’t realize that what we accept as “conservative” would be called stark raving mad fringe radicalism by the standards of mainstream conservatism in the 1950s.

    It’s simply not possible to have a fruitful exchange between the exuberant and the cautious. The latter don’t even exist in our politic, and the former, mainstream liberals, aren’t liberal at all.

  27. 27
    nooneinparticular

    “…exactly the point where (anything) starts getting treated as “sacred”, it’s utility becomes compromised”

    THIS.

    ANYway

    So it’s a Book To Avoid. Good thing because the pile is far to large as it is.

  28. 28
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Josh and Azkyroth

    Well fuck if we go by those definitions I’m conservative. Joy.

  29. 29
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Also, again I have to wonder why this is a one way street? Has he said anything about conservatives being more understanding to liberals? Or is that his new “centrist” view makes him feel obligated to share the good news to those nasty nasty intolerant liberals?

    I think it’s a few things.

    Liberal guilt, while frequently over-rated, is not a wholly nonexistent phenomenon. I suspect he has said some unkind things in the past about conservatives, feels bad about it, and now wishes to repent.

    He probably also figures he’ll have more of a chance to get liberals to listen to him since he has experience being a liberal. (Cf when John Dean turned against conservativism but continued writing to conservatives.)

    And at some level he probably figures he’ll have more of a chance with liberals because they are inherently more open to challenging ideas; it’s always tempting to try to calm the more reasonable person in a dispute, because they’re more likely to listen to you, even if the less reasonable person is the one doing more harm and would seem more obviously the one who “deserves” to be scolded.

  30. 30
    Ingdigo Jump

    @SGBM

    Like I said, this is why it’s offensive and just stupid. What he’s recommending is that one side be understanding when the other is seemingly dead set against the idea of co-operation. I’m really rather fucking fed up with this “liberalism is something to be ashamed of” meme that liberals fucking promote

  31. 31
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Ing, I’m just trying to point out how warped our definitions have become and how badly it skews efforts of people of genuine good will. Shorter: it’s way past time to stop calling deranged evil “conservative” and acting like it’s acceptable public behavior.

  32. 32
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Like I said, this is why it’s offensive and just stupid. What he’s recommending is that one side be understanding when the other is seemingly dead set against the idea of co-operation.

    Yeah, I agree. I think it would be more sensible to try to “hack” conservatives’ psychology to make them grok liberal/leftist policy as something appealing.

    It’s helpful to understand conservatives’ psychology, for sure, but it’s not helpful to simply feel empathy for them and let it go at that.

    I’m really rather fucking fed up with this “liberalism is something to be ashamed of” meme that liberals fucking promote

    Didn’t used to be that way, IIRC. So I think it’s internalized oppression; listening to so many people say liberals are just terrible, some of them come to believe it at some level.

  33. 33
    Ingdigo Jump

    It’s helpful to understand conservatives’ psychology, for sure, but it’s not helpful to simply feel empathy for them and let it go at that.

    I do feel empathy for them, I do not however SYMPATHIZE with their goals or motivations. I’ve personally had to learn to turn off empathy or dull it when it’s important not to go out of my way to please someone who is trying to hurt me, so I can ‘empathize’ with him to a point. The fact that he is ignoring the political reality and buying so much into the fox news one is inexcusable though. He is, in his goal to be “fair” accommodating the most powerful and intolerance and basically steam rolling the other side.

    Sorry I know you’re not on his side or anything, I’m just annoyed by this batshittery.

    On a more dismissive and obnoxious note, anyone else suspect this could be like that one researcher who came to believe the UFO delusions of his subjects? IIRC he became convinced of them even after his subjects dismissed them; could there be a clinical “going native” effect happening to some researchers who study behavior?

  34. 34
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Sorry I know you’re not on his side or anything, I’m just annoyed by this batshittery.

    Oh yeah, me too. The guy’s not stupid or anything, so it’s a shame he didn’t remain on our side. I think he should look again at the prevalence of SDO and RWA orientation among conservatives, and think twice or three times about just what effect his apologetics are likely to have.

    “I find it all very unfortunate,” as usual. :\

  35. 35
    David Marjanović
    As John Stuart Mill put it in 1859: “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

    That may be so*, but it’s not what the US has. It has a party of near-stability and a party of regress.

    * Well, or not, see comment 10, 12 and 13.

    And I really detest the false equivalence of treating right and left as yin and yang — it only works in the sense that you could call thoughtful charity and murderous psychopathy yin and yang, too.

    I… I switched my vocal cords on.

    In short: LOL in meatspace.

    and the National Review (I hear there’s an opening at the latter, now that Derbyshire has left.)

    You’re twisting the knife!

    without being reminded that this “moral order” includes the Holocaust, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Slavery, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, etc.

    By a non-US definition, the Nazis and the KKK are not conservative. The rest, though…

    Seems to be a common problem with many scientists — the research itself is fine — his interpretation of that research, maybe not so reliable, especially when he gets to write a book all by himself with no peer review or even coauthors to argue through it.

    Perhaps he should have had a partner to act as an agent of stability?

    I’m out of words. :-)

  36. 36
    Ingdigo Jump

    I know RWA but SDO?

    And again like I said, he’s ignoring his own advice (or Azy’s rather) about making sure what you’re doing is going to actually help rather than just being a crusade because “I need to do something 111eleventy111!”

  37. 37
  38. 38
    DaveL

    By a non-US definition, the Nazis and the KKK are not conservative. The rest, though…

    I agree. However, I would contend they occupy the same real estate on Haidt’s “moral foundations” taxonomy, especially with respect to purity and group loyalty.

  39. 39
    andrewryan

    Friend of the site Chris Mooney recently interviewed Haidt on Point of Enquiry. Some of the discussion was interesting but I was surprised that Haidt’s references to the race differences in IQ tests and ‘The Bell Curve’ went completely unchallenged, either by Mooney or by commentors on the CFI site afterwards.

  40. 40
    Eamon Knight

    @38: However, I would contend [the Nazis] occupy the same real estate on Haidt’s “moral foundations” taxonomy, especially with respect to purity and group loyalty.

    …a point made explicitly by Pinker. So you’re in good company ;-).

  41. 41
    Ingdigo Jump

    but the bellcurve is needed to provide a ying to the yang of being a decent person

  42. 42
    mythbri

    @andrewryan #39

    Whoa, really? He references The Bell Curve and no one called him on it? This must be one of those “offensive truths” he mentioned. I would refer him to Stephen Jay Gould’s Mismeasure of Man, but that’s not going to change the mind of someone calling for tolerance of intolerance.

    Now I’m thinking that Haidt is an asshat.

  43. 43
    Eric O

    I also liked Haidt when he first started writing about moral intuition. To this day, I still refer to his early stuff when I’m discussing morality (coincidentally, I happened to mention him in a discussion yesterday). However, whereas I used to be a bit more enthusiastic when referring to his work, I now feel the need to make it clear that I don’t agree with a lot of what he says.

  44. 44
    footface

    This is the part that killed me:

    Most people want to believe certain things (e.g., that stereotypes are caused by cognitive errors, rather than by observable differences among groups).

    Stereotypes are cognitive errors. There might in fact be observable differences of all kinds among all kinds of groups, but that doesn’t mean that those differences are essential or inherent. Let’s say people from Bulgaria are more likely to collect stamps than people from other countries are. It’s still not sound for me to say, “Look at that Bulgarian guy. He’s probably going to buy stamps right now, because you know what those people are like.”

    A stereotype says a lot more than, “Here’s something that is—or is perceived to be—more common among a particular group.” It says, “As soon as we know what group you belong to, we know everything we need to know about you. You’re not an individual, you’re just one of them.”

  45. 45
    consciousness razor

    Also, again I have to wonder why this is a one way street? Has he said anything about conservatives being more understanding to liberals? Or is that his new “centrist” view makes him feel obligated to share the good news to those nasty nasty intolerant liberals?

    And at some level he probably figures he’ll have more of a chance with liberals because they are inherently more open to challenging ideas; it’s always tempting to try to calm the more reasonable person in a dispute, because they’re more likely to listen to you, even if the less reasonable person is the one doing more harm and would seem more obviously the one who “deserves” to be scolded.

    Yeah. It’s like a two-way street, but he knows it’s easier to go to the liberals to do his preaching. There’s more traffic in that direction, but the lanes are wide and the tolls are cheaper. Despite all that, he’s the sort of asshole who doesn’t mind mowing down a few bicyclists in the opposite lane on his way there.

    /weird analogy

  46. 46
    Margaret

    But when you make science sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are stupid, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone. You’ve got science on your side, after all.

    But when you make your bigotry and privilege sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are evil, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone. You’ve got GOD on your side, after all.

    FIFhim.

  47. 47
    Ingdigo Jump

    Most people want to believe certain things (e.g., that stereotypes are caused by cognitive errors, rather than by observable differences among groups).

    Or that their privilege is due to merit rather than dumb luck or stupid racism.

    Christ, what an asshole.

    When he’s done shedding his many manly tears for poor Rush Limbaugh maybe he can spare some of that compassion for, oh ANY FUCKING MINORITY

  48. 48
    Ingdigo Jump

    Oh also Azy and SGBM, I might point out that his conversion (or rather his being born again) wasn’t from the conservatism of academia or you know, not being an idiot, but from Fox fucking news. He’s conflating the two and using the legitimacy of one to excuse the other. What an asshole.

  49. 49
    Jeffrey G Johnson

    PZ Myers, you are ruthless and merciless, but in a deliciously satisfying way!

    I also found Haidt interesting, and his moral basis for liberals and conservatives seems to have some explanatory value. But after I saw him interviewed on Bill Moyers I felt very let down by his squishiness. This is a very satisfying take down of his wooish words on the sacred.

    I think your point about the Constitution is so on the money. To the tea party the Constitution has become sacred. They don’t understand it any better than they understand the Bible (not very well in both cases). As soon as something becomes sacred, the brain shuts down, understanding exits, and emotional tribalism takes over.

  50. 50
    Reginald Selkirk

    From the context, you seem to be saying that squishiness is a bad thing… and yet I know you are a fan of cephalopods.

  51. 51
    leonpeyre

    Since I believe that left and right are like yin and yang, and that “morality binds and blinds,” this is a bad state of affairs.

    I know you’ve commented on this already PZ, but I wanted to add that he might have a point, except that: to the rest of the industrialized world, what we call “liberal” they call “centrist”, and what we call “conservative” they consider well off the deep end. Our liberals are already the moderate position in US politics.

  52. 52
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Leonpeyre

    If he stopped there he might have a point. Except he seems to specifically be talking about the Fox News POV, so his yin and yang stuff is utter bullshit. He’s conflating the two terms.

  53. 53
    sally

    “they observe that which they measure, stick a name on it, and try hard to reify it into existence, even if it has no correspondence to any substrate in the brain at all.”

    Psychology does not consider it necessary to hypothesize cognitive functions that correspond to a neural substrate. There is not a congruence or isomorphism between how and what people think and how the brain works. Block diagrams modeling thought are no more similar to neural systems than such diagrams are to circuitry implementing computer systems. They are functional and represent relationships and information flow, not brain structure. The only rule for psychologists is that neural substrate must not make impossible or rule out the hypothesized psychological functions.

    The idea that psychologists reify their concepts into existence is absurd because their constructs are conceptual (abstract variables) to begin with and by definition do not have existence other than as ideas. Philosophers are far more guilty of this accusation, since their work is entirely ungrounded and not even dependent on support from empirical findings. The purpose of psychological concepts is to organize empirical data but few psychologists come to believe their theory is real. I think the main problem here is that people feel perfectly free to attribute all sorts of sins to psychologists without understanding the first thing about the field or the kind of training psychologists who do science receive, the thinking that motivates psychological research and theorizing.

    Haidt is talking out of his ass, which is required for people with Ivy league jobs. Psychologists are far less likely to him seriously than people outside our field, in my opinion.

  54. 54
    Jadehawk

    as representative democracies go, it’s probably true that the setup least likely to produce stupid crap is one with a progressive government and a conservative opposition. in this case, “conservative” needs to mean “we’re skeptical that your idea will make things better; show us, or else change your plan”, not “they are for it, so we are against it; also, the 1890′s were awesome, let’s do that again”, as is currently the case in the US

    also… where the fuck does one have to grow up & live in the US to not encounter the ideas of “from rags to riches”, tradition, and federalism? Even in San Francisco and Seattle, these ideas were everywhere, as far as I could tell.

    A question to those who know more about this guy: does he only study Americans? it kind of seems that way from the comments quoted in this post.

  55. 55
    lpetrich

    A favorite book of the more highbrow sort of conservative has been Edmund Burke’s criticism of the French revolution as reckless and ideological and impractical.

    But to me at least, US movement conservatives seem much more like Robespierre than like Burke.

    I don’t know why it’s so important to feel sorry for them, as Jonathan Haidt seems to be insisting on. Especially when he does not seem to be trying to convince them that liberals are not absolute ogres.

  56. 56
    Jadehawk

    to the rest of the industrialized world, what we call “liberal” they call “centrist”, and what we call “conservative” they consider well off the deep end.

    no. US liberals are the conservatives of Europe. For example, Obama is more or less in the same spot on the political spectrum that Angela Merkel occupies.

  57. 57
    Jadehawk

    oh, and one last thing: I did a very similar thing to Haidt, and also, for a while, read a lot of US conservative writing, to discern whether there’s some merit, or at least some ideas worth engaging with and being able to refute instead of just dismiss/ignore.

    At some point, I gave up in disgust at the ridiculous amount or reality-denial and outright lying.

  58. 58
    Stacy

    Once I lost my feelings of repulsion and anger toward conservatism I discovered a whole world of ideas I had never encountered.

    He never encountered (or considered) conservative ideas before? He never examined his former liberalism? Did he grow up in the forest, raised by liberal wolves?

    Sounds like a complacent little thinker indeed.

  59. 59
    NuMad

    But when you make science sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are stupid, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone.

    Oh, of course a mean tone is the worst thing one can possibly imagine coming out of “making something sacred.” What an awful perversion of wholly positive emotions exemplified by religious experience.

    Think of your opponents as the damned or as traitors; but in the name of all that’s good, don’t think of them as stupid! That’s just going too far.

  60. 60
    unclefrogy

    I hear this criticism that there are few conservatives in academia that the faculty is predominately liberal or has a liberal bias. The reasons given usually sounds just a little bit paranoid or self-serving not enough money.
    That sounds like BS to me.
    If there was more truth , reality in conservatism wouldn’t studying reality reveal it and thus lead to a more balanced representation of conservatives vs liberals in academia? That is not what we find though is it.
    my personal experience with the conservative is that it is a case of belief over reality all the rest is self serving rationalization without any honest questioning of the beliefs.
    Like listening to a Reagan speech on the radio and watching the same speech on TV.
    His words by themselves described a world that did not always coincide with the real world but watching him he made you suspend your disbelief.

    uncle frogy

  61. 61
    richarddawkins

    ” I didn’t know he’d won a Templeton, either, so that’s also helpful to learn.”

    Actually, I don’t think he did win the “big” Templeton Prize. Wikipedia says he won something from the Templeton Foundation in 2001, but the Templeton PRIZE in 2001 was won by Arthur Peacocke. Maybe what Haidt won was some kind of research fellowship? Not that the “big” Templeton Prize is big in any other way than monetarily. It is certainly no kind of honour.

  62. 62
    Jadehawk

    If there was more truth , reality in conservatism wouldn’t studying reality reveal it and thus lead to a more balanced representation of conservatives vs liberals in academia?

    not really. your axioms inform what questions you ask, and what bias you’re subject to. That’s why more sociocultural diversity in academia is always good; because you can’t check someone’s work for a bias you share with them, without even realizing that maybe it is a bias.

    Nonetheless: if “federalism”, “tradition”, and “meritocracy” are conservative ideas, then academia is teeming with conservatives. And even by less silly definitions, there’s plenty of conservatives in academia (I’m still suspecting that all Durkheimian sociologists are conservatives), there just aren’t that many of the regressive, plutocratic, reality-divorced assholes that populate the “conservative” half of the US political spectrum

  63. 63
    mythbri

    @Stacy #58

    Now I’m imagining packs of liberal wolves ranging through the wilderness, taking down caribou and elk, but feeling bad about it.

  64. 64
    David Marjanović

    I agree. However, I would contend they occupy the same real estate on Haidt’s “moral foundations” taxonomy, especially with respect to purity and group loyalty.

    Agreed.

    no. US liberals are the conservatives of Europe. For example, Obama is more or less in the same spot on the political spectrum that Angela Merkel occupies.

    And not just Merkel, but the self-described conservative parties of most or all EU countries.

    oh, and one last thing: I did a very similar thing to Haidt, and also, for a while, read a lot of US conservative writing, to discern whether there’s some merit, or at least some ideas worth engaging with and being able to refute instead of just dismiss/ignore.

    At some point, I gave up in disgust at the ridiculous amount or reality-denial and outright lying.

    Hm. My dad did something somewhat similar when he got out of communist Yugoslavia: no longer having communist censors restrict his access to reading material, he bought several shelf meters of highbrow conservative literature – Kissinger’s memoirs, that kind of thing – and read it. Well, he’s still fairly far left; I grew up with all that conservative literature standing on the shelves in the living-room and never ever being taken out. It’s still on the shelves in the living-room.

    I’m still suspecting that all Durkheimian sociologists are conservatives

    *wikipedia* Well, anomia does look like a conservative concept, and religion as an important means of cohesion of a society also fits.

    BTW, thanks for the migraine you gave yourself in the allegedly-about-Iceland thread. (If you’re not reading TET, I have to put it here.) It’s a joy to read. *toothy grin filled with liberal guilt*

  65. 65
    Ivo

    … that those Incan priests were not stupid or evil, but that they were operating under false assumptions. But ultimately, our moral foundations must be compatible with reality …

    Hmmm…. do I smell whiffs of objective morality?

    I like PZ’s critique of Jonathan Haidt, and I share the feeling that we’ve been assisting to the decline (squishification?) of a previously interesting psychologist.

  66. 66
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Crap.

    This is why America is in yet another decade of decline. We have on the one hand a bunch of rich white pseudo-liberals who define themselves by being “reasonable” and seeking “common ground” and “centrist” position on everything, and who hold all the positions of power on what is incorrectly described as “the left”… and this includes Obama as the current leader of the compromising pseudo-liberal movement. We have on the other hand a “conservative” movement that defines itself by opposition to anything that is incorrectly described as “the left” and will reject their own ideas in action the moment it is a Democrat in charge. So the country as a whole is in a death spiral of Democrats embracing positions further and further to the right in order to confirm their wool-headed “open minded” identity, and the Republicans racing even further to the right to get away from the clingy codependent Democrats.

    We’re doomed, DOOMED!

  67. 67
    marcus

    Sam Harris in his response to Haidt on ritual murder and cannibalism:
    “What would Haidt have us think about these venerable traditions of pious ignorance and senseless butchery? Is there some wisdom in these cults of human sacrifice that we should now honor? Must we take care not to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Or might we want to eat that baby instead?”
    Obviously a man after our own hearts.
    (I just hope he waits until I’m done with it.)

  68. 68
    Ingdigo Jump

    Can someone maybe set me straight on his ideas, because it seems odd to me. I once held what would be listed as fairly conservative values of purity and loyalty and all that but eschewed it as I grew up in favor of liberal ones. Certainly my parents presented some liberal ones as well but the other values were most definitely there and were only shed in later life when I started to learn more about the world. How does that fit in with his moral foundations. Hell reading commentary here made me seriously change some very crucial values (such as being more practical rather than value based ethics and believing in objective morality).

  69. 69
    nooneinparticular

    Improbable joe; Woah! Watch out dude! That piece of sky almost hit you. Keep looking up, my man. Never know when the next one is going to fall.

  70. 70
    Ingdigo Jump

    @nooneinparticular

    Do you ever have anything valuable to say?

  71. 71
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Oh also Azy and SGBM, I might point out that his conversion (or rather his being born again) wasn’t from the conservatism of academia or you know, not being an idiot, but from Fox fucking news. He’s conflating the two and using the legitimacy of one to excuse the other. What an asshole.

    To the extent that Haidt’s specific positions are relevant to my point at all, that’s pretty consistent with what I was getting at with the “failure” line.

  72. 72
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Azky

    Yes I know, sorry for lashing out. I know you were agreeing.

  73. 73
    strange gods before me ॐ

    *refresh*

    Yes I know, sorry for lashing out. I know you were agreeing.

    Ah, well, I already wrote all this out, and I’d still like to poke at Jadehawk and Josh if nothing else.

    +++++
    Ing,

    Oh also Azy and SGBM, I might point out that his conversion (or rather his being born again) wasn’t from the conservatism of academia or you know, not being an idiot, but from Fox fucking news. He’s conflating the two and using the legitimacy of one to excuse the other. What an asshole.

    I don’t for one moment accept the premise that there is any such thing as a legitimate conservatism. I’m racking my brain here and I can’t remember ever saying anything that could be construed as such. Contrariwise, in the “I guess I haven’t made it to the big time yet” thread — Jadehawk was there! — I explained that it is fundamentally about keeping political and economic power in the hands of a few, or them who has the gold makes the rules.

    I see Jadehawk, and Josh, and Crommunist making what I regard as a fallacious argument from etymology: that there is, ever was, or ought to be, some political meaning of the word conservative which means cautious.

    ‘Twas never so. Frankosaurus understood Edmund Burke just fine.

    The C word is a cognitive trap. Because there appears to be a fairly broad spectrum of right-wing thought which calls itself conservative at one time or another, it can seem they’re all using the term rather arbitrarily — which may be true or false depending on how much detail is considered significant; they are all trying to conserve and consolidate power for someone — and because the actual uses seem arbitrary there is a temptation to substitute a purer definition. But this is a mistake of equivocation.

    It’s much more illuminating to leave that apparent arbitrariness as it is. Here the term right-wing is so much better, since the left and right designations in politics are self-evidently arbitrary.*

    Likewise it’s evident that there’s no possible pure definition of liberal since it can just as coherently — and has at different times and places — mean advancing the “negative” or the “positive liberties”. As another problem, there’s no from-etymology way to define liberal apart from libertarian; they’re just the same word derived at two different times in history. And what would be the pure definition of socialism? Of communism?

    All these terms have their political meanings because they’ve acquired various connotations via use by certain groups. This may be arbitrary, but of course that’s because history is arbitrary, contingent. It’s a idealizing mistake to imagine that there’s a truer vocabulary which should smooth out the inconsistencies of history.

    Back to conservatism as it exists, I’ve never seen anything legitimate about it in any form. I’m quite serious that Frankosaurus understood Burke just fine. Just because neither one of them was an idiot doesn’t mean there’s anything morally acceptable about their ideas — plainly there isn’t — and I don’t see what else legitimate could mean in this case unless we’re talking about moral acceptability.

    *I was going to say something about riht and rechts here but it’s probably too boring to everyone but me.

  74. 74
    Ingdigo Jump

    @SGBM

    Yes I largely agree, sort of what I was getting at. That the absurdly limited term of conservative as in “Conservative estimate” is no where near the political term and it’s fundamentally dishonest to act like it’s the same.

  75. 75
    nooneinparticular

    ing

    meh. I don’t feel like taking part in the echo chamber here. Just pointing out the silliness of saying democrats are sniveling politicians therefore we’re doomed. First part may be true but the second does not follow.

  76. 76
    Ingdigo Jump

    meh. I don’t feel like taking part in the echo chamber here

    So that’s a no to comments of worth.

    First part may be true but the second does not follow.

    And if you bothered to make any counter point you would actually HAVE a point. As it is you did the equivalent of just farting in someone’s face

  77. 77
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Can someone maybe set me straight on his ideas, because it seems odd to me. I once held what would be listed as fairly conservative values of purity and loyalty and all that but eschewed it as I grew up in favor of liberal ones. Certainly my parents presented some liberal ones as well but the other values were most definitely there and were only shed in later life when I started to learn more about the world. How does that fit in with his moral foundations.

    At the risk of speaking too trivially,

    they’re just correlations, so there are still people with liberal policy ideas who endorse the typically conservative curve of values, and vice versa;

    it’s not the case that liberals just plain don’t care about loyalty, they just endorse it significantly less than conservatives do, and IIRC libertarians endorse it even less;

    and there’s no claim that one’s values don’t change during life.

    Is that what you were wondering about?

  78. 78
    Jadehawk

    I see Jadehawk, and Josh, and Crommunist making what I regard as a fallacious argument from etymology: that there is, ever was, or ought to be, some political meaning of the word conservative which means cautious.

    it’s not etymology, it’s conservatism of the German variety, as exhibited by even myself for a long while, in the following format:

    someone: “well, why don’t we do it this new way i thought up?”
    me: “no. that won’t work. let’s do it the way we’ve always done it”
    someone: “but look at reasons A, B, C, and D for why my idea would work!”
    me: “I dismiss your reasons A, B, C, and D because of a, b, c, and d; therefore, we should absolutely do it the way we’ve always done it.”
    someone: “your objections are unfounded, because of E and F”
    me: “no, I still think we should to it the old way”
    next day
    me: “I thought about it, and you’re right”

    I didn’t even notice I was doing that, or that this was something typical, until reading an interview with some young American business-dude who was frustrated at his German bosses were always saying no to his new ideas right off the bat. Apparently it took him a while to catch on that he could change their minds even after such a categorical “no”, and before that he was just frustrated at the stodginess and hatred of new ideas of Germans :-p

    point being: Germany has a very conservative culture with very conservative people; in the sense that they like the way things are and you’re going to have to work to them believe that any change is a good idea; because the automatic assumption is going to be change = bad, “the way we’ve always done it” = good.

  79. 79
    Ingdigo Jump

    More of how useful his moral foundations are given the above.

  80. 80
    Jadehawk

    though I’ll grant that “conservative” turns into “regressive” at the vaguest feeling of “we’ve gone too far”, thus making the distinction probably silly hairsplitting most of the time

  81. 81
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    You may be right about conservative never meaning what I was describing. And if it’s a cognitive trap then it’s best avoided. I’m not wedded to terminology; I’m concerned with the public pretense that frightening behavior is normal and on the spectrum of acceptable politics.

  82. 82
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    @life is like a pitbull with lipstick
    I was going to say something similar, so thank you for taking the time to articulate that so I don’t have to. I agree wholeheartedly with this one. I actually had quite an argument with a now former friend who was arguing that there’s an evolutionary basis for political conservatism because there have to be some people in the tribe who say ‘let’s not kill all the deer,’ and blew up at me when I pointed out that political conservatism has never meant anything even close to that.

  83. 83
    davecook

    Haidt was on “Up With Chris Hayes” and brought up the same “liberals reject science, too” bullshit because of the rejection of racial “science”. I moved on to the next segment after that. The guy is obviously angling for a wingnut sinecure. If you can take a panel with Haidt, Chris Mooney and John McWhorter (poor Michelle Goldberg seems to be struck speechless by this circle jerk), here ya go:

    http://upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/05/11555903-the-psychology-of-political-polarization?lite

  84. 84
    No One

    and the glorification of earned success while being critical of efforts to achieve equality of outcomes without attention to merit.

    Garbage collectors have more merit that this gentleman. Much, much more.

  85. 85
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Jadehawk,

    point being: Germany has a very conservative culture with very conservative people; in the sense that they like the way things are and you’re going to have to work to them believe that any change is a good idea

    though I’ll grant that “conservative” turns into “regressive” at the vaguest feeling of “we’ve gone too far”, thus making the distinction probably silly hairsplitting most of the time

    Alright, but if this is a Deutsch Sache then you gotta subtract out that shared baseline before you can identify what’s particularly conservative about the CDU, no? I don’t know whether Die Grünen got boring any faster than the Australian Greens did, but even assuming they did, the partisan sense in which the CDU is “the conservative party” is attributable not simply to a baseline temperament, but to certain ideas they have about who should have power and how it should be apportioned.

    It’s these type of ideas that I think keep popping up in the various conservative parties around the world, and thus are more representative of political conservatism than this temperament you mention.

    +++++
    Ing,

    I think “it measures something.” :) It’s useful if people who use the same political label tend to endorse these values in reliable patterns, distinct from people who use another political label. But it’s certainly not exhaustive, not the final word on why conservatives and liberals are the way they are.

    For instance I think a lot of differences can be attributed to conservatives’ relative tendency for avoidance behaviors and liberals’ relative tendency for approach behaviors. (Cf. Ronnie Janoff-Bulman’s work.) And I think this is a more basic motivation.

    So if Haidt — for instance; I don’t know if he says quite this — says that conservatives tend to nationalism because they value in-group loyalty, I think that might be a too-high-level explanation. Seems to me they’d tend to nationalism and other forms of in-group loyalty because they have a tendency for avoidance behaviors.

    But if you’re trying to figure out how to “hack” the conservative mind like I said earlier, I imagine Haidt’s work could be of use. (But also Lakoff’s, and once more I want to reiterate that Mooney acted like Lakoff said things he never fucking said, especially regarding how to talk about evolution.)

    Anyway, here’s Haidt’s big thing and here’s another of his attempts to validate it. His papers are useful enough; I see no reason to buy his books.

    +++++
    Josh,

    My computer is about to crash; bbiab.

  86. 86
    David Marjanović

    the Republicans racing even further to the right to get away from the clingy codependent Democrats

    Perfect image.

    *I was going to say something about riht and rechts here

    :-D No, it really is a coincidence, arising from who sat on which side in some early French revolutionary assembly or other. No connection to “wrong”, just to “left”.

    Germany has a very conservative culture with very conservative people

    …so the word “conservative” is mostly restricted to describing the “Christian Democratic” and “Christian Social” sister-parties.

    Similarly, it’s used for the Austrian People’s Party, which describes itself as both “Christian Democratic” and “Christian Social”, and the Three Austrian Arguments (as put into words by an Austrian comedian) are “it’s always been that way”, “it’s never been that way” and “[well, if we implemented your suggestion,] then anyone could come [and needlessly put everything upside-down]“.

    “conservative” turns into “regressive” at the vaguest feeling of “we’ve gone too far”

    Sure. I suppose “regressive” is only used for the more extreme cases. (In practice, that means it’s almost never used except as a slur, much like “reactionary”.)

    Haidt was on “Up With Chris Hayes” and brought up the same “liberals reject science, too” bullshit because of the rejection of racial “science”.

    *facepalm* He could have flooded the show with newage, or homeopathy perhaps, but nooo…

  87. 87
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Josh,

    I’m concerned with the public pretense that frightening behavior is normal and on the spectrum of acceptable politics.

    And it’s hard to know what to do with the C word since it’s so dangerously flexible, and seemingly innocuous.

    I wonder if the thing is to rather constantly remind people that what the right-wing wants to “conserve”, in addition to dignity-but-not-much-economic-power for Archie Bunker types, is the real absolute power of corporate capitalism and billionaires, since almost no one, who isn’t already deeply ideologically poisoned, thinks of themselves as in solidarity with billionaires.

    +++++
    Dalillama,

    a now former friend who was arguing that there’s an evolutionary basis for political conservatism because there have to be some people in the tribe who say ‘let’s not kill all the deer,’

    Shit. I have heard almost this verbatim. I thought it happened sort of by accident because conservative and conservationist get conflated, but now I wonder if it’s a Rush Limbaugh talking point.

    +++++
    David,

    :-D No, it really is a coincidence, arising from who sat on which side in some early French revolutionary assembly or other. No connection to “wrong”, just to “left”.

    “As virtually everyone knows, the terms originated from the French Revolution”. But what I’m getting at is not so much left/wrong, as right/riht.

    Attempting a hopefully-not-fallacious argument about etymology, it does seem that the connection of right with orthodoxy really is due to asymmetric handedness in the population. I simply suspect that the odds were not quite 50/50 when folks sat down in that assembly.

  88. 88
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Joe,

    We have on the other hand a “conservative” movement that defines itself by opposition to anything that is incorrectly described as “the left” and will reject their own ideas in action the moment it is a Democrat in charge.

    Another explanation is that they are simply following the Overton strategy.

    But — while it seems everyone agrees Clinton/Blair third-way politics did represent a break with organized labor — other than that it’s not clear that Democrats are moving right as much as is sometimes claimed. Cf. asymmetric polarization as discussed on the VOTEVIEW blog (h/t Maddow).

  89. 89
    David Marjanović

    The polysemy of “right” in other than the political context is due to the asymmetry, yes. But if this caused where the parties sat in the French National Assembly, that must mean the conservatives were simply faster, so we’re back to coincidence. :-)

  90. 90
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Nah, they could have all entered the hall at the same time, but as folks milled about, the less conservative didn’t feel it quite as pressing to stake claim to the right side.

  91. 91
    karpad

    “Offensive truths” – what does Haidt mean by that?

    He means “I read the Bell Curve and believe blacks are genetically inferior.”

    5 will get you 10 his “centrist conversion” is based on racial bigotry, and the fact that liberals won’t even acknowledge his belief has encouraged him to roam elsewhere. Because we’re so intolerant of different ideas, that when someone says “you know, I’m pretty sure based on the merits of who I am, I am simply categorically better than others” and everyone at the dinner party looks at him like he just killed the dog.

    and as an aside, there won’t be any Conservatives in academia for a handful of good reasons, but the least important of them is some kind of ideological barrier from other academics. Far more important is that as self-absorbed greedy assholes, they are highly unlikely to pursue a career that generally caps out relatively low, is always fighting budget cuts, and requires long hours of work from which you individually derive no real benefit. Who wants to spend years working for less than 20 grand a year working both as a TA and grubbing up the dissertations ladder? Not someone who doesn’t value education and learning as ends in their own right. Which the (American) Right wing explicitly do not.

  92. 92
    consciousness razor

    I wonder if the thing is to rather constantly remind people that what the right-wing wants to “conserve”, in addition to dignity-but-not-much-economic-power for Archie Bunker types,

    Dignity? That may be the rhetoric they’d use, but I certainly wouldn’t put it that way.

  93. 93
    strange gods before me ॐ

    consciousness razor,

    Yeah, I ran into a speedbump there. What I was thinking of, though, was Umberto Eco’s features 6 through 8.

  94. 94
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Far more important is that as self-absorbed greedy assholes, they are highly unlikely to pursue a career that generally caps out relatively low, is always fighting budget cuts, and requires long hours of work from which you individually derive no real benefit.

    This is something like Gross and Fosse’s explanation.

  95. 95
    otrame

    This is pretty OT and I admit that I Am Not A Sociologist (I am, however, and anthropologist), but I have to ask.

    I’m still suspecting that all Durkheimian sociologists are conservatives

    There are still Durkheimian sociologists? Really? I mean, I’ve read a couple of his books, back in the Dark Ages when I was a grad student and a couple of professors thought we should have some idea of the history of our profession. I read them. I thought that he suffered from a combination of “armchair” sociology (that is never having actually studied anything but what other people wrote about studying societies) and having spent entirely too much time hanging around with the more obtuse kind of philosopher. He wasn’t as bad as many in his time (*cough* Levi-Straus *gag*), but surely, surely there have been others since who a school of sociologists could center themselves around.

  96. 96
    Ingdigo Jump

    @SGBM

    Your responses have been both helpful to me, and in regards to the “democrats not absolutely moving to right as claimed” optimistic.

  97. 97
    consciousness razor

    Yeah, I ran into a speedbump there.

    It happens. I knew you didn’t mean it that way.

    #6…

    That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.

    I’ve never understood this. What pressures do “lower” classes exert on them, other than their mere existence? Isn’t it sort of a misdirected fear that the system isn’t strong enough to deal with everyone’s problems (if they have their way), or humiliation that it’s broken? It just seems like victim-blaming/reality-denying, which is much easier to do than accepting failure and addressing the problems.

    Similarly with #8…

    The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
    When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

    I guess it’s a relative thing, so that their evaluation of their own strength is also contradictory. There’s no “threat” too small to make them shit their pants, yet they’ll believe the U.S. is the greatest nation that ever was, all the while failing to contain it.

  98. 98
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    Attempting a hopefully-not-fallacious argument about etymology, it does seem that the connection of right with orthodoxy really is due to asymmetric handedness in the population. I simply suspect that the odds were not quite 50/50 when folks sat down in that assembly.

    Of course, who is on the right depends on the perspective you take–it looks a lot different from the stage than from the audience.

    But you’re right (heh heh) about the polysemy of right. But in this view the left is sinister.

  99. 99
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    The polysemy of “right” in other than the political context is due to the asymmetry, yes. But if this caused where the parties sat in the French National Assembly, that must mean the conservatives were simply faster, so we’re back to coincidence. :-)

    Don’t underestimate the power of folk etymology.

  100. 100
    Kel

    “They’re kind of there but get it slightly wrong here and there” doesn’t really make for an interesting deflection. Saying “mostly wrong on the science” when it comes to a minor point is pure hyperbole on his part.

  101. 101
    Kel

    In his Edge piece, for example, Jonathan Haidt’s uses group selection as Dawkins getting the science wrong, and complaining that Dawkins didn’t spend enough time in The God Delusion giving reasons as to why. It was a pretty lame attempt at highlighting getting the science wrong. “The God Delusion didn’t sufficiently flesh out a case for a particular position enough, therefore that rejection is unscientific.” Not that Dawkins has ever written any other books that addressed the subject, nor published any papers on the matter…

  102. 102
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Ing,

    glad to hear it.

    +++++
    CR,

    I’ve never understood this. What pressures do “lower” classes exert on them, other than their mere existence?

    A typical claim is that, regarding race and gender, it’s basically a fear of having to compete with more people on a level playing field; as for calls to restructure the economic class system, any upheaval seems like it might threaten an order which the middle classes have learned to at least comfortably exploit.

    Another perspective is that all calls for major reform are seen as dangerous to the “natural” order, which is inherently best because it is natural:

    «My suggestion is to take the reactionaries seriously. When they said “Race Mixing Is Communism”, they meant something important and relevant by it. It is manifestly wrong to think that ‘race mixing’ is identical with communism, but the claim was not just a ruse, nor was it blind panic. For such people, white supremacy was meritocratic. It reflected the innate, natural differences between people (and, as a corollary, the difference between the white labourer and the white owner was just as natural, if mitigated by blood solidarity). To attack the race system was to introduce a principle that was, to them, a state-sponsored attack on a well-maintained, meritocratic free enterprise society.»

    I guess it’s a relative thing, so that their evaluation of their own strength is also contradictory. There’s no “threat” too small to make them shit their pants, yet they’ll believe the U.S. is the greatest nation that ever was, all the while failing to contain it.

    I think this can happen when outcomes are just not trivial to predict. Depending on my mood and your rhetorical skill, you can have me believing — for the duration of your argument and a while after — that secularism will dominate pretty much everywhere in the world in 100 years, or that secularism is simply doomed and was only a curious blip in history. I can easily believe either, or anything in between, because I just don’t know.

    +++++
    WAM,

    Of course, who is on the right depends on the perspective you take–it looks a lot different from the stage than from the audience.

    Yeah. Wikipedia indicates it was about being at the right hand of the president. That would have a psychological significance of its own, still due to handedness, but not due to the basically haphazard self-sorting I envisioned.

  103. 103
    BillC

    Apparently a link back to here is considered off topic or abusive by the glib moderators of Freakonomics. Kudos to them for their ability to deal with disagreement written with snark.

  104. 104
    Rick

    I don’t have much to say here, as a lot has been said already. I thought that an example of “moral foundations” would suffice.

    Leave it to a wing-nut pastor to get his moral knickers in a twist around his ankles.

    Ind. Pastor Arrested for Hidden Cameras in Women’s Restroom

  105. 105
    thecalmone

    He seems to imply that everyone is equally affected by confirmation bias, ignoring the fact that the scientific method was pretty much invented to short circuit such traps.

  106. 106
    md

    You people are terrifying. Its not that conservatives are wrong, its not that they have a different value system, its not that their brains are wired differently (or yours are wired differently), its that they are evil.

    What would you all say to peaceful succession? Seriously. I’ll even give you first pick of cities. Just let us get away from you and create our own evil, conservative state without you all trying to save us every second.

  107. 107
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Its not that conservatives are wrong, its not that they have a different value system, its not that their brains are wired differently (or yours are wired differently), its that they are evil.

    I wouldn’t use the term “evil” because I think it is too essentializing. But you’ll notice I’ve been saying the first three things there — and I think that as these problems compound they can cause a person to become a danger to others.

    Take a look at Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians for an introduction to how that can happen.

  108. 108
    Nick Gotts

    md,

    Its not that conservatives are wrong, its not that they have a different value system, its not that their brains are wired differently (or yours are wired differently), its that they are evil.

    No two of these possibilities are mutually exclusive – but then, conservatives are generally crap at logic, so it’s no surprise you don’t realise that. But I admit, not all conservatives are evil – many are just cognitively challenged. Among the leaders of the movement, however, greed, bigotry and lies are pretty much universal.

    What would you all say to peaceful succession?

    You mean secession, I assume. I’m not American (you apparently have trouble grasping the fact that non-Americans are allowed to read and even comment here), but from what I’ve seen, many of the American non-consevatives here would be delighted to be rid of the more backward and ignorant parts of the country, which are of course those where conservatism flourishes.

  109. 109
    strange gods before me ॐ

    What would you all say to peaceful secession?

    It might be worth taking seriously if conservatives only gave birth to heterosexual boys (you can’t be trusted to value anyone else as first-class citizens), and if the genetic causes of political views had 100% penetrance (but they don’t).

  110. 110
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I realize I forgot to link to The Authoritarian back at #107.

    As a shorter introduction to a much wider scope of research, there’s a pretty good review article by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski and Sulloway: Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.

  111. 111
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    I have been hypothesizing of late that Jonathan Haidt has done nothing but compile what we know of cognitive follies and use them to further his White Straight Rich Cis Guy privilege; this hypothesis was born out of only seeing him ‘splaining for conservatives all over the place until I on an off chance while complaining about said ‘splaining heard about some of his actual books.

    You’ve just confirmed that hypothesis with showing what he thinks about Gnu Atheists. I’m willing to bet that Haidt was as much a liberal as Lee Strobel was an atheist.

  112. 112
    julietdefarge

    Tried to read that interview, and had to bail by the 3rd use of “sacred.” How about substituting “useful” or “functional” for sacred?

    “the value of institutions and traditions for creating moral order”
    Yeah, because that’s worked so well in the past. *cough*

  113. 113
    David Marjanović
    However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.

    Yep, that happened a lot. There was Nazi propaganda along the lines of “don’t for a second believe the Jew is stupid, for he has great and wicked cunning, in spite of our own ‘we’re so superior’ propaganda from two minutes ago”.

    I guess it’s a relative thing, so that their evaluation of their own strength is also contradictory.

    As in trying to simultaneously believe “we’re the great and towering supermen, everyone else is puny before us” and “woe unto us, for the Jews have sapped all our strength”? Yes, definitely.

    [...] secularism will dominate pretty much everywhere in the world in 100 years [...]

    One more data point: the astoundingly godless East Germans! Alas, Merkel is a Lutheran pastor’s daughter, and it shows.

  114. 114
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Setar, I doubt he’s all that rich. He’s an academic who’s sold some books, but none of them were anywhere near as commercially successful as the horsemen.

    I guess it depends on what “rich” means to you though.

  115. 115
    alwayscurious

    Steven & Stephen should have stopped writing when they were ahead–their first book was interesting and fresh. Their subsequent work/blog/radio show has illustrated large, important gaps in their understanding of various topics (e.g. global warming).

    Sounds like Haidt is the same way–a little publicity & a little success & he has become unhinged. I haven’t heard anything positive about federalism from the conservative media; I have yet to see The Right take effective action to match their goals of a balanced budget; they have failed to prove that less regulated commerce is categorically superior to regulated business; and presence & practice of their morals say nothing about the morals of others.

    I know it’s a late reply to #54. I agree that most everyone has heard the familiar rags->riches story. Maybe before Haidt explodes in a shitstorm, he can produce some REAL DATA about the 1% being poverty stricken youth raising to unimaginable wealth with nothing more than skill. (I’m betting that’ll whole true for <1% of that 1%). But then again, we all know about reality's liberal bias.

  116. 116
    Ingdigo Jump

    @md

    Such a strawman.

    What I’m opposed to is this idea that conservatives are just another way of being right and that liberals have to accommodate them and celebrate them as precious special snow flakes. “A liberal is someone who won’t take his own side in an argument”. You also ignore how I specifically protested to his privileged and blindness to political reality (ignoring his own advice), his implicit racism, his projection (people believe things cause they like the message…unlike my new conservatism oops i mean CENTRISm which totally isn’t all about how it tells me I’m great because of my merits and not by dumb luck or social uplifting), and his dishonest equivocation (using conservative as in conservative diet as equivlent to conservative as Fox News and using the virtues of the former to defend the latter).

  117. 117
    Eamon Knight

    @116: ….CENTRISm which totally isn’t all about how it tells me I’m great because of my merits and not by dumb luck or social uplifting

    Or to borrow a punchline originally used in a different domain, but which seems applicable here: the important thing is that Haidt’s found a way to feel superior to both sides.

  118. 118
    Jadehawk

    There are still Durkheimian sociologists? Really? [...]but surely, surely there have been others since who a school of sociologists could center themselves around.

    well, if you look at most large sociologist frameworks, they’re Weberian, Marxian, or Durkheimian; or derivatives thereof. I used the latter as a term for Functionalism, which is probably not strictly accurate; but it’s close.

    And one of my sociologist professors is a functionalist; she is conservative in the “there are good reasons for the rules we have, so you need better reasons before I’m ok with change” kind of way, not the “raging bigoted regressive” kind of way.

  119. 119
    Jadehawk

    What would you all say to peaceful succession?

    peaceful succession = representative democracy. did you mean that, or did you mean secession?

  120. 120
    ryanwilkinson

    I’m really hoping not to get yelled at, but here goes. (it’s not 100% relevant I suppose but if that’s an issue please just ignore me)

    Did the Republican party in America become much more right-wing both socially and economically because of the influence of Milton Friedman, and the unification of Christians (if Penn is right) during the initial major abortion debates? As in, was it around that time?

  121. 121
    Jadehawk

    Did the Republican party in America become much more right-wing both socially and economically because of the influence of Milton Friedman, and the unification of Christians (if Penn is right) during the initial major abortion debates? As in, was it around that time?

    le wut.

    Republicans became more regressive primarily because of the “Southern Strategy”. not that backlash to feminism wasn’t also a part of this, but abortion doesn’t have anything to do with it, specifically.

  122. 122
    ryanwilkinson

    I’ve absolutely never heard of it; I’ll look into it. Thank you.

  123. 123
    Jadehawk

    you’ve never heard of the southern strategy.

    *twitch*

    oh well, better late than never.

    (no, not being american is not an excuse)

  124. 124
    ryanwilkinson

    I knew Nixon was a wanker about the whole watergate thing; but I’ve never been told about this, sorry.

    It is somewhat extremely and utterly horribly racist; I’m surprised I haven’t heard of it.

    My abortion point was because Penn Jillette said that during the initial abortion debates, Catholics and Protestants and all that united under the word ‘Christian’, whereas they never had done before. I was just wondering what the truth was to that/ramifications thereof.

  125. 125
    Kel

    I have been hypothesizing of late that Jonathan Haidt has done nothing but compile what we know of cognitive follies and use them to further his White Straight Rich Cis Guy privilege;

    You would.

  126. 126
    Jadehawk

    a little advice: take everything Penn Jillette says about anything political with a large grain of salt. he’s not quite as bad at history and acceptance of reality as other libertarians, but still.

    also, when the Irish and Italians became “white”, and once Kennedy turned out not to be a traitor, Protestants started to get over the whole “Whore of Babylon” thing with the RCC (and they were united against Women’s Lib before it was ever about abortion), especially since Catholics was still more Christian and thus more American than the Godless Communists and the Hippies (see also: acceptance of Judaism as kinda sorta American, too)

  127. 127
    SallyStrange

    I’m really hoping not to get yelled at, but here goes.

    Expressions like this are like fingernails on chalkboard to me. If you have something to say then just fucking say it. People will agree with you or not, and passive-aggressive attempts to head off any disagreement serve only to make you look insecure.

    /rant

  128. 128
    consciousness razor

    also, when the Irish and Italians became “white”, and once Kennedy turned out not to be a traitor, Protestants started to get over the whole “Whore of Babylon” thing with the RCC (and they were united against Women’s Lib before it was ever about abortion), especially since Catholics was still more Christian and thus more American than the Godless Communists and the Hippies (see also: acceptance of Judaism as kinda sorta American, too)

    It was much more gradual than that. Protestants didn’t “start” accepting Catholics around the time of Kennedy. Generally hatred of Irish and Italians was much more pronounced in very specific regions, but overall it wasn’t nearly as significant.

    I’m probably just being picky.

  129. 129
    Jadehawk

    I didn’t mean to imply suddenness; I meant to point out that the end of Catholic s the Other had less to do with abortion and more to do with these other aspects of changing American culture.

  130. 130
    nooneinparticular

    ryanwilkinson @120

    What Jadehawk said in 121. The serious slide into racist right wing religious nut-jobbery began in earnest when Rethuglicans decided to bleed those folks from the Democratic party. Most of the southern states, which had large (though by no means exclusive) populations of racist xtians were mostly aligned with the Democratic party. Prior to that through much of the early to mid twentieth century the Rethugs were more identified with the fiscal/monetary/pro-business conservative movements. They even were more insular than most Democrats, not wanting to as easily get entangled in furriners and their affairs. Republicans today like to holler that they are “the party of Lincoln” as if that absolves them of their pandering to racist asswipes, or even as if that meant anything at all. But there is/was no resemblance to even the myth of Lincoln.

  131. 131
    strange gods before me ॐ

    The serious slide into racist right wing religious nut-jobbery began in earnest when Rethuglicans decided to bleed those folks from the Democratic party.

    They had a bit of help. There was some self-selection by racists getting out of the Democratic Party. Whether the quote is apocryphal or not, LBJ was apparently cognizant that “we have lost the South for a generation.”

    Prior to that through much of the early to mid twentieth century the Rethugs were more identified with the fiscal/monetary/pro-business conservative movements.

    This is important to remember now, with centrist Republicans today trying to rewrite history and claim the Republicans prior to Goldwater were totally not conservative, nuh uh, no way. (It is true enough that the Goldwater campaign machine stayed mostly intact after the election, in the form of think tanks and such, and continued their activism for across-the-board ultraconservative fusionist policies. Frum & friends’ big lie is to ignore the longstanding right-wing economic stance of the party, possibly because they’ve always been swimming in it and so don’t really notice it.)

    The Democratic Party has been trying to pay attention to the working classes at least since Al Gore ran for president in 1896 and steered away from laissez-faire dogmas.

  132. 132
    Ingdigo Jump

    My abortion point was because Penn Jillette said that during the initial abortion debates, Catholics and Protestants and all that united under the word ‘Christian’, whereas they never had done before. I was just wondering what the truth was to that/ramifications thereof.

    I think I found your problem

  133. 133
    nooneinparticular

    lipstick pitbull wrote; “Al Gore ran for president in 1896″ (linked to a jpeg of William Jennings Bryan)

    OMFG! AHHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’ve never seen that pic. He DOES look like the Gorski!

  134. 134
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Look like? I’m pretty sure he was able to invent the Internet because he is from the future. Bush v Gore was never supposed to happen, by the way, and is clear evidence of timestream interference by extradimensional reptilians.

    Anyway. The Southern Strategy:

    Whether or not Goldwater liked segregation did not matter. In a concise and carefully worded chapter, he declared white opposition to integration a perfectly legal and downright American stance. “It may be just or wise or expedient for negro children to attend the same schools as white children,” Goldwater argued, “but they do not have a civil right to do so.”

    A well-meaning young leftist who comments here — who I won’t name, to avoid causing unnecessary embarassment — once said something like “it’s a shame the reasonable Republicans like Barry Goldwater didn’t get to define the course of the party.” I ’bout spit the proverbial coffee.

  135. 135
    DLC

    Haidt claims he lost his feelings of repulsion and anger at Fox News ? Funny. I gained feelings of repulsion and anger by watching fox news. It should really be a new word “foxnews” because it isn’t News. Oh, and you damned Strident New Atheists™ had better watch out! you’re all worshipping your non-god, with your Sacred Science™ ! PFT. Hey Haidt ? nothing’s sacred to us. Nothing. Too bad.

  136. 136
    David Marjanović

    you’ve never heard of the southern strategy.

    *twitch*

    Seconded. :-S

    Oh, sure, there are hundreds of millions of Europeans who’ve never heard of it. But they don’t go on the Internet and argue about the political history of the USA. :-S

    He DOES look like the Gorski!

    He’s just not fat.

    *dives under table at 1 % of c*

    “it’s a shame the reasonable Republicans like Barry Goldwater didn’t get to define the course of the party.”

    IN YOUR GUTS YOU KNOW HE’S NUTS

    I suppose everything else Goldwater ever said appears reasonable in comparison to wanting to have Vietnam nuked.

    It should really be a new word “foxnews” because it isn’t News.

    Faux News
    Fox Noise
    Faux Noise

  137. 137
    David Marjanović

    But they don’t

    watch Penn Jillette either!

  138. 138
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Fock Snooze.

  139. 139
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I suppose everything else Goldwater ever said appears reasonable in comparison to wanting to have Vietnam nuked.

    By the standards of todays GOP, Goldwater would be a flaming liberal. As would Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush I.

  140. 140
    Matt Penfold

    I suppose everything else Goldwater ever said appears reasonable in comparison to wanting to have Vietnam nuked.

    Well Goldwater was not alone. Westmoreland wanted the authority to use tactical nukes in defence on Khe Sahn.

  141. 141
    carolineborduin

    I concur with #19 life is like a pitbull with lipstick. Haidt’s research was informative (I read the book) but his interpretation of it is awful (and so like a liberal.) Can you imagine a conservative doing this research and it prompting him to listen Mike Malloy with sympathy for a year?

    And PZ was not the only one who found it hilarious that while Haidt’s evidence shows that our immutable instincts lean us left or right, Haidt himself was able to rise above all that human ickiness and become a centrist.

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