Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Liberals: Killing Themselves with Kindness?

What has happened to the American Liberal's instinct for survival? How can liberals fail to understand that, by undermining their country's traditions and defenses, they threaten not only the liberty and security of Americans in general but of themselves in particular?

This question drives conservatives crazy.

Conservatives have concocted a variety of theories to explain why liberals are so reckless with their American heritage. Most of these theories fit one of three categories: a) liberals are trapped in a perpetual spoiled adolescence; b) liberals are brainwashed victims of Marxist university professors; and c) liberals suffer from a mental disorder.

From the other side of the political spectrum, a self-described liberal atheist social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia, has put forward the Moral Foundations Theory, which explains, among other things, why liberals, if permitted to control a society, will destroy it. In fact, Haidt likens liberals of all cultures to the Hindu god, Shiva, the Destroyer, while comparing conservatives to the god Vishnu, the Preserver.

It all has to do with the wiring of the human brain, says Haidt, which has been shown to be innately receptive to developing 5 types of moral sensibilities: 1) a desire to protect and care for others, 2) a desire for fairness, 3) loyalty to one's group, 4) respect for authority, and 5) a sense of purity and sanctity. These are all characteristics that have served to keep the species intact since its beginning. Small human groups can develop into large, complex, successful societies, Haidt argues, only in the presence of a moral code that incorporates all five of these genetic predispositions.

Problem: Bleeding-heart liberals recognize only two of these human predispositions as acceptable moral precepts: 1) care for others and 2) desire for fairness. Liberals reject the other innate predispositions for : 3) loyalty to the group, 4) respect for authority, and 5) seeking purity and sanctity, as evidences of a dangerous buffoonery that is harmful to others and threatening to justice.

Example: Barack Obama doesn't perceive rural Americans, many here in the East living on land inherited through direct descent from veterans of the Revolutionary War, as carrying on a living tradition of loyalty to their neighbors and their nation, but as seeking relief in "guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

Conservatives, according to Haidt, incorporate all five of the innate moral constructs into their belief systems, giving care for others and a thirst for justice somewhat less weight to leave room for the other three. Indeed, the Founding Fathers, who were conservative enough to examine history instead of sanitizing it to prevent any hurt feelings, long ago came to Haidt's conclusion that group loyalty, respect for authority, and the practice of religion help bind societies together by making it easier for its members to cooperate. John Adams was among many Founders who recognized that:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Interestingly, Haidt also points out another characteristic of liberals in all societies: even as conservatives like to keep society stable, liberals love trying new things, even if the change that they seek is a revolution doomed to devolve into chaos.

In response to this observation, conservative theories of why liberals can't wait to make irreversible changes in America's honored institutions ring true. If chaos sounds fine to you, then you either are not mature enough or not psychologically stable enough to keep safe the people, objects, or institutions in your care, whether those be children, cultural or historical relics, or the U.S. Constitution and the United States of America.

Chaos might be survivable to some degree by the competitive and fit, but it's deadly to the young, the aged, and the infirm, not to mention being a quick trip on greased skids to lawlessness and hunger. Unfortunately, it is necessary to mention to American liberals that chaos is, by definition, hardly a protected zone for any kind of health care system, even an imperfect one.

When a society crumbles, science-fiction rules apply, along with the warning inscribed over the gates to the domain of the Western view of the Great Destroyer: "All hope abandon ye who enter here."

For a video of Jonathan Haidt outlining the moral divide between conservatives and liberals, and how he would remedy it, click here.

h/t: UserZero


  1. I wouldn't put much stock in Haidt's theory, nor his conclusion. He doesn't actually seem to define morality, then assigns five "values," all vague and zodiac-like in their inclusiveness. He doesn't explain the reasons that these 5 values are moral. He and the rest of the Moral Foundations crew invite people to add or subtract moral platitudes, but seems wholly unaware of the source of such moral judgement (I'm not talking about the proposed hard-wiring of the brian, very chic right now in the soft-science circles especially linguistics).

    That being said, I would argue that the liberal values Haidt claims are absent in liberals, are in fact very prevalent in left circles.

    3)loyalty to the group-- certainly socialism stresses loyalty to the group in the everyday sacrifices of its citizens to the common good.

    4)respect for authority-- leftists do not expect diserespect for their authority (Obama's presidency?-- Remember that picture of Air Force One imposing itself over the Statute of Liberty?)

    5)seeking purity and sanctity-- many on the HARDEST wing of the Left believe in purity and sanctity and find it in de facto nature worship, or within the self.

    I'm sorry about the length of this comment. I think I'll write a post about it.

    Interesting stuff here.

  2. Oops... I meant "interesting stuff" in the post. Not in my comments.

  3. yukio, to claim that Haidt "doesn't explain the reasons" for the foundations he's identified and, further, to imply that he's "wholly unaware of the source of such moral judgement" demonstrates that you haven't taken the time to read anything he's written.

    If you actually read Haidt's work, rather than baselessly dismissing it out-of-hand, you will find that he doesn't "claim", and his observations are not "theory" - he's merely categorized and reported on the findings of surveys he and his group have conducted. Moreover, a good deal of his work is solidly based on neuropsychological testing research into how the human mind makes moral judgments.

    None of your characterizations above, regarding how Haidt made the observations he did, are accurate.

    Most critics of Haidt's work - typically liberals who deem the results of his research "unfair" to liberals (oh, the irony!) - have attempted, as you have here, to redefine the moral foundations he's recognized. They (and you) do this absent any supporting data or evidence whatsoever. And that's the problem.

    Haidt didn't dream up five moral foundations and then set about proving their validity. Those foundations were distilled from the analysis of thousands of responses to surveys designed to explore moral psychology.

  4. Oh goy...

    The absurdity of this situation is kind of funny to me. I'm being forced into defending my "liberal" point of view from a rightist who is defending a hard left social psychologist attempting to subvert the idea of individual morality (a Constitutional assertion and conservative cornerstone). LOL!

    I would probably ignore all this except you've touched on a pet peeve of mine, namely someone misunderstanding both a subject and my response to it, and then assuming (and frankly accusing)me of being ignorant.

    You say that "you [me] haven't taken the time to read anything he's [Haidt] written." Oh, I'm afraid I have read Haidt and I'm unimpressed to say the least.

    Jeneane Garofalo is a fan of Haidt's work. Before you defend Haidt and his methods, perhaps you shoud read his article "What Makes People Vote Republican?" at edge.org There's a link on it from his homepage (which is linked in Quite Rightly's post). Haidt's article contains this little gem "conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death." Well that's a conclusion that can be easily reached by neuropsychology's card-sorting tests, CAT and MRI scans. Don't you think? I would break down this assertion down line by line to argue against it, but frankly I don't think Haidt's idiotic work deserves my time nor effort. However that quote clearly demonstrates his naive and conceited concept of what conservative beliefs are and what he believes they "appeal" to and "reflect." You're a right-thinking person, right goy? I've been to your blog. Do you think your political views are primarily based on inflexibilty (i.e. closed-mindedness), elitism, or fear of the unknown, change and death? Haidt does.

    This neuropsychological testing and research you place such faith in has mixed results, at charitable best, when not being used to diagnose mental disorders from obvious biological causes (as in tumors, lesions, and deformities in the brain) or when mapping the empirical information processing portions of the brain (and even that's rather contentious). Part of the difficulty is that people such as Haidt assign scientifically factual labels on concepts whose very meaning are in fact highly debated and contentious.

    Let's take the term "moral" for example. Most people would take this to mean being concerned with the "goodness or badness of human character or with the principles of what is right and wrong in conduct" (a dictionary definition). Not Haidt. In his own words from his homepage: "Morality, by its very nature, makes it hard to study morality. It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth. It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups."

    Moraltiy does this? It is a substance that possesses actions? Nonsense. Morality does not seek truth or victory. Morality does not close off hearts and minds. People do. People's reactions to concepts of morality is not morality in itself. Haidt consistently confuses people's concepts of and reactions to morality with morality itself.

    A philosopher would look for the beginnings of these moral concepts, the SOURCE (if there is one) for the CAPABILITY of moral judgement. Haidt asserts the five types of moral sensibilities as a demonstration of morality. Nonsense. Why is purity considered good? Why is the desire to protect and care for others, fairness, loyalty to one's group, respect for authority, moral? Where is the source for him to make the judgement that these "sensibliities" are, in fact, demonstrations of moral and the right? This is what I mean when I say that he is "wholly unaware of the source of such moral judgement." I don't think it means that it "demonstrates that you [yukio ngaby] haven't taken the time to read anything he's written" as you assert.

    Oh, and by the way goy, you say: "If you actually read Haidt's work, rather than baselessly dismissing it out-of-hand, you will find that he doesn't 'claim', and his observations are not 'theory.'" I did not "claim" that his observations are "theory." I claim that his observations are put into context by theory-- a false leftist theory in fact. And while I may dismiss Haidt's work as baseless (it is), I have "actually read it" in its original form.

    Haidt has hinted at a nihilist source to these sensibilities, but seems to have backed off on that. It would be amusing to listen to him try to prove it. He's used Hume as source, but has demonstarted a first year understanding of Hume's work.

    goy you claim: "Most critics of Haidt's work - typically liberals who deem the results of his research 'unfair' to liberals (oh, the irony!) - have attempted, as you have here, to redefine the moral foundations he's recognized." As I have pointed out, he has not recognized moral foundations. Haidt has asserted vague moral platitudes (which seem based in contemporary American Leftist ideology) as moral foundations. He has accomplished this by arbitrarily redefining "moral" as being something necessarily expressed by and in groups-- basically subverting individual moral belief into a "group-think" expression. This is a clear attempt to justify and promote socialism as it invests moral authority into a group and denies it in the individual.

    goy: "Haidt didn't dream up five moral foundations and then set about proving their validity." Well, if he used the scientific method (as he claims) he did. He created a hypothesis and then arranged for tests to prove or disprove his hypothesis.

    goy, please do not make assumptions about me, nor about what I have or have not read. If you wish to argue a point go ahead, argue the point (there are points of contention in what I have written-- I don't pretend to know the Truth), but do not insult me and accuse me of ignorance. If you are indeed a conservative, and have read the body of Haidt's work, and believe that he is correct in his insulting assumptions and suppositions about conservatives and conservative values and beliefs... well... I don't know what to say... Is Jeneane Garofalo a conservative too?

    I apologize for the length of this comment Quite Rightly. I mean no criticism of your post or blog within it.

  5. Yukio, no apologies necessary! On the contrary, I am honored when someone takes the time to comment, and I enjoy learning from your insights. I do recognize that experience teaches!

  6. yukio, Garafalo is an illiterate celebrity moron. I put no stock in her assessment of anything, irrespective of who or what it supports or doesn't. I suggest you consider taking the same approach because if she is in fact a fan of Haidt's, it's because of her willful, selective blindness to the point of his overarching message to so-called "liberals", which is: they're not "tolerant" and they don't support (moral) "diversity".

    I've seen the same selective blindness at work, in reverse, at Ace of Spades HQ (where Haidt was erroneously and laughingly referred to as a "social justice researcher") and see it now, again, in your comments. My response made no assumptions other than those made obvious by your post.

    I believe we can summarize the essence of your needlessly verbose, obfuscatory tirade by quoting you: "I would break down this assertion down [sic] line by line to argue against it, but frankly I don't think Haidt's idiotic work deserves my time nor effort."

    Appeal to ridicule fallacy, followed by numerous irrelevant theses doesn't address my critique of your original comment, unfortunately. Sadly, yours seems to be the tack taken by the few who feel threatened by the implications of Haidt's observations - especially using remarks taken out of context.

    In Haidt's case in particular, because of the audience he's typically addressing, larger context is critical. His message would be lost on so-called "liberals" if he didn't appease their narcissistic, moral adolescence by using their own vernacular - and that's true whether he's actually aware of it or not. Personally, I couldn't care less either way.

    Your perfunctory protestations notwithstanding, it's also clear that you never fully read Haidt's piece at Edge.org, which I've cited in a number of venues where this topic has been discussed. Rather you encountered something that pissed you off and then proceeded to mine it for something you could attack out of context instead of finishing the article and making a genuine attempt to comprehend the point. Had you actually read it, you would also have discovered "this little gem":

    If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. ... The three Durkheimian foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle. Until Democrats understand this point, they will be vulnerable to the seductive but false belief that Americans vote for Republicans primarily because they have been duped into doing so. [emph. added]