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Liberals Predicting Conservatives?


glintofpewter
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I have not had time to listen to the interview Razib Khan is referring to, but I think it raises a question we might ask ourselves.

 

The biggest “bombshell” that Haidt drops is his empirical finding that when people of a given political ideology, going from very liberal to very conservative, are asked to model the opinions of other people when it comes to their “moral foundations”, only one group mischaracterizes the others. That group consists of those who are “very liberal”. Haidt reports that very liberal respondents tend to incorrectly predict the rationales given by conservatives for their positions, whereas moderates and conservatives characterize the rationales given by liberals accurately. Why?

 

http://blogs.discove...t=Google+Reader

 

Dutch

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I must admit I haven't had 67 minutes to spare so I haven't listened to the interview, however a quick scan of the blog would suggest to me that Khan and others question the validity of this 'empirical' finding. A number of clarifications may be required before any peer review acceptance for this study. So it might be difficult to comment, in that such an issue may not actually exist. Therefore one could be asking themselves a question that is not relevant (i.e. "why do liberals..." when maybe they should be asking "do liberals....".

 

Perhaps this reported finding meets some cultural stereotype or imagined situation where liberals are alleged to misunderstand the rationales of conservatives, so it might gain some traction.

 

One thought that crosses my mind, if this is really the case, is that perhaps it's a lot easier for conservatives to understand what stands behind the rationale of liberals, whereas perhaps there are a wide and diverse range of rationales that conservatives apply, which makes it harder for liberals to predict correctly.

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That is interesting. I would like to read the study(s) that support it. Maybe it is related to relativism (with lots of grays) vs. absolutism (with stark black & whites).

 

I do think he is right that we liberals often misinterpret conservative views, but I think the converse is also true. Lakoff in Moral Politics demonstrates that conservative positions that liberals often assume is motivated by blatant self-interest is really based on values like personal responsibility.

 

George

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It's been in my personal experience that people in all groups are guilty of mischaractizing other people's beliefs. Conservative Christians love to mischaractersize atheists and liberal Christians of not believing in biblical inerrancy because they just want to live in sin and don't care about rules. Atheists mischaracterisize Christians of believing in God only because their parents brainwashed them and it makes them feel good and lthere are liberal Christians who mischaracterisize all atheists of hating God and religion. Mischaractersizing beliefs isn't a right wing or left wing thing but it's a human condition all groups are guilty of. I'm also curious as to which moral foundations conservatives have that are more "diverse" than liberals. It's been my experience that the only moral foundation conservative Christians give for their beliefs is their narrow minded belief in a dogmatic god.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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I'm also curious as to which moral foundations conservatives have that are more "diverse" than liberals.

 

It might be worthwhile to read the book which presumably answers this question.

 

FWIW, I got it today for this reason, plus I read another book by Haidt which I thought was quite good. He is a serious researcher and thinker. So, I am not prepared to dismiss his claims out of hand.

 

George

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Isn't Jonathan Haidt the same guy who claims liberals only believe in faiirness and care and that all liberals hate loyalty and authority and conservatives are the only people who value all morals equally?

 

From what I have read of his and from the video posted here today, that would be a gross mischaracterization.

 

George

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There are libertarian atheists who are socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Ayn Rand was an atheist but she was pretty hardcore conservative.

 

There seems to be an assumption that his claims are ideologically motivated. He is a scholar, not a political operative, and his conclusions would be based on where the research led. This doesn't mean his findings are valid. But, he is a respected psychologist at a respected university who has done research in the area of moral psychology.

 

I have not yet read his book, so I will reserve judgement on his conclusions until I have read how his studies were structured and what the results were.

 

George

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I don't doubt that there are lots of liberals out there who mischaractersize the rationales of conservative beliefs but there was a survey done that showed that voters who watch Fox News are more misinformed about politics than anyone else and there was another survey that showed that people who don't watch the news at all are better informed than Fox News viewers. Then you have that whole Shirley Sherod conspiracy where Fox News purposely quoted mined her anti-racist speech to make her look like a racist and a significant number of conservatives are still convinced Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya who is trying to take away our religious freedoms just by requiring religious health providers follow the same policies everyone else has to. You only have to turn on Fox News every day and see a million lies conservatives tell about liberals and their radical communist agenda to take over America. Again, I'm sure there are liberals who are guilty of mischaracterisization too, but is there anything like the liberal version of the Shirley Sherod controversy? How does Haidt take into account studies like the ones on misinformation among Fox News viewers?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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I don't think this book has anything to do with being informed on current events. It is my understanding (although superficial at this point from just listening to the video and reading a prior book) that it is about liberals and conservatives understanding the basic moral values that are invoked by the other.

 

Hadit is a psychologist who studies morality, not a poll taker.

 

George

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As I see it the whole thing suggests that we should, as much as possible, avoid pre-judgements - even avoid having a "viewpoint". I remember an old Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie Brown has drawn a picture of his sister with her hands behind her back. "Ah!" says Schroeder, "I see she has her hands behind her back, suggesting lack of confidence, a passive approach to the world." "No" says Charlie, "I just can't draw hands!"

 

The whole process of apperception is worth considering in the light of the thought that truth is always new.

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There's a big difference though between what conservatives say their rationale is versus how their rationale plays out in the real world. Conservatives may claim that their rationale for opposing abortion rights is because they're concerned about the evils of murdering children, but when their policies actually play out in the real world, the real purpose is revealed to be for the purpose of controlling women's bodies and repressing sexuality.

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There's a big difference though between what conservatives say their rationale is versus how their rationale plays out in the real world. Conservatives may claim that their rationale for opposing abortion rights is because they're concerned about the evils of murdering children, but when their policies actually play out in the real world, the real purpose is revealed to be for the purpose of controlling women's bodies and repressing sexuality.

 

Neon. Did you watch the video? Have you read a review of the book? Counter arguments against what he is actually claiming would be more meaningful.

 

George

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Touchy topic. It also raises the question of whether people recognize their OWN motivations correctly.

 

My personal belief is that many fundamentalist Christians are less "Christian" than "authoritarian". The two in my family, for example, are big on churchgoing, giving to their churches, the OT, and being obedient particularly re the Pelvic Issues. However, they are harsh, punitive, unloving, unforgiving people. They'd post the Ten Commandments anywhere, but the Sermon on the Mount? Never. So is their approach to the world inspired by Christian faith? They would say so; what I see is God held up as the biggest, baddest authority on the block.

 

Let's say in a given situation, they believe that people in trouble shouldn't be helped (or not helped much, or not without a bit of debasement like a drug test). They'd say that their value is "personal responsibility"--but, really, who DOESN'T believe in that? What I see lying a level below is an authoritarian belief is that a person who has problems has probably done something wrong. So am I wrong about their motives? Are they? Who gets to say what's what?

 

Another example: After 9/11, a fundamentalist I knew advocated immediate, hard-hitting military action. Since he'd claim that religious values came first in his life, I asked him how he squared that with the Sermon on the Mount, with "Love your enemies" and "Do good to those who hate you". His response was that that "wouldn't work" in the real world. So maybe I say his motivation is fear, but he calls it just punishment or self-defense. Maybe he calls it "Christian righteousness" and I call it "not at all Christian".

 

I just don't think this is something that you can determine in some cut-and-dried way.

Edited by Tea
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I just don't think this is something that you can determine in some cut-and-dried way.

 

Since Haidt is a respected researcher employed at a respected university, I suspect his determinations were made based on rigorous scientific testing. However, I have not yet read the book (it is sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to finish another book). So, I will reserve judgement until I have read how he structured the tests and the results.

 

While anecdotal evidence is interesting and worth discussing, I think conclusions based on solid research are much more valuable.

 

George

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Since Haidt is a respected researcher employed at a respected university, I suspect his determinations were made based on rigorous scientific testing.

 

If Haidt's Moral Foundations are an issue here are some sources. It is respectable work. Values and Morals are consensus based. Haidt has gathered data from around the world.

 

This explains the theory and the moral foundations.

 

Moral Foundations Theory

http://faculty.virgi...b/mft/index.php

 

Moral Foundations Theory was created by a group of social and cultural psychologists to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that six (or more) innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too.

 

Here is a list of people involved.

 

Morals.

http://www.yourmorals.org/aboutus.php

 

I think the Moral Foundations are not controversial. Criticism can question his conclusion about Liberals not being able to speak to Conservatives.

 

My counselor did not attack my negative behaviors or distorted thought but encouraged changes in a positive direction. Jesus meets us where we are. What ever we think about the rationales of the fundamentalists they will not listen to us if we just give them our judgments.

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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I have had a feeling for some time that there are basic universal values that underlie morality and that the differences between individuals and cultures are the result of how these are ranked. I am interested to see (when I get into the book) what Haidt might have to say, if anything, about ranking of values.

 

George

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Apparently there has been some criticism of Haidt's claims though: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Haidt#Criticism

Haidt has been criticized at times for being both simplistic and too lenient toward moral beliefs that have historically led to grave injustices. In a response to Haidt's suggestion that atheists "pollute the scientific study of religion,"[8] author Sam Harris writes, "Even if Haidt's reading of the literature on morality were correct, and all this manufactured bewilderment proves to be useful in getting certain people to donate time, money, and blood to their neighbors—so what? Is science now in the business of nurturing useful delusions? Surely we can grow in altruism, and refine our ethical intuitions, and even explore the furthest reaches of human happiness, without lying to ourselves about the nature of the universe"[9]

Rev. Dr. Todd F. Eklof, author of "A Gospel for Liberals," gave a public response to Haidt during his February 26, 2012 sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane[10], stating; "I believe this naïve position is the result of his simplistic misunderstanding and misappropriation of Eastern philosophy and religion. As I had predicted, by the end of his lecture, his argument becomes entirely dualistic, to the point that he even begins comparing these two moral perspectives [liberal and conservative] to Daoism’s most pervasive symbol. '…Yin and Yang aren’t enemies,' he says, 'Yin and Yang don’t hate each other. Yin and Yang are both necessary, like night and day, for the functioning of the world.' This perspective may not be Manichean to the extent that Haidt doesn’t consider one side right and the other wrong, but I do believe it is to the extent that he views both positions as proportionate halves of a whole.[11]

Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York, has also criticized Haidt on his blog[12], for his "contention that the Academy discriminates against conservatives (I rather think it is many conservatives who are not attracted to the academy — with all that open inquiry and low salaries)". But conservative and libertarian academics like Duke University political scientist Michael Munger reject Pigliucci's claim as ridiculous and simplistic.[

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