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TED Talk By Jonathan Haidt


rivanna
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Thought this might be of interest-- I haven’t been participating in the discussion of Jonathan Haidt’s book, but I did watch this TED talk and a couple of interviews

 

 

 

It does seem true in evolution, that individuals only cooperate as a group when competing against other groups. What bothered me is that he puts war on the same level as other “staircase” experiences that lift us beyond our selves to transcendence -- “anything that unites us is sacred….there are many books that say nothing brings people together like war.” Is it instructive or useful to see things that way? He does add later, that cooperating as a group can be either constructive or destructive (and I realize this lecture is only a small segment of Haidt’s work.).

 

I guess I need to see social sciences as a subset of a greater spiritual view, rather than the other way around. I’m no religious scholar, but somehow this vision resonates with the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. To me, the concept of “original blessing” is more persuasive. Just my personal response :-)

Edited by rivanna
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Rivanna, I am not clear on what you mean by this:

 

"I guess I need to see social sciences as a subset of a greater spiritual view, rather than the other way around."

 

I see the social sciences (as it may be applied to religion) as an attempted objective analysis and explanation. I don't think scientists such as Haidt see themselves as promoting any particular form of religion, or even religion in general. And, I don't think Haidt sees people as being inherently depraved as depravity is a value judgement, not a scientific finding. His attempt, as I understand it, is to understand and explain human behavior. It is then up to the reader, if they wish, to decide if this is depraved, noble, or neither.

 

FWIW, I did a word search of two of his books that I have on my Kindle. He does not use the words 'depraved' or 'depravity' in either one.

 

George

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George,

 

you’re right, it was exaggeration on my part, Haidt doesn’t use the word depravity and I didn’t mean to suggest that he was promoting any particular religious view. His positive and negative examples are more like illustrating human free will than Calvinism.

To clarify my statement - I see science and religion (or spirituality) as separate fields, but for me (and I think for others here) the idea of transcendence beyond human intellect is the preeminent, ultimate reality. That’s why I’m disturbed by his comments on war as a form of transcendence. Sorry I didn’t say quite what I meant.

Edited by rivanna
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I see science and religion (or spirituality) as separate fields, but for me (and I think for others here) the idea of transcendence beyond human intellect is the preeminent, ultimate reality.

 

Rivanna, Thanks for the clarification. I didn't think it came out quite like you intended.

 

I agree somewhat with you that science and religion are separate fields. However, science can be used to help understand the phenomenon of religion as a universal human institution. There are clearly psychological and social factors involved in religion. This is independent of the existence/non-existence of any transcendent being which cannot be scientifically ascertained.

 

George

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Maybe I should’ve just posted the video without commenting- ! :)

 

As you suggest, it’s inappropriate to judge his social-science, evolutionary analysis from a spiritual perspective. I got hung up on his statements about war. But after listening again and reading the transcript, I feel that his values are humanitarian and creative.

 

“Human cooperation is the most powerful force on the planet…We evolved to see sacredness all around us, and to join with others…to pursue moral ideas.

We broke down the old institutions and brought liberty to the oppressed...

One great challenge of modern life is to find the staircase amid all the clutter, and then do something good and noble …and that gives me hope, because people are not purely selfish. Most people long to overcome pettiness and become part of something larger.”

Edited by rivanna
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Maybe I should’ve just posted the video without commenting- ! :)

 

As you suggest, it’s inappropriate to judge his social-science, evolutionary analysis from a spiritual perspective. I got hung up on his statements about war. But after listening again and reading the transcript, I feel that his values are humanitarian and creative.

 

“Human cooperation is the most powerful force on the planet…We evolved to see sacredness all around us, and to join with others…to pursue moral ideas.

We broke down the old institutions and brought liberty to the oppressed...

One great challenge of modern life is to find the staircase amid all the clutter, and then do something good and noble …and that gives me hope, because people are not purely selfish. Most people long to overcome pettiness and become part of something larger.”

 

rivanna,

 

I do not think you need to apologize for anything. I am very familiar with Haidt's work. I introduced it to this website well before the current discussion. Your first impressions are not far from the mark.

 

Myron

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I enjoyed this little talk thank you rivanna for posting it. Social psychology with regard to groups is fascinating stuff and I like most of what Mr Haidt has to say. The war comments I think simply relate to the loss of the self in the group, for the betterment of the group. This apparent transcedance (not sure if that is the right word) is acheivable in small teams of people who share a common goal and share in the suffering. It is as though the suffering brings out the selflessness. I have experienced a warmth, a flooding of warmth through my body and a loss of fear regarding my personal safety as I tried to further the common goal of my small group; everything felt as though time had slowed and I was moving in slow motion. I lost myself in the moment and did what was required, as did my mates. This was a military situation and the loss of the "self" absolutely increased our survival chances. This phenomenon is common in warfare and is probably the reason why military training is often tougher than is actually possible, not to break the individuals in the group, but to cement the group through shared suffering.

 

This seems quite important when considering Jesus as a political activist, the Apostles and the early Jesus movement, prior to the existence of the church.

 

Paul

Edited by Inthedark
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Myron, thanks.

 

Paul, I do get what you mean about bonding in the military. But I wondered about Haidt saying the “assurance of immortality” makes soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives-- not everyone who fights in battle has that belief. Also it struck me as strange that he uses the word “sacred” to mean anything that unifies a group, whether creative or destructive. He seems to lump together all self-transcendence as “religious experience” (such as psychedelic drugs). I would say, to lose oneself is not necessarily to find God.

Hope that makes sense….I don’t want to get in the way of discussing his work.

Edited by rivanna
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Rivanna,

 

I did a cursory look back into The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt seems to use the term 'sacred' more broadly than the conventional usage related to religion.

 

He seems to use the term as something or some place special in contrast to the mundane or profane. As an example, he says "sacredness is so irrepressible that it intrudes repeatedly into the modern profane world in the form of 'crypto-religious behavior." He uses the example of one's birthplace having a special 'sacred' character. I can think of other secular 'sacred' places and things like the "Declaration of Independence," "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," the Washington Monument, Gettysburg battlefield, etc.

 

He also uses sacredness in experiences such as being in love, experiences with nature and the like. He says that even atheists experience 'sacredness.' I think it is in this context that some experiences of war might fit into his definition.

 

George

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