Post excerpted from Cheat-seeking Missiles
I'm not sure that this is what Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, set out to do, but his research into the basis of our morality has shown what is obvious to most of us: Liberals run on a pretty simple clock, whereas the clockwork of conservatives is far more advanced and complex. Did he really say that? You bet:
Haidt argues that human morality is a cultural construction built on top of - and constrained by - a small set of evolved psychological systems. He presents evidence that political liberals rely primarily on two of these systems, involving emotional sensitivities to harm and fairness. Conservatives, however, construct their moral understandings on those two systems plus three others, which involve emotional sensitivities to in-group boundaries, authority and spiritual purity.
Got that? Liberals are worried that the guppy doesn't get hurt and that everyone sings Kumbaya with perfectly balanced voice quality. Conservatives are all for not harming and being fair, but create a much more complex structure for their moral measurements.
Adding in-group boundaries basically means we conservatives are conformists and are more likely to find immorality in the wanton destruction of social mores than liberals, who tend to see such destruction as a moral attribute. Rage against the machine, fight the man. Authority means, of course, respect for authority. Liberals get no moral readings from that attribute, but it's big to conservatives.
Haidt's last point is interesting: the spiritual roots of moral decisions. I think he's wrong here because his survey focuses on religion, not on beliefs. Dennis Prager correctly states that there is more dogma in the Liberal faith system (environmentalism, human rights, tolerance) than in any established religion. If Haidt had designed his survey instrument differently, I believe "core belief systems" would have scored as high with the liberals as with the conservatives, if not higher.
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