Haidt’s work presents a conundrum for conservatives.
On the one hand, in one context, everything he says is right. We should understand where both sides are coming from, realize that both sides offer valuable insights, give more benefit of the doubt, stop demonizing the other side, and build a door through the wall of the political divide. I will commit to doing all of those things to the best of my ability.
But on the other hand, in a different context, everything he says is also right. The six-foundation morality is congruent with human nature, while the three-foundation morality is not. Successful human cooperation requires all six-foundations or “all the tools in the tool box” as he says in his first TED talk, which explains why the three-foundation “unconstrained vision has the worst track record in the history of ideas.”
It’s little like being between a rock and a hard place. It’s a conundrum.
Here’s part one of the rock:
One of Haidt’s messages is that we all should understand that the views on the other side of the political aisle are based in something real and legitimate. Those people aren’t crazy. They’re good people. They have everyone’s best interests at heart. Give them the respect they are owed.
Got it. Agreed. Roger, willco.
Another of his messages is Yin/Yang. Both sides offer valuable insights, and when either side circles around its sacred values it develops an irrational commitment to those values. Morality blinds, so try to be aware of the log in your own eye before you spend too much energy being hypercritical of the speck in the other guy’s eye.
Got that too.
And he even makes suggestions on how we might be able to reduce the rancor and the demonization across the political divide. If we develop personal relationships with people on the other side it is harder to see them as “evil,” and easier to have civil discussions.
Roger that, too.
All of those things are wonderful. Sign me up. I can do them.
I can realize that three-foundation people are good; that they’re not crazy, or evil. I can try to be aware of my own irrational commitment to the six-foundation sacred values, and of the fact that people circle the wagons and go tribal when the sacred values of their team are threatened. I can be aware that riders, mine included, make post hoc rationalizations of what the elephant has already decided. I can understand that we’re all great at seeing the speck in each other’s eyes while at the same time being ignorant of the log in our own. I can empathize. I can develop personal relationships; I can join softball teams or bowling leagues, or attend community or company picnics. I can do everything that Haidt imagines and recommends that we do.
Given that, here’s part one of the hard place:
The fact that both sides believe equally strongly in their points of view, and both sides make valuable contributions, does not mean that both sides are equally valid, or “good,” or beneficial to human society. It does not follow from “everybody thinks they’re right” that everybody is indeed equally right.
At some point in a discussion about politics, even with the full realization that I have a log in my own eye, and that three-foundation people are not “crazy,” and they’re certainly not evil, and we all really are “good people” who are “divided by politics and religion,” the basic fact remains that human nature consists of at least six moral foundations, and people with a six-foundation moral lens can see all of them, whereas people with a three-foundation lens for all practical purposes cannot. This has a very real, practical, utilitarian, impact in the real-world, which is that, in the end, the three-foundation morality, when it gets to do things the way it wants, ends up, in the aggregate, doing more harm than good, and the six-foundation morality ends up doing more good than harm.
It’s not just liberals that conservatives have a better understanding of (than liberals have of conservatives) it’s human nature. The six-foundation morality is more “in tune” with who and what human beings really are, what makes us tick, how we function, and what we’re capable of, both good and bad – both as individuals and as groups – in the real world than is the three-foundation morality. Given that, how can the six-foundation morality not, on average, over the long haul, offer better solutions to societal issues than the three-foundation morality? And how can the three-foundation morality not, on average, over the long haul, miss out on, and sometime trample over, key aspects of human nature without which a healthy society is impossible?
All of the moral foundations are necessary if society and the individuals within it are to have their best opportunity to survive and to thrive. A morality, or a world view, made of only the individualizing foundations simply doesn’t offer that opportunity.
Haidt illustrated this in a talk he gave at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) called “When Compassion Leads to Sacrilege.” He was working on The Righteous Mind at the time he gave the talk. I watched that video online and typed up a transcript (hitting pause and rewind many, many times). Here’s a portion of it. In this quote he is talking about how the liberal three-foundation (but mostly just one) world view, which he calls the “unconstrained vision” (from Thomas Sowell’s book, A Conflict of Visions) actually performs in the real world:
“The unconstrained vision, I believe, has the worst track record in the history of ideas. This is a terrible and really dangerous idea, quite frankly. In the French Revolution, I’ve been stunned to read this, for the book that I’m writing, to read on the French Revolution. My beef with them is that they’re rationalists, they think that reason is a reliable way to find truth, it’s great in the natural sciences, but once you care about something, if you have passions, if it’s a moral issue, reasoning is the slave of the [passions]. David Hume said that “Reasoning is the slave of the passions and can pretend to no other office but to serve and obey them.” I think Hume was right.
So I’m really concerned about rationalists. But what I discovered is that in one of the few places on earth where the rationalists got control of an entire country and were able to do with it what they wanted, they created a cult of reason, they banned the clergy, they killed the nobles, ah, and what we had wasn’t oh, let’s get rid of ah, let’s get rid of nations and religion and then people will be one. No, what they had was most people didn’t, or a lot of people didn’t, want to go along with the revolution, and of course they’re wrong because we know we’re right; we have reason on our side. They called themselves the party of reason, also the party of humanity, the French Revolutionaries ended up murdering hundreds of thousands of people. They committed genocide in the Vendee region, lining people against the walls and shooting them; putting them out into boats and sinking the boats. The French Revolutionaries committed genocide. They committed, they would round people, anybody who was accused of anything, rounded up, pronounced guilty, guillotined. We don’t usually say, “Well yeah they committed genocide but other than that oh the French Revolution was great.” So the French Revolution was based on the ex, the most extreme unconstrained view, the philosophes, Condorcet, Sam Harris, people like that.
Um, other research, on 19th century communes. Richard Sosis, anthropologist, compared, he found the records of communes in the 19th century. Many were organized, were socialist communes based on equality and openness, many were religious communes. And he looked to see how long did they last. answer, the religious ones tended to last two to three times longer than the liberal, than the secular ones. Because, if you bind people in, you, it turns out the active ingredient was demanding sacrifice. Making them change their names, wear funny clothes, cut all contact with the outside, give up certain foods. If you ask for sacrifice, if you constrain people, they form a community of trust, and they don’t cheat each other.
And if you say, “Welcome everyone. Constraints are bad.” It quickly decays into a moral, into moral chaos. Again, the unconstrained vision, when it gets a chance to run things, screws it up.
Twentieth century communism, fascism, any any movement that tried to create a new man ends up committing atrocities, ends up committing mass murder. Um, if any, if there are any historians here, but as far as I understand it most left wing revolutions have ended with mass murder, because, you have this utopia, people don’t go along, because you got human nature incorrectly, they don’t go along, but you know you’re right because you have reason on your side, so you use force, and you use more force, and you use more force, and you end up like Cuba, or North Korea, or the other communist revolutions. It doesn’t work.”
In the final analysis, the three-foundation morality, by itself, just doesn’t work. It is not congruent with fundamental human nature. Six-foundation people know this, literally intuitively, by virtue of having internalized all of the foundations. It’s in our elephant. We have all of the taste buds, to use Haidt’s analogy. Our palate appreciates the entire cuisine of human nature. Our moral vision – both in the sense of perception and in the sense of imagination of the limits, positive and negative, of human society – employs all of the color receptors, to use my own analogy. We “see” the full spectrum of human nature.
And, the facts of history, which Haidt summarized in his CCARE talk, prove that the unconstrained vision, the three-foundation morality, doesn’t just fail to provide the optimal solution, it actually harms more than it helps.
All of which helps to make one of my points: Moral foundations work best, and offer the best result for human social society, when they check and balance each other. Society works best when the individualizing foundations are in roughly equal balance with the binding ones. Even though we love our individual freedom and autonomy, civilization – our need to form cooperative groups for our own mutual benefit and flourishing – is literally not possible without loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Things go haywire, and society collapses in on itself, and people sometimes even resort to genocide, when the balance is upset and one or two or three foundations dominate the others. For our own sake, for the common good, for the general welfare, we must do the best we can to keep the moral foundations of our collective culture in balance.
Here’s part two of the rock:
The three-foundation morality does have some key insights, and it does make some good points, as Haidt rightly points out. So I need to be cognizant of that and account for it.
Liberals can talk about the bad aspects of the binding foundations, like authoritarianism. And they make good points, which I’ll often concede. They can talk about the need for a social safety net, and the protection of the weak, and they’ll make more good points, which I’ll also concede. As I’ve said, conservatism makes mistakes too. I believe that many conservatives are unaware that their instant visceral reaction to like or dislike something comes from the moral foundations, and if more conservatives did understand this then they’d be less apt to fight the other side just because it is the other side, and more apt to strive for balance, which (in my humble opinion) is the real key to successful, thriving communities. I’ll work with liberals to try to keep the six-foundation morality from pulling too hard to the right, and to keep the binding foundations in balance with the individualizing foundations.
Conceding all of those points is the right thing to do for two reasons. First, they’re right, and second, being fair and open minded in that way is part of Haidt’s prescription for decreasing the partisan divide. It’s better for everyone.
Here’s part two of the hard place:
But what am I supposed to do when, no matter how understanding and empathic and open minded I am to the three-foundation points of view and the reasons for them, and no matter how civil I am when I communicate with liberals, and through those things, no matter how many bridges we build across the political divide together, they still insist on implementing policies which I know, both in my heart (because of my six-foundation elephant) and in my head (because of the facts of history) will do more harm than good? And what am I supposed to do when no matter how many times, and no matter how many ways, and no matter how many facts and figures and statistics I show them, and no matter how much “reason” I apply, and no matter how much I speak in metaphor and in emotional stories as Haidt does and recommends, liberals simply cannot see it because their moral vision employs only three of the six available color receptors, which makes them blind to half of human nature. They’re not just neutral toward the binding foundations. They openly reject them. They not only don’t give those foundations the benefit of the doubt, they go further, and often directly blame them for much of what’s wrong with the world, which means that practically everything I say and do is seen and interpreted, through the three-foundation moral lens, as “proof” that I just don’t get it.
So here are my choices; this is what I’m left with; this is the position I am literally forced into by the “tin ear” of the three-foundation morality. I can either, 1) Give in, sacrifice my principles, and “compromise,” or 2) Defend and advocate what I know is right. Yes, right – in the best interest of all people – because it is more congruent with human nature and because the facts of history show it to be true – and risk being accused of being heartless, and unfeeling, and racist, and homophobic and all of the other things I’m routinely accused of, not because I actually am those things, but because the three-foundation morality just can’t see the world, or me, any other way.
Well, its really no choice at all. I must choose option 2. And I must do it on at least two fronts
First, I must, with all the patience I can muster, listen with an open mind. I have to actively find ways to incorporate three-foundation ideas into my moral matrix in a way that does not upset the balance or my own beliefs. I have to admonish fellow six-foundation people to try as hard as possible to avoid pulling too hard to the right, and instead pull hard for balance.
And when I advocate my views I have to adopt a posture like that of Martin Luther King. I’d never actually compare myself with him, but I can use him as an example to strive toward. I can do the best I can to preach my message as fairly, honestly, and respectfully as I can, and, as Lincoln said, “With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right,” I must forthrightly, unabashedly, and unashamedly stand for what I truly believe.
It’s a fine line to walk, this balancing act between Haidt’s admonition for civil politics and standing up for what I feel in my bones, and what I think human history proves, is right. No single argument will ever just convince an elephants to change its spots (pardon the mixed metaphor), but if the argument is offered respectfully, consistently, persistently, with reason and data in support, an elephant can make some mid-course corrections to the path it is on.
And second, I choose to advocate the teaching of Moral Foundations Theory in schools. A large part of the reason for the political divide is that people on both sides of the political aisle just don’t have a firm grasp of how the brain really works, and why we think and say and do the things we do. A lot of the presuppositions that many of our moral and political arguments, and thus the political divide, are built on are myths. I think our best hope of bridging the divide comes through busting the myths and giving people that firm grasp.
Moral Foundations Theory, (augmented by, for example, by Mercier and Sperber’s Argumentative Theory, along with the understanding of “Thinking Fast and Slow” as represented by the metaphor of The Rider and The Elephant) offers a deeper understanding of the human condition, and the motivations behind the things we say and do with, and to, each other, than has heretofore been available to us. This is the genius of The Righteous Mind. I believe it is an integral part of the history of mankind, and certainly of politics; that is, of group-level human interaction. I also believe it is an integral part of how we get along with each other on an individual level. I believe, therefore, that a module on moral foundations theory belongs in, and the principles of moral foundations theory should be an integral part of, every social studies, history, economics, and even health class, in an age appropriate way, in every grade in every public school in this country. If we could somehow find a way to do this I think we would, in fact, diminish the width and depth of the political divide, and I would have more faith that our children, after they grow up and assume the reins of power, will make choices that keep this country on a path of health and prosperity.
I believe that through teaching Moral Foundations Theory in the public schools of America, and in all of the colleges as well, we might be able to lift the veil of misunderstanding, and through that lifting possibly even decrease the width and depth of the political divide, and be able to respond to Rodney King’s question, “Can we all get along?” with a tentative “yes.”
What an interesting discussion. I do have to wonder at the idea that the liberal group is pursuing an evolutionary advantage through quantity over quality. Michael Blume has done some interesting work (http://www.blume-religionswissenschaft.de/english/index_english.html) on the evolutionary advantages of religiosity. Those who are more religious have more children. Assuming some correlation between religiosity and conservatism broadly speaking, and if turning resources into children is “winning” the evolutionary game, then religiosity (and at least some sorts of conservatism) seems to be evolutionarily advantageous in regards to quantity.
Very true, especially given religion can also discourage birth control. I suspect K’s are also driven to have kids by the urge to perform high-investment parenting. In nature, that involves having kids hang around for expanded periods until fully mature, likely speaking to a desire for their company. I suspect that translates into an actual urge to have kids, which means something today, since avoiding pregnancy is so easy. Today’s breeders will tend to be consciously volitional – a significant change from the ancient past.
r would produce many more offspring in a state of nature of course, if there were no birth control. Diminished desire to perform parental investment in r’s, however likely makes them less desirous of having kids. Combined with an easy way to choose to have nearly unlimited sex without pregnancy, this has likely radically diminished r-numbers.
Unfortunately, this will evolve the r cohort. Those who do produce large numbers of offspring in the r group will be those who are either so irresponsible and unstable that they cannot adhere to a simple birth control regimen,or those who have as many children as possible explicitly for government hand-outs. I would expect that if there were no collapse, in a hundred years we would not recognize the democratic party. Welfare moms with twelve kids a pop, all expecting government to pay all their bills for “fairness,” would be the de facto form of r, and it would make for a really wild political party.
All hail President Camacho. “America….F@ck Yeah!”
It is possible, especially given it can discourage birth control. I suspect K’s also are driven to have kids by the urge to perform high-investment parenting. In nature, that involves having kids hang around for expended periods, likely speaking to a desire for their company. I suspect that translates into an actual urge to have kids, which means something today, since avoiding pregnancy is so easy. Today’s breeders will tend to be consciously volitional – a significant change.
r would produce many more offspring in a state of nature of course, if there were no birth control. Diminished desire to perform parental investment in r’s, however likely makes them less desirous of having kids. Combined with an easy way to have nearly unlimited sex without pregnancy, this has likely radically diminished r-reproducition.
Unfortunately, this will evolve the r cohort. Those who do produce large numbers of offspring will be those who are either so irresponsible and unstable they cannot adhere to a simple birth control regimen,or those who do so explicitly for government hand-outs. I would expect that if there were no collapse, in a hundred years we would not recognize the democratic party. Welfare moms with twelve kids a pop, all expecting government to pay all their bills for “fairness,” would be the de facto form of r, and it would make for a really wild political party.
All hail President Camacho. “America….F@ck Yeah!”
Actually, the Liberal group is kind of splintered, due to the new evolutionary stress of birth control. r-types have a drive towards low-investment rearing. Fathers want no part of rearing so they abandon mothers to find more mating opportunities, and mothers kick kids out of the nest at the earliest possible moment, as a way of making way for a new brood as quickly as possible. As a result r-type humans probably have a diminsihed desire to have children (though they likely have a higher sex drive.) When combined with readily available birth control, most Liberals will choose lots of sex, with no offspring. The fact our breeding is now about a conscious choice to have a child, and not just a byproduct of a sexual urge, is seriously impairing their r-strategy. It means those who reproduce, and define Liberals in the future will be the crazies, who are too unstable and irresponsible to stick to a Birth Control regimen, and the single welfare moms, who are designed to have as many kids as possible as a way of acquiring government largesse. I suspect, if there were no major cleansing, the democratic party would look like the movie Idiocracy in a hundred years. Already we see a big difference between the party of JFK and now.
“then religiosity seems to be evolutionarily advantageous”
I agree. Many aspects of it promote evolutionarily advantageous behaviors. Those who eschew Birth Control entirely will especially see their numbers increase. However it is worth noting that K-types have a high-investment parental drive, which makes them want to stay with their kids, in a two parent family, and rear them for extended periods. This may make them want kids more, as the act of rearing would appeal to them. In a world where conception is a volitional choice, that would probably increase birth rates itself.
So if we were in the primitve environment where these urges formed, without birth control, r and K would still work the same. But Birth Control is a new stress, and both sides are seeing their psychologiy’s outcomes altered by it, and will continue to do so, until they adapt.
Very funny. I posted a response, it didn’t show up. Post another, no post. Post a third, and suddenly the other two pop up.
AC, re your note of 4/24- Thanks for your response. This: “Knowing the future opens the door to possibilities which would seem impossible” is a good point…I was heartened to see the deer story from your youth, and I agree that there’s a simple lesson there for liberals: in a phrase, we’re weak on understanding how problematic improvement can be to implement. The point to see beyond a narrow-minded form of compassion is well taken…Your posit that Tea Party types would refuse a free pension is likely true. That point and the one regarding ‘hey, it’s a contract’ weren’t related to my question- I apologize that I wasn’t clear. All SSI and Medicare reform entails changes that don’t affect present recipients, but that reduce or delay benefits of those who aren’t collecting benefits yet, to something more akin to sustainability and reasonable recompense. My question was why the percentage is so high who are against such reforms.
I mention again, with an attempt at more clarity, that a strategy that involves solely informally squeezing the source of virtually all evil (liberals) harder has no degree of likely success in any level of society, in any state in the union. That was my point, not that you can’t create ideas for how to get us to scurrying. I tend to think in strategic terms, because I’m a business guy: a huge advantage with your approach is that nothing in the model proscribes any behavior on your part. On the contrary, in the sense of providing the broadest field upon which to act, it’s a wonderful model- to be bearing the truth, on a mission of utmost urgency, and therefore morally unlimited in how to leverage your genetically-bestowed accuracy for the good of the tribe. You’re like a prophet for the humans before the Cylons attacked from within in Battlestar Galactica and nearly destroyed humanity- you’re advocating for a radical push when we have lulled everyone around us into false complacency about our infection of the world. You seem to have an intention to two-tier the Constitution, but only in spirit, not in actuality. Given the stakes, however, I don’t understand why you stop at these informal, ineffectual tactics: I would argue it incumbent upon you morally to advocate at the least for radical, explicit, law-driven, formal forms of discrimination. I’m guessing you’re waiting until there are “possibilities which would seem impossible” today, when you could suggest formal changes to human rights based on behavior, and actually be heard seriously.
As said, I’m sympathetic with many of your ends and few of your means, though I’m not free to reject your hypothesis outright. I most definitely cannot reject the urgency of the call for change on important fronts. My only useful contribution might be noting that it would be impossible to construct a better strategic approach for introducing the use and explicit embrace of cognitive biases born of naïve realism and the fundamental attribution error. This latter, in the political opponent context, is about our universal tendency as humans to assign responsibility for situational variables to personality flaws, and the bias is not improved much by introspection, only through exposure. These two foundations for bias seem to combine in your case, as with everyone, to introduce other biases: whatever the value of your ideas, there is very good evidence in your writings of the confirmation bias, the negativity effect, the outgroup bias, the planning fallacy, and other ‘child’ biases to naïve realism that are particularly pertinent in a political setting. The Haidt book goes even further than discussing bias as a skew on perception, using social intuitionism to explain that we are essentially driven by nonconscious drives, that our biases and conscious minds ceaselessly, seamlessly work to effect the nonconscious mind’s vision of reality for us. Whether he’s completely right or not, the model, with its inherent respect for bias and Descarte’s error, has a great deal of explanatory power, especially in the realm of politics, where valid but abstracted ideas can hold so much sway. You seem driven by what you see as your conscious mind, in a way I’m often chiding liberals about: a kind of overemphasis on conscious reasoning that ignores who’s really driving, and why. You allude correctly to such affects among liberals, but seem to implicitly reject them in yourself, judging from the complete lack of allowance for such effects in your writings. Your strategy then encourages you to actively leverage your biases, in the sense that both suggest that you encourage your ingroup to stop listening or cooperating, and to discriminate actively a priori against outgroup members. In my opinion, solely on the basis of the lack of respect for personal bias you currently show, no one should feel assured that your approach is a clear harbinger of truth. Fortunately, I don’t think you need to reject this point about your biases to preserve your world view, though many might think so. I think it’s a small, simple point: now that it’s 2012, it’s time for us all to accept that investigating well-documented personal bias is necessary, not counter to any truth, and can only benefit one’s personal efficacy.
I am not offering a solution to solve all our problems, as I don’t think there is a need for one, to return things to the K-side of the spectrum, which my r/K orientation leads me to favor. Resources will inevitably become scarce, and force the change we need to remove the selfish and the naive, who would sacrifice us to our enemies. I do hope a general knowledge of my work will enhance the changes we implement in the coming deluge, and allow us to forestall the misery better in the future, by implementing a more competitive scheme upon our nation.
It’s kind of like the Constitution. When we were founded, we were highly K-type. Our colonies existed in a K-selected state of nature, and the only individuals who would have been comfortable emigrating at that time would have been K. As a result, our culture was K, and attracted more K while culling the r. When the Constitution was drafted, it was done by K’s, and it was designed to force a preservation of K, as much as possible, for the good and health fo our nation. It worked quite well. Now, literally centuries later, Obamacare looks to be heading to the waste bin, courtesy of a bunch of K’s who lived centuries ago, but still forced our hand, for our own good, in the modern world.
After the coming storm, it is my hope that this work, combined with the massively increased K-influence, will allow us to implement some sort of similar lasting measures, to preserve K for the next generation. Ironically, in staving off r, we will actually diminish the suffering r ultimately produces.
So I don’t propose any current aggressive solutions, beyond discriminating against Liberals wherever possible and shaming their ideology over it’s cowardly, bunny-like, aberrant nature, as I do not think they are necessary.
>you encourage your ingroup to stop listening or cooperating, and to
>discriminate actively a priori against outgroup members.
Yes, I am K, and as a result, loathe r, which I believe is prone to destroy societies through disloyalty, and desperate attempts to drag down the successful, and reward the sloths. And I support taking any non-violent measure to attenuate our slide. I can understand why r’s would seek to exploit a strategy of lulling me into navel gazing and compromise while they collapse our society, but I am pretty sure that is not a viable strategy, and I am not afraid to say so. The historical evidence looks pretty clear to me. Every civilization has tried to bring effective compromise between K and r, and only gone on to collapse. I think the evidence indicates the only way to produce a functioning society is to go K, and eliminate r in some fashion. Passive discrimination seems the best strategy to me at this point, and as a bonus, it will come naturally to the majority K populace, if we see the underlying forces.
On bias, I don’t think I’ve ever made the case I am wholly unbiased. In a book I wrote on this, I acknowledged that both sides are biased, since in being r or K, each will have it’s own perceptual framework of right and wrong (I devote a whole section to morality). I’ve even made the case that if you accept my work as valid, there is no actual wrong or right, only r or K.
That said, I am not aware of any other work which offers a better explanation of why these two ideologies would exist in our species, or where something similar might exist in other species. Maybe it’s my bias, but I think it’s pretty convincing, as do most of the conservatives who have seen it. The people on Vox’s site loved it.
The bottom line is Liberalism stands for oppression and collapse, if this work is correct. They need to oppress the strivers to reward the sloths, for their model to work. This would be bad enough, but in this model, the r-type sloths will then eventually reward everyone by out-reproducing the strivers, and eventually collapsing the whole system through over group-consumption, exactly as an r-selected invasive species in nature, given free resources, will multiply up, until it exhausts all resources suddenly and collapses it’s own ecosystem. The only thing compromise will do is slow the approach of the collapse. I say, why have a collapse, if all it takes to avoid it is to insist everyone contribute to the economy by producing just enough value that they don’t need money out of someone else’s pocket.
Again, I can only put this argument out there. I’m not going to bias it opposite to my own inclinations, with some analysis which shows Liberalism is good for a society’s health, if I can’t honestly find one (I can’t). I’m not going to lie on behalf of Liberals, just so I can tell people I must be unbiased, since I have something good for liberals in it, however false it may be.
This is the most honest and unbiased analysis I am capable of. People can take that, combined with my open acknowledgment of my K-inclinations in the first chapter of my book (and even my nick here – I am so open, I chose Anonymous Conservative as my nome de plume over just Anonymous), and make of it all what they will.
Given the fact we are overwhelmingly K, as a species, and a nation, I would not be optimistic about their reaction if I were a Liberal.
AC, from your descriptions it seems that r and K essentially describe gatherers and hunters, which we humans are descended from. Am I making a valid connection?
I’ve seen that work, as well as another guy who feels Conservatives were farmers (with strong social structure/hierarchies), and Liberals were hunter/gatherers but I am not so sure about either.
The general theory on man’s explosive population growth was that we suddenly lost most of our body hair, and became able to sweat generously. This let us cool our bodies better than other animals. In Africa, this was a huge advantage, as it was so hot during the day every animal would try to bed down in shade. Since we could move around, all we had to do was roust a bedded down antelope, and chase it gently for a while, and it would quickly get heat stroke, while we would not. Eventually, we could just walk up to it, and kill it, as it couldn’t move due to heat exhaustion.
This gave us free resources, which let us multiply up in r-type fashion, but eventually we reached a carrying capacity, and competition began, and things turned K-type. Some r-types fled, into new territories (perhaps driven by a novelty seeking trait), where resources were again abundant, and things repeated. Eventually we expanded to cover the globe, with r-types probably spreading out, and K-types following up when that territory’s resources were no longer freely available. This fits with studies showing migratory populations tend to have a gene associated with Liberalism, and Liberals score high on novelty seeking. It also explains why r and K both exist in our species.
I don’t know where the gatherers/farmers came in to this situation. It could have been an r-type drive to locate new resource streams (Liberals have smaller amygdalae. Eliminate a monkey’s amygdala, and he will eat all sorts of stuff he was disgusted by before. Probably diminished amygdala function helps in making unpalatable food into a resource stream for those who can’t/won’t compete for the good stuff.). Liberals also are more open to new ideas that break from older customs. Farming and gathering might fit with this.
Of course, today, hunting involves a lot of competitive drives, such as willingness to kill, and intolerance for out-group interests, which Liberals tend to lack. So I can’t say for certain, but I would think eating plants, when meat was available if you were willing to compete for it (and was more advantageous (for production of bigger brains)), and when meat was the norm, would seem like it would be r-type. New resource stream, less favorable, less palatable, and a way to avoid having to compete for the meat, which would have been growing limited.
But this is just speculative, and it is all getting pretty far afield from the basic premises of the work, namely that ideologies are manifestations of the more ancient r and K-type behavioral drives.
I think we are are both ultimately saying the same thing. You’re identifying the morals, I’m coming at it from a more biological side. But we see the same forces, we both recognize that the less healthy one grows in times of ease, and it will ultimately destroy the society it infects. Our only difference is in how we think we should approach the other side.
I’m sorry, AC, I missed your much longer response to TIW, and only just saw it. I see where you’re coming from better now- you’re on an ingroup mission, so scratch half my last.
AC, do you have any opinion on why there’s so damn many of us liberals in the world? Selection/competition logic would seem to weed us out better, at least the bits of it seen from Jon Haidt and in your notes. -S.
In my work, I am clear, Liberalism thrives when competition is reduced. Today, competition among men, as it would exist in nature, is almost wholly absent. You can live without earning a dime, and if you game the system right, have food and housing paid for, and even get a free cellphone. You can even dis your in-group, and no one will bother to remove you, or kill you. Very uncompetitive.
This was joked about in the movie Idiocracy, where they noted that the less intelligent had fifteen kids, and eventually out-reproduced the intelligent, leading to President Camacho. The effect was noted, because it is happening today. Of course, it never reaches Idiocracy proportions, as you get to the Roman example first. Head close enough to Idiocracy, and the whole structure of the Empire comes down, and competition will be reintroduced, to a fair degree through governmental dysfunction/austerity, and economic collapse. Then the population will head more Conservative. I think we are presently heading there, and it will not be pretty.
Notice, every great society begins in K-selection. As it becomes productive enough to eliminate mortality, it heads Liberal, and then it collapses, to begin anew. No nation lasts forever.
Finally, I am clear, r and K exist on a spectrum. I have likened it to the natural world. Look at an individual, and it is like quantum mechanics. They can be indescribable. But zoom out, and positions of the ideologies are as clear as Newtonian physics. Conservatives frown on pre-marital sex. Liberals not only support it, they think I should pay for their birth control. And the rest. Go to the far left, and you get pure r-type. Communism seeks the eliminate all competition for resources, and provision everyone e equally, like rabbits in a field. The Liberal movement wants that too (half the country pays no taxes – and we are told we need to tax the rest even more – and by the way, we are going bankrupt), but they aren’t in a position to get it, so they don’t go for it. Hippies demanded free love, on demand, and abhorred monogamy.
This is not unlike nature, where r and K-type natures within a population will vary, so they may be selected by Darwin, and mold the nature of the species. But zoom out, and take the population on the whole, and you get a better picture.
Finally, here’s some rhetorical questions for you.
Do you support all citizens who haven’t broken laws, or been judged mentally ill, being allowed concealed carry of the weapon of their choice, such as in Florida? Do you support closing the budget by making the 50% who pay no taxes, begin paying something into the pot? Do you support free health care?
Those all relate to competition, the first item in the r/K model.
Do you think promiscuity is wrong? Would you marry a girl who had more than eight to ten partners, if everything else about her seemed good? Would you/Have you vote(d) for a candidate who cheated on his wife? Do you think it would be wrong for someone to get a girl into bed, and then break off the relationship with her, because they had the opportunity to sleep with a tremendously hotter girl the next night?
Those all relate to promiscuity.
Do you support eliminating benefits to single mothers, and letting child services take their children and place them in two-parent families, to discourage the behavior. Do you have any problem with single mother adoption? Do you support giving tax breaks to two-parent families, and increasing taxes on single parents?
Those are child rearing.
Finally, do you support sexual education for children? Have you ever opposed the portrayal of casual sexual relationships on TV, where children might see them?
Early sexualization of youth.
Notice most Libs would line up opposing the concept of fitness based competitions among men, they would be tolerant or supportive of promiscuity, they would support single parenting, and they would support the sex ed, and have never been bothered by sexualized images on TV. Indeed, the Democratic party has called for more gun control (until fast and furious), opposed stand your ground laws, sought to tax the rich to give freebies to the poor, they want those who earn to pay for the birth control of those who don’t, they don’t care a whit about single parenting as a problem, and they support early sexual education among children (in Britain they wanted to do it beginning at age five), even if it de-emphasizes abstinence.
The likeness to r/K Theory is uncanny.
Notice the Democratic Party of the fifties would have been more ashamed to support these issues. As in Rome, we are heading more r-type, as would any population which abandons competitive selection, and provides free resources. It will be corrected eventually, and it will be ugly. IMHO, we will have Liberals (and those who tolerated them) to blame.
Thank you for the detailed, considered reply, AC- it helped with the competitive side of your idea. I’m going to pass on answering your rhetorical questions- the answers are complicated, and I don’t think they’d be pertinent. I think your point was that I have at least qualified support for many of your “anti-competitive” scenarios, and that’s true.
Your response on my question is, I think, that recent history has created an uncompetitive environment, and so people have moved more toward r. That’s what I said, too. It sounds like a pure social/behavioral phenomenon- doesn’t sound as if it’s had the time or the need to be an evolutionary response. You also shift us back and forth along the r-K continuum behaviorally, as a species, based on an environmental variable, which has no natural parallel, to my knowledge. A rabbit is a rabbit no matter the environment, but a human is moral or immoral based on whether he’s constrained or no- so he’s sometimes an immoral liberal, sometimes a human…I don’t know the theory as well as you obviously, and I appreciate your very kind acknowledgement of it’s rough-and-ready explanatory character, but based on these points I see little evolutionary parallel or logic, though I can go along with your behavioral metaphor for much of the ride. Your version seems quite valuable, as it did for TIW, as an ingroup, simple handle to grab. From my perspective, it’s mostly a great enactor of the confirmation bias for existent beliefs, not only because I think it’s a weak metaphor, but also because the version of the metaphor you used implied liberal values = r values, which I see as so misleading vis-a-vis motivations that the power of the metaphor is compromised. The evolutionary component seems actually contradictory to your direct ideological point that this moral degradation can and does occur very quickly, depending on environmental conditions of ease: you can’t explain with selection a change from 30% semi-slimeballs to 60% slimeballs in a couple of generations. I don’t understand why you would try. Seems like you’d need to drag through history a ‘dormant’ liberal gene-? Why not just stick with people being weak naturally, and failing under conditions of ease? Look, I want to agree with a broad version of your point, one I’m on about regularly, that liberals are idiots about important things in the moral sphere that conservatives understand. I also think your point about liberals siding less fervently with K-type competition strategies, or whatever a more current theoretical version of K for humans might look like, really interesting, though not at all as black-and-white as you seem to.
If I understand you, you infer that we liberals keep our numbers sub-optimally high through being free of selection pressures. I don’t want to get wrong what you mean by “fitness-based competition”. Based on your fervent advocacy for conservatism as the only alternative to liberalism, it seems logical that you would advocate for a form of true competitive selection, not just social metaphors of it- otherwise, we’ll just continue to rig the system for failure like we’re doing now. Is your only choice to watch us swamp the system, wait out the disaster, and rebuild?
“It sounds like a pure social/behavioral phenomenon- doesn’t sound as if it’s had the time or the need to be an evolutionary response.”
Actually, I believe it is a genetic/evolutionary phenomenon. Within my work, I point out a few historical scenarios which support this. Take WWII. We ship all of our K-type, competitive, group-oriented Warriors overseas to fight from 1942 until about 1946, with reconstruction, etc – leaving behind a highly r-type contingent to breed in the US. Returning Warriors take until 1948-49 to produce peak birthrates, according to the government data on the baby boom.
Twenty years (and nine months for gestation) after these K-types are removed from the gene pool, you have the rise of the Hippies in the early sixties. Ultra r-type twenty-year-old’s, wholly rejecting of monogamy, selfish, hedonistic, ultra disloyal to in-group, hateful of successful business leaders and capitalists, and supportive of highly r-type, Anticompetitive social structures such as communes and communism.
Twenty years (and nine months) after Warriors began reproducing again, in late ’68-69, Bugliosi notes it was the decline of the Hippie movement. Unlike many other social phenomenons, Hippies disappear, never to be seen in such numbers again (Though we are slowly heading in that direction today, due to our abandonment of competitive selection. It’s just not as fast because we haven’t explicitly removed the K-types.).
Note, in one generation, we went from kids who would fight to the death for their country, and hated communism, to kids who just wanted peace and free love, and who loved communism. All that happened was an unintended period of selective breeding, favoring r-types.
“A rabbit is a rabbit no matter the environment, but a human is moral or immoral based on whether he’s constrained or no- so he’s sometimes an immoral liberal, sometimes a human…”
Rabbits have been r-selected through aggressive predation for so long that they are now almost a wholly r-selected species. Had they had periods in which they experienced resource shortage, and the need to compete for resources, before the K-allele was removed from their populace, they might have had differences between them. Today, if Rabbits had the ability to give voice to their morals, they would see nothing wrong with promiscuity, single parenting, mating with young females who are just going through puberty, etc.
Our morals are determined by our natures, which in turn are a byproduct of evolutionary forces. We are highly K-selected. For most of our history, we have tended to consume resources to the max, and then compete for what’s left. In the later stages, this was done in groups, adding a pro-social component to our K-type natures, which then became part of our morals. As a result, today, we tend to think loyalty to in-group is good, monogamy is good, two-parent parenting beats fathers taking off, we don’t like seeing children being involved in sexual behavior, we think all men should be free, and we oppose the idea of a group of unproductive people taking someone else’s earned wealth, through force of government.
Saying the Liberal movement is immoral adds a human dimension to it. I prefer to think their behavioral drives run counter to the majority’s drives, since Liberal drives come from the r-side of the spectrum, while the majority’s come from the K-side. In my opinion, this makes it wrong to impose r-type morals on K-types, but I am K-type, and r-types obviously disagree.
“Seems like you’d need to drag through history a ‘dormant’ liberal gene-? “
There are probably a few, but the only one we see in the evidence today is the 7r allele of the DRD4 dopamine receptor gene. DRD4 is a gene which is documented as being involved in incentive salience (desire for a reward, such as in competition), Libido, promiscuity and infidelity, and even parental investment. Not surprising it would exist, as it is pretty clear r and K both have a genetic foundation, as Darwin selects among them based upon conditions on the ground.
The DRD4 gene is also associated with political affiliation.
“though not at all as black-and-white as you seem to. “
The black and white is a result of the fact we form partisanized parties to aggregate the individuals on each side. A moderate Conservative can tolerate a highly Conservative party because as a K-type, he will be tolerant of such K-type urges, even when he doesn’t hold them himself. Likewise Liberals. Hence, you say you don’t know many Liberals with the r-type traits, yet they freely associate with a party which stands for all of them. Reduction in freedom/ increase in government to limit competitive effects among men, promiscuity/free birth control, Single parenting/attacks on marriage, and ever earlier exposure of children to sex education.
Like it or not, we all aggregate in such a way as to produce two ideologies which tend to manifest as black and white.
“I don’t want to get wrong what you mean by “fitness-based competition”. Based on your fervent advocacy for conservatism as the only alternative to liberalism, it seems logical that you would advocate for a form of true competitive selection, not just social metaphors of it- otherwise, we’ll just continue to rig the system for failure like we’re doing now.”
I genuinely don’t have an answer for this, and I have made that clear elsewhere. Inherent to the K-type psychology is a desire for all individuals to be able to throw their hat in the ring, and compete freely and fairly. When some idiot impregnates a girl, it is obvious we can’t let her and her child starve. We are driven to give that kid a shot in the arena, as we support competition for everyone, not just ourselves (That is why you see poor people who are ardently Conservative, even though it would be more personally advantageous for them to simply go Liberal, and get whatever they can vote themselves). Competition for all’s a part of our psychology. So our psychological traits are a part of the problem too.
The problem is just made worse when we let Liberals give free food, housing, and cellphones to the chumps impregnating the girls.
“Is your only choice to watch us swamp the system, wait out the disaster, and rebuild?”
I believe so, though the more we denigrate Liberals, attack their motives as running counter to our population’s, and drive them into hiding, the more we can slow the decline. But I would still expect a slide, to some degree. Conservative could try to implement things like imprisonment of guys who impregnate girls and abandon them. We could try to increase criminal sentencing dramatically. We could even make receipt of welfare dependent upon voluntary birth control. But all of it is shoveling sand against the tide of fate. In the end, Liberals will incrementally increase government spending, and bankrupt the nation trying to maintain an r-type environment of free resources for everyone. r-types (particularly lower IQ r-types) will reproduce faster than K-types, and eventually, inevitably, be unsupportable as a population. In the end, Competition can only return by force, when Conservatives find themselves so busy trying to scratch out a meager support for their own, that they can’t worry about anyone else. Only then will they let the r-types (particularly the majority low IQ cohort of them) either starve, or flee to foreign lands with better benefits. This requires the economic collapse which is coming. And come it will, judging by present conditions.
My main goal here is to point out two things. One, politics is not about morality, feelings, or personalities. No one is right, no one is wrong. Liberals do what Liberals do because it is instinctual. Likewise Conservatism is instinctual too. Se we will never agree, or come to some sort of agreeable conclusion. What we are watching is the result of deeply imbued forces of nature. If we can recognize this, we can actually see the future, and begin examining whether there might be some reasonable way to avoid the nastiness of a collapse. Conservatives changing their debating tactics to emphasize the r-type’s violation of K-type norms of behavior is one way to slow things down. Maybe there are others. I just don’t think it’s productive to act as if Conservatives and Liberals can agree somehow, when we have been trying that for all of our history, and it has never worked. We Conservatives need to recognize the forces at work, and adapt to them.
Thank you so much for your well-reasoned, frank response, AC. I’m especially appreciative of your response to my last question, and I think there was a lot there for me to ponder. Your prescriptives seem quite modest and tentative, given your us-vs-them starting point. That’s very nice of you, speaking as a liberal of vigorous self-interest. But the paucity of potential prescriptives calls the usefulness of the evolutionary component of the model, however explanatory or accurate, into question. In your last paragraph, there’s a set of sentences that ends with “…nastiness of a collapse” that I could’ve written- that I’d coda with an ergo and a statement about the possiblities for enlightening dialogue and progress. You’d go the other way with any ergo, due to the grinding evolutionary logic above it. My ending of the paragraph lets me grab you to lead a movement to get reasonable limits on sexual images on universally available television channels. Gotta address those liberal values of protecting innocents, establishing confidence and mental health in young women, respecting women beyond their sexual roles, public safety, and health care cost control. That’s an example of the kind of nuanced position many liberals have that I alluded to when “advocating” anti-competition: good liberal (and, often, libertarian) values are best described as pushes and pulls between your chosen poles, to establish good approaches where there seems to be only animal urges and a simplistic, begging-the-question, moral-centric viewpoint to choose between.You seem to have lost access to behavioral prescription, other than a more-of-the-same crushing, and any attendant potential value to unintuitive compromise, due to our moral weakness and deception. In effect, you seem a determinist, and a rather Eeyore-like one. I guess my view is that we are not moral enough as a nation (viz., the tired, darn clear list of Democrat/Republican sins); the nation systematically neglects prescriptive solutions that are readily apparent, and usually successful elsewhere, due to ideological motivations on both sides; and we address severe integrity problems incessantly, but only in ineffectual ideological terms, while, as in sexy ads, we ignore well-proven behavioral causes and solutions because of the power and self-interest of our biases. I don’t really see us as so far apart in terms of what the problem is: I mean, we do seem to be breeding an indiocracy. The main difference to me is that your model alludes to little realistic prescriptive power.
Given all that, I don’t have a symmetrical regret at my inability to body check you. Like TIW, I need your integrity, and maybe even your ideology. In my frame, there’s plenty of work to go around for people like you. You might, say, help engender that evil government regulatory overreach into free-enterprise to stop sexual ads/scenes, and severely punish the evil business behavior (yes!) that keeps the idiocracy buying goods through unwitting titillation. Help us, AC- we can’t help ourselves. Got the gene, you see.
OK, Seriously- you inserted a set of assumed genes into the mix for freeloading, which seems eminently reasonable to me. I’d be very interested in your thoughts regarding the ~70-80% (can’t remember exact number from study) of Tea Partiers who don’t want any reductions in Medicare or SSI, which makes up ~50% of the federal budget, moving to >60% in less than 20 years. Is that alignment with self-interest (given the demographic involved) a sign to you their liberal genes that are getting triggered through ease? More broadly, I’m sure we agree that the Republican party makes a mockery of select essential elements of conservatism: are they described well as essentially polluted with genetic aspects of liberalness?
“Thank you so much for your well-reasoned, frank response, AC. I’m especially appreciative of your response to my last question, and I think there was a lot there for me to ponder. Your prescriptives seem quite modest and tentative, given your us-vs-them starting point. “
Have no illusions, when resources become scarce, you will be brutally killed….. Just kidding.
“But the paucity of potential prescriptives calls the usefulness of the evolutionary component of the model, however explanatory or accurate, into question.”
Knowing the future opens the door to possibilities which would seem impossible, absent such an understanding. Presently, everyone seems content with a perception that we can go on as we are, without consequence. As the debt increases, simply meet each challenge, ala the bailouts of the late Bush and early Obama regimes. The advantage of this work is that it shows that somethings are unavoidable, and far less painful in small doses now, than they will be in large doses later.
Also it is my hope this work will embolden Conservative intellectuals to abandon the idea of compromise once the collapse occurs, and give a freer hand to the Conservative masses to push the country and it’s government more K-type. If there is a valid intellectual reason to blame the r-types directly for the collapse, this will provide additional psychological and emotional impetus to the movement to be unabashed in pursuing exactly the type of extreme K-type governance r-types find intolerable. It is my hope it will offer an intellectual support for the emotional feeling that, “If they leave, all the better.”
This work also, as I said, helps push Liberals into the out-group, making them less likely psychologically to pursue their agenda. Liberalism involves a moderated form of the Stockholm Syndrome. You associate with the causes of out-groups, and turn on in-groups which do not pose threat. It’s why you care what happens to the savages in Guantanamo, but not about US soldiers wrongly accused of crimes, such as Michael Behenna. It’s why you support criminals about to be executed, but don’t care that Sean Bell was trying to run over cops, as he hit one cop and rammed a UC vehicle. If this work causes the K-type majority to turn hostile towards Liberals and demand aggressive Conservatism, and Liberals perceive the K-type movement as becoming a dangerous out-group, extremely hostile to them, you will as a group, at the least bow down and accept the changes, if not actively seek to distance yourself from Liberalism, and curry favor with Conservatives. It is in the Liberal movement’s nature. As Eric Hoffer wrote, “Those who bite the hand that feeds them, lick the boot that kick them.”
“In your last paragraph, there’s a set of sentences that ends with “…nastiness of a collapse” that I could’ve written- that I’d coda with an ergo and a statement about the possiblities for enlightening dialogue and progress. You’d go the other way with any ergo, due to the grinding evolutionary logic above it. My ending of the paragraph lets me grab you to lead a movement to get reasonable limits on sexual images on universally available television channels. “
Sexual images on TV are not nearly as damaging to total future happiness as the current economic model, whereby those who cannot and will not produce value are paid by the child in government largess, to reproduce as copiously as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I view the modern entertainment industry as an interesting window into the decline of society, but it is not a cause of the problem, so much as a symptom of the enhanced r-type influence in the culture- it could not crush our society alone.
Gotta address those liberal values of protecting innocents, establishing confidence and mental health in young women, respecting women beyond their sexual roles, public safety, and health care cost control.
There is a difference between protecting innocents from unfair victimization, to facilitate honest, free competition through effort and ability, and stealing someone’s wealth that was earned in honest toil and competition, to give it to some unmotivated, lazy sloth for “fairness,” so everyone has a slice of pie. Likewise, the rest of the list is all best left to police itself, which it will in conditions of freedom. Interfere, and you are unbalancing a system which wants to balance naturally. The results will be a temporary excess, to be brutally rectified by reality at some point.
“That’s an example of the kind of nuanced position many liberals have that I alluded to when “advocating” anti-competition: good liberal (and, often, libertarian) values are best described as pushes and pulls between your chosen poles, to establish good approaches where there seems to be only animal urges and a simplistic, begging-the-question, moral-centric viewpoint to choose between. You seem to have lost access to behavioral prescription, other than a more-of-the-same crushing, and any attendant potential value to unintuitive compromise….”
You miss the point of the work. By the values inherent to our K-type species, r (Liberal) is bad, and K (Conservative) is good. r requires control, as the majority of our species is K, and will default to K-type behavior, if not actively controlled and oppressed by government. Compromise does nothing but contaminate good with bad, and K with r. K-type morals on the domestic front consist of allowing someone who earned wealth to keep it. Not an overbearing government giving someone’s earned wealth (no matter how much) to someone else who didn’t earn it honestly. Liberal r-type values will be to provide for the “less fortunate” (read lazy, unmotivated, Idiocracy) (as a means of simulating the r-type plethora of resources, and stopping any K-type competitive allocation of resources to the fittest and most able).
Take Healthcare – K-types want people free to make their own decisions and enter into volitional agreements, and if they work out, great. If they don’t, the individuals bears the burden of their decisions (in the form of lower quality care and the bills attendant to that). That is K-type, and inherent to it is personal freedom, and personal responsibility for outcomes. I personally would be aghast to go to my neighbor, and tell him he had to pay for my healthcare, because I did something stupid. I view Liberal support for such a government sanctified system as a mark of their personal selfishness, and lack of personal honor. Make no mistake, Obamacare is an attempt to make everyone pay for the less responsible, who would otherwise have to bear the burden of their irresponsibility. It is scratches a Liberal itch, because it simulates the r-type environment, where nobody has any advantage due to superior fitness, such as intelligence, responsibility, ability, effort, or determination.
Take Public Safety – K-types want a society of laws to facilitate honest competitions and effective resource allocation to the fit, and if criminals break them, they pay the price. No lax sentencing, no cable TV in prison, no high quality workout areas, etc. If you do something bad enough, you die, to make it feel, if not right to us, at least a little better than you getting free room, board, gym, library, and shower sodomy privileges on the fresh meat for the rest of your life.
Take economics – K-types want a system of free economic competition, where individuals strive, and are rewarded accordingly to their accomplishments. r-types want government to give the earned resources of the K-types who strive and succeed to the Idiocracy.
There is no compromise on these issues which does not consist of contaminating our innate K-type desire for personal freedom with some form of r-type moral transgression involving the control of the K-type majority, be it the government oppression of being denied the right to freely associate with whom you choose, the theft of earned income from an innocent citizen, or the rewarding of evil in some fashion.
I guess my view is that…the nation systematically neglects prescriptive solutions that are readily apparent, and usually successful elsewhere, due to ideological motivations on both sides;
Again, under my model, our species is perhaps the most K-selected species on the planet. We evolved for a K-selected environment, the majority of us evolved to be happy in a K-selected environment, our species’ morals are actually derived from our existence within the K-selected group-competitive environment, and we are even *designed* to exist within a K-selected environment. If you place our species in an r-type environment, you will collapse any society, and destroy everything it is and everything it could be. There is no “prescription” for our problems that will benefit the vast majority of our people, other than releasing us and supporting freedom among men, and letting them sort their own affairs through entering into volitional agreements with each other, absent government interference or theft of their property to simply give it to another.
Every other prescription involves interference into a carefully balanced, biological system, just like artificially unbalancing a hormonal axis in a human. Every other prescription will bring collapse, failure, and a level of oppressive control which is anathema to our species’ K-type morals.
This is what Liberals never grasp. As a kid, I found myself on a ski vacation, in a beautiful snow covered mountain valley on a bright sunny morning. I went to go out to the car to get some stuff, and noticed that around the corner of the house was a furry leg in the snow. It was a dead deer. It likely starved and froze to death, and in it’s final moments, it huddled up against the house for what little heat must have been coming from the basement through the foundation. I felt sad for the deer, and wished my family had lived full time in the valley, so we could have seen the deer in it’s weakened state, grabbed it, and nursed it back to health. Then I thought, hell, my family loved wildlife. If we lived there, we would have been buying a couple hundred pounds of the bagged deer feed they had in town, per winter, and no deer in the valley would have gotten that debilitated.
Most Liberals stop their logic there. Their less capable amygdalae can’t handle negative impulses from harsh realities, so they ignore or deny them, and live in that fantasy land. But even as a small kid, I confronted these thoughts, furrowed by brow, and thought to myself, “Deer reproduce quickly. And every deer in the neighboring valleys would have come over too. Then they all reproduce, and in ten years you have thousands of deer, which could be entire pallets of feed per week. And things would get worse from there.”
I saw the yard outside of the house filled with wall to wall deer, which spilled out throughout the valley. I saw the work involved in spreading thousands of pounds of deer food per day, even with equipment. I even thought, “Even if you could afford the infinite nature of the eternal increases in food costs (and I knew at some point you couldn’t), that many deer concentrated in one valley – if one got sick they’d all get it. Then you’d have vet bills, if they weren’t all dead.” My family had already seen that effect with local wildlife we fed back home. Even as a small kid, I grasped the nature of the world. Like it or not, you cannot eliminate all unpleasantness forever. That deer likely had a lot of fun in that valley previously. It probably ran like the wind with it’s herd, and loved it. It jumped over fences in the early morning, chased does in the late stages of previous winters, and got drunk on fermented apples with the other deer in the old abandoned orchard that was at the mouth of the valley. It enjoyed sunny days, and moonbeams at night, and all the thrills of a deer’s life. That a weak deer failed to lead a uniformly pleasant, infinitely long life of endless accomplishment and breeding, meant tens of thousands of deer wouldn’t die down the road. It was your compromise.
Liberals want everyone to have a comfortable slice of the pie forever. They want that r-type environment of free resource availability, and they never want any consequences. It’s not bad to want such a thing, but to then try to eliminate freedom and control everyone is just evil, when that is not what the majority of our K-type population wants. And not only does such a psychology run against the morals and nature of our population, it will create conditions of collapse. I do have a prescription. It’s for Conservatives to so shame Liberals over their total lack of intelligence and intellectual foresight, so humiliate them over their neurological inability to perceive reality, and so terrify them of what is coming, that they withdraw from the debate, and leave Conservatives alone to dictate the outcome. This work offers multiple avenues by which to psychologically traumatize the Liberal population into submission, and in that regard I believe it offers tremendous utility.
“I don’t really see us as so far apart in terms of what the problem is: I mean, we do seem to be breeding an indiocracy. The main difference to me is that your model alludes to little realistic prescriptive power.”
The problem is the Idiocracy has risen with the rise of Liberalism in our nation. There is a reason for that. Liberals aren’t that bright, and can’t see how moronic their prescriptions are, or that they and their ideology are, in fact, wholly the problem. You created the Idiocracy yourself, through your support of the Liberal tools in Washington. Your brain circuitry though, won’t allow you to contemplate that proposition. The Idiocracy wouldn’t be there, if there were no Liberals, nor would the last economic collapse have happened, as there would not have been pressure for banks to loan money to people who wouldn’t pay it back. All of that is on you, and when the big collapse happens, it will be your fault too. If people figure that out, I would not want to be a known Liberal afterward. And still, despite all of this, you want me to compromise with you on policy, when clearly, I view you as wholly wrong, in every way. I wouldn’t trust you to know whether you were a man or woman, let alone to know how to create a working society.
I do have a prescription. The biochemical target of the prescription is for Liberals to recognize that they are mentally defective and detached from reality – compulsively pursuing a n imaginary utopia which they will never reach. Even worse, in pursuing it they will destroy the country, and make things worse, perhaps ultimately turning everyone against them. The target of the medicine is for Liberals to see their own neurological defectiveness, and stop trying to “fix” things. TO recognize that they are not bright enough to run a lemonade stand, let alone a country.
The actual formula of the prescription is for Conservatives to get even more rancorous, and begin active measures targeting Liberals wherever possible. Cops write anyone with any Obama sticker, burying them under a mountain of paper for the most minor of infractions. People with businesses discriminate (covertly, in accordance with law) against any Liberal employee, and do not hire Liberals, if at all possible. Refuse service to Liberals. Refuse to buy goods from Liberals. And most importantly, denigrate Liberals as mentally defective at every opportunity. Make Liberals our nation’s out-group. Liberals have reduced amygdala volume according to Kanai et al. Diminished amygdala functionality produces docility, aversion to competition, hyper-sexuality, low-investment parenting, and an actual inability to judge the approachability of people who mean harm. Literally, Liberal brains can’t see something in other people, which Conservatives see innately. Play up Liberal neurological inferiority, to make Liberals ashamed to self identify as Liberal. Publicly describe what childhood events tend to accompany Liberal ideologues, and produce r-type behaviors in DRD4 7r alleles (hint, it is not the jock who succeeds and thrives socially). Humiliate and denigrate them at every turn. That is the prescription.
“OK, Seriously- you inserted a set of assumed genes into the mix for freeloading, which seems eminently reasonable to me. I’d be very interested in your thoughts regarding the ~70-80% (can’t remember exact number from study) of Tea Partiers who don’t want any reductions in Medicare or SSI, which makes up ~50% of the federal budget, moving to >60% in less than 20 years.”
I would bet if you offered them a free government pension, for nothing in return, you would be surprised at how many would reject it on principle. With SSI or Medicare, you are talking about principled people, who allowed themselves to be legally forced to pay into something, based upon a specific promise of benefits later. That is wholly different from a freeloader gorging on a governmental freebie. That you don’t see that innately is a mark of the fundamental difference between our psychologies.
That the system was defective and unsupportable from the get go is immaterial. They entered into a deal (Nay – they allowed themselves to be legally forced into a deal many probably didn’t want in the first place), and they expect it to be honored, even though in the abstract, we all know some of them will likely get screwed to some degree at some point. If I used government, to force a K-type to pay me for a service, and then I didn’t supply the service, they aren’t r-type for complaining. (And I should point out, the unsupportable entitlement systems, which we all know are going to fail at some point, is another result of Liberal delusions of intellectual ability, and detachment from reality. Another example of why Liberals just aren’t cut out for any type of leadership position in government, and why compromise with them is a fool’s errand.)
When the K-type urge met group competition (not selection – see my paper on my site for the difference), what emerged was a human which was designed to interact with other humans honorably, to create and maintain group cohesion and loyalty. Word is your bond, and all that. To expect a K-type to let the government take benefits that they paid for, from them (to support more non-productive, non-contributing, welfare queens, entitled government Lawyer bimbo princesses, and their player’s booty-call prophylactics) is ridiculous. I can’t even believe you asked me that question.
“More broadly, I’m sure we agree that the Republican party makes a mockery of select essential elements of conservatism: are they described well as essentially polluted with genetic aspects of liberalness?”
K-types want to compete, honestly, against each other, without using some artificial authority to alter outcomes, or otherwise oppress their fellow K-types. If someone is genuinely better than me in honest competition, the rules of fair play that K-types are programmed with demand I accept it. And I would. Give me Donald Trump’s bank card and PIN, and I would not take his money, as he earned it, not me. It’s just in our nature to cheat, or to facilitate it, as it is in the Liberal’s case. As a result, I have a desire to control no-one. Although I have a strong desire to see everyone free, and freely interacting, I have little desire to take the reins of control, and make it happen by controlling others through government. I think this is common among K-types. Offer us a job which involves controlling others, and we would prefer to leave it so we could compete ourselves.
r-types have a drive to break rules (such as would foster free and honest competition), and control others through gaining authority, absent demonstration of skill in free competition. Offer a real K-type the Presidency, and 99 times out a hundred, he’d tell you to keep it. Unfortunately, those who seek the power to control others, and don’t see the simple beauty of leaving men to write their own destiny by their own hand through freedom, will tend to be Liberal r-types, and they will seek power however they can get it. Yes, the Republican Party is full of them, as any political party dedicated to obtaining governmental power will tend to be. As our society trends more r-type, this will increase, until the collapse, at which point a more Conservative populace will insist on more Conservative leaders.
Really interesting posts by all of you- thanks very much. The r/K work led me again to a Dr. Rushton’s work, where I am able to watch biases play out rather dramatically in the nexus between conservative and liberal values and sensitivities around race-related science. Dr. Rushton uses r/K theory, as AC did here, to explicate things a bit removed from the specific field where it used to hold sway. It’s too easy, and subtly disingenuous, to discard metaphoric (clarifying) power when we don’t buy details of science or causality: it’s an old way we all use to ignore the emotional basis of truth, using the excuse of logic. That metaphor seems a quite decent starting place for a dialogue around the moral parallels of left-right values. But it’s an old argument, one I side mostly with you folks on, so I’m changing the subject a degree, sorry, to combine AC’s and Isabel’s notes: the way the scientific community handles Rushton, and the family of proposals like these r/K speculations is fascinating. If one can take a neutral (uninformed) perspective on his ideas, the biases on both sides seem especially evident. I submit Rushton may be a good scientist who may be mistaken and biased sometimes, like- surprise!- all scientists. That his errors may touch upon our notions of racism should be a lot more incidental a fact than it seems to be. He may, after all, have a point or two scuttling about under the rocks. O horrors. But he treads on liberal sacred ground.
Isabel, I’m so grateful I came upon your post! I feel the liberal stupidity AC referred to pretty acutely at the moment, because I have had personal responses quite similar to your liberal friend’s, and had still not given my disgust response even a glance as an important indicator of anything. Keeping that in mind will help me monitor and think about it much better. Though I wanted to mention the ‘negative indicator’ dimension, to address your point about “What makes something sacred is not a direct connection to God or deities, but to the emotion of disgust.” There’s a brand new paper online, coincidentally, that addresses just that point at http://journal.sjdm.org/12/12305/jdm12305.html , in the results section: “disgust sensitivity and—more surprisingly—cognitive need for closure were not related to our sacred values measure. These null results suggest that we should cast a more critical eye on these motivational accounts for sacred values.” Their study deals with religiosity- I think your point about moral, or sociomoral disgust reflecting sacredness can’t be so easily dismissed, but I wouldn’t put it as axiomatically as you did, since, as Haidt and others agree, disgust is primarily rooted in physical security, and it might be tough to tie directly to more advanced behaviors outside of correlation. That being said, I think I’ve missed a sacred sense in myself in those situations where I ‘couldn’t go there’ on a sensitive subject.
You’ve made a great related point about who liberals put into the outgroup, like Dr. Rushton- your point about who liberals think are contaminated. That’s the kind of ironic, hidden truth I am always looking for in our relations, a very pertinent symmetry to the documented, relatively high conservative propensity to disgust. One of the ways irony plays out in life is in a trait or occurrence being less common, but stronger upon evocation: this one puts the truth to Lenny Bruce’s joke, and Haidt’s point, that “liberals can understand everything but people who don’t understand them.” I’ll certainly try to take that one on the chin…but now it’s back to my attempts at breeding, where I trust my ineffectual nature is, at last, pleasing. Thanks, folks.
Applying r/K Theory to race is not really all that productive, as there will be r and K-type psychologies in all races. This is why you see Conservatives of every race, seeking freedom for all men (competition), strong family values (ie. monogmay and two-parent, high-investment child-rearing), and elimination of the exposure of children to sexualizing themes in culture and education. It is also why Liberals of every race seek the exact opposite, from an elimination of any competitive environment (either through Marxist political strucutring, or the more common redistributive economic models which punishes success with taxes and rewards failure with government largesse), To the support for promiscuity, and single parenting, to ever earlier sexual education for children (Britain wants to introuce it to kids at age five now).
To my eye, there is no point in trying to apply r/K to a division such as race, to which it does not apply. All you do is open up holes for people to say, “Hey, it doesn’t work, look at this exception.”
By contrast, there is little doubt that each political ideology espouses all of the characteristics of the r and K reproductive strategy. In truth, looking at our species as a whole, it is undeniable that this is what we are seeing in politics.
I don’t believe Dr. Rushton’s work ties r/K aggressively to race, I was changing the subject to prejudice against Rushton, to make a point on Isabel’s comments. Sorry for the confusion, AC.
I’d submit liberals don’t explicitly seek these things you suggest AC, at least not any I know, and I know some real doozies. If you equate ‘seek’ with ‘decriminalize’, you have them and libertarians on promiscuity and elsewhere, certainly. Having said that, I can support your point in a way: I’d suggest that their weaker opinion and confusion on the binding moralities makes them greatly susceptible to errors along the lines you speak. To me, my firends often seem like they want to reinvent the wheel all the time, or start making rules about behavior around the stove once they’ve personally suffered a stove burn: we haven’t got as much in the past that we trust, which leads us through doors that we tend to only return through and lock behind us after poor personal experience. Experience = good instruction = high tuition. You may say my point is empirically the same as yours, but I would disagree, primarily because I experience a difference between the two, among them, a great deal: the opportunity for improvement with anyone is easier if changing their principles is not involved. King Lear vs Edmund, or a Laertes vs an Iago. When I battle liberal bias, I feel like I’m battling a fog around everything except somewhat immature notions of compassion and the intellect- it never feels like a set of embraced, opposing principles to conservatism that have to do with free love, etc. Your r metaphor gets at it a bit for me, in the sense that we liberals default to a less optimal set of drivers for, say, hedonistic reasons, that don’t support, say, high-investment child-rearing as well. In the breeding world, though, assuming r/K was a valid theory, r is a binary analogy to K, so the metaphor breaks down in even dragging in a moral aspect. To your point, one has to take r as a ‘free love’ kind of default, while the natural world sees it not as a default at all, but an essential “moral” approach in a specific, breeding-related optimizing task, one that has nothing whatever to do with hedonism, short-sightedness, defaults, etc. Personally, within an r/K metaphor, I would just say some liberals do a poor job at the K business they were born to do, in the same way that other K creatures don’t measure up- and that poor fit at K looks like r in some ways.
More generally, AC, your ‘liberals are…’ approach is a little difficult for me. You’re kind of a Van Gogh sort: bold strokes, pure color. Which I don’t personally mind, per se- it’s certainly clear. Though even I have to take two breaths, squint, and reread to get past the transparency assumption. At least half the liberals I know would be quite expllcitly opposed to all, or nearly all, your characterizations of their beliefs and actions: I think every single one would disagree with at least half of it. If you’re comfortable acting as an arbiter of truth in stating that they misapprehend their own values, then we shall agree to disagree. I submit there’s a lot of power in ‘tend to’, ‘some’, ‘sometimes’, ‘can’, ‘most’, ‘far left’, etc, especially with outgroups, if for no other reason than to help us blunt our own version of the universal biases, the blind spot bias and the fundamental attribution error. I like ’empirically’, myself, if I’m feeling sassy. Less black-and-white yes, but arguably more prone to accuracy, and much less susceptible to triggering prejudice in others. If the goals are solely ingroup-related, my point is moot (I mean that sincerely: there is great place for ingroup talk that doesn’t carry well with outgroups, a fact virtually everyone assumes but never states.)
RE: “Why do people have these two, deeply imbued, moral frameworks? Where did they come from? Can we find similar behavioral drives in other species?”
I’ve wondered about these exact questions myself. Your description of rabbits gave me an “aha” moment. The topic of r/K selection theory makes sense; it seems to fit. I’ll have to learn more about it. Thanks for the tip.
I respect your passion about these topics. But, respectfully, I’m not sure labeling people as stupid adds much to the conversation.
Thanks for the comment. Your insights are appreciated. I hope you visit again.
“I respect your passion about these topics. But, respectfully,”
First, no need to say “respectfully.” We are on the same team freedom-wise, so I can’t take umbrage at any opinion you have – in fact I prefer and value the unvarnished truth from friends and compatriots. I innately like aggressive banter among friends, with everyone saying exactly what is on their minds, good or bad. It’s the best way to truth. I hope you feel the same, and don’t let my aggression rub you the wrong way.
“I’m not sure labeling people as stupid adds much to the conversation.
This is something Conservatives have to learn, and it derives directly from my work. On the whole, r-type psychologies are conflict averse (There will be variance within any large population). They are programmed, at a very primal level, to avoid conflict and aggression. That is why we see guys like Haidt saying we should all respect each other’s opinions, and try to get along. The r-type psychologies worst nightmare is an environment where K-types stop trying to get along (like when resources get scarce). At that point, they are a less adapted, less fit, less competitive specimen in an environment where all of that is necessary to survive. In our history, they fled out to new territories. That is why Liberals score high on novelty seeking, and why the DRD4 allele that is associated with Liberalism is also high in migratory populations. That is also why you see the quote in the above comment, “I felt I was going to be sick, my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow.” That is what happens to Liberals, when Conservatives stop trying to get along. They just can’t handle the conflict, and they will seek to flee. In our evolutionary hisotry, if they did not, they didn’t last long.
Due to residual effects from their adaptation to group competition (not selection), they also need to maintain some pretense of superiority over others in their own mind, hence the “Conservatives are stupid” meme. Strip them of that, and do it in a confrontational, aggressive, denigrating way and they will pull their horns in and retreat. They will have to. It’s just how they are programmed.
We, as a movement, need to make a conscious decision. If we play along nicely, our population will follow the path every other population of animals follows in nature. We will multiply our numbers up (due directly to the r-strategists among us), filling our ranks with an entitled, unproductive class of maladapted imbeciles, hostile to our very nation and the freedom it was founded upon. This will continue, to the point that there are not enough resources to go around, and someone must die. This is what happens in nature, when any population has access to free resources. They multiply up, becoming more r-selected, until all resources are consumed, and each addition to the population must replace an existing member, through competitive denial of resources (ie killing them off). We are already close to this point. When China pulls the plug on debt issuance, it will be ugly. I have an old family friend who lived through the Depression. Literally starving people would come to her back door, begging for food, and her family would turn them away to starve. Everyone had to do it.
Once we reach that point, someone will not have enough resources. r-strategists in power, will attempt to seize power and control, to survive, and support their fellow r-types on the backs of the K-type’s productivity. K-types will have have to prevent that, by force, if they are to persist in freedom. Of course, it will ultimately be like Rome, where the government collapses, as K-types withdraw their production and support for governmental oppression. It will be an ugly period, have no doubt.
We can prevent it, but it requires putting all the “respect for our colleagues across the aisle” aside. We need to ruthlessly exploit evo-psych with steely eyes and a will of granite, to present to Liberals an intellectual stimulus which will put them on the run as a movement, and make them violently ill, in person. This means, confrontation, denigration, and humiliation. If we do this, we blunt the ability of r-types to degrade our K-type populations with their r-type morals, values, and behaviors that will ultimately destroy our civilization’s greatness. The funny thing is, we don’t need to construct some fantasy mirage to do it, we just need to speak the truth bluntly. They are weak, they are pathetic, they are inferior from the perspective of our K-type values, they are destructive to our society, and they are r-type psychologies, prone to produce quantity of offspring over quality.
Liberalism isn’t some advanced incarnation of mankind. In fact, it is a psychology which is proven to devolve any population which adapts it, through the abandonment of competitive selections for fitness. Quantity over quality.
This is your corner of the universe, and I won’t stomp all over it, but understand, I know this psychology like no one else. I didn’t perceive something which no one else has seen by chance. I know how they work, becasue I found myself fascinated with one specific individual with an exagerated version of this psychology, during a critical, early developmental period of my life.
I’m telling you, no kidding, these people will destroy our republic, destroy our greatness, and leave us all in the modern Dark Ages. Or, we can alter our interactions with them to be more humiliating, more denigrating, more truthful, and less respectful, and maybe prevent it all. As whenever a K-selected organism meets an inferior r-selected organism, the choice of what is to happen is ours.
So my general feeling is that this isn’t a dialog or discussion with Liberals, in search of truth. Liberals are innately deceptive. They cloak disloyalty to nation as patriotism (dissent is patriotic!), they cloak an all powerful government taking earned resources from citizens as “positive freedom,” they portray government power as beneficial to everyone, they even portray Liberalism as some intellectual bastion of advanced thought, when all it is, is a pathetic prey species psychology attempting to control and oppress those who produce. So my feeling is, if Liberals are going to lie about everything, then what is the point of having civil discourse with them? We should treat our dialog as a war, and use whatever psychological tricks we can to make Liberals self-destruct and withdraw from their attempts at control. If we love freedom, and love our nation and the warriors who make it great we have little choice.
The alternative is, we could just let these contemptible, imbecilic tools destroy our freedom, and collapse our society, as they have repeatedly throughout history, all so we don’t hurt their feelings in a debate.
If you find the r/K stuff interesting, check my website. I’ve been spending every free moment for a few years now aggregating data in support of it, and trying to pin down exactly how it evolves, from brain structure to genetics. Drop me an e-mail if you’re interested in what you see there, and we can work something out.
Glad you liked the rabbit analogy. This is all due to the same forces which produced the psychological difference between prey species such as rabbits, and those not preyed upon, such as wolves, elephants or raccoons. One had free resources, and evolved to relentlessly pursue producing as many offspring as quickly as possible. The other didn’t have free resources, so they had to focus on producing a small number of more highly evolved, quality offspring, in the hopes their offspring would be advanced enough to out-compete peers in the battle for resources. In huamns, they existed together to some degree for a long time, in between where we formed and overpopulated (K-selection), and where we spread out into new, untapped territories (r-selection). It was in that grey area in the middle where r-types adapted traits to endure in a K-type population through deception and exploitation.
AC, I understand your position and appreciate your passion. Both are reminiscent of “Rules for Radical Conservatives,” by David Kahane. Good on you. You are welcome in my “corner of the universe.”
My style is different. It feels right to me. I’m going to stick with it. It is grounded in my own personal wiring, as well as in my own experience just as yours is with you. I find that I have a lot more success in getting my own ideas across when I first listen to the ideas of the other guy and point out something I agree with in what he said. There’s very little that’s truly black or white in the world, but there’s tons of grey, which means there’s tons of opportunity for overlap among different ideas. I find that if I identify the overlap first, what usually follows is a lot more “openness to new ideas” by those on the other side. And if they’re intellectually honest they’ll usually allow as to how they can see where I’m coming from, even if they don’t agree. I understand what you mean about the unvarnished truth, and to a large degree you’re right. Frankly, I myself have often felt that conservatives sometimes do themselves a disservice by trying to appear “fair minded” – “play along nicely,” as you say – and are too afraid of calling a spade a spade. But on the other hand, sometimes the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, and a spoonful of sugar really can help the medicine go down. Sorry about all the corny metaphors, but they can be convenient shorthand for communicating concepts. One of the things we know about how the human mind works is that it’s near impossible to simply convince someone to see thing our way through rational argument. But another thing we know is that the subconscious part of the mind keeps working, digesting, assimilating, even after the conscious rational part has moved on to other things. I know I can’t create a tree out of thin air, but I also know I CAN plant a seed and patiently nurture it. Not all seeds will land in fertile ground, but the more I plant, the better the odds are that some will grow.
I understand your views on Haidt. But I am an “unabashed fan” of his (as I’ve been called elsewhere), and I’m going to stick with him and his ideas. I’m also sticking with the recommendation(s) I choose to propose as part of the solution for decreasing the breadth and depth of the political divide, which is to do as much “Mythbusting” and setting the record straight as we can in our schools, and give our kids a much more solid, and truthful, understanding of what really makes us humans tick – the psychology behind why we do the things we do, and how that psychology relates to our history – than they currently get. Because the way things are now, much of our political and social discourse, including some of the most basic notions about how to get along, is based on conventional wisdom about the human mind that is unwise, and presuppositions about what really motivates us – individually and in groups – that is just plain wrong. It’s honestly kind of mind boggling to me that we give our kids so much historical “what,” but so little practical “why.” Haidt has given us a Rosetta stone for understanding the why, and in the end it’s really pretty simple to understand. There’s no reason we should not give our kids a clue, and millions of reasons – one for each kid – why we should.
I’m a firm believer that there’s no single solution to most issues. Different solutions work in different environments. Most issues, if they are to be resolved, must be approached from all possible angles simultaneously. My angle is that I truly believe everyone, liberal and conservative, has the best interest of America as a nation and as a culture at heart. People really believe that they see things the “right” way. The problem is that many of those beliefs are built on false assumptions. If we are to have any hope of getting things “right,” then we should at least start out with the same base assumptions, and those should be correct.
But I also recognize, sad as this idea is, that there is also an environment in which your approach will probably work better than mine. I’m not going to go there, but you’re welcome to. As you rightly pointed out, we’re on the same side freedom-wise.
The questions you asked, and that Mr. Wagner repeated, are valid. I’ll state them differently: If moral foundations are the products of natural selection, and if natural selection gave us at least six of them, then why are there so many people that believe in only three of them, and of those three, mostly just care/harm?
I have my own theory about that, which is the Gemeinschaft – Gesellschaft idea I’ve talked about elsewhere on my blog. In short, the theory is that societies have a life cycle that has repeated throughout history. All six foundations are necessary in the early phases of that cycle – Gemeinschaft – but eventually those foundations provide a quality and security of life that affords the citizenry the luxury of reducing the emphasis on the binding foundations and turning inward toward just the individualizing ones, which marks the beginning of the Gesellschaft phase. This is the opportunity that people whose genetic wiring predisposes them to the three-foundation morality have been waiting for, they become emboldened, and they seize it. In France, this moment was the French Revolution, in America it was the dawn of the progressive era. At that point, the folks whose genetic wiring predisposes them to the six-foundation morality feel that things are out of whack, and they pull harder to the right. The result is Haidt’s version of Yin/Yang, which is essentially the political divide we see today.
I must admit that the r/K theory makes some sense and is attractive. I did a little research on it and found that it was in favor for a while in the ‘70s, but not so much since then. So I have a question, where is it now? What does the most recent research and thinking say about it? Is it coming back into favor? Is it gaining credibility again? Maybe there’s already a place on your web site that answers this succinctly that you can provide a link for?
I see our replies can only go so deep on this site, so I’ll post my reply here.
On confrontation, I am obviously of a different mind. Perhaps we can fight our way to the middle and meet.
Interestingly, the second you spoke of the status of r/K theory, I thought of Wikipedia. That section of the article on the status fo the theory was not always there. In fact, it cropped up shortly after I began promoting this work I’ve done. Although there is argument over the utility of r/K theory, it is still taught in biology classes, as it offers a useful framework for understanding the forces at work in evolution. As one researcher wrote, “Physics has frictionless hockey pucks, thermodynamics has Carnot engines, and evolutionary ecology has r- and K-selection.” Most scientists will recognize the theory doesn’t apply everywhere, but that it’s underlying premise is a sound framework for understading the forces at work. Species will evolve to take time to produce quality, if the environment favors those of the highest quality. If the environment does not favor quality, they will not take the time and effort to produce quality, instead opting to try and produce as many specimens as possible. Since all will survive, absent any test of fitness, reproduction will become a numbers game, simply favoring those who produce the fastest.
One big problem with the theory is that the stresses which produced the strategies were unfortunately, partially mischaracterized early on. Even today, many texts will cite aggressive mortality and a harsh environment as being an r-selection stress, which is technically incorrect as it depends upon the nature of the mortality and the harshness. Mortality and harshness which focuses itself on the less fit, and favors the more fit and adapted, can function as a K-selection stress, favoring parents which perform costly behaviors designed to produce higher quality offspring, over those who do not. I have even seen papers asserting that war, as a form of harshness, is an r-selection stress, though the conditions which would produce it in nature would be resource scarcity, and the K-type, competitive and violent Warriors, in killing individuals not like them, would act as a further K-selection stress.
This assertion that the vague term of harshness is r-selecting particularly vexes me. As a microbiologist, I have pulled incredibly complicated microbes out of an extremely harsh environment, and watched as they became more r-like each day, before my very eyes, when placed in the comfort and ease of life on incubated nutrient agar medium. In the natural environment, faced with a myriad of challenges testing their fitness (and killing back all their less adapted peers), only those who were incredibly adapted survived, even though they didn’t reproduce as fast as less adapted peers, due to spending a lot of resources and effort on survival.
Once in the cushy environment of a petri dish, filled with agar that was loaded with free nutrients, they gradually shed all their complex adaptations. Placed in an environment which did not challenge them, and kill the less adapted, those individual microbes which shed their complex adaptations, and focused just on eating nutrients and reproducing as fast as possible, would dominate the colonies. As a result, they began to multiply quicker and grow bigger colonies at a faster rate.
So environmental harshness is not what produces r-type behavior, it is the absence of the need to demonstrate fitness to survive and mate. That may arise, because a form of unselective mortality killed back the population, without regard to fitness, but it is not primarily the mortality pushing that strategy. It is the free resource availability the mortality produces. If there is no need for increased fitness relative to peers, there is no advantage to parents taking the time to produce it.
Think of it as being like the effect described in the movie Idiocracy. There, there was no competitive test of fitness, so idiots produced twenty idiots per, and suddenly the population was filled with idiots, because they out-reproduced the smart people. Introduce a competitive test of fitness which only left the smartest, most educated offspring to survive, and fast reproducing idiots would no longer be advantageous. Suddenly, those parents which carefully sought out genius mates, denied others the opportunity to mate with their genius mates, and carefully reared their few offspring, educating them carefully for years, would be the only parents whose children would survive and mate, to carry those traits forward. That would become the defacto form of the species.
r/K didn’t factor in other factors as well, from age at death to population density when at the carrying capacity of the environment. If you are so spread out that you see mates rarely, you might be competitive, to get some of the limited resources, but mate promiscuously with whoever you happen across, whenever you happen across them, since you might get to mate again. Some organisms even end up adopting K-type mating strategies, but r-type rearing strategies, where the father contributes little to offspring rearing or protection.
As a result, r/K theory has been supplanted by much more complex analyses of organism’s life history traits in evolutionary ecology. However r/K Theory continues to be used, as a general descriptor of reproductive strategies, since most come down to either taking time to reproduce small amounts of quality, or producing as much as possible, absent concern for the quality of each individual. As an example of it’s continued use and relevance, I just saw a 2010 study on an allele of the gene associated with political affiliation in which the researcher described how one variant of the gene would produce a mating strategy of promiscuity and infidelity, which he likened to an r-selected reproductive strategy.
See : Garcia, J. R., MacKillop, J., Aller, E. L., Merriwether, A. M., Wilson, D. S., Lum, J. K., (2010). Associations between dopamine D4 receptor gene variation with both infidelity and sexual promiscuity. Plos One, 5 (11), e14162.
This paper described how stress during rearing affected adult behavior, and categorized the behaviors as either r or K:
Ellis, B. J., Jackson, J. J., Boyce, W. T. (2006). The stress response systems: universality and adaptive individual differences. Developmental Review 26, 175-212.
This is an excellent r/K summary here. It explains how r/K is useful to describe the forces at work, and the effects they have, but life is often more complex. :
Reznick, D. Bryant, M. J., Bashey, F. (2002) r- and K-selection revisited: the role of population regulation in life-history evolution. Ecology, 83(6), 1509–1520
You’ll see a lot of it in studies of human behavior too, where it is accepted that some will mate promiscuously, be less prosocial, and rear offspring poorly, while others will be more monogamous, more prosocial, and rear offspring better. A result of r/K meeting group competition in our species.
Interestingly, in our political world, our ideologies do, in fact, correlate with every aspect of r and K-type behaviors though. So r/K was supplanted by newer theories to try and describe every outlying case more fully and completely, however the underlying behaviors are accurate measures of strategy in many species, and even in ours.
The bottom line is, either Darwin will favor fitness and adaptedness, in which case parents will evolve to take time to produce it (and offspring will be driven to compete in some form to demonstrate it), or Darwin will not favor fitness and adaptedness, in which case individuals will tend to focus on numbers, so as to compete to out-reproduce peers.
“All six foundations are necessary in the early phases of that cycle – Gemeinschaft – but eventually those foundations provide a quality and security of life that affords the citizenry the luxury of reducing the emphasis on the binding foundations and turning inward toward just the individualizing ones, which marks the beginning of the Gesellschaft phase.”
Group supportive, prosocial behaviors are an outgorwth of the final stage of K-selection, the group competitive, K-selected environment. Those who form into successful groups, and commit to the success of the group, will be the individuals to survive. r-selection is about selfishness, and when group competition arose, those few r-types who survied were the ones who pretended to be part of the group, while still selfishly pursuing their own interest. It is why studies of human behavior link promiscuity and single parenting to selfishness and low levels of prosocial behavior, ala Belsky Steinburg and Draper. See the pdf on my site, “Modern Political Thought in the Context of Evolutionary Psychology.”
Haidt is a lib. He’s not going to say, “hey, you need to suppress Liberalism for a society to be healthy. Fail to, and like every other declining nation, you will see your civilization fall.”
Plus, I view his work as falling short of a full understanding of ideology. Why do people have these two, deeply imbued, moral frameworks? Where did they come from? Can we find similar behavioral drives in other species?
If you don’t understand r/K Selection theory in Population Biology, you will never understand the purposes ideologies serve. In r/K Theory, there are two types of psychologies organisms can have, and they are produced by evolution molding the population in response to the presence or absence of resources.
Suppose a population has insufficient resources for everyone. Competition for resources will arise spontaneously. These competitions will favor the fittest. This is called K-selection, and it faors what is called a K-type reproductive strategy. Parents who strive to produce the fittest offspring will produce the offspring who survive in this environment. They will be the individuals who have four traits imbued in their nature. Competitiveness will see to it they are willing to meet another peer, and compete for resources, mates, and territory. They will carefully vet potential mates, and having found the fittest mate possible to give their genes the fittest offspring possible, they will monopolize that mate’s fitness through monogamy. They will engage in high-investment, two-parent child-rearing, so as to best raise a competitive child, as well as protect their child from the violent, K-type environment around them, and they will discourage early age at first intercourse, to see to it their offspring is as mature and competent as possible, when he finally enters the competition. Embrace of free competition, monogamy, high investment parenting, and chasteness in youth. This is found throughout nature, and it is the evolutionary foundation of Conservatism. From Capitalism, to war, to self defense with handguns, Conservatives welcome free Darwinian competitions with risk, reward, and responsibilities. Family values consists of two monogamous parents raising children to engage in abstinence until monogamous marriage themselves.
Now, give a population unlimited resources per individual. This frequently occurs in prey species, where a predator culls the population back, well below the carrying capacity of the environment. Think of rabbits, with fields of grass they could never eat all by themselves. This is called an r-selected environment. In this environment, competition offers no benefit, and even wastes energy better spent reproducing. As a result, r-type organisms become averse to competition. If somebody is eating grass where you normally would, don’t fight, just go someplace else, as there is more grass than everyone can eat, anyway. Since there is no competitive test for fitness, offspring need not be highly fit. So long as they can eat and mate, they are fine. As a result, r-strategists place less emphasis on quality of offspring. Mating is promiscuous, and only cursory in it’s selectiveness. Parenting is low-investment single parenting simply designed to get the offspring to a base level of survivability, as this allows for higher reproductive rates. And mating begins as early as possible. Wait to mate, and you might get eaten. As a result, teenagers or even children having sex is nothing to be judged, it I just the way things are.
Now class, what ideology is averse to Darwinian competitions like Capitalism, war, or self defense with firearms? What ideology is OK with promiscuity? What ideology thinks single parenting is no big deal (you go girl!)? And what ideology has no problem with highly sexualized cultural influences children might see, and supports the early sexual education fo children? Yes, it is Liberalism. Liberalism is what happens when an intelligent species can give voice to r-selected urges within it, and advocate on their behalf.
Many species have r and K-type psychologies living side by side within them. Usually, they experience resource shortages and excesses. During the excess, the r-type psychology builds the population up, to consume all the resources, and once the population reaches the carrying capacity of the environment, the K-selected psychology takes over, as individuals compete for the now limited resources.
When you understand this, you begin to understand what Liberals actually seek, which is the r-selected environment, where fitness offers no advantage, and everyone evolves to just eat and mate. The problem is, this requires free resource availability. This wouldn’t be bad, if resources were freely available. But they are not. So Liberals have to establish a government where resources are taken from those who earn them in capitalistic competition, and given to the less successful, more fecund r-types. Since r-type reproduce faster than K-types, this will continue, as the r-type population swamps the K-types which earn the resources to support them. Eventually, there will not be enough resources to support the massive welfare population, and the whole system will collapse.
This is why throughout history, you see great nations arise, be productive, and then they gradually get more Liberal and collaspe (think Rome). Taxes increase, welfare grows, the population as a whole deteriorates, and morality declines. Finally, the whole thing collapses, and K-selection takes hold by force. As time goes on, productivity returns, and the cycle begins anew.
Don’t let Haidt fool you with all his different moralities and complexity. Liberals are the source of societal collapse, they are undeniably oppressive of the productive, and they are the enemy of our species, because they are an -r-type minority seeking to harness the K-type majority of our K-selected species into oppression so as to fuel the growth of a sub-population which will destroy our nation. If they are too stupid to grasp that, they are just as dangerous, just they are stupid to boot.
Props on the blog, brother.
I appreciate this blog in general and this entry in particular. Thorough. Thoughtful. Engaged. Caring.
I do wonder somewhat about giving the liberal moral viewpoint a complete pass on the binding foundations. In Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt modulates the theory somewhat by connecting the liberal moral viewpoint with “thin” lines and the conservative with “heavy” lines. Both liberals and conservatives seem satisfied to say that the liberal moral viewpoint doesn’t much evoke these three foundations (sanctity, loyalty, authority). I think the liberal moral viewpoint does, that they may look different (and even be denied) but that they are there mechanistically/physiologically. I just don’t think, over time, this making a special case of the liberal moral viewpoint will hold up. Let me take Sanctity as an example.
What makes something sacred is not a direct connection to God or deities, but to the emotion of disgust. (See Rozin and Haidt’s work on this.) We want to stop people from evoking our disgust response, and people who do evoke it by word or deed (or by being too deviant or foreign) receive a categorical disgust condemnation. Censorship. Shunning. Casting out.
Much has been made of conservatives experiencing more disgust, but these studies seem to all be measuring a subcategory called core disgust.
“People who are sensitive to one type of disgust are not necessarily sensitive to another,” he said. For example, he [Joshua Tybur of VU University in Amsterdam] said, earlier claims that political conservatives (self-identified) were more sensitive than liberals to disgust were overly general. Research that he and his colleagues did suggested that conservatives were more disgusted by sexual topics, but were similar to liberals in the domains of disease avoidance and moral judgment. (‘Survival’s Ick Factor,’ James Gorman, New York Times, 1/23/2012)
There is such a thing a sociomoral disgust, and I think that is the category of disgust experienced more vividly by those of the liberal moral viewpoint.
Haidt repeatedly says “follow the sacredness.” I don’t think it is the same to say the liberal moral viewpoint makes the Care foundation sacred. The Care foundation appears to be mechanistically tied to oxytocin and vasopressin. Powerful, but censoring, shunning, casting out powerful? I don’t know. Bonding with the in-group and being suspicious of the out-group seems emotionally milder than sacredness. I think that moral groups sanctify objects, people and ideas (in the case of the liberal moral viewpoint using Care and Fairness as rational justification) and once they are sanctified, and evoke disgust, then they must be treated under the Sanctity foundation. That those of the liberal moral viewpoint might want to deny traditional sacredness or any connection to divinity is not the point. The point is the mechanism behind the moral foundation, in this case, disgust.
(These things can be surprisingly fluid. The sacralization that led to the condemnation of all abortion seems to be fairly recent as a religious stance for evangelical Christians, if this post is accurate: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/18/the-biblical-view-thats-younger-than-the-happy-meal/)
In her book, The Sexual Paradox, Susan Pinker relates the pickle Larry Summers got himself in while president of Harvard when giving a talk on gender differences in the faculty. Pinker records the response of an observer. “‘I felt I was going to be sick,’ said MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who reported that Summers’ comment upset her so much that ‘my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow.'”
What Hopkins reports sounds like a catecholamine surge, and I believe that catecholamines have been implicated in disgust responses. This is a physiological response to a moral violation that both conservatives and liberals feel. Continuing anecdotally, when discussing the opinion of some that homosexuality is a sin, a liberal moral viewpoint person described herself as getting nauseous and asked that the conversation cease. I think these responses are accurate reports of the disgust response being evoked, and that these feelings are experienced as urgent and actionable.
I think those of the liberal moral viewpoint find racism, homophobia, sexism &etc. disgusting (sociomoral disgust) and those they view as racist, homophobic and sexist as disgusting. Once their disgust is evoked, it doesn’t matter how actually racist, homophobic or sexist someone actually is or how harmful their actions have actually been. They have been contaminated. They are a heretic. That person must be censored, shunned, cast out. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. E.O. Wilson. Larry Summers. John Derbyshire. Sanctity explains the level of visceral response these fellows received (some demonstrably beyond reason) far better than Care.
So, with all that said, I think it is important to notice this: it feels like death to ignore one’s disgust response. The Sanctity of the liberal moral viewpoint lies elsewhere, but it exists, and it is the battle over what is Sanctified that cannot be yielded by either side.
Thanks very much for this thoughtful comment. One of my themes is that moral foundations work together to form a synergistic system that is greater than the sum of its parts. I think we do a disservice to our understanding of ourselves as humans when we try to look at pieces of ourselves in isolation from the system as a whole. Your discussion of disgust put some of those pieces together for me – connected some dots, as it were – and has helped my thinking.
The connections between our emotions and oxytocin, vasopressin, etc. is a fascinating aspect of all of this that I’m way behind the curve on. Thanks for helping me to understand. I’ll have to add it to my long list of things I still have to learn.
It’s interesting that you mention “the pickle Larry Summers got himself in.” Haidt mentioned it in a talk he gave called “THE BRIGHT FUTURE OF POST-PARTISAN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY.” You can watch it or read the transcript here: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt11/haidt11_index.html