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Conventional Wisdom

Liberalism is Innately Anti-Science


From Merriam-Webster:
1: existing in, belonging to, or determined by factors present in an individual from birth : NATIVE, INBORN
2: belonging to the essential nature of something : INHERENT
3: originating in or derived from the mind or the constitution of the intellect rather than from experience

From Dictionary.com:
1. existing in one from birth; inborn; native: innate musical talent.
2. inherent in the essential character of something: an innate defect in the hypothesis.
3. originating in or arising from the intellect or the constitution of the mind, rather than learned through experience: an innate knowledge of good and evil.

Science shows us that Liberalism is innately anti-science.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s life’s work to date has been the study of morality. His endeavor has been, simply, to understand and describe morality from the standpoint of objective science, as much as that sort of thing is possible when the object of the study is human behavior, in a manner similar to the way an anthropologist might study a culture. He seeks to identify morality’s component parts, their origins and their functions, and the roles morality plays in human nature and in human social and societal interaction in a purely descriptive, rather than normative, way.

Through this study Haidt has developed three principles of moral psychology:

1. Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.
2. Morality is about more than care and fairness.
3. Morality binds and blinds.

He finds that moralities, ideologies, styles of thought, and even brain types throughout the world vary in the degree to which they employ six psychological mechanisms that evolved in the human brain through natural selection to help us survive and thrive in the cooperative social environments we create for ourselves for our mutual benefit. Through these mechanisms humans are predisposed toward behaviors and situations that are generally helpful to us and away from those that may hurt us.  They are: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. The first three of these are called the “individualizing” foundations of morality because their focus is primarily on advancing the autonomy and well-being of the individual. The second three of these are called the “binding” foundations because their focus is primarily on helping individuals cohere into groups for the mutual protection and benefit of the members of the groups.

Humans are unique among all the species on the planet in our ability to form into large groups, communities, societies, of individuals who are not kin. The predispositions are the key tools in the human tool kit of evolutionary adaptations that make cooperative society possible. They are therefore not only innate to most humans as individuals, but also to human society as a whole. The predispositions are fundamental elements of human nature at every level.

These predisposition operate like little radars of social awareness, constantly running in our subconscious mind, surveying our social surroundings for the patterns of behaviors, circumstances, or situations associated with each of them. They’re part of the “fast” thinking described by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. They contribute to the automatic, instantaneous, intuitive, reactions of like or dislike, approach or avoid, and fight or flee that we feel in response to our interactions with other people and to our observations of the social, moral, and political world more generally.  These reactions happen before conscious reason even begins to engage.  Intuitions come first.   

They’re also part of Kahneman’s “slow” thinking; the conscious reasoning that requires language and takes considerably longer to appear in our minds because of the time that’s required for us to construct what we believe to be our rational arguments. The predispositions are some of the constructs of those arguments.  Strategic reasoning comes second.  

And, science finds, strategic reasoning is not all its crack up to be. For generations it was assumed that humans developed the ability to reason because it helps us to find truth and to make better decisions. But mountains of scientific evidence collected over decades of testing and experimentation show that humans are terrible at reasoning. Reason is chock full of built-in biases that help to make humans really good at seeing the speck in somebody else’s eye – the minutest of flaws in their reasoning – and simultaneously really bad as seeing the log, the gaping holes, in our own. This makes perfect sense from the standpoint of natural selection. Our ability to reason evolved to help us win arguments; to help us survive and thrive in a world dictated by natural selection.

It is true that reason can, and does, help us to find truth, eventually, but only in rare and tightly controlled circumstances in which ideas are consciously and deliberately offered for examination by others for the express purpose that they might find the specks, the flaws, in the logic and evidence offered in support of the ideas. But even then, even in the scientific community, people are still more prone to defend their own pre-made conclusions than they are to objectively accept the ideas of others if those ideas run counter to the prior conclusions.

Since the inception of liberalism prior to the Revolution in France until today – from its origins in the writings of intellectuals like Jean Jacques Rousseau and Nicolas de Condorcet to the ideas of their counterparts in today’s world in the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins – liberal ideas, philosophy, morality, style of thought, and brain type, have rested on the belief that reason trumps all. From the cult of reason in late eighteenth century France to the materialism of today, Liberalism, and liberals, and leftist thought more generally have tend to place their faith in the superiority of reason over all else as the path to moral truth, and to firmly believe that their ideas, ideologies, moralities, and world views are grounded in logic, reason, and science, and are therefore not really ideologies at all, but rather nothing more than the pragmatic pursuit of what works.

This apparently fundamental tenet of liberalism exists in direct and overt denial of the latest science describing the relationship between reason and intuition (intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second), as well as of the latest science describing reason itself (reason evolved to help us win arguments, not to find truth).  The foundational beliefs of liberalism that it is based in science and that science can tell us what humans “should” do or what human society “should” be like are both innately anti-science.

Liberalism denies science in at least two other fundamental ways.

First, Haidt finds that liberal morality, ideology, style of thought, and brain type consist almost exclusively of only the first three of the six evolved psychological mechanisms of morality – the individualizing foundations – and of those mostly just care (whereas conservative morality, ideology, style of thought, and brain type consist of all the foundations in equal balance). Further, not only does liberalism in this way fail to incorporate half of human nature, it often openly rejects the other half as nothing more than tools of oppression and evil, and therefore as immoral. Liberalism, therefore, exists in direct and overt denial of the latest science of what morality is, and of its vital role in human society.

And second, Liberalism seems to (still) cling to the ancient notion from the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle of an ideal state of nature and the possibility of the eventual perfection of man, the path toward which human society is, and should be, inexorably on. This notion is a fundamental presumption behind the idea, for example, that there is, or even can be, such a thing as “the right side of history.” But this notion is diametrically opposed to the fundamental principle of science that there is no such thing as a purpose or goal behind events in the natural world, like evolution for example, but only actions and reactions to immediate local circumstances (like in chemistry and physics). Evolution doesn’t give a damn about outcomes; it contains no such concepts as “good” or “bad,” or that any adaptation represents progress toward some eventual end state. The current state of any individual or species on the planet is nothing more than the cumulative effect that local and immediate circumstances have had on that individual or species up to the current instant in time, and it says absolutely nothing about where that species is headed or what it might look like at some point in the future. The same is true of history. It does not care about outcomes – of arguments, or elections, wars or epidemics, earthquakes or tsunamis. The current moral, ideological, and political state of the world, like evolution, is nothing more than the result of the local and immediate circumstances and events that got it to where it is, and it says absolutely nothing about where mankind is, or should be, heading.  To believe otherwise is to deny possible the most central and fundamental of all the tenets of science.

By definition of the word innate, liberalism is innately anti-science in at least four different ways:

1) It denies the first principle of moral psychology,
2) It denies the science behind the capacity of human reason,
3) It denies the second principle of moral psychology, and
4) It denies what just might be the core tenet of all of science.

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