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419 pages, Hardcover
First published March 13, 2012
"In a study I did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a "typical liberal" would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a "typical conservative" would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to asses how accurate they were by comparing people's expectations about "typical" partisans to the actual responses from partisans of the left and the right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?The following quotation is not really part of the main focus of this book, but I found it interesting because it illuminates an irony about many Christians who emphasize "correct belief" (i.e. orthodoxy) whereas modern polling shows "correct belief" not to be a reliable predictor of neighborliness and good citizenship. Haidt is quoting from Putnam and Campbell's 2010 book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.
The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as "very liberal." The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as "One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal" or Justice is the most important requirement for a society," liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree."
"Why are religious people better neighbors and citizens? To find out, Putnam and Campbell included on one of their surveys a long list of questions about religious beliefs (e.g., "Do you believe in hell? Do you agree that we will all be called before God to answer for our sins?") as well as questions about religious practices (e.g., "How often do you read holy scriptures? How often do you pray?) These beliefs and practices turned out to matter very little. Whether you believe in hell, whether you pray daily, whether you are a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Mormon ... none of these things correlated with generosity. The only thing that was reliable and powerfully associated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists.It's the friendships and groups activities, carried out within a moral matrix that emphasizes selflessness. That's what brings out the best in people.The following is Haidt's definition of moral systems:
Putnam and Campbell reject the New Atheist emphasis on belief and reach a conclusion straight out of Durkheim: "It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing."
"Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technology, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to oppress or regulate self interest and make cooperative societies possible"This definition makes morals dependent on the social environment. There is no one single definition of morality that is true in all cultures.
“Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.”Apparently conservatives are more clued into this than are liberals, so liberals among us best take some of Haidt’s lessons to heart. We can’t all do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want without sharing some responsibility for/to our social group. The good news is that this connectedness is one of the richest experiences we will probably have in our lifetimes.