Would You Slap Your Father? Article Linkage and Discussion

by Annoyance1 min read2nd Jun 200911 comments

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PoliticsMotivated Reasoning
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I said that my next post would discuss why IQ tests don't measure frontal executive functions, but I've found something tangential yet extremely topical which I think should be discussed first.

A reader sent me a link to this Opinion column written by New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof:  Would You Slap Your Father?  If So, You're A Liberal.

The title is clearly meant to grab attention; don't let its provocative nature dissuade you from reading the article.  Most of it is remarkably free from partisan bias, although there are one or two bits which are objectionable.  Far more important is that it addresses the relationships between 'emotional' reactions, political positions and affiliations, and reason.

It's a short article, brief enough that I don't think I need to sum it up, and of sufficient quality that I can recommend that you peruse it yourself with a clear conscience.  Take the two or three minutes required to read it, please, and then comment your thoughts below.

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This article explains to a wider audience some notions that people here will be well acquainted with, such as (to take a quote from the article):

“Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games.”

That's what I thought was the single most important thing in the article.

It's a great and pithy quote, too: succinct and elegant.

That's another great example.

I wonder how he deals with people who don't fit into the labels of 'conservative' and 'liberal', though...

Libertarians often average out to moderates on one dimensional political models. I imagine socialists end up being considered "very liberal" even though I would argue the difference between socialists and liberals is more of kinds than degrees.

So probably libertarians get thrown out, and socialists are counted as liberals. At least that would be my guess.

From what I recall seeing of Haidt's essays and interviews, libertarians are just a variety of liberal under his scheme.

Did you take the tests that he linked to? http://www.yourmorals.org/

I was surprised to find that I scored fairly moderately on most things, and lost interest after about a dozen or so. Part of the reason for my moderate score was because of the conviction I have in Atheism and Capitalism (this obviously isn't the place to discuss these issues, but I suspect that most of the members here have views that are nearly identical to mine).

The tests seem to be designed for people who have some degree of Theism, and believe in large amounts of government intervention (compared to, say, the 1900s - both parties qualify compared to older standards). Because my views are less conventional, I'd end up answering a 5 on one question, and a 1 on the next, skewing the results.

For Instance: How important is it to spend time meditating on your religion? 1 How much does your religion influence your behaviour? 5

Overall, the results aren't particularly interesting - at least, not unless they program some meta-level analysis into the charts.

Part of being rational is that ideally we can separate our beliefs from our feelings. I have conservative feelings (as defined by this article) but liberal beliefs (largely because I find that most smart people are liberals). If your beliefs line up with your feelings, that is a bit of a warning sign. (Although I suppose that if we just stick to two categories, there is a 50-50 chance that such alignment would happen by coincidence, so it's not much of a signal.) In my case, the fact that they go the opposite way is somewhat reassuring that I may be on the right track.

Although, just talking about "emotional reaction" and political orientation might be a bit misleading. "Emotional reaction" sounds (to me) like something arbitrary, but aren't we talking about utility functions here?

Which is to say, if somebody experiences positive value (directly) upon seeing loyalty held up, respect to authority held up, whatever, than maybe the choice of political orientation is indeed the optimal action he/she could take.

I also thought it was relevant that even this political pundit knows that lobotomization doesn't hurt IQ.