09 April 2012

Ideology's Greatest Threat: Former Believers In Search of Wisdom

We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.

...The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. _NYT_Saletan
The excerpts are taken from a William Saletan review of Jonathan Haidt's book, "The Righteous Mind." Just a few years ago, Jonathan Haidt was a partisan American leftist, before he embarked upon an intellectual journey in search of a larger wisdom. His writings and video presentations are causing quite a stir within a number of hidebound ideological communities. Haidt is stirring things up, because he is telling members of his former ideological congregation that they are only human -- much of what they think they know, just ain't so.

Humans typically arrive at a conclusion rapidly in an instinctive, intuitive, massively parallel manner. It is only in retrospect that they construct a logical argument to support their conclusion. The argument, more often than not, serves as armour shielding, to protect against contrary opinions and arguments. When systems of conclusions interact in a mutually reinforcing manner, they can grow over time, becoming ideologies. Ideologies tend to accumulate large conglomerations of defensive rhetorical shielding, which can open to accept those of like mind, and instantly close to exclude outside attacks.
... moral systems aren’t ignorant or backward. [Jonathan] Haidt argues that they’re common in history and across the globe because they fit human nature. He compares them to cuisines. We acquire morality the same way we acquire food preferences: we start with what we’re given. If it tastes good, we stick with it. If it doesn’t, we reject it. People accept God, authority and karma because these ideas suit their moral taste buds. Haidt points to research showing that people punish cheaters, accept many hierarchies and don’t support equal distribution of benefits when contributions are unequal.

...The hardest part, Haidt finds, is getting liberals to open their minds. Anecdotally, he reports that when he talks about authority, loyalty and sanctity, many people in the audience spurn these ideas as the seeds of racism, sexism and homophobia. And in a survey of 2,000 Americans, Haidt found that self-described liberals, especially those who called themselves “very liberal,” were worse at predicting the moral judgments of moderates and conservatives than moderates and conservatives were at predicting the moral judgments of liberals. Liberals don’t understand conservative values. And they can’t recognize this failing, because they’re so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment. _NYT Review of Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind"_ by William Saletan
The problem is shared by humans of all ideologies, of course, not just leftists. What makes the intellectual blindness of the left such a problem today, is the almost total control by the left of academia, main-skankstream journalism, popular media, and governmental regulatory bureaucracies. The resultant veering of public policy and top-down social values out-of-control -- without apparent checks and balances or any sign of deeper wisdom -- threatens to drown most western nations in a quagmire of debt, demographic decline, and mental/moral atrophy.

Being Human: Mental + Representations & Decision-Making from Being Human on FORA.tv
This FORA.TV panel discussion looks at how humans represent reality and make decisions.

The human mind has come to be a remarkable organic machine. It is a shame when so much of the mind's potential is squandered in service of ideology.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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