The subtitle of the Righteous Mind book I mentioned in my last post is “Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion”. Sound topical? As I said, the first part of the book is devoted to making the point that we are highly motivated by “automatic” thinking instead of reasoning. The second part of the book is entitled “There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness”. He begins by emphasizing that morality is culturally based, and that there are many moralities in the world, none particularly “better” than the others. As examples, he mentions the morality of autonomy, commonly found in western cultures, the morality of community, in which the individual is subservient to larger issues, and the morality of divinity, in which the individual is even less the main issue. He then discusses a number of foundations of morality, and their reason for existence. He finishes the section by talking about the morality of politics, and the foundations that they are based upon. In particular, he brings out that conservatism has a broader base of morality than liberalism, and therefore has an innate advantage in the long run. (Don’t argue with me—read the book and argue with Haidt. I am a middle of the road person, which is one reason I like his book).
The final section, which I of course liked the most, is entitled “Why Morality blinds and binds”. It is about out strong allegiance to groups (tribes), and why we are wiling to accept beliefs that we might ordinarily question in order to belong to our group. Why, for instance, do Catholics accept the ban on contraception, even though their members routinely take advantage of it. And why do the Tea Party members argue for things that will adversely affect them? Why can’t Congress seem to agree on how to balance the budget? And what’s with this Christian—Moslem thing? Haidt’s concluding words are “Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say”.
This is in fact, pretty much the state of the world right now. But what does morality of the type Haidt is discussing have to do with the quality of industrial products? I am sure you have noticed that discussions about such things as pollution and the environment, petroleum usage, the relative advantages of various motorcycles and automobiles, outsourcing, and the advantage of technology that sustains life beyond a certain point, are based on the ideals of the people involved, and often approach religious arguments in fervor and attempts at conversion. We stand with our group, rather than compromising. Because, after all, our group is moral, and others are not. As proof, they are (in favor of/not in favor of) regulating firearms—or spending tax money on developing alternate sources of energy.