Just How Badly Do Psychologists Misunderstand Conservatives?

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who has been in the, news sharing his erroneous theory of morality in a mistitled book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.  Dr. Haidt bases his theory of morality on the atheist assumption that evolution is a non-purposive mechanism, driven by random mutations selected for survival functionality.  From that spiritual void, Dr. Haidt tells us morality is an artifact of evolutionary sociobiology.  "Evolution shaped human brains[, resulting in] evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress selfishness and make social life possible."

Social life is the universal human condition, with or without morality.  Two murderers in a cell are a social group, yet if one doesn't slit the other's throat, it is not necessarily because of morality.  But in Professor Haidt's functionalist understanding, any suppression of selfishness in a group is an example of morality.  In this godless model, a terrorist who suppresses a wish to kill his sex slave and instead lets another terrorist rape her is displaying morality.  In truth, morality operates to suppress selfishness not merely for social order, but for the possibility of divinely inspired existence.

The vast tragedy of psychology is the inability to see that while the relationships among humans can rise to the level of lawfulness, righteousness exists only in the relationship between mankind and God.  Morality is based not in biology, but in divinity.  Social coercion, control, and cooperation develop to stabilize social processes and accomplish individual and group ends, for good or evil.  But that is different from morality.  Morality develops in civilizations that have a unifying religious experience of human worth and shared understanding of sacred truth.  Morality is the highest benefit of being born into such a civilization.  It is the application of divinely inspired, hallowed traditions of spiritual wisdom to the problems of life caused by constituents of selfishness such as anger, lust, and greed.

Morality is essentially a system of conservation that prevents the dissipation of psychological energy by transferring that energy from the unimportant (selfish) to the important (selfless).  Morality enables individuals without personal religious identification or conviction to partake in the shared spiritual wisdom of their community.

For decades, leading psychologists have been proposing kinder, gentler, more inclusive theories to counteract the disrespect for religion, especially Christianity, which has been a stain on the discipline since its modern origins.  Jonathan Haidt's attempt to find unity between liberals and conservatives is in that ameliorative tradition.  However, his work is pacification more than unification, because he doesn't understand that the destruction of the Judeo-Christian moral code, led by psychologists, has resulted in a dominant belief system of anti-morality, especially among the left wing, whom he nostalgically calls "liberals."

Dr. Haidt's formulation is that morality can be dissected into six components, termed "foundations": care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  His research finds that liberals are more caring, conservatives stronger in loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Social psychologists invariably find what they are looking for.  For example, liberals would flunk "caring" if the scale pertained to the unborn.)  In truth, sanctity is the essence of all morality, though the psyclops can't see that.

In 2008, Dr. Haidt presented his model of morality in a TED Talk, "The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives."  While shedding no light on morality, the talk did expose the folly of the anti-moral left.  Haidt opened with photos of two men standing before Michelangelo's David in Florence, Italy.  He asked the audience to decide which man voted for Gore and which for Bush.  One man is enthralled by the beauty of the statue, while the other is so embarrassed that he screws his face into a childish grimace and covers his eyes.  The delighted smugocrats in the audience did not question the silly depiction of the Republican – a middle-aged man in sex-drenched American popular culture travels to Italy to view art, passing countless representations of nudes and arriving at one of the world's most photographed statues to be horrified that Michelangelo forgot the fig leaf.

Haidt compounded the insult to conservatives: "It is really a fact that liberals are much higher than conservatives on a major personality trait called openness to experience."  Leaving no doubt that openness is superior, he explained that liberals are more open to novelty, diversity, and travel, while conservatives are more closed and prefer the familiar, safe, and dependable.

The openness that Haidt values may be important to the purveyors of cheese that tastes like vomit, or performance artists exploring their own genitals, but it has no relevance to morality.  In fact, when we understand what morality is – the conservation of energy to serve God-given purposes – novelty-seeking for its own sake tends to undermine rather than strengthen it.  Furthermore, if openness pertains to discomfiting rather than entertaining oneself – for example, serving the sick and poor – Haidt's patronizing aside about the "Christian imagination" should experience a dramatic upgrade.

Then the talk turned ugly.  Haidt said, "When the liberal team loses as it did in 2004 ... [we think conservatives] must be blinded by religion or by simple stupidity."  This reflects a theme of the left wing, which Haidt repeated in his talk: Eastern philosophy brings enlightenment, while Christianity brings stupidity.  Fictional moral liberals prefer Eastern philosophies over Christianity because they are cherry-picked and cleansed of moral relevance.

Haidt showed a map of flyover America labeled "Jesusland."  Then, to raucous laughter, he showed a map of red states labeled DUMBF---ISTAN.  Still, imagining himself a unifier, Dr. Haidt said, "If you think that half of America votes Republican because they are blinded in this way, then my message to you is that you are trapped in a moral matrix."  That is the opposite of the truth.  The left-wing desecration of Judeo-Christian belief has been wholesale.  They did not preserve parts of the Bible as sacred.  Nor did they replace biblical teaching with another morality.  Liberalism or progressivism disintegrated into chaotic humanist ethicism.  That is why they call their priests bioethicists, not biomoralists.  While still ungratefully using Judeo-Christian morality to bring sanity to their lives, the left wing preaches politics as replacement, blind to the truth that political opinion vitiates morality and political pride destroys righteousness.

To be fair, in 2017, Jonathan Haidt no longer labels conservatives "Dumbf---istanis."  In fact, he says his research has pushed his own political beliefs rightward.  But well-meaning psychologists remain incapable of seeing the godful nature of morality or understanding its decline.  Haidt misunderstands the historical antecedents of anti-moral liberalism.  He concludes that parallel moralities of liberals and conservatives descended from "two 19th-century narratives about modernity."  Liberalism descended from "the celebration of the liberation of individuals," whereas conservatism is "mourning the loss of community and moral authority."  Utterly wrong.  Liberalism or progressivism has crushed individuality.  Haidt himself recognizes the extreme loss of viewpoint diversity in his field of psychology.  But he cannot connect the dots between left-wing political orthodoxy and the loss of diversity, or the illusion that parades celebrating sodomy as the promotion of individual freedom.  Godful morality emphasizes sexual issues not because sexual immorality is "worse" than any other, but because sexuality is a highly energized realm of consciousness.  Therefore, conservation of this energy requires stronger commitment to the important.

What actually caused the rise of anti-morality is that science and technology have lifted people in advanced societies above hunger, cold, and early death, enabling mass comfort and affluence inconceivable in the 19th century.  Because morality is the conservation of spiritual energy in the service of the important, advances in material circumstances have brought the chance to get away with wasting energy on the unimportant.