Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Moral Profiles

UPDATED 20 Nov 2008

See our Blog Topic on Five Channels of Morality based on Jonathan Haidt's TED Talk 19-minute TED video.

Please take the online test at http://www.yourmorals.org/ and report your scores in a Comment to this Topic. The above graph compares the moral profiles of the average L-MIND and C-MIND with the profiles of members of this Blog.
  • The L-MIND profile starts off high for the first two channels and then trails sharply downward for the final three.
  • The C-MIND profile is pretty level all across the channels.
  • Ira starts off moderately low at Harm and slowly increases over the remaining channels.
  • Steve Ruberg has a "u" profile that is higher at either end, for Harm and Purity.
  • Stu starts off extremely high at Harm and then steadily goes downhill to very low at Purity.
  • Howard is all over the place like a "sawtooth wave", relatively high on Fairness and Ingroup and low on Authority and Purity.
  • Joel is relatively low on most channels and pretty level across the board.

  • The BLOG AVERAGE is pretty level, starting a bit high and ending a bit low.

How can we possibly agree about anything? Or be friends? Yet we are!

Harm Fairness Authority Ingroup Purity

3.6 3.7 2.1 2.1 1.3

3.0 3.0 3.3 3.1 2.9

2.5 3.5 3.5 3.8 4.2

3.5 2.8 2.7 2.8 4.0

4.5 3.8 3.0 2.5 1.2
2.2 4.2 1.3 3.2 1.2

2.2 2.7 1.8 2.7 2.5

Ira Glickstein


Ira Glickstein said...

In a Comment to the previous Topic, Steve Ruberg asks "What does my lower Purity score indicate to you about my beliefs?

I want to move all future discussion of the morals test to this Topic which is why I am reponding here.

I was surprised I scored 4.2 while you scored 4.0. That is not much of a difference, especially in a survey of this type, where you being higher in other factors may have subtracted from this one. I know I interpret holy books figuratively while you and your wife home schooled your children using Christian materials.

Perhaps I scored high because I said I attend religious services multiple times per month and answered other questions with storng support for traditional morality.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Howard's score
2.2, 4.2, 1.3, 3.2, 11.2

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Howard. I'll assume your Purity score is 1.2 and not "11.2" - I would not want you to be more pure than Steve and me added together.

Also, please check your Harm score. Are you really lower than me on that measure?

Ira Glickstein

PS: I'll update the graph when I get a chance. I hope to see some other scores reported soon.

Steve Ruberg said...

Ira said, "Perhaps I scored high because I said I attend religious services multiple times per month and answered other questions with storng support for traditional morality."

My score was likely high for the same reason - I indicated attending religious services several times per month and also support traditional morality to some degree. However, I would have a harder time explaining my religion's value to society based on Purity/Sanctity than Harm/Care or Fairness/Reciprocity. It seems to me that the main point of the Judeo-Christian ethic is to lead us toward compassion and justice. When the focus is on Purity we become legalistic and things can get ugly.

You remembered the home schooling. We really didn't focus our approach so much on Christian materials though. There is a strong secular home schooling movement in nearby Ann Arbor and we used what we felt did the job best. All four experienced public middle and high school - the thought of going further was just too much!

No question though, we did bring our children up with the moral teachings that come from Christianity (which derives much from Judaism). The result is that we are focused on compassion and justice issues to some degree. We are very aware that there are about 2-3 billion people who are really hurting in the world and we attempt to do something. (Mary Ann is in Kenya now doing a hospice nursing assessment and Lynnae just returned from Cambodia and Indonesia).

I think the Purity/Sanctity part motivated the Harm/Care (Compassion) and Fairness/Reciprocity (Justice). In other words, for this human anyway, my response to a Creator resulted in concern for the vulnerable and some really pleasant family ties.

I don't really see how Haidt gets the moral foundation for Purity/Sanctity from disgust. Something to do with when our early ancestors began eating meat - disgust kept us from scavenging carcasses (Haidt, Graham. When Morality Opposes Justice, 2007 SJR). I'm not seeing the connection. Anyone know what Haidt 2006 Ch 9 says about this?

joel said...

My scores:

Harm 2.2
Fairness 2.7
Loyalty 1.8
Authority 2.7
Purity 2.5

Keep in mind that I'm a sociopath. It seems to me that the survey reveals more about the questioner than the questionee. With respect Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Steve for the update on Mary Ann and Lynnae and their worldwide good works. Lynnae made some excellent comments on this Blog some time ago and she is welcome to join us again now that she is back in the USA.

I was under the impression Mary Ann home-schooled your children in reaction to the secular nature of public schools. She seems to have done a fine job. It has been a couple decades since I last saw them in your home and at that restaurant with your mom (Irene?) and they are delightful human beings.

As for Haidt, all I know of him is the paper Stu posted to our Blog and the TED video. I have not read his book. He is a self-professed liberal who has, nevertheless, seen through the haze of that mind set and observed some positive truths about the conservative mind set, through a dark glass, dimly, sort of like a one-eyed man in the land of the blind.

I don't think any short multiple-choice quiz can accurately capture anyone's moral values. Each of us interprets the questions a bit differently and there may be a tendency to "game" the test even if we resolve to be absolutely honest.

If I was designing such a test I would weight it such that everyone's total score summed up to a set value, on the theory that everyone is equally "moral" but their morality is distributed differently among the five channels.

I checked the sums and the test does not do that. For example, the highest sums so far are mine (17.5) and SteveR's (15.8), and the lowest Joel's (11.9) and Howard's (12.1). C-Minds (15.3) beat L-Minds (12.8).

Ira Glickstein

Steve Ruberg said...

My Mom (yes Irene) is doing really well in Cincinnati - still bowling every week at age 79. I recall that you took her arm in yours and skipped down the sidewalk! She was VERY charmed and still brings it up occasionally.

Oh yes - completely agree about the test limitations. But it's good for discussion.

I want to clarify something about what I previously wrote. It can really sound lame even discussing the good you are attempting to engage in. But in the spirit of Haidt's attempts to understand each other, I was trying to provide insight into a religious journey that many of my liberal friends don't understand and actually fear. What I was attempting to get at was that the spiritual path (indicated by a high Purity number) was the reason that a somewhat crude, sometimes racist, KY redneck moved to a place of concern for global justice and mercy issues.

Still haven't achieved the levels of Fairness (justice) of Stu and Howard or the Care (compassion) of Stu or the Purity of Ira but hey there's still time!

So the point - the religious path can (it doesn't always) move people toward increased justice and mercy for the vulnerable. If the low Purity numbers of the L-Minds indicates less religious participation, then what leads the L-Mind to learn to be so compassionate? If scoring higher in Care and Fairness on the Haidt test really is a good measure of compassion.

Ira Glickstein said...

Steve wrote: "My Mom (yes Irene) is doing really well ... I recall that you took her arm in yours and skipped down the sidewalk! She was VERY charmed and still brings it up occasionally."

I remembered that too and hoped you would bring it up, though it demands some explanation :^)

When our daughters were in college Vi and I would visit and ask them to bring some friends out to a restaurant to have dinner with us. After dinner I would always ask my daughter to skip (to the tune of "We're off to see the Wizard ...") and they would always refuse. However, their girl friends would always volunteer to skip with me, which would, of course, embarrass our daughter as we skipped off.

One of our youngest daughter's friends even corrected my manner of skipping! She explained that the actors in "The Wizard of Oz" always started their skipping by crossing their right leg over the left and holding it there a second. Then, they would skip two times to the right and then two times to the left, and so on.

Since then, I've shown dozens of ladies, young and old, how to skip after dinner, including last year with bicycle club members in France.

Send my best to Irene and invite her to the Blog and also to The Villages here in Florida if she is tired of the cold winters in Ohio. (You and Mary Ann can come along.)

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Haidt’s data (as well as Ira’s graph) shows that the greatest divergence (and slope) between conservatives and liberals is in the “purity/sanctity” category. In one of his papers Haidt says, “. . . purity/sanctity may be a much more recent system, growing out of the uniquely human emotion of disgust, which seems to give people feelings that some ways of living and acting are higher, more noble, and less carnal than others.”

This divergence shows up most sharply in today’s politics in attitudes toward sex, birth, and death. Conservatives tend to be disgusted with “deviant” sexual behavior, abortion, assisted death, and failure to put murderers to death. In direct contrast, liberals tend to be disgusted by interference with private sexual behavior, freedom of choice for abortion and assisted death, and the death penalty.

Another contrast is what is felt as sacred. Conservatives tend to sanctify authority that is based on rituals and texts that they believe have divine origin. Liberals tend to sanctify the authority of nature and virtuous human behavior.

I think Haidt has no evidence for his assertion that disgust is a uniquely human emotion, at least if you think of disgust as just a very strong expression of dislike or rejection of certain behaviors. Sex, birth and death are such primitive processes that there must be complex evolutionary instincts in our brains on both views of sex, birth and death and how we feel about purity and sanctity.

All the more reason to follow the advice of Sent-ts’an (~700 C.E.) that Haidt recommended: “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be “for” or “against.” The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.

Steve Ruberg said...

Howard said, "Conservatives tend to sanctify authority that is based on rituals and texts that they believe have divine origin." In the spirit of understanding each other, this has not been my experience. For most "believers", there is something inside of us that is hardwired to believe that there is a God who has brought about our existence. The texts then help us understand what that God might be like. And in my case, my understanding of the beauty and complexity of the universe and biological organisms leads me to believe that random chance as a cause for origins is highly improbable. No question that our origins came about through evolution - just not a completely random process.

And Howard said, "Conservatives tend to be disgusted with “deviant” sexual behavior, abortion, assisted death, and failure to put murderers to death." Again in the spirit of understanding, for most conservatives abortion falls into the Care/Harm category. It is coming to the aid of an unborn baby - but a baby all the same. So if we are created by God then ending a life (young or old) becomes of great concern.

And finally Howard said, "The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease." Is it possible that this struggle may also be the very reason for our present advanced state?

Ira Glickstein said...

Although I'm not a literal believer in the holy texts, IMHO Steve could not have said it better!

Although life, again (IMHO), originated from random processes, once initiated it definitely was not completely random. For me GOD (General Organizing Device) dwells within the Timeless and Eternal Laws of Nature and the Unchanging mechanisms of the Universe. Our inborn love of the beauty of Nature and of Life and of other Humans is rooted in the evolution of our genes and memes.

I don't know the inner workings of the Morals Test we each took, but I think Steve hit on it when he put opposition to abortion into the Harm/Care category. I think it is perverse that support for legal abortion probably boosts one's Harm/Care score while favoring the Death Penalty for convicted murderers does the opposite. Where is the Care for the unborn baby? Where is the Care for the murderer's victims and their families?

Finally, Steve hit it right on the head about the struggle of "for" and "against". That dichotomy is the very source of human civilization.

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...

Since Howard brought it up, I looked into the context of the quote from Sent-ts'an regarding the "for" and the "against".


I found the text at http://www.mendosa.com/way4.htm. His philosophy is quite interesting to me as a Pantheist! (I've highlighted the part Howard quoted as well as some parts I particularly liked.)

Hsin Hsin Ming:
On Trust in the Heart
Attributed to Sent-ts'an
The third Patriarch of the Dhyana Sect

Translated by Arthur Waley

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease;

While the deep meaning is misunderstood, it is useless to meditate on Rest.
It [the Buddha-nature] is blank and featureless as space; it has no "too little" or "too much;"
Only because we take and reject does it seem to us not to be so.
Do not chase after Entanglements as though they were real things,
Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real;
Pain, if you seek serenity in Oneness [Ira: Is this the Oneness of all in the Universe?], will vanish of its own accord.
Stop all movement in order to get rest, and rest will itself be restless;
Linger over either extreme, and Oneness is for ever lost.
Those who cannot attain to Oneness in either case will fail:
To banish Reality is to sink deeper into the Real;
Allegiance to the Void implies denial of its voidness.
The more you talk about It, the more you think about It, the further from It you go;
Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand.
Return to the Root and you will find the Meaning;
Pursue the Light, and you wi11 lose its source,
Look inward, and in a flash you will conquer the Apparent and the Void.
For the whirligigs of Apparent and Void all come from mistaken views;
There is no need to seek Truth; only stop having views.
Do not accept either position [Assertion and Negation], examine it or pursue it;
At the least thought of "Is" and "Isn't" there is chaos and the Mind is lost.
Though the two exist because of the One, do not cling to the One;

Only when no thought arises are the Dharmas without blame.
No blame, no Dharmas; no arising, not thought.
The doer vanishes along with the deed,
The deed disappears when the doer is annihilated.
The deed has no function apart from the doer;
The doer has no function apart from the deed.
The ultimate Truth about both Extremes is that they are One Void.
In that One Void the two are not distinguished;
Each contains complete within itself the Ten Thousand Forms.

Only if we boggle over fine and coarse are we tempted to take sides.
In its essence the Great Way is all embracing;
It is as wrong to call it easy as to call it hard.
Partial views are irresolute and insecure,
Now at a gallop, now lagging in the rear.
Clinging to this or to that beyond measure
The heart trusts to bypaths that lead it astray.
Let things take their own course; know that the Essence will neither go nor stay;
Let your nature blend with the Way and wander in it free from care.
Thoughts that are fettered turn from Truth,
Sink into the unwise habit of "not liking."
"Not liking" brings weariness of spirit; estrangements serve no purpose.
If you want to follow the doctrine of the One, do not rage against the World of the Senses.
Only by accepting the World of the Senses can you share in the True Perception.

Those who know most, do least; folly ties its own bonds.
In the Dharma there are no separate dharmas, only the foolish cleave
To their own preferences and attachments.
To use Thought to devise thoughts, what more misguided than this?
Ignorance creates Rest and Unrest; Wisdom neither loves nor hates.
All that belongs to the Two Extremes is inference falsely drawn-
A dream-phantom, a flower in the air. Why strive to grasp it in the hand?
"Is" and "Isn't," gain and loss banish once for all:
If the eyes do not close in sleep there can be no evil dreams;
If the mind makes no distinctions all Dharmas become one.
Let the One with its mystery blot out all memory of complications.
Let the thought of the Dharmas as All-One bring you to the So-in-itself.
Thus their origin is forgotten and nothing is left to make us pit one against the other.
Regard motion as though it were stationary, and what becomes of motion?
Treat the stationary as though it moved, and that disposes of the stationary.
Both these having thus been disposed of, what becomes of the One?
At the ultimate point, beyond which you can go no further,
You get to where there are no rules, no standards,
To where thought can accept Impartiality,
To where effect of action ceases,
Doubt is washed away, belief has no obstacle.
Nothing is left over, nothing remembered;
Space is bright, but self-illumined; no power of mind is exerted.
Nor indeed could mere thought bring us to such a place.
Nor could sense or feeling comprehend it.
It is the Truly-so, the Transcendent Sphere, where there is neither He nor I.

For swift converse with this sphere use the concept "Not Two;"
In the "Not Two" are no separate things, yet all things are included.
The wise throughout the Ten Quarters have had access to this Primal Truth;
For it is not a thing with extension in Time or Space;
A moment and an aeon for it are one.
Whether we see it for fail to see it, it is manifest always and everywhere.
The very small is as the very large when boundaries are forgotten;
The very large is as the very small when its outlines are not seen.
Being is an aspect of Non-being; Non-being is an aspect of Being.
In climes of thought where it is not so the mind does ill to dwell.
The One is none other than the All, the All none other than the One.
Take your stand on this, and the rest will follow of its own accord;

To trust in the Heart is the Not Two, the Not Two is to trust in the Heart.
I have spoken, but in vain; for what can words tell
Of things that have no yesterday, tomorrow or today?

Takakusu XLVIII, 376. Source: Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, Edward Conze (ed.). New York: Philosophical Library, 1954, pp. 296-298

OK Howard (and everybody else) what is your take on all this?

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

I don’t think Ira and Steve really understand the simple but profound ideas that Buddha, Jesus and Darwin were trying to get across to people who by and large followed different paths and held different beliefs. Actually, abortion and the death penalty are excellent examples to illustrate why I think that.

Surely Ira and Steve recognize that people have a fundamental, often irreconcilable, disagreement on both these issues. Do they honestly believe that there are not valid rational, moral, emotional, early childhood and genetic influences on both sides of these disagreements?

Darwin believed that events were governed by God’s laws, but he knew well the problem of evil events that he could not reconcile with a loving God. Like many rational people, he attributed these events to accidents, not to what many religions call “an act of God.”

The development of a single cell to 50 trillion cells of an adult involves many such accidents. Nature (or God, if you prefer) aborts about one fifth of all human pregnancies because of such accidents, but obviously nature, again accidentally, misses a few. How are we to choose what to do? This is a very difficult decision directly involving many people, not just the developing fetus.

Ira’s simplistic questions, “ Where is the Care for the unborn baby? Where is the Care for the murderer's victims and their families?” is the typical conservative black and white view, implying that those who disagree with him do not care. That is grossly unfair and insulting to those of us who have faced such decisions.

Buddha and Jesus taught us that we must choose our own path and be responsible for our choice. They also taught that you should never judge, and certainly not try to choose, another person's path.

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard is right, Nature aborts a significant percentage of babies, usually in the early months and almost always because of a serious health issue in the mother or the baby, in the latter case often genetic. That process is part and parcel of the evolutionary process of survival and reproduction and it tends to keep genetics from drifting too far from the adaptive maximums.

I can't speak for Steve, but I consider myself a moderate on abortion, somewhere between the traditional Catholic position that the baby's life and the mother's life have equal value at conception and the pro-choice position that the "fetus" is part of the mother's body an she can do anything she wants to it until the umbillical cord is cut.

In my view, which I've expressed here before, the value of the baby's life is on a sliding scale as it develops from one cell to trillions. Therefore, if anyone asked my opinion, I would actually favor abortion during the first trimester if the mother did not want the baby for any reason or no reason. In the second trimester, going along with Nature, I would allow abortion for any significant reason, such as the mother's health or a defect in the baby. When it comes to the third trimester, the baby can survive outside the womb given care now available in hospitals, so I consider the baby almost at the level of a child that has been born and would give it legal protection.

Why is legal protection necessary? Because we know that some civilizations have allowed children to be killed by their parents after they were born, even up to six or seven years of age or beyond. This is a valid "slippery slope" issue in my opinion.

In a Jewish religious writing they give the case where a pregnant woman presents to the only doctor in town and, due to some medical issue, he must choose between saving her life or the baby's. The answer is that he must save the mother's life unless the baby's head is out or, if a breech birth, more than half the baby's body, in which case he owes equal care to both mother and baby.

Of course, in modern medicine, that situation is highly unlikely, but it does give religious support for the sliding scale for the baby's life.

So Howard, I DO "honestly believe that there" ARE "valid rational, moral, emotional, early childhood and genetic influences on both sides of these disagreements".

Several decades ago, before abortion became such a contentious issue, some doctors would kill a baby at birth if it had a severe defect that, given the state of medicine at that time, would prevent the baby from having a reasonable quality of life and would impose awful emotional and financial burdens on the parents. He would tell them it died of natural causes during childbirth.

Had I been a nurse at that time and observed the doctor killing the baby in that situation, I would have fully supported his decision. Unfortunately, after pro-choice activists riled up the pro-life activists, any doctor who did that would probably be turned in by some nurse and lose his or her medical license. That is one bad result of the polarization on this issue.

Ira Glickstein