April 16, 2012
Via Dan Collins, an interesting Monday time waster:
In the battle for the moral high ground, it seems we have a winner at last.
A leading philosopher has claimed that women are more moral than men.
Professor Roger Steare developed the ‘Moral DNA’ test four years ago to measure both a person’s morality and the changes in their value systems when they enter the workplace.
Since then 60,000 volunteers have taken the questionnaire in more than 200 countries, ranging from chief executives to manual workers and housewives.
Professor Steare said the results show that your gender and age are most likely to influence your morality – with women and the over-thirties proving the ‘most moral’.
I've always been extremely skeptical of claims that men are more moral or rational than women or vice versa. We think, reason, and judge differently depending on our experiences, upbringing or faith, temperment, and yes - probably sex to some degree. But the larger problem with such broad pronouncements is that they presuppose a given definition of morality.
If you place a premium on caring then women will appear more moral but if you place a premium on justice then men tend to edge us out. I've often thought that the way men approach relationships with other people is more suited to a world of competitors: it optimizes on interacting with people with whom you have no bond, or with whom you are actively competing for resources. That kind of moral matrix is shaped by a sharp distinction between the way we treat family and close friends (people who can reasonably be expected to reciprocate kindness or trust) and the way we treat strangers or even enemies (people who cannot be trusted, or who may even wish to harm us). The down side of the traditionally male moral matrix is that having defensive walls up 24/7 isn't always appropriate with a spouse or close family. If you treat your spouse like you treat competitors, you're probably headed for divorce court.
Women tend to have an approach that is more suited to dealing with family or close friends. Intimacy and trust are easier for us. There are advantages to this model - one being that it often disarms other people and makes them more generous and fair. I've often found in the work world that it's easier for me to get others to cooperate (even when this means giving up something of value) than it is for my male co-worker. But it can also be disastrous when used with someone who is dishonorable.
It's also disastrous as a model for large societies, because we don't form the same bonds with total strangers that we form with family and friends. There is no reasonable expectation of reciprocity. I expect that this distinction (and not patriarchal oppression) explains why governments are usually run by men. Their moral model is more suited to the tasks governments must perform.
At any rate, these are gross generalizations. I find Jonathan Haidt's moral matrix interesting because he likens morality to an equalizer with six (OK, I just typed "sex" - I don't even want to think about what that means...) slider bars:
Grim has been taking Haidt's online quizzes:
Dr. Haidt has updated his online quizzes, which you may enjoy taking for fun or edification; or just to help see the point he's trying to make. I was pleased to score perfectly on the scientific knowledge quiz, for example; it's not hard, and I expect all of you will do likewise. Both liberals and conservatives average over six out of seven total points.
The point he is making that gets the most attention comes from his "Sacredness Survey," where he's pushing the argument that conservatives and liberals share three value systems (fairness, avoidance of harm, and purity), but that conservatives have two more (authority and in-group loyalty).
I learn from this survey that Haidt's model ranks me as considering all but one of these values considerably more sacred than is normal for either liberals or conservatives; the exception is authority, for which I apparently have almost no respect whatsoever.
Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory is a model, and like most models it can never capture the infinite nuances of human behavior. But that doesn't mean they have no value. Myers-Briggs is another model that doesn't perfectly capture the human personality, but it achieves its intended purpose, which was to help people understand those who think and respond differently. I can unreservedly credit Myers-Briggs for helping me to understand my mother in law. Once I figured out what type she was, I was able to understand where she was coming from and better predict what would appeal to her or upset her.
As Grim mentions, I've been reading Haidt's latest book The Righteous Mind, and it's fascinating. So if you're inclined, go over to Grim's place and take the quizzes (link is in his post).
I took them a long time ago but would probably have to re-take them as Haidt added "Liberty/Oppression" to the list. I did take the Moral DNA test. Here are my results:
Models, while not perfect, are helpful to the extent that they provide a framework for analyzing and understanding complex systems. Interesting stuff.
January 15, 2012
Which Candidate Best Matches Your Political Views?
I've always enjoyed these things and am frequently surprised by the results.
Answer a series of 11 questions to see which presidential candidate’s views are most like your own. At the end, you can also roll over each candidates columns to see what their specific positions are.
Via Chart Porn.
Update: here's another one but the questions are far less nuanced. According to this one, Gingrich's positions align with mine 76% of the time with Romney, Santorum, and Bachman aligning with mine 72% of the time. Huntsman isn't even in the running.
Assuming this is an accurate assessment (not sure it is because the questions were so vague), a 4% difference in alignment isn't going to move me into Gingrich's camp if, in my assessment, he lacks the requisite experience and I don't trust him.
Amusing side note - not sure if you can see it in the graphic below, but virtually every single candidate has a yellow bar across his/her icon that says, "Lacks courage":