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Theories of Politics and Mind + the Current Broken State of US Politics - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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April 17th, 2012


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02:18 am - Theories of Politics and Mind + the Current Broken State of US Politics
I've discussed Jonathan Haidt's moral foundations theory previously. It's interesting and he and some of the others working on the relationship of cognition and political preference seem to be onto something. However, I've also recently begun to encounter a number of articles like this one, that both attempt (rather dubiously, as is true of at least 95% of all evo-psych theories) to tie these preferences into inborn genetic traits, and also to use them to explain the current political tensions in the US.

I've written a number of posts about why I think most evolutionary psychology is not merely bogus, but that it is also ideologically motivated pseudoscience .

However, that's only half of my disagreement with thin and various similar articles I've seen. While most don't come out and say it, they hint that major tensions between conservatives and liberals are unavoidable and thus that the current poisonous state of US politics is in some way natural or unsurprising.

However, it's worth considering exactly how bad US politics has become and more importantly exactly how insane and twisted the Republican party has become. Yes, it seems liberals and conservatives evaluate the world in different ways, and yet in the 1990s, a similar set up of a Republican House and a Democratic president was at odds with one another, but somewhat less badly than they are now. Also, prior to the 1980s, the Republican Party was not the party of fundy bigots and was a whole lot less crazy.


More importantly, the differences between conservatives and liberals may be inherent, but the extreme differences are clearly not. The UK is a nation with common cultural roots to the US, and yet while I consider their Tories to be fairly vile, they also aren't insane fundy bigots. The closest UK analog to the US Republican Party is the BNP, who are insane racists. However, in the UK the BNP regularly only gets around 2-3% of the vote and are widely reviled by everyone else. It's well worth keeping in mind that the current state of US politics and of the Republican Party is in no way normal, it's sick seriously non-functional. I've also rather suspicious of the motives of writing articles that imply that the current state of affairs is in some way normal.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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[User Picture]
From:darkoshi
Date:April 17th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
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The last link mentions "Unless they can stop him and restore their version of America, the United States faces a nightmarish hellscape of death panels and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concentration camps."

My brother sent me an article back in June 2001 which made the same kind of allegations about FEMA concentration camps, but blamed it mostly on then-president Bush. So it seems that it's not only Republicans that believe those kind of things.
[User Picture]
From:xuenay
Date:April 17th, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
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Interestingly, I'm reading Haidt's latest book right now, and he comes close to calling himself an evolutionary psychologist at times. He doesn't say it explicitly, and you could reasonably also construe it as him merely drawing heavily on evolutionary psychology, but still.

I still think that the kind of evpsych that you (rightfully) disdain is mostly just the evpsych that tends to get the most media attention, with people like Haidt, Kurzban, Pinker etc. doing much better evpsych which avoids getting attacked because it isn't so stupid.
[User Picture]
From:alephnul
Date:April 18th, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)
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I don't know Haidt or Kurzban, but I can assure you that Pinker gets attacked (check out CrookedTimber posts about Pinker for example).


Edited at 2012-04-18 11:26 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:xuenay
Date:April 18th, 2012 11:39 am (UTC)
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Ah, hadn't seen that. Pinker's actually the one of the three that I know the least about - just read a couple of his papers and watched a couple of his TEDTalks, as well as generally hearing good things about him.
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:May 1st, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
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I think the new political technology has outstripped the competence of the average person. I think there will be an adjustment... if we survive. :)

Society is incredibly complex. I tend to fall back on cybernetic models when thinking about these things. The number of interrelationships between a person and their ecosystem is simply uncountable. We survive, to a great extinct, by habit and intuition. Both are easily disrupted by novel environments. The new media, the new PAC, the conspiratorial wealthy elite, these are exotic predators introduced into a vulnerable ecosystem. They are wreaking havoc.

People are thinking poorly in politics because thinking will always be impaired when your cognitive load is being demanded by working in an unfamiliar language.
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:May 1st, 2012 02:10 am (UTC)
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As evidence, I submit numerous cases in which, as people are spoonfed important information and reasonable arguments, they tend to adopt attitudes I would consider more rationale. Eg. healthcare availability for the working poor.

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