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Conservatives scared of spiders, liberals have moral blind spots

21 September 2008
Scientists have been investigating peoples’ moral and political compass, and have come up with some dubious conclusions. Conservatives are scared of spiders, and liberals have moral blind spots, they say.
clipped from
Rice University Political Scientist John Alford published some research in the creatively named journal Science about a possible biological basis to liberalism and conservatism.
Liberals were not sensitive to the scary images. Which means they’re biologically inferior, because they’d die if a gay spider tried to abort their faces to death.
Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist, wrote a lengthy anthropological investigation into why people vote for Republicans.
they have different cultural standards of ethics and morality! Liberals and college students define morality as “how we treat each other,” conservatives attach more significance to “supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.” Liberals recognize fairness and care as important moral virtues, conservatives add to that loyalty, respect for authority, and duty.
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These studies seem to have become quite a talking point, at least in the blogosphere. While Gawker’s report above is not the most informative, it does suggest that at least two of the studies are fatally flawed. Alford’s study was apparently based on a very small sample, in a limited area. It is hardly possible to generalise from that to what makes conservatives tick.

Haidt’s study al least has a wider sample, but the assumptions and conclusions seem to be fatally flawed, as I’ve already noted in my other blog Notes from underground: The moral high ground — or is it?, so I won’t repeat all that here.

But I would invite anyone interested to have a look at that, and follow the links to Haidt’s test page, take the test, and see what you think.

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