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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 12:35 PM
Original message
Homo economicus, homo ecologicus
This article is a compendium of posts I've written on this board over the last couple of days, edited for coherence.
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From various altercations I've had on the Internet I've come to the realization that people who "speak" ecology and people who "speak" economics are operating in orthogonal (i.e. mutually perpendicular) frameworks. As a result, each side's position appears religious to the other. I've often been accused of operating from a "faith-based" perspective, but from the ecological side of the fence I see their position as being at least as faith-based as they see mine. (OK, OK, their position is much more religious than mine, but I'm going for politeness points here.)

The difference between the two positions has little to do with classical intelligence. Nobody with a normal-range intelligence is cognitively incapable of understanding ecological issues. It's more a matter that people have an internal narrative that they use to describe and give meaning to the world they live in. People have a neuro-psychological need to believe their perceptions are correct, so they reflexively discount, discard or block out any evidence that contradicts their narrative.

Shifting that narrative requires a psychological quantum leap that usually comes in a flash of insight. The persons intelligence remains unchanged in the process of course, but the way they understand the world can change dramatically in moments. Its not a case of there being a secret knowledge that is only available to an elite. Its that our internal narratives are reinforced from within (by our own brain development and psychology) and without (by the stories our culture tells us) to such an extent that radical shifts in narrative are rare.

The jump from an economic to an ecological consciousness (the (r)evolution from "homo economicus" to "homo ecologicus") can be catalyzed by new information that is so dramatic that its significance breaks through our psychological protective mechanisms. However, the two modes of perception are so different in the way they analyze the world that a heavy investment in one point of view can preclude the possibility of change even in the face of physical evidence.

Since the ecological perspective is so recent, the world at large still reinforces only the well-entrenched economic world-view. We all have close at hand an endlessly varied, socially reinforced series of convenient post-hoc justifications for the economically-framed decisions rendered by our unconscious minds. This makes the transition to the ecological paradigm very difficult -- the shift requires a person to assimilate new information, process old information in a new and radically different way, and do it all in the face of constant negative reinforcement from the media (including people on the Internet), educational systems, political power structures and even the legal system.

I'll never forget the day about four years ago when I suddenly understood the implications of Peak Oil. I felt like I'd taken the red pill and suddenly woken up in a completely new and unsuspected reality. From that point on almost all the information I uncovered about the state of the natural world, the way we humans live in it and the reasons we behave as we do painted the outlines of a system that was very near the breaking point. As time went on, I came to understand that we were not just near the breaking point, we were at it.

The truth of my new perception proved impossible to communicate to those who had not undergone a similar epiphany, while for those who had, no explanation was necessary. To those who didn't get it, I was speaking pure defeatism. For those who did, it was simple realism. Those who get it understand that to respond to a great crisis you need to understand it fully in order not to waste time pursuing avenues that are unworkable or counterproductive. Those who don't get it look on any such critique as obstructionism that doesn't recognize the boundless inventiveness of the human mind. Those who don't get it think every problem has a solution. Those who do get it understand that we are not facing a problem, but rather a predicament, with the obvious distinction that while problems have solutions, predicaments may not. Those who get it tend to think in terms of adaptations or mitigations, rather than solutions.

People who make this shift move their perceptions into a frame of reference that is largely incomprehensible to those still working from the old story. As a result their new perceptions tend to be derided as faith-based because the inner logic of the new frame is not derivable from the old.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 02:21 PM
Response to Original message
1. By using the phrase "get it" you sort of betray your thesis
Consider a parallel from geometry:
If you start with a certain set of "postulates" (or basic assumptions) a certain geometry logically results (say "Euclidean Geometry.")
If you start with a different set of "postulates" a ("Non-Euclidean Geometry") logically results.

Both systems of thought are logically sound. The difference is the fundamental assumptions.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 07:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. You're talking about internal consistency
I agree that, given their assumptions, both systems are logically sound. However, I claim that of these two systems, only one set of assumptions accurately maps to the external, physical world. The other system may map accurately to an internal, human world, but the problem is that we don't live in that one.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 09:45 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. The key then
is to get people to try another set of assumptions.

For example, "Euclidean Geometry" doesn't work well on a spherical surface (like the Earth.)
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tama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 03:18 PM
Response to Original message
2. Human potential
Humans have potential to be many kinds. It takes sociocultural and linguistic conditioning to mechanize some aspects or behavioral patterns into "homo economicus". In fact, it takes 24/7 barrage of capitalistic barrage to make even Western people to act like the selfish greedy bastards we are - and often even that is not enough. Even westerners still give gifts without selfish motives, create and share free software etc.

Problem is, we are easily fooled by memes and framings of discourse, and many if not most of as have poorly developed sense of proportion. So the political discourse propagandized by corporate media sees basically nothing beyond Ponze scheme called "economics", based on obviously mistaken axiom of homo economicus, that all men are selfish, egotistic greedy bastards and nothing else. Very few of us have that kind of self image. Problem with self image and identities is that we are afraid to take a good look inside, we rather project those of our qualities we consider negative to others.
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Terry in Austin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 05:30 PM
Response to Original message
3. Problem vs. Predicament
Great summary of the two worldviews, and the difficulties involved in communicating about Peak Oil.

One of the key points you raise is that of speaking to the "problem/solution" mind-set. The dominant paradigm in the West is basically technocratic, so there is a strong cultural tendency to define any difficulty as a "problem," and therefore it has a "solution" -- it's just a matter of finding one. The solution is whatever makes the problem go away.

What a shock, then, to encounter a difficulty that cannot simply be made to go away -- a predicament. It typically calls for a different set of responses than a problem: mitigation, adaptation, muddling through. A very humbling experience, and a very alien one for anyone steeped in a technocratic/economic tradition. This is probably one of the biggest obstacles to "getting it."

I suspect that the "problem vs. predicament" distinction is a good one to concentrate on as far as raising awareness and gaining acceptance on these issues. It suggests where to build a cultural bridge, so to speak, to establish that it's okay to just cope instead of conquer, that it's okay to adapt by strengthening the inner resources, not just the outer hardware.

BTW, one of the first side-effects I noticed from the "red pill" was how you can empty a room in about thirty seconds just by uttering the words "Peak Oil"!

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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-18-08 11:41 PM
Response to Original message
6. WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN?
http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge256.html#haid...


WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN?
By Jonathan Haidt

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

Diagnosis is a pleasure. It is a thrill to solve a mystery from scattered clues, and it is empowering to know what makes others tick. In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the "war on terror" and repeal of the "death tax") that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.

I began to study morality and culture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. A then-prevalent definition of the moral domain, from the Berkeley psychologist Elliot Turiel, said that morality refers to "prescriptive judgments of justice, rights, and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other." But if morality is about how we treat each other, then why did so many ancient texts devote so much space to rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? There is no rational or health-related way to explain these laws. (Why are grasshoppers kosher but most locusts are not?) The emotion of disgust seemed to me like a more promising explanatory principle. The book of Leviticus makes a lot more sense when you think of ancient lawgivers first sorting everything into two categories: "disgusts me" (gay male sex, menstruation, pigs, swarming insects) and "disgusts me less" (gay female sex, urination, cows, grasshoppers ).

For my dissertation research, I made up stories about people who did things that were disgusting or disrespectful yet perfectly harmless. For example, what do you think about a woman who can't find any rags in her house so she cuts up an old American flag and uses the pieces to clean her toilet, in private? Or how about a family whose dog is killed by a car, so they dismember the body and cook it for dinner? I read these stories to 180 young adults and 180 eleven-year-old children, half from higher social classes and half from lower, in the USA and in Brazil. I found that most of the people I interviewed said that the actions in these stories were morally wrong, even when nobody was harmed. Only one groupcollege students at Pennconsistently exemplified Turiel's definition of morality and overrode their own feelings of disgust to say that harmless acts were not wrong. (A few even praised the efficiency of recycling the flag and the dog).

This research led me to two conclusions. First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. I often had to correct people when they said things like "it's wrong because umeating dog meat would make you sick" or "it's wrong to use the flag because um the rags might clog the toilet." These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume's dictum that reason is "the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them." This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

The second conclusion was that the moral domain varies across cultures. Turiel's description of morality as being about justice, rights, and human welfare worked perfectly for the college students I interviewed at Penn, but it simply did not capture the moral concerns of the less elite groupsthe working-class people in both countries who were more likely to justify their judgments with talk about respect, duty, and family roles. ("Your dog is family, and you just don't eat family.") From this study I concluded that the anthropologist Richard Shweder was probably right in a 1987 critique of Turiel in which he claimed that the moral domain (not just specific rules) varies by culture. Drawing on Shweder's ideas, I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.

When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label "elitist." But how can Democrats learn to seelet alone respecta moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

After graduate school I moved to the University of Chicago to work with Shweder, and while there I got a fellowship to do research in India. In September 1993 I traveled to Bhubaneswar, an ancient temple town 200 miles southwest of Calcutta. I brought with me two incompatible identities. On the one hand, I was a 29 year old liberal atheist who had spent his politically conscious life despising Republican presidents, and I was charged up by the culture wars that intensified in the 1990s. On the other hand, I wanted to be like those tolerant anthropologists I had read so much about.

My first few weeks in Bhubaneswar were therefore filled with feelings of shock and confusion. I dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen. My hosts gave me a servant of my own and told me to stop thanking him when he served me. I watched people bathe in and cook with visibly polluted water that was held to be sacred. In short, I was immersed in a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not on mine.

It only took a few weeks for my shock to disappear, not because I was a natural anthropologist but because the normal human capacity for empathy kicked in. I liked these people who were hosting me, helping me, and teaching me. And once I liked them (remember that first principle of moral psychology) it was easy to take their perspective and to consider with an open mind the virtues they thought they were enacting. Rather than automatically rejecting the men as sexist oppressors and pitying the women, children, and servants as helpless victims, I was able to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society, and the members of each extended family (including its servants) are intensely interdependent. In this world, equality and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods, and guests, and fulfilling one's role-based duties, were more important. Looking at America from this vantage point, what I saw now seemed overly individualistic and self-focused. For example, when I boarded the plane to fly back to Chicago I heard a loud voice saying "Look, you tell him that this is the compartment over MY seat, and I have a RIGHT to use it."

Back in the United States the culture war was going strong, but I had lost my righteous passion. I could never have empathized with the Christian Right directly, but once I had stood outside of my home morality, once I had tried on the moral lenses of my Indian friends and interview subjects, I was able to think about conservative ideas with a newfound clinical detachment. They want more prayer and spanking in schools, and less sex education and access to abortion? I didn't think those steps would reduce AIDS and teen pregnancy, but I could see why the religious right wanted to "thicken up" the moral climate of schools and discourage the view that children should be as free as possible to act on their desires. Conservatives think that welfare programs and feminism increase rates of single motherhood and weaken the traditional social structures that compel men to support their own children? Hmm, that may be true, even if there are also many good effects of liberating women from dependence on men. I had escaped from my prior partisan mindset (reject first, ask rhetorical questions later), and began to think about liberal and conservative policies as manifestations of deeply conflicting but equally heartfelt visions of the good society.

On Turiel's definition of morality ("justice, rights, and welfare"), Christian and Hindu communities don't look good. They restrict people's rights (especially sexual rights), encourage hierarchy and conformity to gender roles, and make people spend extraordinary amounts of time in prayer and ritual practices that seem to have nothing to do with "real" morality. But isn't it unfair to impose on all cultures a definition of morality drawn from the European Enlightenment tradition? Might we do better with an approach that defines moral systems by what they do rather than by what they value?

Here's my alternative definition: morality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness, two of which are most relevant for understanding what Democrats don't understand about morality.

First, imagine society as a social contract invented for our mutual benefit. All individuals are equal, and all should be left as free as possible to move, develop talents, and form relationships as they please. The patron saint of a contractual society is John Stuart Mill, who wrote (in On Liberty) that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill's vision appeals to many liberals and libertarians; a Millian society at its best would be a peaceful, open, and creative place where diverse individuals respect each other's rights and band together voluntarily (as in Obama's calls for "unity") to help those in need or to change the laws for the common good.

Psychologists have done extensive research on the moral mechanisms that are presupposed in a Millian society, and there are two that appear to be partly innate. First, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to suffering and harm, particularly violent harm, and so nearly all cultures have norms or laws to protect individuals and to encourage care for the most vulnerable. Second, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to issues of fairness and reciprocity, which often expand into notions of rights and justice. Philosophical efforts to justify liberal democracies and egalitarian social contracts invariably rely heavily on intuitions about fairness and reciprocity.

But now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other's selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free-riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that "Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him." A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.

A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org .) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profaneof secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.

Religion and political leadership are so intertwined across eras and cultures because they are about the same thing: performing the miracle of converting unrelated individuals into a group. Durkheim long ago said that God is really society projected up into the heavens, a collective delusion that enables collectives to exist, suppress selfishness, and endure. The three Durkheimian foundations (ingroup, authority, and purity) play a crucial role in most religions. When they are banished entirely from political life, what remains is a nation of individuals striving to maximize utility while respecting the rules. What remains is a cold but fair social contract, which can easily degenerate into a nation of shoppers.

The Democrats must find a way to close the sacredness gap that goes beyond occasional and strategic uses of the words "God" and "faith." But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns. God is useful but not necessary. The Democrats could close much of the gap if they simply learned to see society not just as a collection of individualseach with a panoply of rights--but as an entity in itself, an entity that needs some tending and caring. Our national motto is e pluribus unum ("from many, one"). Whenever Democrats support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum. They widen the sacredness gap.

A useful heuristic would be to think about each issue, and about the Party itself, from the perspective of the three Durkheimian foundations. Might the Democrats expand their moral range without betraying their principles? Might they even find ways to improve their policies by incorporating and publicly praising some conservative insights?

The ingroup/loyalty foundation supports virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice that can lead to dangerous nationalism, but in moderate doses a sense that "we are all one" is a recipe for high social capital and civic well-being. A recent study by Robert Putnam (titled E Pluribus Unum) found that ethnic diversity increases anomie and social isolation by decreasing people's sense of belonging to a shared community. Democrats should think carefully, therefore, about why they celebrate diversity. If the purpose of diversity programs is to fight racism and discrimination (worthy goals based on fairness concerns), then these goals might be better served by encouraging assimilation and a sense of shared identity.

The purity/sanctity foundation is used heavily by the Christian right to condemn hedonism and sexual "deviance," but it can also be harnessed for progressive causes. Sanctity does not have to come from God; the psychology of this system is about overcoming our lower, grasping, carnal selves in order to live in a way that is higher, nobler, and more spiritual. Many liberals criticize the crassness and ugliness that our unrestrained free-market society has created. There is a long tradition of liberal anti-materialism often linked to a reverence for nature. Environmental and animal welfare issues are easily promoted using the language of harm/care, but such appeals might be more effective when supplemented with hints of purity/sanctity.

The authority/respect foundation will be the hardest for Democrats to use. But even as liberal bumper stickers urge us to "question authority" and assert that "dissent is patriotic," Democrats can ask what needs this foundation serves, and then look for other ways to meet them. The authority foundation is all about maintaining social order, so any candidate seen to be "soft on crime" has disqualified himself, for many Americans, from being entrusted with the ultimate authority. Democrats would do well to read Durkheim and think about the quasi-religious importance of the criminal justice system. The miracle of turning individuals into groups can only be performed by groups that impose costs on cheaters and slackers. You can do this the authoritarian way (with strict rules and harsh penalties) or you can do it using the fairness/reciprocity foundation by stressing personal responsibility and the beneficence of the nation towards those who "work hard and play by the rules." But if you don't do it at allif you seem to tolerate or enable cheaters and slackers -- then you are committing a kind of sacrilege.

If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice, but social justice is about getting fair relationships among the parts of the nation. This often divisive struggle among the parts must be balanced by a clear and oft-repeated commitment to guarding the precious coherence of the whole. America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.

Unity is not the great need of the hour, it is the eternal struggle of our immigrant nation. The three Durkheimian foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle. Until Democrats understand this point, they will be vulnerable to the seductive but false belief that Americans vote for Republicans primarily because they have been duped into doing so.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-19-08 11:02 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. I agree that the Republican stereotype exemplifies homo economicus.
Unfortunately, so do many, many Democrats. The ecological perspective tends to supercede the political, from what I can tell. That is, a person with a strong ecological consciousness seems more inclined to identify themselves as an ecologist than a Democrat. Of course, with the advent of the Green Party, at least some environmentalists have found a congruent political home.

Or did I misconstrue the thrust of your cut and paste?
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-19-08 11:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. There are several points within the piece that I see as relevant
First is that you're blinded by your desire to force people into rigid categories in a manner that is the ontological equivalent of a speciation event. I think the paper gives a much better description of the way such divergent views come into being and function.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-20-08 07:40 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. There are two kinds of people in the world
Those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. ;-)

I agree that the development of ecological consciousness can be characterized as a speciation event -- analogous to the appearance of the mammals that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs. Metaphor always has its limits as an explanatory tool, of course, but the power of metaphors comes from their kernel of truth.

How would you answer the question I posed below to Nederland: Does the life of a horse have the same intrinsic value as the life of a human being?

My answer is yes, it does.


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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 03:02 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. I don't think the research supports your perception of dichotomy
The dichotomy you perceive is, to me, similar to the same mistake racists make when they see stark categories based on a few physical characteristics. In reality, there is a continuum where each individual characteristic used to make the identification of one race is mixed and matched with characteristics of other races - there is no such thing as "racial purity" from the anthopological perspective. The same is true of the ideas you are trying to shove into these little boxes. A person that whales may very well answer your question about horses in the affirmative because they are relying on a wide, somewhat unique range of learning and experience to establish their sense of values. Likewise, a person may deny the equivalency (and if forced will choose the life of a human over the life of a horse) and yet be horrified at bring harm to any animal simply from a sense of compassion.

People are much more complicated than your narrow definitions and they inevitably hold beliefs that result internally in conflicting values. This isn't just my opinion, either, there is a fair amount of research that demonstrates it pretty conclusively.

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 05:47 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. There are any number of orthogonal value systems in the world.
Edited on Sun Dec-21-08 05:47 PM by GliderGuider
This is just one more. Other examples include religious/atheist, pro-life/pro-choice, pro/anti death penalty, Theory X/Theory Y. Each of these represents a pair of value sets, each of which is fundamentally irreconcilable in terms of its opposition.

Racist? Nice try at a paint job.
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Those aren't "value systems" except for religious/atheist
The other two are individual beliefs that fit into a larger mosaic of beliefs that act to create values.

A "prolifer" often supports the death penalty or war, for example. You might benefit from a more careful reading of the "cut and paste" you dismissed.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 07:04 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. You keep not getting it.
That's the problem with orthogonal world-views -- it's virtually impossible to communicate between them.
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 07:27 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. I get it.
It is your claim of the lack of shared values that I'm challenging. We are all much more alike than we are different. Sorry if that gets in the way of your need to feel superior.
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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-22-08 03:18 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. I respect your views, kristopher, but strongly disagree here with you.
Edited on Mon Dec-22-08 03:23 AM by tom_paine
You are correct about the complexity of individuals and views. It is axiomatic. Having said that, fine, but I don't think it has much to do with your conversation here other than you seem to be using it as a rhetorical shield of sorts.

The conflicting nature of the human mind, as you rightly mentioned, is axiomatic and a given. Among intelligent people, which we three would all seem to be, at least in some areas, it is assumed. Because it would be tedious indeed if one prefaced every conversation with

Well, in order to speak about large groups of people I must make generalizations, as anyone must who wishes to speak about large groups of diverse, complex people and where their "circles of belief" overlap. Please understand that this does not mean I don't recognize that human beings are diverse and complex, and generalizations, virtually all of them, carry within them the exceptions that are sometimes numerous.

But the idea is always there. This is part of my strong disagreement with you. You made what I consider to be a correct point, but something of a non-sequitur and merely a rhetorical shield in the context of the discussion.

OK, so what if Glider Guider 100% accepts my above italicized statement, but like myself, tired of saying that as a preface to EVERY conversation, what does that do to your counter-argument?

The idea of the diversity and complexity of people is not central to his theme, and you are trying to make it so in order to rhetorically defend yourself. I apologize if that offends you, but that is how I see it. Perhaps it is unintentional.

But intentional or unintentional, I don't buy it, and if the truth be told, I am sorry to say it smacks a bit of intellectual dishonesty...just a little bit.

Please don't take this personally and aim rhetorical guns at me. Let us disagree respectfully.

There's more I could say on this topic, but I am interested in hearing what you reply is to this, first, before going further.
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-22-08 05:05 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. I'm not offended
Review the subthread from post 6. It is an account of an individual analyzing a very similar encounter between "orthogonal frameworks"; however, it takes the analysis much, much deeper.

Here is a teaser:
"People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

...When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label "elitist." But how can Democrats learn to seelet alone respecta moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?"

Sound a bit familiar?
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-22-08 06:21 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. How would you translate the Democratic/Republican dichotomy into this context?
I see that divide primarily as a Theory X/Theory Y view of human motivation, with Republicans taking the Theory X position and Democrats taking Theory Y. The economic/ecological dichotomy I'm exploring is one that views the facts of the world from two different perspectives. There is a belief underlying it, of course -- one that relates to whether or not the non-human world should be viewed primarily as a utility, but that distinction has less of an intrinsic moral dimension than is the case with Theory X/Y or abortion. There is moral judgment applied by each side to the other, of course, and there is certainly a moral dimension in the attitudes and actions of groups like ELF, ALF and SSCS.

However, I don't see a moral judgment as the primary driver of the beliefs of each side, the way I do with the abortion debate or American politics. To me each side's position is a simple statement of fact: "The non-human world is primarily a resource" vs. "The non-human world is not primarily a resource". From those statements of non-judgmental belief come two irreconcilable world views. Human nature being what it is, we have a tendency to think that people who hold beliefs different from our own are wrong, which is where the moral dimension appears in this case.

I'm not terribly interested in whether I convert other people to the ecological point of view (though I take great pleasure in promoting the viewpoint). The most interesting aspect of all this to me is the intrinsic blindness each side develops to the arguments of the other, the mechanisms they use to avoid considering the other side's position, and the neuroplasticity that must be at work when one makes the shift from the mainstream economic view to the minority ecological view.
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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-22-08 04:48 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. I read that article the instant I saw it. Unique perspective, interesting and I believe at least
Edited on Mon Dec-22-08 04:56 PM by tom_paine
partially true.

Thanks for posting it.

Yes, it does seem a bit familiar, but I again must make a strong caveat. I have considered this situation for a long time now, since the extreme insults to the intelligence of the Bushies made it so obvious it couldn't be ignored any more.

I call it the Old American vs. the New American (or the Inverted Totalitarian) Dilemna. That is this: In a strong and healthy Republic, where the freedom exists to say anything, no matter how reprehensible, but the education level and "freedom-loving" level of the citizenry keeps these crazies on the fringe, the idea that all points of view have value is benevolent and open-minded and TRUE, in my opinion.

But the last 8 years, really the last 28, have taught me the dark corollary to that, which I could have lived my entire life without having to learn...but that would have entailed me living my entire life in a strong, healthy Republic. :rofl:

Not happening.

The dark corollary can best be described by attempting to apply your Old American sentiments to the following statement:

"The Nazis say the Jews are serially lying propagandists out to take over the world. The Jews say the Nazis are serially lying propagandists out to take over the world."

Not just a he-said/she-said? Aren't there merits to both sides of the argument? After all, aren't these just Durkhemian-types vs. liberal-types in the endless dance?

Of course I am exaggerating and don't believe those things, and the extremity of the example I chose to throw my point into sharp relief pretty much guarantees you agree with me on this one. But OK, now take the point that I have made by extreme example and let's insert it back into the conversation.

First, the Dark Corollary I spoke of: While open-mindedness and tolerance is a laudable ideal, and should be striven for, sometimes there comes a moment when something so virulent and meritless comes along, that to give it open-minded equal consideration is to play into the hands of totalitarian/authoritarian tyranny.

Thus, the liberal penchant for tolerance MUST be tempered with common sense, otherwise you get what has happened in this country for 28 years now, which is a constant retreat before RW Authoritarian bullying and lies with mealy-mouthed tolerance and "yes, buts..."

History shows a Bush, a Pinochet, a Marcos just laughs and laughs and laughs at such naivete.

To a lesser degree, I think that, because of the likely coming environmental and social impacts of GW, PO, and several other converging crises, the economicus/ecologicus dichotomy may fall into this category.

Oh, not because it is intrisically authoritarian, corrupt and anti-freedom, like Bushevism, but because to adhere to the fantasy of economicus when it is revealed more every day that economicus may be the way of the dodo bird...to extinction. Different rationales for activating my "do not break glass unless in case of emergency" Dark Corollary, but real honest rationales, and not rationalizations, I believe.

Judge them by their acts, not their propaganda and infoganda.

Anyway, that's why I barged in your discussion on the opposing side. I think GliderGuider is partially or wholly correct on this one.

I would like to hear your reply, but I think we may have to agree to disagree. I just wanted to stick my nose in with my 2 cents.

:hi:
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lutherj Donating Member (788 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-19-08 04:01 AM
Response to Original message
7. My father is a well respected professor emeritus of economics. A few years ago
we were at a family reunion in Maui, and he and I were having drinks on the veranda and discussing the war in Iraq. He commented on how a hegemonic empire needs oil to run the empire, and an empire to get the oil, and I told him about the reading I had done on the subject of peak oil. When I described the basic concept of peak oil he saw the implications immediately. We agreed that even if we had another 30 years of abundant oil left, when you consider the scale of the problem, and what's at stake, that is still very little time to make the transition.

My father, the economist, is the only person I have talked to about peak oil who grasped the concept and implications without my having to spell it out. In fact, usually when I try to talk about the issue with friends, I get a blank stare, and then they change the subject. It's clear they're thinking: If the world is about to end, how come I'm hearing about it from you?

I remember when I first started thinking about it. My wife and I were driving around (we lived in Sacramento at the time) and the traffic was particularly bad, and my wife out of the blue said something like "how can people think this will just keep growing and expanding forever?" I remember looking around at the surroundings, the cracked and buckled cement, the overhead power lines, the cinderblock strip malls with their little pizza joints and dry cleaners -- and it just hit me. It can't. It's on the verge of collapse. I recalled having read an article in Scientific American about oil hitting a peak of supply and then falling off, so a few days later I googled "world oil reserves" and started reading. For the next two or three weeks I had trouble sleeping. I lay awake pondering whether we should go to Iowa, where my father lives and where I grew up, or to Central Oregon, where my wife was from. We wound up in Oregon.

Anyway, it's true it takes a shift of perspective to see it. Once you make that shift it feels like you're on a different planet. I have days when I go through the routine, go to the store, drive to work, but I feel like I'm in some kind of time warp, like the system around me is already dead, but it just doesn't know it yet.
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DemReadingDU Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 08:37 AM
Response to Reply #7
13. how can people think this will just keep growing and expanding forever?

Spouse and I have wondered about that for years. Then, in March, GliderGuider pointed me over to The Automatic Earth, http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com /

Ever since, I feel I am also on a different planet, and doing what I can now to prepare before the collapse. But family and friends still look at me with blank stares.

I pointed them to Chris Martenson Crash Course which is an excellent source of 20 chapters about the Economy, how we got to where we are now, how money is created, bubbles, peak oil, etc.
http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse
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IrateCitizen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-21-08 06:26 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. Chris Martenson's Crash Course is fantastic!!!
A friend of mine turned me on to it a couple of months ago. I think he does a fantastic job of linking together the "three E's" in a way that is straightforward and easy to follow.
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Nederland Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-19-08 09:10 PM
Response to Original message
8. Science is Science
Either you believe knowledge is gained by the process of Scientific Method or you don't. If you believe in Scientific Method, you believe that theories are proposed, and then experiments are conducted to prove or disprove those theories. If you don't believe in Scientific Method you are living in the stone age and having an intelligent discussion is pointless.

You have theories that differ from mine and that is fine. The only issue is whether or not you believe those theories should be subject to the rigors of Scientific Method before being wholeheartedly embraced and acted upon. If you somehow believe that your theories should for some reason be exempt from this, then I agree--intelligent discourse is next to impossible.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-19-08 10:34 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. This is not about whether one believes in the scientific method or not.
Edited on Fri Dec-19-08 10:45 PM by GliderGuider
The scientific method is obviously a useful tool. It works very well provided you don't try and use it to answer questions science inherently can't address. Most of ecology is based on science of one sort or another. That's not the issue, nor is it the question of which particular theories we embrace. The distinction I see in the two world-views involve value systems. Even in a scientific pursuit the investigator's value system guides the research in many ways. It influences the questions deemed relevant, the way the questions are framed, the evidence that is included or excluded in the search for answers, the weighting given to various components of the problem and the type of analysis used.

Here's one example of a non-scientific value question whose answer reveals a worldview that will drastically alter one's approach to environmental or ecological science: "Does the life of a horse have the same intrinsic value as the life of a human being?"

Someone who answers "Yes" to that question has a radically different world-view from someone who answers "No". That difference will frame their research in very different ways, even though both may follow the scientific method scrupulously.

Again this is not about science itself, or about anti-scientism (though I can understand Charles Eisenstein's philosophical objections to science and technology). My observation is about the different value systems that can underpin science and frame it within the personal context of the researcher.
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