Holland seems to flip: Are liberals and conservatives largely alike? Or are they basically different?
Last week, Salon reprinted a colloquy on this topic involving Joshua Holland and Chris Mooney. In yesterday's post, we saw Holland leaning rather hard toward “basically different.”
This was Holland’s first question for Mooney:
HOLLAND (10/31/13): Chris, let’s talk about morality. I’m personally offended by the tea partiers’ resistance to giving uninsured people health care. I find it a bit shocking that a political movement could be so filled with animosity toward the idea. But according to NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt—and other scholars—conservatives have a different moral compass entirely. Can you tell us a little bit about that?According to Holland, Haidt and other scholars say that conservatives “have a different moral compass entirely.” From there, it’s a very short walk to this time-honored call to war:
You simply can’t reason with Those People! I’m not sure Those People are fully human. Something is wrong with their brains!
Mooney seemed to take a different stance, as we noted in yesterday’s post. But hold on! In his second question to Mooney, Holland seemed to be backtracking too.
Did he mean to moderate his stance? We can’t say. But this is what he said:
HOLLAND: Jared Piazza—a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania—did a study which found that political and religious conservatives tend to avoid what he called “consequentialist thinking.” So basically, they tend to see something as right or as wrong, in black and white, and if a policy that they believe to be right—say, not having the government get involved in health care—causes real-world harm, they’re more likely to dismiss that. That seems consistent with what Haidt is saying, right?All of a sudden, Holland seems to have flipped his stance. He now seems to be saying that conservatives tend to differ from liberals, on average, to some unstated degree.
According to the new scholar he cites, conservatives tend to avoid “consequentialist thinking.” (That means they don’t always avoid it.)
And not only that! Conservatives tend to see something as right or as wrong, in black and white. (That means they don’t always see things that way.) If a policy they favor causes real-world harm, they’re more likely to dismiss that.
That seems to suggest that liberals may sometimes dismiss real-world harm too. It’s just that liberals wouldn’t dismiss real-world harm as often as conservatives would.
By now, Holland has posed two questions to Mooney. In the process, he seems to have leaned toward two different views.
In his first statement, conservatives were entirely different. In his second statement, the differences between the two groups seems to be a matter of degree.
This is a very important distinction. Our brains are wired to believe that The Others are fundamentally different. The Other Tribe just isn’t like us. Given the way The Others' brains work, they may not really be human!
That is a very dangerous instinct. In recent years, liberals have increasingly toyed with this impulse. We've been happy to make sweeping claims, sometimes based on some rather flimsy brain science.
So how about it? Are our differences fundamental? Or are these differences really matters of tendency and degree?
Holland has seemed to lean both ways. Soon, he will take out an A-bomb.
Those People are “authoritarians,” he will rather casually say and suggest. To our highly sensitive ear, he’s dropping a rather large bomb without a great deal of precision or thought.
Go ahead—read the full discussion. Do you think Holland has reason to say what he does? How does Mooney react?
Tomorrow: A-bombs away!