Friday, September 16, 2011

Liberals "project" themselves on conservatives

A fair amount of this post involves politics, more than I normally post at this blog. But, there's psychological and philosophical angles behind that, so I'm putting it here.

Whether it's Chris Mooney thinking that conservative climate change denialists should be easy to convert to a Harvard Divinity School attendee really thinking that many conservative Christians operate on a love first, not a fear first (or anger or hate first), understanding of God, or whether it's Barack Obama in December 2010 thinking that John Boehner and other GOPers wouldn't hold the budget hostage to the national debt ceiling, I see a certain stripe of liberals do this time after time: Assume that conservatives think the same way, have their thought processes motivated the same way, and more.

Mooney, at least, even knows better. He's written before about "authoritative" reasoning styles and conservative-liberal thinking differences.

Obama has no excuse for not knowing better, if he doesn't.

And, liberal religionists? As I said on Google Plus, ever since hell came into the monotheistic theology workbook, fear, or better, a fear/anger/hatred mix, has pretty much always been the main driver of many religious conservatives. I really don't see that having changed today. Now, is it the primary driver, both from their own emotions, or what emotional drivers they see in their view of god, for all conservative religionists? No. But, in the monotheistic tradition, if you take hell literally, and don't try to spin it like C.S. Lewis as unbelivers' self-divorce from god, it has to be at least part of your emotional makeup.

Beyond that? The same people who reject evolution also reject the evolution of religious ideas. 

Let's look further at the fear/anger/hate mix.

In times of uncertainty, people look to pass down stress and stressors by "kicking" the "other," whomever the "other" may be. And, yes, conservative people do that too, whether it's the social Darwinism of the Success Gospel, the "god hates gays" of homophobia or other things.

Beyond the fear of uncertainty, there's the fear of god. To nuance this by claiming it's healthy respect or whatever, no. Luther wanted to drive Jews out of their homes, hated peasants, and his own monastery-conversion superstitious fear never left him. Calvin burned heretics at the stake just like Catholics. Beyond the fear, and allied with it, was anger. The anger of people acting out of control. The anger of people thinking independently. And, beyond that, the hate. The hate of people waiting for vengeance. The hate of people at times seeing themselves as self-anointed prophets to bring about vengeance themselves.

And, look at the Nazarene himself. Angry at an unfruitful fig tree, even though it was out of season? Claiming that Bethsaida would "get it worse" than Sodom and Gomorrah? Anger there, and in the second case, jealousy behind it.

And, it plays out besides religion. Fear of actual problems with the climate becomes fear of being "stuck." That then becomes fear of the government taking something (even if the government's benefited you before.) It becomes fear of not having control, including control of information. From there, it becomes anger at those who claim to know more. And, from there, hatred. Yes, hatred. Look at death threats against climate scientists.

Now, active haters may be a small minority today. But, in an indirect riff on Martin Niemoller, how often are they condoned by others, in fear and anger?

That said, I'm not going to claim that fear, anger or hate have no part in being among my emotional drives. Of course they do. But, to the degree I rise above that, whether through "nature" or "nurture' or some mix, I don't assume others have.

Besides, if conservatives in general value maintaining the "status quo," so-called "negative" emotions generally make that easy to do. 

Beyond that, liberal-minded people generally not only value the role of rational thought, but believe more in its potency than conservatives do. So, the very idea that conservatives will change their ideas on a rational-discussion basis is often a bit of a non sequitur. 

As for me, I'd rather be a realistic pessimist here, just as I am elsewhere in life.

I'll never assume religious conservatives in general are motivated by love of god before fear of god. I'll never assume climate denialists are going to respond rationally even to "self-love by climate protection" arguments rather that anger at "scientific elites." I'll never assume Republicans will lovingly "act for the good of the country" or whatever.

This leads me to think of Hume's is/ought, and evolutionary psychology. We aren't limited to evolutionary nature, tis true. But, it is a constraint. And, when linked with nurture, is a double constraint.

People change, tis true. But not often. And often, not deeply. And even less often are multiple deep changes. 

As part of the "dark side of the Internet," tribalism may well rise, not fall.

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