This week’s TED talk is by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He argues that there are five foundational values that provide the moral “draft” for the mind.

  1. Harm/care
  2. Fairness/reciprocity
  3. In-group/loyalty
  4. Authority/respect
  5. Purity/sanctity 

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He then shows convincingly that liberals and conservatives respond to them very differently. While all five are important to conservatives, only the first two are important to liberals and this difference can help explain the divide between the two groups and their political choices. Haidt further mentions that it can be very difficult if not impossible to see “across” the divide because of our innate self-righteousness.

Impossible to cross chasms are not only the property of politics. As readers of this blog know they are also quite apparent in the science and religion dialogueBut are the divides really impossible to cross?

Near the end, Haidt quotes the Zen master Seng-ts’an. And it’s a doozy.

“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between for and against is the mind’s worst disease.”

No, we cannot really escape ourselves and no we can never be completely objective. And Haidt’s talk didn’t end nearly as well as it began because he had no real proscriptive method for overcoming the differences. However, to solve a problem requires acknowledgement that a problem exists. And Haidt has done just that by identifying the moral psychology underpinnings that play a role in politics.

I have argued on this blog that a similar issue is at play in the creation-evolution debate within the church. These underpinnings are both psychological AND philosophical. Does that make solving the problem even more impossible? We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy Haidt’s talk… 😉