If Philosophy Won’t Diversify, Let’s Call It What It Really Is

by Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden, THE STONE New York Times, MAY 11, 2016 It would be better to teach Confucius alongside with Kant, but until then, we should face facts.

Excerpt -

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. …Given the importance of non-European traditions in both the history of world philosophy and in the contemporary world, and given the increasing numbers of students in our colleges and universities from non-European backgrounds, this is astonishing…The present situation is hard to justify morally, politically, epistemically or as good educational and research training practice… Non-European philosophical traditions offer distinctive solutions to problems discussed within European and American philosophy, raise or frame problems not addressed in the American and European tradition, or emphasize and discuss more deeply philosophical problems that are marginalized in Anglo-European philosophy…Of course, we believe that renaming departments would not be nearly as valuable as actually broadening the philosophical curriculum and retaining the name “philosophy.” Philosophy as a discipline has a serious diversity problem, with women and minorities underrepresented at all levels among students and faculty, even while the percentage of these groups increases among college students. Part of the problem is the perception that philosophy departments are nothing but temples to the achievement of males of European descent. Our recommendation is straightforward: Those who are comfortable with that perception should confirm it in good faith and defend it honestly; if they cannot do so, we urge them to diversify their faculty and their curriculum. This is not to disparage the value of the works in the contemporary philosophical canon: Clearly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with philosophy written by males of European descent; but philosophy has always become richer as it becomes increasingly diverse and pluralistic. We offer one last piece of advice to philosophy departments that have not already embraced curricular diversity. For demographic, political and historical reasons, the change to a more multicultural conception of philosophy in the United States seems inevitable. Heed the Stoic adage: “The Fates lead those who come willingly, and drag those who do not.”

Jay L. Garfield is a professor of humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and the author of “Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy.”
Bryan W. Van Norden is a professor of philosophy at Vassar College, and the author of “Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy.”

Full text

 

The vast majority of philosophy departments in the United States offer courses only on philosophy derived from Europe and the English-speaking world. For example, of the 118 doctoral programs in philosophy in the United States and Canada, only 10 percent have a specialist in Chinese philosophy as part of their regular faculty. Most philosophy departments also offer no courses on Africana, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Latin American, Native American or other non-European traditions. Indeed, of the top 50 philosophy doctoral programs in the English-speaking world, only 15 percent have any regular faculty members who teach any non-Western philosophy.

Given the importance of non-European traditions in both the history of world philosophy and in the contemporary world, and given the increasing numbers of students in our colleges and universities from non-European backgrounds, this is astonishing. No other humanities discipline demonstrates this systematic neglect of most of the civilizations in its domain. The present situation is hard to justify morally, politically, epistemically or as good educational and research training practice.

We each — alongside many colleagues and students — have worked for decades to persuade American philosophy departments to broaden the canon of works they teach; we have urged our colleagues to look beyond the European canon in their own research and teaching. While a few philosophy departments have made their curriculums more diverse, and while the American Philosophical Association has slowly broadened the representation of the world’s philosophical traditions on its programs, progress has been minimal.

The profession as a whole remains resolutely Eurocentric. It therefore seems futile to rehearse arguments for greater diversity one more time.

Many philosophers and many departments simply ignore arguments for greater diversity; others respond with arguments for Eurocentrism that we and many others have refuted elsewhere. The profession as a whole remains resolutely Eurocentric. It therefore seems futile to rehearse arguments for greater diversity one more time, however compelling we find them.

Instead, we ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness. We therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses only on Western philosophy should rename itself “Department of European and American Philosophy.” This simple change would make the domain and mission of these departments clear, and would signal their true intellectual commitments to students and colleagues. We see no justification for resisting this minor rebranding (though we welcome opposing views in the comments section to this article), particularly for those who endorse, implicitly or explicitly, this Eurocentric orientation.

Some of our colleagues defend this orientation on the grounds that non-European philosophy belongs only in “area studies” departments, like Asian Studies, African Studies or Latin American Studies. We ask that those who hold this view be consistent, and locate their own departments in “area studies” as well, in this case, Anglo-European Philosophical Studies.

Others might argue against renaming on the grounds that it is unfair to single out philosophy: We do not have departments of Euro-American Mathematics or Physics. This is nothing but shabby sophistry. Non-European philosophical traditions offer distinctive solutions to problems discussed within European and American philosophy, raise or frame problems not addressed in the American and European tradition, or emphasize and discuss more deeply philosophical problems that are marginalized in Anglo-European philosophy. There are no comparable differences in how mathematics or physics are practiced in other contemporary cultures.

Of course, we believe that renaming departments would not be nearly as valuable as actually broadening the philosophical curriculum and retaining the name “philosophy.” Philosophy as a discipline has a serious diversity problem, with women and minorities underrepresented at all levels among students and faculty, even while the percentage of these groups increases among college students. Part of the problem is the perception that philosophy departments are nothing but temples to the achievement of males of European descent. Our recommendation is straightforward: Those who are comfortable with that perception should confirm it in good faith and defend it honestly; if they cannot do so, we urge them to diversify their faculty and their curriculum.

This is not to disparage the value of the works in the contemporary philosophical canon: Clearly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with philosophy written by males of European descent; but philosophy has always become richer as it becomes increasingly diverse and pluralistic. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) recognized this when he followed his Muslim colleagues in reading the work of the pagan philosopher Aristotle, thereby broadening the philosophical curriculum of universities in his own era. We hope that American philosophy departments will someday teach Confucius as routinely as they now teach Kant, that philosophy students will eventually have as many opportunities to study the “Bhagavad Gita” as they do the “Republic,” that the Flying Man thought experiment of the Persian philosopher Avicenna (980-1037) will be as well-known as the Brain-in-a-Vat thought experiment of the American philosopher Hilary Putnam (1926-2016), that the ancient Indian scholar Candrakirti’s critical examination of the concept of the self will be as well-studied as David Hume’s, that Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), Kwazi Wiredu (1931- ), Lame Deer (1903-1976) and Maria Lugones will be as familiar to our students as their equally profound colleagues in the contemporary philosophical canon. But, until then, let’s be honest, face reality and call departments of European-American Philosophy what they really are.

We offer one last piece of advice to philosophy departments that have not already embraced curricular diversity. For demographic, political and historical reasons, the change to a more multicultural conception of philosophy in the United States seems inevitable. Heed the Stoic adage: “The Fates lead those who come willingly, and drag those who do not.”

Jay L. Garfield is a professor of humanities, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and the author of “Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy.”

Bryan W. Van Norden is a professor of philosophy at Vassar College, and the author of “Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy.”

Now in print: “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments,” An anthology of essays from The Times’s philosophy series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.

The Stone

A forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless. The series moderator is Simon Critchley, who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research.

 

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are… Conservative

Bill Moyers: Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to. 

by Chris Mooney, billmoyers.com, July 17, 2014 This post originally appeared at Mother Jones.

You could be forgiven for not having browsed through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics.

That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics — upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).

It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets — centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns — would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.) We had John Hibbing on the Inquiring Minds podcast earlier this year, and he discussed these ideas in depth; you can listen here:

Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what’s truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, “22 or 23 accept the general idea” of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of “modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work,” and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.

That’s pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that…

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. [Italics added]

Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann CoulterGeorge Will and National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants and they got lots of hate mail. But what’s clear is that today, they’ve more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.

“One possibility,” note the authors, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed.

Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that “successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience.”

All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster and the host of Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science.

http://billmoyers.com/2014/07/17/scientists-are-beginning-to-figure-out-why-conservatives-are%E2%80%A6-conservative/

Origin of Phyllis Stenerson’s worldview

by Phyllis Stenerson

A worldview embedded within America’s story

Each of us sees the world through a unique worldview developed over time by our life experiences, consciously or subconsciously. How we think and feel about local and world events impacts our individual lives and our interconnected world.

Each of us has a story. In a democracy, the blending of all our stories creates America’s story. Naturally, tensions are inherent and persistent, the loudest voice gets heard, the most emotional motivates and other clever communications tactics.

Democracy is America’s form of government, an essential component of a civilized society. Our representative democracy reflects and impacts our lives. Politics is the process of influencing government. Some people are intensely focused and gain power so that their positions prevail. Some citizens are scarcely aware of the larger world around them and live with outcomes of other people’s involvement. Most of us fall somewhere on the continuum between these extremes.

My life story and worldview

Since what I say and write is sifted through my own worldview, you have a right to know my basic life story and philosophy so you can process and evaluate my work, assuming you’ve chosen to read it.

Briefly, I was born the day World War II started, grew up first in a farming community and then a rapidly growing suburb of Minneapolis. The role for Scandinavian, Lutheran, working-class women was narrowly proscribed. I stayed with the parameters until I became the first in my family to go to college and further explore alternatives.

After a period of dropping out of college and working at resorts jobs in upstate New York and Idaho, I got married, moved to Colorado, then California, and back to Minnesota, had two sons, bought a nice house in a nice part of the city and was a “stay-at-home” mom while my boys were little. I got involved in their school plus community activities and politics, worked part-time, got my college degree, got divorced, worked full time to support myself and so on.

Other major influences on my worldview included becoming a Unitarian-Universalist, and having a mentor who was a pioneer in the studies of creative and higher level thinking, all the while growing older amid unprecedented political and cultural upheaval. I worked for two Members of Congress, one first as a fundraiser and then as a District Office staffer, the other as a big bucks fundraiser. In the first case the year was 1978. We started the fundraising project by sorting through 3 x 5 cards with donor information from other campaigns, then discovered the newly emerging PACs (political action committees). So, I’ve been part of the problem as well as part of the solution.

The best thing in my life now is having two sons grow into successful husbands and fathers, smart daughters-in-law and three perfect grandchildren.

My life and work in these times

When the Bush administration launched a pre-emptive war with Iraq in 2003, I was flabbergasted, angry and needed to find out how this could happen. I’ve dug deeply and persistently into a broad range of media and learned a lot, thereby discovering how little I actually knew about American history, culture and current affairs. Things are not always as they seem.

“Culture wars” became part of the American vernacular. I labeled this as media hype and brushed it aside. However, as I worked through the tangle that is our country’s social fabric, I came to realize that culture wars are real and at the core of the deep divisions quite literally threatening our democracy and the promise of America.

A major insight came in learning how significantly a person’s worldview impacts their attitude toward politics, and how this worldview is influenced by life experiences, especially family, religion, education and community connections. People have lived in tribes or clans since the beginning of civilization. We still do. A major differentiating factor is the extent to which we stay within our clan of origin or branch out to discover, or create, a different reality.

I became fascinated, some might say obsessed, with this endlessly complex phenomena and began collecting information. At the start of this journey in 2005 information relating to the cultural and religious dynamics influencing politics was rare. Over the past nine years knowledge and analysis generated by experts, public intellectuals and ordinary people has expanded exponentially thanks in large part to the internet, independent journalism and dramatically heightened awareness, at least among a subset of the electorate.

Over time as the data base expanded, a framework was developed to make the ever-increasing volume manageable. I want to share this information with the public as a contribution to citizen education, a vastly under appreciated and under-utilized cornerstone of democracy. I believe a broader, deeper understanding among the electorate of the concept of worldview and the “culture wars” is essential to renewing democracy, and quite literally, saving the world for future generations.

Multiple crises are real and must be faced straight on. As citizens of the world’s first and greatest democracy, we have a sacred responsibility to do our best to help create a better future for all.

Multiple opportunities are ready to be seized by an activated citizenry to collaboratively create innovative, intelligent and moral ways to transform America.

Posted Feb 8, 2014 -latest revision – Feb 10, 2014

Worldview

…A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the worldToward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer

Moral quandaries often pit concerns about principles against concerns about practical consequences…we can encourage consistency in moral reasoning by viewing issues from many angles, discussing them with other people and monitoring our emotions closely…The moral judgment system—the set of cognitive, emotional, social and motivational mechanisms responsible for producing our perceptions of right and wrongWhy Few Americans View Climate Change as a Moral Problem by Ezra Markowitz

your moral beliefs make all the difference. Fifty years ago…There was so much diversity within each party…that stereotyping was harder, and cross-party alliances were much easier. But since the 1980s, the two parties have become ever more perfectly sorted…Nowadays you can make predictions about people’s values and votes from just a few seemingly unrelated things….Unfortunately, as the parties developed more divergent values and lifestyles, they also developed divergent facts. Republicans and Democrats believe different things—about history, the Constitution, science, and above all economics….The main reason Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on basic economic facts is that people—including politicians and economists—seek out the facts required by their values. When faced with complicated or ambiguous evidence, human reasoning is notoriously bad at asking “what is the truth?” Rather, we start with a conclusion that we hope is true, and then we ask: “Can I find any evidence to support this conclusion?” The answer is almost always yes. Even when 90% of the research points the other way, just a single study supporting your side will seem utterly compelling, and you’ll find reasons to reject the junk science peddled by the other side…Your Personality Makes Your Politics By Jonathan Haidt @JonHaidt, Jan. 09, 2014

How Unconscious Thought and Perception Affect Our Every Waking Moment By John A. Bargh, scientificamerican.com

Worldview – progressive

Conscience is at the heart of progressivism…Conscience is the way our moral sense and our moral for­mation come together to inform our actions in the world…in the progressive view, conscience is not only inward and individual but is also directed toward creating a more just and equitable society The Progressive Conscience in Action by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2009

people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes everyone…a vision drawn from the heart of our religious traditions that allows us to make our faith public but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and people above personalities and partisanship…The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good.… The Prerequisite of the Common Good by Jim Wallis

…before we can save ourselves from climate change we have to break a vicious circle and embrace a new model of society based on scientists’ new understanding of human nature…We have to think deeper, to think as a human family… Empathy is the invisible social glue that allows a complex individuated society to remain integratedThe Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin

Whichever religious tradition I study, I find at the heart of it is the idea of feeling with the other, experiencing with the other, compassion. And every single one of the major world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you…. The Power of Compassion – Karen Armstrong

All politics is moral… But progressives and radical conservatives have very different ideas of right and wrong. The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities, and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment.  Obama Returns to His Moral Vision: Democrats Read Carefully! by George Lakoff

 Worldview – conservative

…The highest value in the conservative moral system…is the perpetuation and strengthening of the conservative moral system itself…All politics is moral…there are two opposing moral systems at work in America. What moral system you are using governs how you will see the world and reason about politics…Obama, Tea Parties, and the Battle for Our Brains by George Lakoff, Cognitive Policy Works, February 23, 2010

…Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does. This perspective ignores the many ways over the course of our history in which government has expanded the autonomy of our citizens. Family values hypocrisy By E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, December 15, 2014

….Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government… This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect. Although I often disagreed with conservatives, I admired their prudence, their affection for tradition and their understanding that the intricate bonds of community are established with great difficulty over time and not easy to reweave once they are torn asunder. At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder….where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass? The real conservative scandal By E.J. Dionne Jr

How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking — and What That Means For Our Kids’ Future By Sara Robinson, AlterNet, May 18, 2012

Overview – Worldview

Worldview

 …A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the worldToward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer

Moral quandaries often pit concerns about principles against concerns about practical consequences…we can encourage consistency in moral reasoning by viewing issues from many angles, discussing them with other people and monitoring our emotions closely…The moral judgment system—the set of cognitive, emotional, social and motivational mechanisms responsible for producing our perceptions of right and wrongWhy Few Americans View Climate Change as a Moral Problem by Ezra Markowitz

Red state, blue state, liberal, conservative—your moral beliefs make all the difference. Fifty years ago…There was so much diversity within each party…that stereotyping was harder, and cross-party alliances were much easier. But since the 1980s, the two parties have become ever more perfectly sorted…Nowadays you can make predictions about people’s values and votes from just a few seemingly unrelated things….Unfortunately, as the parties developed more divergent values and lifestyles, they also developed divergent facts. Republicans and Democrats believe different things—about history, the Constitution, science, and above all economics….The main reason Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on basic economic facts is that people—including politicians and economists—seek out the facts required by their values. When faced with complicated or ambiguous evidence, human reasoning is notoriously bad at asking “what is the truth?” Rather, we start with a conclusion that we hope is true, and then we ask: “Can I find any evidence to support this conclusion?” The answer is almost always yes. Even when 90% of the research points the other way, just a single study supporting your side will seem utterly compelling, and you’ll find reasons to reject the junk science peddled by the other side…Your Personality Makes Your Politics By Jonathan Haidt @JonHaidt, Jan. 09, 2014

How Unconscious Thought and Perception Affect Our Every Waking Moment By John A. Bargh, scientificamerican.com

Worldview – progressive

Conscience is at the heart of progressivism…Conscience is the way our moral sense and our moral for­mation come together to inform our actions in the world…in the progressive view, conscience is not only inward and individual but is also directed toward creating a more just and equitable society The Progressive Conscience in Action by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2009

people are longing for a vision of the common good that includes every­one…a vision drawn from the heart of our reli­gious traditions that allows us to make our faith public but not narrowly partisan. That requires a political engagement that emphasizes issues and peo­ple above personalities and partisanship…The prerequisite for solving the deepest problems this country and the world now face is a commitment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the common good.… The Prerequisite of the Common Good by Jim Wallis

…before we can save ourselves from climate change we have to break a vicious circle and embrace a new model of society based on scientists’ new understanding of human nature…We have to think deeper, to think as a human family… Empathy is the invisible social glue that allows a complex individuated society to remain integratedThe Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin

Whichever religious tradition I study, I find at the heart of it is the idea of feeling with the other, experiencing with the other, compassion. And every single one of the major world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you…. The Power of Compassion – Karen Armstrong

All politics is moral… But progressives and radical conservatives have very different ideas of right and wrong. The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities, and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment.  Obama Returns to His Moral Vision: Democrats Read Carefully! by George Lakoff

 Worldview – conservative

…The highest value in the conservative moral system…is the perpetuation and strengthening of the conservative moral system itself…All politics is moral…there are two opposing moral systems at work in America. What moral system you are using governs how you will see the world and reason about politics…Obama, Tea Parties, and the Battle for Our Brains by George Lakoff, Cognitive Policy Works, February 23, 2010 

Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does. This perspective ignores the many ways over the course of our history in which government has expanded the autonomy of our citizens. Consider how much less freedom so many of us would have without civil rights or voting rights laws, without government student loans, without labor laws, without public schools and without Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (And we don’t take seriously enough the implications of a most basic fact of our national story: that it took big government in Washington to outlaw slavery.)…we need to think more about “positive liberty,” the ability to realize certain goals in our lives. Democratic government can create the framework in which we have more power to reach those ends…Family values hypocrisy By E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, December 15, 2014

….Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government… This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect. Although I often disagreed with conservatives, I admired their prudence, their affection for tradition and their understanding that the intricate bonds of community are established with great difficulty over time and not easy to reweave once they are torn asunder. At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder….where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass? The real conservative scandal By E.J. Dionne Jr

How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking — and What That Means For Our Kids’ Future By Sara Robinson, AlterNet, May 18, 2012

The Death of Self-Interest Fundamentalism by Joe Brewer, Cognitive Policy Works, April 27, 2010

The pol­i­tics of hatred

Worldview – contrast progressive and conservative

… the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work bestThis deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development….A Tale of Two Moralities By Paul Krugman

…Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservativestwo common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical… similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia…Liberals may show greater tolerance for diversity and creativity, but they may also be more impulsive, indecisive, and irresponsible. On the flip side, conservatives may be organized, stable, and thrifty, but also have stronger just-world beliefs (leading to a greater tolerance for inequality), and stronger fears of mortality and ambiguity…Brain scans revealed a larger amygdala in self-identified conservatives and a larger anterior cingulate cortex in liberals, leading the researchers to conclude that conservatives may be more acute at detecting threats around them, whereas liberals may be more adept at handling conflicting information and uncertainty…Other findings implicative for psychotherapy suggest that liberals and conservatives conceptualize different values in their family narratives, and that individuals fail to empathize completely with the nonpolitical concerns and problems of others if they’re perceived as belonging to an opposing political party… The Fascinating Differences Between The Conservative and Liberal Personality, Psychotherapy Networker By Jared DeFife, Alternet.org, August 20, 2012 

 

 

Millennial Searchers

By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH and JENNIFER L. AAKER, New York Times, November 30, 2013

FOR Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor who wrote the best-selling book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the call to answer life’s ultimate question came early. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” But Frankl would have none of it. “Sir, if this is so,” he cried, jumping out of his chair, “then what can be the meaning of life?”

The teenage Frankl made this statement nearly a hundred years ago — but he had more in common with today’s young people than we might assume.

Today’s young adults born after 1980, known as Generation Y or the millennial generation, are the most educated generation in American history and, like the baby boomers, one of the largest. Yet since the Great Recession of 2008, they have been having a hard time. They are facing one of the worst job markets in decades. They are in debt. Many of them are unemployed. The income gap between old and young Americans is widening. To give you a sense of their lot, when you search “are millennials” in Google, the search options that come up include: “are millennials selfish,” “are millennials lazy,” and “are millennials narcissistic.”

Do we have a lost generation on our hands? In our classes, among our peers, and through our research, we are seeing that millennials are not so much a lost generation as a generation in flux. Chastened by these tough economic times, today’s young adults have been forced to rethink success so that it’s less about material prosperity and more about something else.

And what is that something else? Many researchers believe that millennials are focusing more on happiness than prior generations, and that the younger ones in that age cohort are doing so even more than the older ones who did not take the brunt of the recession. Rather than chasing the money, they appear to want a career that makes them happy — a job that combines the perks of Google with the flexibility of a start-up.

But a closer look at the data paints a slightly different picture. Millennials appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness. They report being less focused on financial success than they are on making a difference. A 2011 report commissioned by the Career Advisory Board and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that the No. 1 factor that young adults ages 21 to 31 wanted in a successful career was a sense of meaning. Though their managers, according to the study, continue to think that millennials are primarily motivated by money, nearly three-quarters of the young adults surveyed said that “meaningful work was among the three most important factors defining career success.”

MEANING, of course, is a mercurial concept. But it’s one that social scientists have made real progress understanding and measuring in recent years. Social psychologists define meaning as a cognitive and emotional assessment of the degree to which we feel our lives have purpose, value and impact. In our joint research, we are looking closely at what the building blocks of a meaningful life are. Although meaning is subjective — signifying different things to different people — a defining feature is connection to something bigger than the self. People who lead meaningful lives feel connected to others, to work, to a life purpose, and to the world itself. There is no one meaning of life, but rather, many sources of meaning that we all experience day to day, moment to moment, in the form of these connections.

It’s also important to understand what meaning is not. Having a sense of meaning is not the same as feeling happy. In a new longitudinal study done by one of us, Jennifer L. Aaker, with Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs and Emily N. Garbinsky, 397 Americans were followed over a monthlong period and asked the degree to which they considered their lives to be meaningful and happy, as well as beliefs and values they held, and what type of choices they had made in their lives.

It turns out that people can reliably assess the extent to which their lives have meaning, much in the same way that people can assess their degree of life satisfaction or happiness. Although a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, they are ultimately quite different. Those who reported having a meaningful life saw themselves as more other-oriented — by being, more specifically, a “giver.” People who said that doing things for others was important to them reported having more meaning in their lives.

This was in stark contrast to those who reported having a happy life. Happiness was associated with being more self-oriented — by being a “taker.” People felt happy, in a superficial sense, when they got what they wanted, and not necessarily when they put others first, which can be stressful and requires sacrificing what you want for what others want. Having children, for instance, is associated with high meaning but lower happiness.

When individuals adopt what we call a meaning mind-set — that is, they seek connections, give to others, and orient themselves to a larger purpose — clear benefits can result, including improved psychological well-being, more creativity, and enhanced work performance. Workers who find their jobs meaningful are more engaged and less likely to leave their current positions.

Further, this mind-set affects what types of careers millennials search for. Today’s young adults are hoping to go into careers that make an enduring impact on others. Last spring, when the National Society of High School Scholars, a global honor society for high school students, asked more than 9,000 top students and recent graduates what they wanted to do with their lives, they found that these recession-era millennials favored careers in health care and government. Of the top 25 companies they wanted to pursue out of a list of more than 200, eight were in health care or at hospitals while six were in government or the military. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital came in as the No. 1 place these millennials wanted to work “The focus on helping others is what millennials are responding to,” James W. Lewis, the chief executive of the honor society, told Forbes.

Some studies have suggested that millennials are narcissistic and flaky in their professional and personal lives, and are more selfish than prior generations. But new data suggests that these negative trends are starting to reverse. In a study published this summer in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the researchers Heejung Park, Jean M. Twenge and Patricia M. Greenfield looked at surveys that have, each year since the 1970s, tracked the attitudes of hundreds of thousands of 12th graders. Although concern for others had been decreasing among high school seniors and certain markers of materialism — like valuing expensive products such as cars — had been increasing for nearly four decades, these trends began to reverse after 2008. Whereas older millennials showed a concern for meaning, the younger millennials who came of age during the Great Recession started reporting more concern for others and less interest in material goods.

This data reflects a broader pattern. Between 1976 and 2010, high school seniors expressed more concern for others during times of economic hardship, and less concern for others during times of economic prosperity. During times of hardship, young people more frequently look outward to others and the world at large.

Of course, nobody likes living through tough economic times — and the millennials have been dealt a tough hand. But at the same time, there are certain benefits to economic deprivation. Millennials have been forced to reconsider what a successful life constitutes. By focusing on making a positive difference in the lives of others, rather than on more materialistic markers of success, they are setting themselves up for the meaningful life they yearn to have — the very thing that Frankl realized makes life worth living.

Emily Esfahani Smith is an editor at The New Criterion and Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution journal.

Jennifer L. Aaker is a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/opinion/sunday/millennial-searchers.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131201

The NY Times Uncovers Conservative Attacks and Then Prints One; Both Are On The Front Page

By George Lakoff, http://georgelakoff.com, November 24, 2013

Excerpt

…For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly…deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideologypart of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states — all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

I do mean changing brains. Because all thought is physical, carried out by neural circuitry, every change in how we understand anything is a brain change, and conservatives are effectively using the techniques that marketers have developed for changing brains, and they’ve been using them for decades…

we should begin by discussing some basic cognitive linguistics… all words are cognitively defined relative to conceptual “frames” — structures we all use to think all the time. Frames don’t float in the air; they are neural circuits in our brains. Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system. That means that language in politics is not neutral. Political words do not just pick out something in the world. They reflect value-based frames. If you successfully frame public discourse, you win the debate.

A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system….Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames.

I have always suggested to progressives to know their values and state their real values clearly, using frames they really believe. Values trump mere facts presented without the values that make them meaningful. Honest values-based framing is the opposite of spin — the deceptive use of language to avoid embarrassment.

The reason that those of us in the cognitive and brain sciences write so passionately about framing issues is that unconscious thought and framing are not generally understood — especially in progressive circles. Most progressives who went to college studied what is called Enlightenment reason, a theory of reason coming from Descartes around 1650 — and which was historically important in 1650. The Cartesian theory of how reason works has since been largely disproved in the cognitive and brain sciences…

conservatives have successfully reframed economic terms to fit their values, and that the economic terms in public discourse no longer mean what they do in economics classes…By framing language to fit conservative values and by getting their framing of the language to dominate public debate, conservatives change the public’s brains by the following mechanism.

Liberals…will not be aware of their own unconscious values, will take then for granted, and will think that all they have to do is state the facts and the public will be convinced rationally. The facts are crucial, but they need to framed in moral terms to make moral sense and a moral impact…

The word at issue is “redistribution.” The subject matter is the flow of wealth in the society and what it should be. This is a fundamentally moral issue, and the major political framings reflect two different moral views of democracy itself.

The liberal view of democracy…was based on the idea that citizens care about other citizens and work responsibly (with both personal and social responsibility) through their government to provide public resources for all.Conservatives have a very different view of democracy. They believe that democracy gives them the “liberty” to pursue their own interests without the government standing in their way or helping them. Their moral principle is individual responsibility, not social responsibility. If you haven’t developed the discipline to make it on your own, then you should fail…This is the conservative frame for redistribution: it is taking away money that you hard-working Americans have earned and deserve, and “redistributing” it to those who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it…most liberals…do not comprehend that the word “redistribution” has been redefined in terms of a conservative frame, and to use the word is to help conservatives in their moral crusade to undermine progressive values and the traditional view of liberal democracy…For liberals, democracy is defined by equality, and by the “self-evident” “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” where health is inherent to those values…The Republican brain change mechanism is not only worth a front-page discussion of its own, but deserves itself to brought into public discourse and reported on regularly.

Full text

The NY Times has many virtues and some important flaws. Both were evident on the paper’s front page this week and there is a lot to be learned by what did and did not appear there.

For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly. The NY Times finally began reporting on this effort on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in a fine piece by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

The Times reported on the House Republicans’ memo on how to attack the Affordable Care Act through a “multilayered sequence assault,” gathering stories “through social media letters from constituents, or meeting back home” and a new GOP website. The Times also reported on the “closed door” strategy sessions, going back to last year.

It’s a start, and it’s about time. What the Times missed was the far deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideology covering dozens of issues that have been served by these efforts. The Times also missed the reason why the attack on the ACA is more than just anti-Obama politics, but rather part of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about. The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states — all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

I do mean changing brains. Because all thought is physical, carried out by neural circuitry, every change in how we understand anything is a brain change, and conservatives are effectively using the techniques that marketers have developed for changing brains, and they’ve been using them for decades, at least since the notorious Lewis Powell Memo in 1971.

Full disclosure: I began writing about conservative framing in my 1996 book Moral Politics, and about the conservative brain changing machine in my 2004 book Don’t Think of an Elephant!, p. 15 (click to see the discussion at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/dont_think_of_an_elephant:paperback/chapter_1). For the Powell memo, just google “Lewis Powell memo.”

At least, the Times did get an important part of it right on Thursday, and we should be grateful.

Then, on Sunday, November 24, 2013, the Times published on its front page what looked like a news story, but was a conservative column called “White House Memo” by John Harwood, who is CNBC’s Chief Washington Correspondent, and who previously worked as the Wall Street Journal’s political editor and chief political correspondent. It’s one thing to publish a blatant conservative attack on President Obama in a column on the op-ed page or in the Sunday Review, and another to publish it on the front page, as if it were a news story.

The Harwood column is illuminating in its attack mode, which is quite artful and an excellent example of conservative attacks. To appreciate it, we should begin by discussing some basic cognitive linguistics. As the great linguist Charles Fillmore discovered in 1975, all words are cognitively defined relative to conceptual “frames” — structures we all use to think all the time. Frames don’t float in the air; they are neural circuits in our brains. Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system. That means that language in politics is not neutral. Political words do not just pick out something in the world. They reflect value-based frames. If you successfully frame public discourse, you win the debate.

A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. Daniel Kahneman has since brought frame-based unconscious thought into the public arena in what he has called “System 1 thinking.” Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames.

I have always suggested to progressives to know their values and state their real values clearly, using frames they really believe. Values trump mere facts presented without the values that make them meaningful. Honest values-based framing is the opposite of spin — the deceptive use of language to avoid embarrassment.

The reason that those of us in the cognitive and brain sciences write so passionately about framing issues is that unconscious thought and framing are not generally understood — especially in progressive circles. Most progressives who went to college studied what is called Enlightenment reason, a theory of reason coming from Descartes around 1650 — and which was historically important in 1650. The Cartesian theory of how reason works has since been largely disproved in the cognitive and brain sciences.

The Cartesian theory assumes that all thought is conscious, that it is literal (that is, it fits the world directly and uses no frame-based or metaphorical thought), that reason uses a form of mathematical logic (not frame-based logic or metaphorical logic), and that words are neutral and fit the world directly. Many liberal economists have been trained in this mode of thought and assume that the language used in economic theory is neutral and just fits the world as it is. They are usually not trained in frame semantics, cognitive linguistics, and related fields. The same is often true of liberal journalists as well. Both often miss the fact that conservatives have successfully reframed economic terms to fit their values, and that the economic terms in public discourse no longer mean what they do in economics classes.

Part of what the Cartesian theory of reason misses is the real brain mechanism that allows the conservative communication theory to be effective. By framing language to fit conservative values and by getting their framing of the language to dominate public debate, conservatives change the public’s brains by the following mechanism. When a frame circuit is activated in the brain, its synapses are strengthened. This means that the probability of future activation is raised and probability of the frame becoming permanent in the brain is raised. Whenever a word defined by that frame is used, the frame is activated and strengthened. When conservatives successfully reframe a word in public discourse, that word activates conservative frames and with those frames, the conservative value system on which the frames are based. When progressives naively use conservatively reframed words, they help the conservative cause by strengthening the conservative value system in the brains of the public.

Liberals, in adhering to the old Cartesian theory of reason, will not be aware of their own unconscious values, will take then for granted, and will think that all they have to do is state the facts and the public will be convinced rationally. The facts are crucial, but they need to framed in moral terms to make moral sense and a moral impact.

To those who have a liberal Cartesian theory of reason, the attempt to warn the public and other liberals about the way language really works and to warn liberals not to use conservative framing will be seen as hiding the facts and misleading the public. That is what the Times columnist and CNBC Chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood used in his manipulative NY Times column.

The word at issue is “redistribution.” The subject matter is the flow of wealth in the society and what it should be. This is a fundamentally moral issue, and the major political framings reflect two different moral views of democracy itself.

The liberal view of democracy goes back to the founding of the nation, as historian Lynn Hunt of UCLA has shown in her book Inventing Human Rights. American democracy was based on the idea that citizens care about other citizens and work responsibly (with both personal and social responsibility) through their government to provide public resources for all. From the beginning, that meant roads and bridges, public education, hospitals, a patent office, a national bank, a justice system, controlling the flow of interstate commerce, and so on. Nowadays it includes much more — the development of the internet, satellite communications, the power grid, food safety monitoring, government research, and so on. Without those public resources, citizens cannot live reasonable lives, businesses cannot run, and a market economy would be impossible. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require all this and health care. Unless you can get health care, your life is in jeopardy, as well as your freedom: if you have cancer and no health care, you are not free; if you break you leg and have no access to health care, you are not free, and so on. And if you are injured or sick and cannot maintain health, your life, liberty and happiness are all in jeopardy.

Under this view of democracy, the flow of wealth should guarantee the affordability of health care as a basic moral principle of democracy. If wealth has flowed in violation of this principle, that flow of wealth has been immoral, unpatriotic, and needs reform. So when liberals point out that productivity has risen greatly while salaries have not, they are talking about fairness in the flow of wealth: If you work for a living, you should earn a fair salary, that is, you should earn a living wage, which should be enough to guarantee adequate health care. Pensions are delayed payments of wages for work already done, and taking away pensions is theft. Employment is the purchase of labor by an employer with a negotiated price for the labor. Since corporations have more power in those negotiations than employees, unions are necessary to help make negotiations fair for the price of labor. When it is observed that most of the wealth in the past decade has flowed to the one percent, that means that fairness and the most fundamental of American principles have been violated and salaries and public resources have been inadequate and unfairly low.

The Affordable Care Act, from this perspective, is a move toward reform — toward a moral flow of wealth in line with the founding principles of the nation. I believe that President Obama, and most liberals, understand the intentions of Affordable Care Act in that way.

Conservatives have a very different view of democracy. They believe that democracy gives them the “liberty” to pursue their own interests without the government standing in their way or helping them. Their moral principle is individual responsibility, not social responsibility. If you haven’t developed the discipline to make it on your own, then you should fail — and if you can’t afford health care, so be it. Health care is seen as a “product” and citizens should not be paying for other citizens’ products. Rudy Giuliani, as a good conservative, likened health care to flat- screen TVs. Conservatives say that no one should be paying for anyone else (except their children and family members). Using public resources is seen as making you weak, taking away incentives for you to work for yourself. And they see it as making hard-working moral citizens pay for immoral slackers. This is the conservative frame for redistribution: it is taking away money that you hard-working Americans have earned and deserve, and “redistributing” it to those who haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it. For conservatives, this happens whenever there are public resources paid for by taxpayers. Therefore they believe that all public resources should be banned — and the affordable Care Act is a major special case and just the start.

That’s why John Boehner said, in explaining why the House has scheduled only 113 days to meet out of 365, said “We need to repeal old laws. Not pass new ones.” That is why the House conservatives saw it as moral to shut down the government and to let the sequester happen. They are ways to cut public resources.

Under this view of democracy, money previously made was made properly and using tax money for public resources is “redistribution.” “Using my money to pay for someone else” is inherently unfair in the conservative tradition. Conservatives over the past four decades have framed the word “redistribution” that way. Use of the word activates the conservative framing in general, not just the framing of the Affordable Care Act, but of the nature of democracy itself.

Because most liberals, including liberal economists, still believe in and use the inadequate Cartesian theory of reason, they do not comprehend that the word “redistribution” has been redefined in terms of a conservative frame, and to use the word is to help conservatives in their moral crusade to undermine progressive values and the traditional view of liberal democracy.

At this point we turn to the NY Times story, “Don’t Dare Call The Health Law ‘Redistribution’”on the front page, and inside “The economic policy that dare not speak its name.” John Harwood writes the following:

“These days the word is particularly toxic at the White House, where it has been hidden away to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to the public and less a target for Republicans, who have long accused the Democrats of seeking “socialized medicine.” But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall.”

Note that he uses the word “redistribution” without quotation marks, as if it were simply a fact and as if the Republican attacks were just true and the White house was trying to hide the truth. He later calls the Affordable Care Act a “semantic sidestep” on this issue.

Harwood goes on to cite the president’s misstatement that if you like your insurance you can keep it. I suspect that the president assumed that no one would like inadequate insurance if they could get much better, and adequate, insurance for the same price, which they might have been able to if the website had not failed. The president knew that no company was forced to cancel inadequate insurance, and incorrectly assumed that they wouldn’t. Yes, the president made those incorrect assumptions. But here is how Harwood comments:

Hiding in plain sight behind that pledge — visible to health policy experts but not the general public — was the redistribution required to extend health coverage to those who had been either locked out or priced out of the market.

Now some of that redistribution has come clearly into view.

The law, for example, banned rate discrimination against women, which insurance companies called “gender rating” to account for their higher health costs. But that raised the relative burden borne by men. The law also limited how much insurers can charge older Americans, who use more health care over all. But that raised the relative burden on younger people.

And the law required insurers to offer coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions, which eased costs for less healthy people but raised prices for others who had been charged lower rates because of their good health.

“The A.C.A. is very much about redistribution, whether or not its advocates acknowledge that this is the case,” wrote Reihan Salam on the website of the conservative National Review.

Here again, the “redistribution” word is used in a conservative frame without quotation marks as if the frame were simply true, and the citation is from a major conservative publication, where the word is used with a conservative frame.

The issue is what democracy is about and what health care in a democracy is about. For liberals, democracy is defined by equality, and by the “self-evident” “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” where health is inherent to those values. Under such a conception of democracy, health should never be denied because one belongs to a demographic group that fate had given more ailments and injuries.

Conservatives are helped when “redistribution”, which they have successfully reframed their way, is used by certain liberal economists, who naïvely believe that the word is neutral because economists use it as a technical term.

Harwood begins framing his piece by discussing the case of Rebecca M. Blank.

Ms. Blank is a noted academic economist, having been one of three members of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. From 2009 to 2013 she served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration, and has since left for the grand opportunity to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

In 2011, she was considered for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers while serving in the Commerce Department. Harwood reports that she was passed over for the post because of something she had written in 1992:

“A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to a redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system.”

Harwood quotes William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff at the time, as saying, “Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people’s minds.” The Republicans wield it “as a hammer” against Democrats, he said, adding, “It’s a word that in the political world, you just don’t use.” Daley is right that it is a loaded word, in just the sense noted above, namely, that it has been framed by conservatives to fit their ideology and using it activates their frame and their ideology in people’s brains, thus helping conservatives. In 2011, Obama was up for re-election and Daley judged that having Republicans dig up that quote would help them launch an unfair attack against the president.

Harwood reports the affair as if Obama had something to hide, rather than not wanting a conservatively framed concept to be falsely attributed to him. Harwood is clever. First, he quotes another liberal economist, Jonathan Gruber, who uses the word naively as a neutral technical economic term. Then at the end of the article, he reports an Obama slip at a talk in Elyria, Ohio 18 months earlier. The slip involved Obama’s use of a negative. In Don’t Think of an Elephant!, I pointed out that negating a word, activates the meaning of the word. If I tell you not to think of an elephant, you will think of an elephant. Here is the Obama slip that Harwood cites, “Understand this is not a redistribution argument … This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people.” That was the slip, and Harwood searched back 18 months to Elyria, Ohio to find it. But then the president caught himself and said positively what he meant. “This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot.”

Here’s the take-away from these two pieces in the Times this week. First, there was a tiny glimpse of the huge conservative Republican communication system, with no account of its history, it’s extent, or how it works to change people’s brains. I hope the Times will go on to do more and better in the future. Second, the Times printed on its front page a classic example of how the conservative system works, naively presenting it at face value without any serious framing analysis. The Times missed the conservative reframing of the word “redistribution,” missed the difference in the views of morality and democracy that lie behind the framing difference, missed the use of the conservatively reframed word as neutral by liberal economists, missed what it means for a word to be “loaded,” and succumbed like other journalists trained on Cartesian reason in helping conservatism keep its hold on public discourse.

Harwood is a smart political operative. His technique is a classic example of the Republican message machine reported on in Thursday’s Times, and is well worth serious study. The Republican brain change mechanism is not only worth a front-page discussion of its own, but deserves itself to brought into public discourse and reported on regularly.

http://georgelakoff.com/2013/11/24/the-ny-times-uncovers-conservative-attacks-and-then-prints-one-both-are-on-the-front-page/#more-2662

Science and the Search for Meaning by Rev. Peter Morales

By Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Assn, www.theNewAtlantis.com, Summer 2013

Excerpt

We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” This simple proposition, which could serve as the motto of any scientific society, secular organization, or humanist group, is in fact one of the seven principles that guide the Unitarian Universalist religion…for many religions, truth, or at least what is true about the most important matters, is given by a set of sacred texts or traditions that members accept as a matter of faith. At least in this somewhat stereotypical view of religious thought, the truth about the highest or most important things cannot be sought — it is only given by authority. Scientific truth, on the other hand, is constantly changing. That is to say, what people know to be true changes as new information comes to light and ideas are challenged by new findings.

It is understandable, then, that religion and science have had a conflict or two over the years…many people believe they have to make a choice between a religious and a scientific worldview…for faith to be whole, for it to encompass the whole of our lived experience with the world, we must come to terms with science and what science teaches us. As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that science and religion share a common wellspring. They both arise from the human need to cope with life, to make life comprehensible, controllable, and meaningful…

Science is based on a radically democratic way of knowing, in the sense that scientific truth is comprised of the things we can all experience — not on private experiences, accessible only to putatively gifted individualsscientific truth needs to be equally true for everyone everywhere… ultimately, science is an attempt to understand those parts of human experience that are unarguably true for all of us…While science and religion both arise from our need to cope with experience, science and religion are responses to fundamentally different questions. Science can help us discover the truth about our world, but religion can help us give that truth meaning…There is a human hunger for meaning that science does not address….Meaning in life does not exist unless we create it; it is our individual and collective response to what we have learned about the world…

I believe that hunger for meaning is the source for the renewed interest we have witnessed in recent decades in ritual, in spiritual practices such as meditation, and in traditional religious imagery. This coincides with recent findings that the number of people in the United States who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is growing, while a majority of them still “describe themselves either as a religious person (18 percent) or as spiritual but not religious (37 percent).” People are seeking something that science does not give them. This is not a criticism of science. To criticize science for not satisfying our emotional and spiritual need for meaning is like criticizing a circle for not having corners.

Religion, at its best and most profound and most enduring, has been humanity’s way of collecting and transmitting wisdom about the meaning of life from one generation to the next.….Before science, religion filled the vacuum created by ignorance and created stories to explain the truth about the world — myths about creation and humanity’s origin…only we can decide how to react to them, how to apply those wondrous insights to our own lives…That is our religious task — individually and communally to create lives filled with meaning and lives consistent with what we love most deeply…

Full text

We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” This simple proposition, which could serve as the motto of any scientific society, secular organization, or humanist group, is in fact one of the seven principles that guide the Unitarian Universalist religion.

Unitarian Universalism was formed in 1961 through the merger of two different religions, Unitarianism and Universalism — the first a Christian heresy, the second at least unorthodox, if not also heretical. Unitarianism rejects Trinitarian theology, and Universalism asserts the salvation of all. Historically, Unitarians and Universalists stood up for what they believed, even at the expense of their personal safety. Likewise, Unitarian Universalists are committed to truth and meaning to this day.

It is perhaps surprising that a religious organization would hold as one of its deepest convictions the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” After all, for many religions, truth, or at least what is true about the most important matters, is given by a set of sacred texts or traditions that members accept as a matter of faith. At least in this somewhat stereotypical view of religious thought, the truth about the highest or most important things cannot be sought — it is only given by authority. Scientific truth, on the other hand, is constantly changing. That is to say, what people know to be true changes as new information comes to light and ideas are challenged by new findings.

It is understandable, then, that religion and science have had a conflict or two over the years. Many religious traditions have taught us that we human beings are God’s most glorious creation in the physical universe and that Earth is therefore properly at its center. Science suggests instead that we are the accidental outcome of a process of evolution that had neither us nor anything else in mind and that our geocentric perspective is an illusion. We have here two radically different conceptions of the human condition and of humanity’s place in the cosmos. And therefore it should come as no surprise that many people believe they have to make a choice between a religious and a scientific worldview.

What to make of science is a fundamental issue facing religious traditions in our time. Science has become an overwhelming challenge to traditional ways of viewing the world and our place in it. But for faith to be whole, for it to encompass the whole of our lived experience with the world, we must come to terms with science and what science teaches us.

As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that science and religion share a common wellspring. They both arise from the human need to cope with life, to make life comprehensible, controllable, and meaningful. Indeed, we are all scientists. We all search for knowledge about the world, a way to make sense of our experiences and to give our lives meaning. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we learn that we were wrong. But our knowledge is never disinterested, as it always grows from our personal urge to make meaning of experience. We are scientists because we search for truth about our world.

Science is the discipline that can give us answers to the search for facts about the world around us. These questions can run the gamut of the myriad everyday questions that are relatively easy to answer — How much does this rock weigh? What kinds of things will a magnet pick up? But it also includes questions that are enormously complex and difficult — How old is the universe? How did human beings get here? What is the mass of the Higgs Boson? But all of these questions have something in common: we can answer them. We can gather evidence, study it, compare answers, and choose the answer that best fits our experience.

Science is based on a radically democratic way of knowing, in the sense that scientific truth is comprised of the things we can all experience — not on private experiences, accessible only to putatively gifted individuals. Another way of saying the same thing is that, at least in principle, science does not ask us to take its conclusions on faith or on authority. Science is about what is objective and repeatable; scientific truth needs to be equally true for everyone everywhere. A pound is a pound the world around. The charge of an electron and the mass of the top quark are the same everywhere. When we look through a backyard telescope, Jupiter has four visible moons when you look at it and when I look at it, just as it did when Galileo looked at it through his primitive telescope. The latest data suggest that the universe is 13.82 billion years old. This is the case whether we like it or not. The speed of light appears to be the universal speed limit even for those who would like to zip along at warp nine. The mass of the top quark according to the most recent measurements is 173.09 billion electron volts whether your theory predicted it or not. We are the products of the same biological evolution that produced monkeys, manatees, and mangoes. That’s just the way it is, and ultimately, science is an attempt to understand those parts of human experience that are unarguably true for all of us.

Meaning Beyond Science

But Unitarian Universalists affirm the search for both truth and meaning. If we are scientists in search of truth, we are also theologians in search of meaning. While science and religion both arise from our need to cope with experience, science and religion are responses to fundamentally different questions. Science can help us discover the truth about our world, but religion can help us give that truth meaning.

Even as science continues to teach us more and more about what is, to penetrate many of the fundamental questions about the universe, people are still searching for a way to apply those truths to their lives in a way that is emotionally or spiritually fulfilling. Part of the reason for the gap between scientific knowledge and meaningful experience of it is that the passion and wonder and awe that science ought to inspire is too often suppressed or ignored in the way we teach and talk about science. But the problem goes beyond that. There is a human hunger for meaning that science does not address. After we know all there is to know about the world, we still must answer the question: “so what?”

Questions about meaning are not scientific questions. The issue of what will make your life or mine meaningful is not a question that lends itself to controlled measurement. In this case, there are no correct and incorrect answers, no objective propositional statements.

Indeed, the answer we seek is not “out there,” but rather in our hearts and in our families and in our communities. Meaning in life does not exist unless we create it; it is our individual and collective response to what we have learned about the world. We develop rituals and religions, form families and communities, join together and drift apart in order to find purpose and meaning for our lives.

I believe that hunger for meaning is the source for the renewed interest we have witnessed in recent decades in ritual, in spiritual practices such as meditation, and in traditional religious imagery. This coincides with recent findings that the number of people in the United States who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is growing, while a majority of them still “describe themselves either as a religious person (18 percent) or as spiritual but not religious (37 percent).” People are seeking something that science does not give them. This is not a criticism of science. To criticize science for not satisfying our emotional and spiritual need for meaning is like criticizing a circle for not having corners.

Religion, at its best and most profound and most enduring, has been humanity’s way of collecting and transmitting wisdom about the meaning of life from one generation to the next. Religious rituals, rites of passage, moral teachings, images, and stories — especially stories — are ways of creating meaning together and sharing it. Religion can teach us about the kinds of things worth committing ourselves to: community, family, compassion, justice, the natural world, beauty.

Before science, religion filled the vacuum created by ignorance and created stories to explain the truth about the world — myths about creation and humanity’s origin. But over the long march of the history of science, humanity has sought to fill that vacuum, to learn more about the world and to discover how it works. Science is indeed a spectacular achievement. The scientific truths of life are amazing, beautiful, and awesome. But only we can decide how to react to them, how to apply those wondrous insights to our own lives.

We are all intensely aware of the potential for conflict between science and religion. But that potential conflict does not define us or our journeys. We can know and face the truth — what scientific endeavors try to prove — and then move on to define our own meaning. We have choices to make. We still have to fashion lives that can channel our passion and our compassion. That is our religious task — individually and communally to create lives filled with meaning and lives consistent with what we love most deeply.

Search Together

Finally, I want to draw attention to one more aspect of that deceptively simple principle: “we affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” As Unitarian Universalists, we do not merely accept truth and provide the space for people to create meaning. We actively search for truth and meaning, holding to a principle demanding action and not simply providing a concept available for passive assent. Our view of truth may change, the meaning of our lives may be different, but as long as we are actively, responsibly seeking both truth and meaning — and allowing others to freely do so as well — we are living into our best selves. We are all scientists. We are all theologians. We are all in this together.

What is the meaning of your life? Our religious traditions suggest some answers. We will all answer differently based on our differing experiences, but we can all agree on some common themes. Our collective wisdom proposes that a meaningful life is a committed life — committed to mutual compassion and respect, openness, humility, and stewardship. This is what it is to live religiously. This is why we covenant together to be a religious community. We are here to help each other live with purpose. We learn, accept, and marvel at the wonders science has opened for us, and then create our lives by giving that knowledge meaning.

Rev. Peter Morales is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America.

Peter Morales, “Science and the Search for Meaning,” The New Atlantis, Number 39, Summer 2013, pp. 119-123.

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/science-and-the-search-for-meaning

Shutdown crisis exposes conservative worldview

“We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride. Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” Chaplain Barry C. Black in one of his daily opening prayers in United States Senate, New York Times

Religion Trends

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? 

Worldview — Conservative

Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda

Class wars

Are We Being Ruled by Self-Centered Jerks?

Economic Justice — Race

Modern GOP is still the party of Dixie 

Media

Failure of the main stream media

The Radicalization of the GOP is the Most Important Political Story Today

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead 

History

The Short American Century 

Democracy

Before You Give up on Democracy, Read This!

Philosophy of democracy

Democracy After the Shutdown By MICHAEL P. LYNCH, New York Times, October 15, 2013

Threats to democracy

House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn’t Stop The Government Shutdown 

It Can’t Happen Here? 

On the Sabotage of Democracy by Bill Moyers 

Our Democracy Is at Stake  

The End Game for Democracy

The March to Anarchy

Citizenship

The American Public’s Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy  

Government — economic policy

A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning

Many in G.O.P. Offer Theory: Default Wouldn’t Be That Bad

Who is government for?

Marlin Stutzman and post-policy nihilism 

Politics

Democrats up the ante on GOP’s poor hand  

Ignore the Spin: This Debt Ceiling Crisis is Not Politics as Usual 

Permanent Republican minority  

The Moderates Who Lighted the Fuse 

Money in politics

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option” 

Kentucky Wins Sweet Deal In $2.9 Billion Budget Bill Earmark By Ashley Alman, The Huffington Post, 10/16/2013

Republican extremism

Here Are The 144 Republicans Who Voted To Send The U.S. Into Default by Henry Blodget, Australia Business Insider, October 17, 2013

G.O.P. Extremists Defy Description  

Grayson blames shutdown on GOP literally drinking on the job  

Republicans Facing a Test of Unity  

The Conservative Crackup: How the Republican Party Lost Its Mind 

Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives

Republicans are “not fit to govern”

Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders 

Right wing message machine

The Right’s Obamacare Rhetoric Is Completely Detached from Reality

Suffocating Echo Chamber 

Right wing operatives

The Ten Hardline Conservatives Pulling the Strings of the GOP Shutdown 

Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind the Shutdown

Right wing religious extremism

How Christian Delusions Are Driving the GOP Insane

Of Course Michele Bachmann Believes the End Times Are Here

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government 

Tea Party

Tea Party Radicalism Is Misunderstood: Meet the “Newest Right”  

The tea party’s revolt against reality  

America’s Story

Situational analysis — commonly misnamed conspiracy theory  

Progressive movement

Anger Can Be Power 

The Rise of the New New Left

Moral politics

Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical  

Religion wars

Are There Still Enough Value Voters to Turn American Red?

Why We Must Reclaim The Bible From Fundamentalists

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?

By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, September 26, 2013  

In an age where your average Republican politician is thumping the Bible with one hand and trying to strip food from the mouths of the poor with the other, it’s become a sad cliché to point out how little the most outspoken Christians have in common with their charity-preaching, forgiveness-loving messiah. It’s only gotten worse in recent years, with the followers of the man who cured lepers threatening to shut down the government if Obama insists on giving more people access to healthcare.

But while a nudge and a laugh at the silly Christian hypocrites is a good time, it’s worth looking deeper at what’s really going on with the parsimonious haters of the poor who claim to speak for Jesus. The fact of the matter is that right-wing Christians refuse to see their differences with Jesus as hypocrisy. To really understand how religion works in the world of politics, it helps to understand that it’s usually more about  rationalizing what you already want to believe than it is about actually studying your religious texts and drawing intelligent conclusions from it.

So what’s going on when Ken Blackwell [3], the former Ohio Secretary of State and current conservative activist says things like there is “nothing more Christian” than cutting needy people off food stamps? It may seem like the rational thing for Blackwell to have done was simply admit that there’s nothing in the Bible that even comes close to suggesting that it’s good for people to be forced into starvation simply because they had the misfortune of living in a time of high unemployment. After all, Jesus just simply gave people the loaves and the fishes. He didn’t withhold the food, and like Blackwell did, say that being able to eat food would “breed dependency” and that starving the poor was a good way of “empowering others and creating self-sufficiency.”

Blackwell is stretching; it’s obvious he’s stretching. So why go there at all? Well, as stupid as he sounds, it’s the rational choice. Being considered a Christian means you get a lot of unearned esteem from the public, and you’re given a lot more benefit of the doubt than if you claimed to be, say, an atheist. Indeed, for many audiences, it’s better to sound like an idiot while claiming to be Christian than to sound intelligent without mentioning religion at all. It makes sense that a politician or activist would want to be perceived as a Christian even if they have to bend themselves into pretzels to explain away the obnoxious clash between what they believe and what even the most strained but intellectually honest interpretation of their Bible would have you believe.

But it’s more than that. There’s no reason to think Blackwell believes himself to be lying when it comes to his religious beliefs. As much as liberals would often wish it otherwise—and no matter how much conservative Christians may claim their beliefs all come from the Bible—the truth of the matter is there’s no real relationship between what a person believes and what their religion ostensibly teaches them to believe. In practical terms, the word “Christian” is an empty term that can basically mean whatever the believer wants it to mean. Christians decide what they want to believe first and then, after they’ve chosen their beliefs, search for any excuse, no matter how thin, to claim that their belief is consistent with their chosen religion.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains [4], “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.

While most people engage in motivated reasoning most of the time, injecting religion into a situation only makes this process worse. That’s because, unlike most other belief systems, religion is impervious to empiricism. Most claims people make are subject to real-world tests. Are you in denial that your spouse is cheating on you? If you’re given photographic evidence that it’s true, that’s probably enough to shake you from your convictions. Want to believe the Earth is flat and not round? Shoot you into space and see how long that belief lasts. Sure, there are always fools who won’t believe the evidence, no matter how overwhelming, but for most of us, most of the time, we have a limit.

With religion, however, there’s no limits about what you can claim to believe. Jesus is a mythological character: he believes whatever the person speaking for him says he believes. For one person, Jesus believes we should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. For another, Jesus didn’t really mean it when he said that stuff; he was just handing out goodies in order to recruit new believers [5]. We weren’t there (and it probably didn’t even happen), so the sky’s the limit when making up reasons why what you believe counts as “Christian.” If you want to believe Jesus was actually a space alien brought here by Martians to teach us how to fly, you have as much right as anyone else to believe what you want. It all has equal amounts of evidence to back it up.

That’s one reason politicians love to talk about religion, because they don’t have to prove anything. But that’s the major reason religion really has no place in politics. It’s hard enough for voters and policy makers to hash through the real-world claims that fly around in politics. Trying to figure out what some silent, mythical god wants us to do is a fool’s errand. That god is always and forever going to want what the person speaking for him wants him to want, and nothing else. If Ken Blackwell was only allowed to speak for Ken Blackwell and not claim authority from on high, the true cruelty of his words would be all the easier to see.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-are-so-many-christians-so-un-christian

Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amanda-marcotte
[3] http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/frc-nothing-more-christian-massive-food-stamp-cut
[4] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney
[5] http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/09/11/foxs-starnes-fearmongers-about-christian-groups/195830
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/food-stamps
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/poverty-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B