Friday, December 05, 2014

Leftist profs on Right v Left politics

Studies have shown that when you disentangle the science (from the politics) of controversial topics like evolution and climate, people have no trouble accepting the science. But the outspoken activist professors in those fields do not want to do that.

What is the politics of evolution? The most obvious is to attack religion. Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Chicago professor Jerry Coyne just announced Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. It will be a rehash of the anti-religion rants he has been posting on his blog for years.

To Coyne and his fellow evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, evolution is a fact that not only proves atheism, but also implies a fatalistic leftist world view. They regularly deny concepts like individualism and free will.

These connections are not so obvious, and do not follow from the science. The Catholic Church has always accepted scientific advances, including evolution. One could interpret evolutionary science in favor of right-wing ideas, as much as against. But academics are overwhelmingly leftist.

Chicago anthropologist John Terrell writes in the NY Times about Right-Left differences:
We will certainly hear it said many times between now and the 2016 elections that the country’s two main political parties have “fundamental philosophical differences.” But what exactly does that mean?

At least part of the schism between Republicans and Democrats is based in differing conceptions of the role of the individual. We find these differences expressed in the frequent heated arguments about crucial issues like health care and immigration. In a broad sense, Democrats, particularly the more liberal among them, are more likely to embrace the communal nature of individual lives and to strive for policies that emphasize that understanding. Republicans, especially libertarians and Tea Party members on the ideological fringe, however, often trace their ideas about freedom and liberty back to Enlightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries, who argued that the individual is the true measure of human value, and each of us is naturally entitled to act in our own best interests free of interference by others. Self-described libertarians generally also pride themselves on their high valuation of logic and reasoning over emotion.
He is squarely on the Left, as you can see by the way he describes his side as embracing goodness and the other side as being on the ideological fringe.

He then goes on to argue that evolutionary science validates his Leftism:
As the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski argued almost a century ago: “Myth fulfills in primitive culture an indispensable function: it expresses, enhances, and codifies belief, ...” ...

While as an anthropologist I largely agree with Malinowski, I would add that not all myths make good charters for faith and wisdom. The sanctification of the rights of individuals and their liberties today by libertarians and Tea Party conservatives is contrary to our evolved human nature as social animals. There was never a time in history before civil society when we were each totally free to do whatever we elected to do. We have always been social and caring creatures. The thought that it is both rational and natural for each of us to care only for ourselves, our own preservation, and our own achievements is a treacherous fabrication. This is not how we got to be the kind of species we are today. Nor is this what the world’s religions would ask us to believe. Or at any rate, so I was told as a child, and so I still believe.
So he is against individual freedom and autonomy, and even suggests at the end that his views were indoctrinated by the culture. Coyne and Harris explicitly deny that they have any ability to make any reasoned choices for themselves.

Leftist Berkeley Lingistics professor George Lakoff has his own theory of Right-Left differences. To him, the conservatism is based on the nuclear family:
At the heart of conservatism is strict father morality, ...

A focus on unimpeded pursuit of self-interest — and with it, extreme limits on state power over the individual—defines the libertarian strain of right-wing thought.
Progressivism is based on empathy:
Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others -- not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. ...

President Obama has argued that empathy is the basis of our democracy. ...

Empathy in this sense is a threat to conservatism, which features individual, not social, responsibility and a strict, punitive form of "justice." ... The argument goes like this: Empathy is a matter personal feelings. Personal feelings should not be the basis of a judicial decision of the Supreme Court. Therefore, "justice is not about empathy." ... We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended.
In the leftist ideal, empathy is not just the capacity to understand others. They see that empathy has three components
1. pro-social behavior - willingness to help people out, hospitality to strangers, acts of compassion.

2. cognitive empathy - capacity to see things from another person's perspective and to understand how he or she feels.

3. affective or emotional empathy - capacity not only to understand how another person feels but also to experience those feelings involuntarily and to respond appropriately. Failure to help a person in distress can trigger a self-destructive sequence: anguish, depression, suicidal ideation.
That last component is what they really want, but it is not universal:
In general, empathy is perceived in China as a moral duty and not as an involuntary emotional response.
I do not know much empathy has evolved to be part of human nature, but leftists would say that the culture can and should be changed to put everyone in a state of involuntary empathic connectedness with everyone else, and to destroy individualism, personal freedom, and family autonomy in the process.

No comments: