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Edge 339 — February 16, 2011
(13,000 words)



A Talk by Jonathan Haidt

Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, Mark Leary, Paul Bloom, Steven Heine, Alison Gopnik, David Pizarro, Lee Jussim on "The Bright Future Of Post-Partisan Social Psychology" By Jonathan Haidt

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Wired.UK, The Guardian, Die Welt,
, NU.nl, El Periodico, De Volkskrant


16. Februar 2011 Seite 12


["Die Wurzeln Des Digitalen Denkens"]
John Brockman, Net Avantgardist, Purveyor of Knowledge, Literary Agent and Founder of Edge Turns 70

Recently, I visited DLD, the annual congress of the digital elite, in Munich. In it was one of those moments that describe a man better than his official biography. Shortly before the gala dinner on the first day of the congress, I was in a small group in the ballroom in the company of John Brockman, the key figure in so many scientific debates that often take place on his website edge.org and who is not nearly as well known as the stars who he represents as a literary agent: The evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, for example, or the genetic scientist Craig Venter, the pioneers of digital debates like Clay Shirky, Jaron Lanier and David Gelernter.

It's difficult to make comparisons of different people, but if you want to try, John Brockman would be something like the Siegfried Unseld of the sciences, a man with an unerring sense for the important themes of his time who also has a tremendous business acumen. Anyway, Brockman encountered Sean Parker, the young billionaire who first revolutionized the music industry with Napster and then went on to take on social relations with Facebook. Parker's arrogance is legendary. But in front of Brockman he has respect. "Edge is the only thing I read, when I read anything," Parker said, smiling awkwardly.

Brockman did not respond to the compliment, but it was not meant as a compliment. Rather it was as meant as recognition of the pecking order of those involved in the great debate about how our lives and our society are changing due to the breath-taking speed in the development of digital technology and the natural sciences. ... ANDRIAN KREYE

Digital culture, pop and protest politics in its early days: John Brockman (left) in 1966 with Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan in "Factory" [Photo: Nat Finkelstein]

Recently, I visited DLD, the annual congress of the digital elite, in Munich. In it was one of those moments that describe a man better than his official biography. Shortly before the gala dinner on the first day of the congress, I was in a small group in the ballroom in the company of John Brockman, the key figure in so many scientific debates that often take place on his website edge.org and who is not nearly as well known as the stars who he represents as a literary agent: The evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, for example, or the genetic scientist Craig Venter, the pioneers of digital debates like Clay Shirky, Jaron Lanier and David Gelernter.

It's difficult to make comparisons of different people, but if you want to try, John Brockman would be something like the Siegfried Unseld of the sciences, a man with an unerring sense for the important themes of his time who also has a tremendous business acumen. Anyway, Brockman encountered Sean Parker, the young billionaire who first revolutionized the music industry with Napster and then went on to take on social relations with Facebook. Parker's arrogance is legendary. But in front of Brockman he has respect. "Edge is the only thing I read, when I read anything," Parker said, smiling awkwardly.

Brockman did not respond to the compliment, but it was not meant as a compliment. Rather it was as meant as recognition of the pecking order of those involved in the great debate about how our lives and our society are changing due to the breath-taking speed in the development of digital technology and the natural sciences.

Brockman did not begin to think about electronic culture with the triumphant advance of the Internet. He started in 1965, on one of those legendary evenings when the composer John Cage cooked for friends and acquaintances. John Brockman was 24-years old and not involved in science, as was the case with so many of his generation in the wake of New York’s downtown culture. He organized multimedia performances and film festivals, operated alternative theaters, and he was one of the regulars that gathered daily at Andy Warhol's Factory.


He wanted to win the intellectual debate
on the sovereignty of the natural sciences

During one evening Cage handed Brockman a book entitled "Cybernetics," by the mathematician Norbert Wiener. Wiener's cybernetics was one of the first comprehensive theories of control systems of machines, organisms and social organizations. In the book, you can still find answers to many questions posed today by the digital society. Brockman was thrilled by it.

Together with his friend Stewart Brand, he plowed through the book in a manic reading rush of two days, driven by the notion that the understanding of the non-linear nature of reality proposed by Wiener, went far beyond the importance of the mathematical descriptions themselves.

Both men were changed forever by those days. Brockman was in New York when MIT asked him to organize meetings between scientists and artists. He became the East Coast link between the arts and the sciences. Brand, in California, founded The Whole Earth Catalog, a catalog of alternative products and innovative technologies. Apple founder Steve Jobs later described his Catalog as a "precursor to the World Wide Web".

The role of the intermediary is still John Brockman's forte. Surely, he, with his wife and partner Katinka Matson has earned a great deal money as a literary agent. Not least because he promoted a new genre of science literature that has often made it onto the best-seller lists.

"Third Culture", he called this genre, borrowing from C.P. Snow's phrase "the third culture", which Snow introduced as in sequel to his legendary lecture on the "two cultures" in 1959 in Cambridge. In it, the British physicist complained about the disconnect between the history of ideas in the humanities and natural sciences.

Brockman saw this as an opportunity. With the rise of interdisciplinary research, scientists were forced to write books that were not aimed at the usual market for "popular science", but written for their colleagues in adjacent fields. It was a different kind of audience. Biologists had to be able to understand the books by computer scientists and computer scientists had to understand the work of chemists. And thus, as a byproduct, these "third culture" books were understandable to the general educated American reader.

Brockman wanted more than just negotiating good contracts. He wanted to win the intellectual debate on the sovereignty for the natural sciences. Nothing bored him more than the endless subtleties of the humanities, which arose from nothing more than the internecine machinations of insider cliques. And he hit a nerve. The tangible nature of his thesis was embraced by a far-reaching range of scientists who went on to write about undefined topics such as faith, morality and humanity. This led to enormously contentious debates.


a networked world of sparkling  new ideas.

Brockman's seeds of a new intellectualism have bloomed in the culture of ideas that has become so popular in the past years in the pages of magazines such as Atlantiic and New Yorker, in numerous nonfiction bestsellers, or in the various incarnations of the TED conference. Brockman has stayed away from all forms of hype though. He still makes money with books, the very medium that has been declared dead so many times in recent years. He also refused to allow his website edge.org to fall into lockstep with the euphoria of Web 2.0. It is still a tightly edited forum of unique voices, not just a network open to anybody who wants to join the debate. That is one of the reasons Edge has remained one of the purest outlets of intellectual thought on the Web. Together with his friend, the late philosopher Dennis Dutton, whose website Arts & Letters Daily is another of the few purist intellectual forums, he held onto the origins of the Internet, when texts stood for themselves and weren't launchpads for endless streams of debate, and when links where first and foremost references to texts worth delving into.

On Wednesday, John Brockman celebrates his 70th Birthday at the New York restaurant Le Cirque. On the list of invitees are friends and companions, some of whom are Nobel Laureates, others who have accumulated billions of dollars in assets. Even if only half of the guests show up, it will be another one of those evenings, the kind Brockman has organized repeatedly since he attended the dinners parties organized by John Cage — a networked world of sparkling  new ideas.



15 February 11


This article was taken from the March 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Photo: Peter Yang

Cultural impresario and literary and software agent John Brockman has spent the last half century merging art and science to create what he calls the Third Culture. In 1988, the now 69-year-old Panama-hat-wearing New Yorker, who represents the literary works of big thinkers such as Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins, created the Edge Foundation, which publishes original writing of prominent thinkers in fields from evolutionary biology to mathematics. Wired asked him what it's like to live life on the edge.

What is Edge?
It's a conversation. We look for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. We encourage work on the cutting edge of the culture, and the investigation of ideas that have not been generally exposed.

Could you explain the Third Culture?
In 1959 CP Snow noted in his book The Two Cultures that, during the 30s, literary intellectuals took to referring to themselves as "the intellectuals", as though there were no others. This new definition excluded scientists such as the astronomer Edwin Hubble, the mathematician John von Neumann, and the physicists Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In the second edition, Snow added a new essay, optimistically suggesting that a "third culture" would emerge and close the communications gap between the literary intellectuals and the scientists. Although I borrow Snow's phrase, it does not describe the third culture that he predicted. Literary intellectuals are not communicating with scientists. Scientists are communicating directly with the general public, and in doing so they are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are. ...

... Which new writers, scientists and artists should we be following at the moment?
Research psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize for the creation of behavioural economics, is one. Jeff BezosLarry PageSergey Brin, Dean KamenNathan MyhrvoldJimmy Wales and Salar Kamangar all came to an Edge seminar to hear him lecture. Kahneman is not exactly a household name -- yet among many of the leading thinkers in psychology, he ranks at the top of the field.

What is it that gets you interested in a person or their work?
I am interested in people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters, limit themselves to secondhand ideas. Show me people who create their own reality, who don't accept an ersatz, appropriated reality. Show me the empiricists (and not just in the sciences) who are out there doing it, rather than talking about and analysing the people who are doing it.

How do you find these people?
It's all based on word of mouth and reputation. Edge, contrary to how it may appear, is not exclusive. Elitist, yes, but in the good sense of an open elite, based on meritocracy. The way someone is added to the Edge list is when I receive a word from a Steven Pinker, a Brian Eno, a Martin Rees, an Ian McEwan or a Richard Dawkins, telling me to do so. It's as simple as that and I don't recall ever saying no in such circumstances.

How do science and art meet?
Typically, they meet as artists, acting as sensing and monitoring devices for a society. [They] go forward and send back signals telling us who and what we are. It was through artists in the New York avant-garde of the mid-60s that I first became excited about science. John Cage handed me a copy of Cybernetics by Norbert Wiener; Robert Rauschenberg turned me on to books by the physicists James Jeans and George Gamow.

What's the most exciting thing at the intersection at the moment?
It's not a "thing" but a person: HUO, Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator and co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens (see Wired 02.10). Known to his friends in the art world as "The Hurricane", he has singlehandedly (well, with a little help from me) put a focus on the intersection of science and art. In doing so, he has shone a bright spotlight on London, which is emerging as "the" interesting art scene in the world. HUO is too sophisticated to try to bring artists and scientists together for creative collaborations; instead, he will run projects such as "Maps for the 21st Century" and commission 50 artists to produce pieces, and lean on me to do the same with the science crowd. We did a similar event in 2007 on "Formulae for the 21st Century". The juxtaposition of these works was enlightening, the results marvellous.


February 12, 2011


Others being lazy and selfish merely gives us a good excuse to behave likewise

By Oliver Burkeman

Academic philosophers are often legitimately accused of ignoring the questions that matter in the real world, so I was pleased to see howGloria Origgi, a specialist in the philosophy of mind, phrases the question that motivates her research: "Why does life suck so much?" Her answer, regrettably, goes by the awkward label "kakonomics", from the Greek "kako-", meaning harsh or incorrect (sucky, basically), and the suffix "-nomics", meaning "give me a lucrative book deal". But whatever you call it, it's an illuminating way to reconsider human behaviour, as it suggests – against conventional wisdom – that we often tacitly want the organisations we work for, along with our friends and even partners, to be mediocre and not deliver what they promise.

Few of us, whether cynics or optimists, think of human nature this way. According to game theory, the economic approach Origgi is adapting, people are out for themselves: they'll do whatever they can to maximise personal gain while seizing every opportunity to slack off at others' expense. Critics object that we're not so nasty: in experiments, people stubbornly refuse to act as selfishly as game theory predicts. But both sides agree we want other people to give their best. Suppose you're a manager: whether or not you'd rather be selfishly lazy, you'd surely want your underlings to do a stellar job of briefing you for the big meeting or fetching coffee. Likewise, you'd prefer it if friends or lovers brought their best to your relationship. Wouldn't you?

Kakonomics replies: maybe not. ...


(See: Kakonomics, or the strange preference for Low-quality outcomes by Gloria Origgi, Edge Annual Question 2011

... Brockman, the inventor of the "Third Culture"

Brockman describes himself as the inventor of the "third culture" that seeks to bridge the chasm between the sciences and the humanities. To its author stall are many in this country known lights of popular science, such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Freeman and George Dyson (just the letter "D" to lead) to the ninety authors this year have responses sent to the question. ...

Gigerenzer calls fot "risk-education" of citizens

Also, Gerd Gigerenzer, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and one of the few German scientists participating in the "Edge" debate holds that most people (including the so-called experts) for illiterate when it comes to assessment of the risks go.

Reason it calls a "risk-education" of the citizens, starting with a treatment of the mathematics of uncertainty - that is, the statistics - in school, and while not "get bored in the form of coin-and dice-problems, the students to death," but by reference to the risks of "alcohol, AIDS, pregnancy, horse riding and other dangerous things.

have that many people from dangerous things to little less dangerous things too afraid depend, as Tom Standage of The Economist shows to do with the ultimate lack of understanding of scientific thought. You can actually prove that something is dangerous, but never prove that it is absolutely safe. ...



..."Why are we there will be reading, of reading shallow?" Renmin University of China Yu Guoming, vice president of news reporter in an interview question and answer: not human to be shallow, but much of life variables. Living longer and longer chains, there are thousands of factors of uncertainty, so that we can not take one single factor as in the past. This long chain is very long, requires a grasp of the wider field of vision in general, then take a variable of a precise, does not solve the immediate problem of accurate grasp the paradigm of the past no longer applies today, and many variables need to grasp the fuzzy grasp.

"Beginning to face a rich man, but the brain is still thinking over the past based on the depth. It is necessary to remember what they have to face the depth of breadth, he did not know how to deal with," said Yu Guoming, future technology development will increasingly multi-fuzzy decision support and emotional decision, so do not make mistakes in this area of human enough.

For Internet poisoned the brain, the human superficial point of view, network researchers have different views.

General Research Center of Chinese Academy of Social Information, "Internet Week" honorary editor of Jiang Qiping said the "shallow" is different from the degradation of the cognitive domain, he would understand it to "return to the present time the thing itself."

In an interview with the "Outlook" Newsweek interview, Jiang Qiping this state their point of view: "deep read by me, sir, I think that disturb well, fantastic." He pointed out that the phenomenon of industrialized way of thinking is to see through the nature of the light into the deep; information way of thinking is to see through the essence of the phenomenon, by the depth shallow, shallow, higher than the deep state.

"The Internet in the end of our brain do? The brain in adapting to the Internet, or the Internet to change the brain?" 2010 U.S. edge.org site "annual issue," "The Internet has changed our minds?" Trigger hot, 109 philosophers, neurobiologists, and scholars in other fields to participate.

"The Internet does not change our way of thinking." Harvard University neuroscientist JoshuaGreene that the Internet "provides us with unprecedented access to information channels, but did not change (our brain) process information."

"Electronic media will not rebuild the mechanism of the brain to process information." Harvard University cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker that message, surfing the Internet, the use of Twitter who have not trained your brain to "parallel multiple channels, the new information. "

"The deep reading, you'll pull the network cable, computer off, you need to light when shallow." CITIC Publishing House of Jiang Yongjun prefer being out of the network, but we should look at every five minutes e-mail him, it was a difficult decision. ...

[Continue Chinese Language Original | Google Translation]

February 9, 2011


...This leads to interesting questions such as: people thought it so deeply before then? Well no, but thanks to internet we get a lot more info to our deeper thinking needed to be able to clearly judge.


It is this last point goes to the heart of why this book is so important. There are indeed thinkers the floor, and hats are sure to present with positive or throw rules.

What they mostly communicate, how they personally (both business and private) use the Internet to increase their knowledge and whether and to what extent they succeed in their minds clean. And so this book provides the reader who deals with these issues, a variety of manuals and "tips" to avoid contaminating their knowledge or brains.

151 smart people

For many users, so many ways. Contributors like the young MIT-er that the Internet grew, there may be a different view than the older professor who entertained in quiet libraries acquired knowledge.

Between one who argues about how he / she is wiser by the new medium into perspective, review and / or supplement. 

It's just the method that will appeal to one reader and one not, but to acquaint themselves with all the varied and clearly formulated views on the Internet and its influence on our thinking, is already a luxury in itself. ...

[Continue Dutch Language Original | Google Translation]

February 10, 2011


Ernest Alós

[Google Translation:] In its latest issue, The New Yorker devoted a thorough analysis of the latest publications about the siege of the Internet to the Gutenberg galaxy. The author, Adam Gopnik, groups them into three trends. Some, the never-betters (never better than now), who, as Clay Shirky (Cognitive surplus) and Andy Clark (supersizing the mind) stress the revolutionary forces of democratization of information and expansion of consciousness involved. In front, the better-nevers (better never happened), who, like Carr, William Power (Hamlet's Blackberry) and Sherry Turkle (Alone together) mourn the loss of capacity for reflection and socializing in the real world and defend the superiority of earlier forms of cultural transmission. The skeptics would complete picture as ever-Waser (as usual) and Ann Blair (Too much to know), who agree that there is too much confusion, but assume that the confusion and the "information overload" are common experiences all the great moments of change of modernity.

In between, Is the Internet Changing The Way You Think?, John Brockman has collected responses from 150 people. No Spanish version 8.8 euros but you can read who download it from the Kindle application for iPhone. 

Advantages of the digital world'.

[Spainish language original | Google Translation]

February 12, 2011


[Google Translation:] Brian Eno, Steven Pinker, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Nicholas Carr, Richard Dawkins, Helen Fisher, Matt Ridley, they are among the 151 scientists, writers and artists at the request of editor John Brockman, Edge started thinking about the Internet. It resulted in the anthology Is The Internet Changing the Way You Think? It brings many good responses, such as the following:

Eno: "I note that social experiments fifty years ago were for the most radical utopian idealist, now functioning smoothly and without fanfare." 

Jesse Dylan: "Some people say that the past was better. Since I do not agree."

Edited by John Brockman

"An intellectual treasure trove...Best three or four hours of intense, enlightening reading you can do for the new year""
San Francisco Chronicle

A Talk by Jonathan Haidt

Has social psychology become a Tribal Moral Community since the 1960s? Are we a community that is bound together by liberal values and then blind to any ideas or findings that threaten our sacred values? I believe the answer is yes, and I'll make 3 points to support that claim.


On January 27th, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt gave a provocative talk at the annual convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology which is already making waves and is a prime candidate for an Edge conversation. (See John Tierney's New York Times article on the talk).

Below please find (a) the video of Haidt's narrated presentation, and (b) the transcript of the talk which Haidt has provided to Edge.


JONATHAN HAIDT is Professor in the Social Psychology area of the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality and emotion, and how they vary across cultures.

THE REALITY CLUB: Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, Mark Leary, Paul Bloom, Steven Heine, Alison Gopnik, David Pizarro, Lee Jussim



[JONATHAN HAIDT:] In recent years moral psychology has become a convergence zone for research in many fields. I have summarized the state of the art in moral psychology with these 4 principles. Whenever you want to understand what’s going on in a complex social system, these principles can help. As we think about the future of social psychology, and where we might be in 2020, I think that this 4th one is particularly helpful. Morality binds and blinds. This principle can reveal a rut we've gotten ourselves into, and it will show us a way out.

The biggest question of all time has sometimes been said to be this: Why is there something, rather than nothing? Why is there a universe at all, and why did it begin so rapidly 14 billion years ago? The question is usually asked of astronomers and other natural scientists, but it is just as puzzling, and just as grand, when addressed to social scientists. Why are there large cooperative societies at all, and why did they emerge so rapidly in the last 10,000 years? How did humans become ultrasocial?

Many animals are social. That's not hard to explain from an evolutionary point of view. But only a few are ultrasocial. That is, they live together in very large groups of hundreds or thousands, with a massive division of labor, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. This trick was first discovered over 100 million years ago by the hymenoptera, that is bees, wasps, and ants. But it was discovered completely independently by some cockroaches who became ultrasocial; we now know them as termites. And it was also discovered completely independently by one species of mammal, the naked mole rat. In all of these cases, though, the trick is the same, that is, they are all first degree relatives. They're all sisters, or sisters and brothers, and they concentrate breeding in a queen. The queen is not the ruler; she's simply the ovary, and in all of these species it's one for all, all for one. If they keep the queen alive to reproduce, they reproduce.

There's just one ultrasocial species on Earth that doesn't use this trick, and that's us. We humans qualify as being ultrasocial. We live together in very large groups of hundreds or thousands or millions, with a massive division of labor and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. But how do we do it? What's our trick? Clearly we don't suppress breeding and concentrate it in one queen or one breeding couple.

Our trick is very different, Our evolved trick is our ability to forge a team by circling around sacred objects & principles. This is a photograph of Muslims circling the Ka'ba, at Mecca. People of all faiths are brought together by their shared devotion to sacred objects, people, and principles. This ability is crucial in war. And in politics. We’re just really good at binding ourselves together into teams, mostly when we’re competing with other teams.

II) Sacredness

Sacredness is a central and subtle concept in sociology and anthropology, but we can get a simple working definition of it from Phil Tetlock [a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania]. Tetlock defines a sacred values as "any value that a moral community implicitly or explicitly treats as possessing infinite or transcendental significance …” If something is a sacred value, you can’t make utilitarian tradeoffs; you can't think in a utilitarian way. You can’t sell a little piece of it for a lot of money, for example. Sacredness precludes tradeoffs. When sacred values are threatened, we turn into “intuitive theologians.” That is, we use our reasoning not to find the truth, but to find ways to defend what we hold sacred.

You can see sacredness at work most clearly in religion, of course. In Christianity, as in Hinduism and many other religions, there's a very explicit vertical dimension running from God at the top to the Devil at the bottom. Religious Christians generally see the bible as holy; it's not a book like any other book; it has to be protected from threats to its holiness. Those threats can be physical, as when somebody spits on or burns a bible. Or those threats can be threats to its veracity and authority, as arose when Darwin's ideas began to spread. There’s a direct contradiction between Darwin and the book of Genesis, so something's gotta give. Some Christians started reading Adam and Eve as metaphor. But those who really sacralized the bible were not able to make such a compromise. They went the other way. They became even more literalist, more fundamentalist. The bible goes up, Darwin goes down.

Of course, this makes it harder for them to understand the biological world around them, and they are then forced into a lot of bad biology, such as intelligent design. Sacralizing distorts thinking. These distortions are easy for outsiders to see, but they are invisible to those inside the force field.

And I really mean force field. Sacred values act like a powerful electromagnet, generating moral flux lines. Everyone and everything must fall into place along those lines. Here's an image of a magnet under a piece of glass, with iron ore shavings spread on top. The shavings all fall into line. Within a moral force field, deviance is deeply disturbing. Apostates and heretics must be banished or executed.

But moral force fields are not only found in religious communities. They can operate in academic fields as well. Let's look at the 3 very liberal social sciences: anthropology, sociology, and psychology. These 3 fields have always leaned left, but things really changed in the 1960s. The civil rights struggle, the brutality inflicted upon peaceful marchers, the Viet Nam war, the assassinations of black leaders... Racial injustice in America was overwhelming, highly visible, and for many people, revolting. The generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s was profoundly shaped by these experiences.

A vertical dimension formed, I believe, along the axis of race and racism. Martin Luther King was martyred and sacralized, and the fight for civil rights--the fight against racism--became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and in universities. Racists and oppressors were at the bottom. Victims of racism and opponents of oppression were at the top.

Social science research often bears on policy issues, and so many of those issues got caught up in the moral flux lines. Just look what happened when Pat Moynihan, a liberal sociologist and public policy expert, wrote a report, for president Johnson's war on poverty, titled "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action." Moynihan desperately wanted government action to help African Americans. But his report included a chapter called “the tangle of pathology” which was his term for the interconnected problems of unmarried motherhood and welfare dependency. Moynihan used the term "culture of poverty." Even though he was very clear that the ultimate cause of this pathology was racism, he still committed the cardinal sin: He criticized African American culture, which means that in a way, he blamed the victims.

The moral electro magnet turned on, tradeoffs were prohibited. Victims had to be blameless. Moynihan went down and was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as a racist. Conversely, the policies went up. They became articles of faith; if your research cast doubt on their efficacy or ethics, you were in violation of the moral force field, and you were a traitor to the team.

Morality binds and blinds, and so, open-minded inquiry into the problems of the Black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along. Sacralizing distorts thinking. Sacred values bind teams together, and then blind them to the truth. That’s fine if you are a religious community. I follow Emile Durkheim in believing that the social function of religion is group binding. But this is not fine for scientists, who ought to value truth above group cohesion.

There’s a term you’ve probably heard in the last 5 years: the “reality based community”. It was a term used contemptuously by Karl Rove at the height of Republican power, when it looked as though the invasion of Iraq had been a smashing success, and Republicans could make their own reality. When the term was brought to light in 2004, liberals then embraced it, because liberals believe that they have science on their side, while conservatives are blinded by religion and ignorance.

But if it's true that morality binds and blinds, then no partisan community is based in reality. If a group circles around sacred values, they'll evolve into a tribal moral community. They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they'll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value. You can see this on the right with global warming denialism. They’re protecting their sacralized free markets. But when sacred values are threatened, the moral force field turns on, and beliefs fall into line. We become intuitive theologians.

III) Is Social Psychology a Tribal Moral Community?

Has social psychology become a Tribal Moral Community since the 1960s? Are we a community that is bound together by liberal values and then blind to any ideas or findings that threaten our sacred values? I believe the answer is yes, and I'll make 3 points to support that claim.

1) We have taboos and danger zones.

First, we have taboos and danger zones. We social psychologists are normally so good at challenging each other's causal theories. If someone describes a phenomenon and then proposes a causal explanation, the rest of us will automatically generate 5 alternative causal explanations, along with 5 control conditions needed to rule out those alternatives. Except when any of these issues are in play. These issues turn on the force field, constrain our thinking, and deprive us of our ability to think of the full range of alternative hypotheses. It's too dangerous for me to work through examples. I'll just refer you to Larry Summers' famous musings about why men are overrepresented in math and science departments at the nation's top universities.

As on one of his 3 hypotheses, he noted that there is a sex difference in the standard deviation of IQ scores between men and women. He didn't say that men are smarter. He didn’t say that men have higher IQs. He just noted the well known fact that the variance of male scores is larger, which means that there are more men at the very bottom, and at the very top. Might that contribute to the underrepresentation of women at the very top levels of science? If you're standing outside the force field it's a good hypothesis, certainly worth exploring. But if you're inside the force field, it is not a permissible hypothesis. It is sacrilege. It blames the victims, rather than the powerful. The ensuing outrage led ultimately to his resignation as president of Harvard. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.

2) A statistically impossible lack of diversity

My second point is that we have a statistically impossible lack of diversity in social psychology. This graph shows Gallup data since 1992. Self-identified conservatives have long made up about 40% of the American public. Self identified liberals have made up about 20%. So the ratio in America is about two to one, conservative to liberal. What's the ratio in social psychology?

To begin calculating our ratio, I first turned to Google. I simply Googled the phrase "liberal social psychologist." I got 2740 hits. Then I changed liberal to conservative, and got 3 hits. So it looks like a ratio of roughly 1000 to one, liberal to conservative. But it’s actually much higher than that because this first one is some guy on a dating site asserting that his father was the only conservative social psychologist; this second one is a typographical error; and this third one is a conservative blogger who is angry about liberal bias in social psychology, who writes … “we can further conclude that the possible existence of a conservative social psychologist is statistically insignificant.” So Google failed to uncover a single instance of a conservative social psychologist who is currently active.

I next conducted a small survey by emailing 30 social psychologists I know, spanning all levels from very senior professors down to grad student. I simply asked:… “Can you reply to this message with the names of any social psychologists that you believe are politically conservative?” There were 4 names mentioned one time each, but each of them was hedged with doubt, such as “I don’t really know, but she did work with Phil Tetlock.” So I won’t print these 4 names. Peter Suedfeld got 2 votes, and he definitely worked with Tetlock. Rick McCauley got 3 votes. The next most common candidate was "I can’t think of any conservatives." And finally, it turns out there is a fair amount of agreement as to who the conservative is in social psychology, and its Phil Tetlock. So there you have it, we do have a conservative. That conservative blogger was wrong. Right?

Well, not quite. I wrote to Phil to ask him whether it was true, as widely believed, that he is a conservative. Phil wrote back to me, in characteristically Tetlockian fashion, and said: "I hold a rather complex (value-pluralistic) bundle of preferences and labeling me liberal or conservative or libertarian or even moderate is just not very informative."

But I pressed on in my search for the wild conservative social psychologist, and I found him, hiding in a bamboo grove outside of Philadelphia. Watch closely: there he is. Rick McCauley, at Bryn Mawr College. Rick is the only social psychologist I know of who publicly acknowledges that he is politically conservative.

I am extremely fortunate that I got to know Rick when I was a grad student at Penn, because Rick was a friend of one of my advisors, Paul Rozin. When I first met Rick I was wary of him. I had heard that he was a conservative. I had heard that he supported the Viet Nam war. It was only after I forged a personal relationship with him that I got over my distrust. I had never before met an actual conservative professor, and it took me a while to realize how valuable it was to hear from someone with a different perspective. Rick is now one of America's foremost experts on the psychology of terrorism. I am convinced that many of his insights have only been possible because he stands outside of the liberal force field.

But McCauley can't be the only conservative in social psychology. If we did a poll of the whole field, we’d surely find at least, what, five percent? Well, this room is just about the best sample of social psychologists we’re ever going to find, so let’s see. If there’s around a thousand people here, we should have about 50 conservatives. That would be 5%. So please tell me, by show of hands: How would you describe your political orientation? If you had to choose from one of these 4 labels, which would you pick? How many of you would describe yourself as liberal, or left of center. [At this point, a sea of hands went up. I estimated that it was between 80 and 90% of the audience, and I estimated the audience size to be about 1000 people.] How many of you would describe yourself as centrist or moderate? [approximately 20 hands went up]. How many of you would describe yourselves as libertarians? [Twelve hands went up] And when I asked how many would describe themselves as conservative, or right of center? [Exactly three hands went up.]

As you can see, we have nowhere near 50 conservatives in this room, we are nowhere near 5%. The actual number seems to be about 0.3%. In this room, the ratio of liberals to conservatives appears to be about 800 to 3, or 266 to 1. So the speaker in the earlier talk was correct when he said, from this stage: “I’m a good liberal democrat, just like every other social psychologist I know.”

Of course there are many reasons why conservatives would be underrepresented in social psychology, and most of them have nothing to do with discrimination or hostile climate. Research on personality consistently shows that liberals are higher on openness to experience. They’re more interested in novel ideas, and in trying to use science to improve society. So of course our field is and always will be mostly liberal. I don't think we should ever strive for exact proportional representation.

But a ratio of two or three hundred to one, in a nation where the underlying ratio is one to two? When we find any job in the nation in which women or minorities are underrepresented by a factor of three or four, we make the strong presumption that this constitutes evidence of discrimination. And if we can't find evidence of overt discrimination, we presume that there must be a hostile climate that discourages underrepresented groups from entering.

I submit to you that the underrepresentation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering.

3) Closeted Conservatives

And this brings me to my third point, closeted conservatives. I recently came across this narrative, written by a young gay woman in 1985:

Until about a year ago, I was very quiet about my sexual orientation... I often didn't understand the sexual jokes made by my colleagues… the people making the jokes thought that we all felt the same way, and I certainly wasn't going to reveal that I disagreed. That would have been much too awkward.

JB was really the first person I talked to about my sexual identity. He made me feel more comfortable and seemed to want to hear other perspectives…. Since then, taking PT’s class opened up a dialog and others have shared more as well. Before I thought that I was completely alone and was afraid to say much because of it. Now I feel both somewhat obligated to speak up (don't want others to feel as alone as I did) and also know that I have more support than I originally realized.

Compare that text to this political coming out narrative, which was sent to me last week, as I was searching for conservative social psychologists. One of my friends said, in response to my email survey, that he knew of two grad students who might be conservative. I wrote to each of them and asked them about their experiences in social psychology. Both of them said they are not conservative, but neither are they liberal, and because they are not liberal, they feel pressure to keep quiet. One of them wrote this to me. As you can see, it's nearly identical to the coming out narrative.

In fact, it differs by just five words, because that's all I had to change to convert this text… into this text, which I told you, falsely, was a coming out narrative from 1985. This is the text of the email that was sent to me last week, by a graduate student who is here in the room with us right now. She and other non-liberal students would like to come out of the closet, just as gay students wanted to 25 years ago. I think we have an obligation to help them.

Of course it’s a moral issue, and the moral argument about political discrimination is being developed by Richard Redding, at Chapman University Law School. But I’m going to set that aside. I'm not even going to make the moral argument. Rather, what I really want to emphasize today is that it is a scientific issue. We are hurting ourselves when we deprive ourselves of critics, of people who are as committed to science as we are, but who ask different questions, and make different background assumptions.

Here's the email I got from the other non-liberal student:

I consider myself very middle of the road politically: A social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work… Given what I've read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, thereby, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.

This too is from a student who is in the room with us right now.

This how we like to see ourselves. We social psychologists are supertolerant free thinkers. We celebrate diversity and non-conformity. We boldly follow our science wherever it takes us, and no matter whom it offends. We care only about truth!

But in reality, we are a tribal moral community. In support of that claim, I made three arguments. I said that, because we have sacred values other than truth, we have taboos that constrain our thinking; we have almost no moral/political diversity; and we have created a hostile climate for graduate students who don’t share those sacred values. If these statements are true, then I think we must begin some serious discussions about how to turn off the magnet.

IV) Our Bright Post-Partisan Future

If we can do so, I think the benefits to our field and our science will be enormous. One obvious benefit of post-partisan social psychology will be more credibility in Washington and with the general public. It will be easier to claim that psychology should be treated and funded like the hard sciences if legislators in both parties feel they can trust our research.

A second benefit of post-partisan social psychology will be rapid progress on new topics. When women flooded into the social sciences in the 1970s, they often investigated topics that had been overlooked by men. They found different topics interesting. Just think of Shelly Taylor’s work on the “tend and befriend” hypothesis. If we can welcome a few hundred conservatives in the next decade, I can guarantee that they’ll pick bushels of low-hanging fruit that the rest of us missed.

But the most important benefit we’ll get from shutting off the magnet will be better science and freer thinking. We’ll escape from some ruts we are currently stuck in.

Here's an example of one such rut. Stephen Jay Gould spent his life studying evolution in other animals, but was bitterly hostile to sociobiology, because he feared that it opened up a space for differences among human groups. Liberal politics DEMANDS that there be no innate differences between groups. So liberal politics DEMANDS that there has been nothing more than trivial genetic evolution in the 50,000 years since humans spread out from Africa. As Gould put it: "There's been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we've built with the same body and brain.”

But this view, so widely held in psychology and anthropology, was never based on any evidence. Darwin didn’t think evolution was so slow; he wrote extensively about the effects obtained in a few generations by animal breeders. In a spectacular experiment in the Soviet Union, Dmitri Belyaev chose the tamest fox pups in each generation to become the parents of the next generation. By ten generations new features began to appear, such as the white patch and curled tail that dogs have. By 30 generations he had created what was essentially a new species of domesticated animals. So genetic evolution doesn’t require thousands of generations; it can happen in dozens, at least under special conditions.

What about under the actual conditions of human history? How fast is human evolution? That’s an empirical question, and thanks to the human genome project, we now have empirical answers. Several studies in the last 5 years have examined genomes from hundreds of people around the world. These studies focus on bits of the genome called SNIPS, or "Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms." The studies rely upon a method for distinguishing SNIPS that simply drifted through populations randomly, and those that have been pulled along by natural selection. Here are the astonishing findings of one such study. [Hawks, Wang, Cochran, Harpending, & Moyzis (2007), Recent Acceleration of Human Adaptive Evolution, in PNAS] Each dot represents the number of SNIPS that seem to have been pulled along by natural selection, within each 200 year block of time, from 80,000 years ago to the present.

The red dots show findings from African genomes; the blue dots are from European genomes. The slight difference between the blue and red lines is irrelevant; it just shows that the speedup began earlier in Africa, which makes sense. [Because populations were much larger in Africa at that time, and increasing population size is the primary cause of the speedup; more people means more candidate mutations.] There’s just one feature of the graphs that matters, and that’s the gigantic increase in genetic change due to natural selection in the last 20 thousand years.

So Gould got it exactly backwards! Evolution isn’t slow, and it didn’t stop 50 thousand years ago. In fact, it sped up, between 10 and 100 times faster. Sure, the Pleistocene era was important. But I predict that in the next 10 years, the Holocene is where the action will be. That's the last 10-12 thousand years, since the ice ages ended. There’s a vast new frontier opening up for scientists interested in gene-culture co-evolution. The Holocene is a guaranteed scientific growth stock for the next decade. But we social psychologists cannot take part in the rally because of our paralyzing fear of race differences. So we’ll be stuck with 20th century evolutionary psychology for another generation or two.

The irony, in my mind, is that if evolution really is this fast, then race is no longer a very useful construct for genetics. The issue is not: what happened to Europeans vs. Africans, it’s what happened to this lowland group that took up agriculture and lived in a hierarchical social structure for a thousand years, versus a nearby highland group that took up herding and lived in a more egalitarian way. Or, how do groups respond, culturally and genetically, to decreasing parasite load, or to increasing opportunities for trade? Genes and cultural innovations interact, in small groups, not in continent-wide races. If we can shut off our magnet, then we can participate in these exciting new cross-disciplinary discussions.


In closing, I hope I’ve convinced you that we are in fact a tribal moral community, and that our science will improve if we can shut off our moral electromagnet. Here are 3 things you can do to make that happen. First, be careful about “locker room” talk. Be careful when there are students around about creating a hostile climate. Don’t say things like “I’m a good liberal democrat, just like every other social psychologist I know.”

Second, expose yourself to other perspectives. I have a project along with Ravi Iyer and Matt Motyl, at CivilPolitics.org, where we bring together materials to help people understand the other side. I also suggest that you read a book by Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions. And consider subscribing to National Review. I read about 8 magazines every month. Seven of them lean left. I get more new ideas from reading National Review than from any of the others.

Third, advocate for moral diversity, in admissions and hiring. It may perhaps be possible to shut off our magnet without finding any actual conservatives. But I think we should take our own rhetoric about the benefits of diversity seriously, and apply it to ourselves. I think we should make it a priority to find, nurture, and welcome a few dozen conservatives into our ranks. We are the world’s experts in this sort of challenge. We know how to do this.

Here is a screen shot from the SPSP webpage describing our diversity initiatives. It states as an explicit goal fostering “the career development of students who come from underrepresented groups, i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students.”

I'd like to make 3 specific suggestions, which I issue as challenges to our incoming president, and to the SPSP executive board. First, can we change “i.e.” to “e.g.?” Why should it be i.e.? Do we really want to say to the public that this is the official list of groups that get benefits? Second, can we tack on a phrase like: “or who bring helpful and underrepresented perspectives in other ways?” And third, I'd like us to set a goal for SPSP that we become 10% conservative by 2020. Yes, I am actually recommending affirmative action for conservatives. Set aside any moral arguments; my claim is that it would be good for us.

Just Imagine if we had a true diversity of perspectives in social psychology. Imagine if conservative students felt free enough to challenge our dominant ideas, and bold enough to pull us out of our deepest ideological ruts. That is my vision for our bright post-partisan future.

"The Bright Future Of Post-Partisan Social Psychology" By Jonathan Haidt

Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, Mark Leary, Paul Bloom, Steven Heine, Alison Gopnik, David Pizarro, Lee Jussim

Professor of Psychology, Princeton University; Recipient, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

Great piece, perfect for Edge — a real service.

Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; Author, Stumbling On Happiness

Jon Haidt is one of the smartest people I know, an exquisite writer and orator, and a good friend. What he says about social psychology is both interesting and true. Unfortunately, what's interesting isn't true and what's true isn't interesting.

It is deeply uninteresting to learn that most social psychologists are liberal. Jon's survey of a few friends and his afternoon with Google merely tell us what people who collect serious data have told us many times before: in every room of the academy, liberals outnumber conservatives by a whopping margin. The interesting question isn't whether, but why?

One well-chewed possibility is that liberals are more likely to want to become professors. For example, liberals may be more interested in new ideas, more willing to work for peanuts, or just more intelligent, all of which may push them to pursue the academic life while deterring their conservative peers. Jon tells us that that such factors undoubtedly contribute to the lopsided ratio of liberals to conservatives in social psychology, but that they cannot fully explain it because the ratio is just too lopsided, representing what he calls an impossible lack of diversity.

Impossible? Really? How does he know that? Exactly how lopsided must a ratio be before we are allowed to conclude that it could not possibly occur without bias? Ten to one? A thousand to one?

Jon doesn't say because Jon doesn't know. And yet, that doesn't stop him from concluding that "the underrepresentation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering." This is, of course, an entirely indefensible conclusion. Four decades ago, the economist Thomas Schelling showed that in a world completely free of bias, communities can become totally segregated through the voluntary actions of people who have a slight desire to be near just one person of their own kind and not an iota of antipathy toward others. Could the segregated neighborhood of social psychology be an instance of this phenomenon? Jon doesn't know that either. And yet, failing to know the cause of our segregation doesn't stop him from prescribing a remedy that would make conservatives seethe: an affirmative action program, complete with a target quota of ten percent. Why is ten the right number? Why not twenty, or two? Because…oh damn, there's one of those annoying questions about data again. Can't we all just get along?

The true and uninteresting fact is that social psychology has many more liberals than conservatives and this may or may not be the result of an anti-conservative bias. Jon sympathetically cites Larry Summers while missing Larry's point, which was that a lopsided ratio of men to women in the Physics Department, or of liberals to conservatives in the Psychology Department, or of whites to blacks in the Fire Department, does not in and of itself provide evidence of bias. Such evidence requires us to dig deeper into the data with the sophisticated tools that science provides. Perhaps Jon's beautifully crafted speech was merely meant to start a debate. But scientists start debates by raising questions, not by making up the answers.

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University; Author, The Curse of the Self

Undoubtedly, every scientist, indeed every person, sees the world through the filters of his or her personal values, life experiences, and personality.  And, undoubtedly, the greater the variety of personal perspectives that a group of people bring to any enterprise, the broader, more creative, and potentially correct the ideas they will develop.  Although I do not doubt that the liberal leanings of behavioral and social scientists have led to impoverished ways of looking at human behavior as well as to occasional biases, the big question for me is the degree to which liberalism has introduced bias into psychological science. 

First, only a portion of social psychologists, and even fewer psychological scientists in general, study topics that have anything whatsoever to do with liberal values.  To those who are unfamiliar with social psychology, Haidt's message could be interpreted to suggest that the entire field is tainted by liberal biases, but it's difficult to imagine how moral or political values would contaminate most theorizing and research in social psychology. I am not questioning that certain topics—such as those involving race, gender, morality, and sexuality—are sometimes susceptible to the liberal biases of the researcher. But those topics constitute only a portion of the field, and even much of the work on those topics would not seem easily swayed by researchers' values. It would be an instructive exercise for a panel of liberal and conservative researchers to review all articles published in the leading journals in social psychology over the past five years to see what proportion of the articles could reasonably be assumed to be biased by the researcher's ideology.

Second, the argument assumes far more homogeneity among "liberals" than, in fact, exists, and a casual reader of Haidt's text might assume that every social psychologist is a flaming liberal across all political, moral, and social domains. But as I think of social psychologists with whom I have discussed personal values, I find that we are a very mixed group. Although most would choose the label liberal rather than conservative to describe themselves, I can think of many self-identified liberal colleagues who are nonetheless strongly conservative with respect to morality, fiscal matters, law-and-order issues, family issues, and even gender.  Bifurcating social psychologists into liberals and conservatives obscures a great deal of diversity that is relevant to understanding the implications of Haidt's argument. 

Haidt is undoubtedly correct that the field has a liberal leaning, that these values sometimes influence our work in undesired ways, and that broader perspectives of all kinds would benefit psychological science.  However, much of the discussion of this issue lacks the nuance that is needed to benefit from Haidt's message. 

Professor of Psychology, Yale University; Author,How Pleasure Works

Imagine that you are a beginning graduate student accepted into a top-ranked psychology department. The first colloquium talk you go to is about deception, from a famous social psychologist. In the middle of her talk, she makes a remark about how some people are simply incapable of ever telling the truth, and then she puts up a large picture of Barack Obama. People roar with laughter, and there's a bit of applause. You are a teaching fellow in a large Introduction to Psychology course, and the professor talks a bit about popular delusions, giving the example of liberals who believe in global warming. Al Gore is mentioned in a lecture on clinical psychology, in the context of narcissistic personality disorder. Everyone you know is a conservative Republican and assumes that you are one too, making off-hand jokes to you about brain-dead liberals.

But suppose you are, in fact, a liberal yourself. How would you feel about this new life you have chosen?

Dan Gilbert is right that we don't know why there are so few conservatives in psychology departments. There are no doubt many factors at work. But nobody wants to be part of a community where their identity is the target of ridicule and malice. This is obvious enough when it comes to other sorts of bias, involving gender, race, and sexual orientation. I don't know why there are so few female graduate students in physics, but if it turns out that there are pervasive and overt sexist attitudes in physics departments, it would be perverse to insist that this isn't at least part of the explanation.

The analogy isn't perfect here. Political views can be right or wrong; they can change; one can and should argue about them. But there's a big difference between civil debate and the sorts of examples I gave above, which reflect what Jonathan Haidt correctly describes as a locker room mentality.

Even if this mentality turns out to have nothing to do with why there are so few conservatives in psychology, it's still ugly behavior, surprisingly so for a community that claims to value diversity. Jon is right that we should do better.

Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia; Author, Cultural Psychology

Science benefits from diverse perspectives, and key advances often occur when ideas slip across disciplinary borders. But many invisible norms and practices in a field can discourage the mingling of diverse ideas. Jon highlights just how homogenous social psychology is in terms of its members' political leanings, and he's right in noting that the field bears a substantial cost by not considering more diverse political perspectives.

I'd like to highlight another way that psychology is narrow: both the people conducting the research and the people who are the targets of the research largely come from a select few cultural backgrounds. Here are some indicators of the narrowness of the field: A review of international scientific productivity found that American-based psychologists accounted for 70% of the citations in psychology, a proportion higher than any of the other sciences reviewed (and approximately twice the proportion of chemistry). The next biggest contributing nations are all English-speaking ones: the UK, Canada, and Australia, respectively.

Likewise, my colleagues, Joe Henrich, Ara Norenzayan, and I, have calculated that a randomly selected American college student is more than 4000 times more likely to end up as a participant in a psychology study than is a randomly selected person living outside of the West. These nonrepresentative samples wouldn't be such a problem if people everywhere thought in the same ways, but the available evidence shows that in many key ways they do not.

Unlike chemistry, where the object of study is independent of the researcher's political or cultural perspective, psychologists study people. They often get the inspiration for their ideas by their own introspections and by observing those around them. A narrow range of perspectives isn't a problem if one hopes to explain just those people who share those perspectives. But often psychologists purport to be studying human nature, and when the field only attracts those with a limited range of political and cultural perspectives, they may produce an incomplete and misleading caricature of that nature.

As a result, the field selects topics that are a common concern for this narrow slice of humanity, but neglects many others that are a concern elsewhere; researchers project an understanding of how the mind works on to people whose minds might not work in those same ways; and interventions based on psychological principles that are identified within one set of borders are applied to people living under different circumstances, often with disastrous results (see Ethan Watters's recent book, Crazy Like Us, on the human costs of exporting American psychiatric practices).

As in all topics of inquiry, great advances are often made when diverse ideas come together. Psychology would benefit by becoming as politically and culturally diverse as other branches of science.

Psychologist, UC, Berkeley; Author, The Philosophical Baby

Jon Haidt makes two rather different claims about the liberal over-representation in psychology — first, that there is an implicit censorship that keeps us from considering ideas that violate some general "sacred" principles, and second, that a greater diversity of political views would lead to a richer psychological understanding.

However, the examples he gives of this implicit censorship undermine rather than support his case. Larry Summers and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were not psychologists and were not making claims in the context of psychological or scientific discussions. Larry Summers was the president of Harvard University speaking to a group considering the underrepresentation of women at that very University, Daniel Moynihan was a policy advisor to the government. Summers claim was an implicit policy recommendation, do nothing, as was Moynihan's. In Summer's case in particular, the claim not only ignored all the complexities of gene-environment interaction that we teach in first-year developmental psychology but was part of a very long history of such claims being used precisely to justify policies of exclusion and neglect. Of course, policy decisions ought to involve values and ethical judgments — how else would you make them?

In fact, of course, studies of biological bases of gender differences, far from being censored or even the subject of disapproval, are ubiquitous, both in psychology itself and even more so in popularizations of psychology. Similarly there are many studies of the relationship between family structure and disadvantage. There is no evidence at all that such studies are somehow censored or discouraged in the scientific community. In fact, given the value scientists place on novelty and contrarianism, making an obnoxious claim on slender evidence is often actually a pretty good recipe for fame.

As in the case of other kinds of diversity, however, often the real issue is not whether views are censored but whether they are considered at all. And here I think Jon may have a good point. The kinds of topics that strike us as worthy of study are often influenced by our background knowledge, interests and general assumptions. Less reductive discussions of religion and more thoughtful discussions of, say, the values of tradition or sacredness, might emerge with a wider range of participants and views.

I've argued in my own field that the moral value of family life, a topic that has traditionally been seen as "conservative", has been relatively neglected. Even here though, it isn't at all obvious that the actual political views of scientists are the best predictor of whether they will broaden the field of study. Richard Shweder has been perhaps the most forceful advocate of extending our picture of morality to include additional values that are often conservative, even though his field, cultural anthropology, is much more self-consciously leftist than psychology. My guess is that we suffer more from institutional and intellectual narrowness than the political variety.

Psychologist, Cornell University; Researcher in Moral Judgment

Jon Haidt is largely right about the little tolerance we have for conservatives in our academic departments. I have witnessed the effects of this bias while presenting some of my own work.

When I report (in talks given at other psychology departments around the US) that in a certain set of studies my co-authors and I observe an inconsistency in the way liberal participants make moral judgments, the amount of effort expended by some members of the audience toward defending the liberal response as "rational" never fails to surprise me. Especially when compared to the minimal effort they exert toward defending a similar set of results showing inconsistency on the part of conservative participants (this draws another criticism altogether — that reporting irrationality on the part of conservatives is so obvious as to be uninteresting). I am open to the possibility that all of these studies are horribly flawed. What I find disconcerting is how quick my audience is to find flaws in studies that disagree with their political views.

That said, I think a key part of Jon's argument is presented in a way that will prevent people from seeing his larger point. For Jon it seems obvious that "moral diversity" is something that should be encouraged. Really? Surely it's not the case that we ought to fight for equal representation of bigots, rapists, or pedophiles in our academic institutions. But I don't think Jon means this. I think what he means is something far less controversial — that, among other things, we should be open-minded, be respectful of others, and understand that disagreements can be had between people with good intentions.

I know that it's difficult to know where to draw the line between respecting alternative viewpoints and sacrificing our belief in moral right and wrong. But I think it's probably somewhere between "the government shouldn't be in the job of providing health care" and "rape is okay." My fear is that calling for moral diversity implies that the line cannot be drawn at all.

As eloquent as I found Jon's talk to be, he leads even better by example. Right after reading Jon's 2000 piece ("The emotional dog and its rational tail"), where he argued that moral judgment was largely driven by gut, emotional responses, I sent him an email. I was motivated to send it because, until that point, I had never disagreed with anyone as strongly as I did with him. Though I was a 3rd year graduate student whom he had never heard of, he immediately responded, set up a time to chat on the phone, and had an hourlong discussion with me about moral psychology. From that interaction I learned exactly what Jon means when he says that we should respect the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree. And I hope that this point is not lost in all the media attention his talk will undoubtedly bring.

Professor and Chair, Rutgers Psychology; Co-Editor, Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction; Stereotype Accuracy: Toward Appreciating Group Differences

I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to and enthusiasm for Jon Haidt's speech. As he so refreshingly pointed out, liberal bias infects, distorts, and undermines the quality of our science.

Dan Gilbert usually possesses an extraordinary depth and breadth of knowledge of social psychology. His lack of awareness of the abundance of data attesting to liberal hegemony and scientific dysfunction indicates exactly the type of blind spot one would predict on the basis of Haidt's claim that social psychology has become a "sacred community" whose values "bind and blind." Here is a merely scratched surface of data:

1. In 1985, Stephen Ceci, Douglas Peters, and Jonathan Plotkin submitted research proposals to over 150 Internal Review Boards, all of which were identical except for one difference. The stated research goal was either to demonstrate that, in employment situations, "reverse discrimination" or "discrimination" was a major problem. Reverse discrimination proposals were approved less frequently than the discrimination proposals. Moreover, "political implications" were given as "reasons" to reject the "reverse discrimination is a problem" proposal about twice as often as they were given for rejecting the "discrimination" proposal.

2. Gilbert's commentary, when juxtaposed with typical social psychological discourse on inequality, is more evidence. Many social psychologists write as if inequality reflects prejudice and discrimination (eg. almost anything on Social Dominance or System Justification Theory; or any of several papers in law journals linking broad scale racial inequality to experimental implicit association tests).

When the topic turns to politically motivated scientific distortion in social psychology, the "people might assort themselves into different groups without a shred of discrimination" argument emerges. Unless one also makes this argument when attempting to understand differences in the distributions of different demographic groups into different settings, this is an extraordinary double standard, and itself reflects the biasing effect of liberal politics. The argument that inequality even partially reflects merit, culture, preference, etc. is the most offensive brand of bigotry when it involves a demographic group and therefore offends the liberal community; but it is merely good scientific analysis when used to justify liberal hegemony within social psychology. You can't have it both ways, and even the attempt to do so reflects exactly the type of problem Haidt highlighted.

3. A case study. I have a paper originally written as if it tested the "conservatism as motivated social cognition" theory implying that conservatives are much more biased than liberals (in our research, this was tested by having them evaluate written materials supporting either a liberal or conservative position). We found the opposite: That liberals were much more biased than were conservatives. We could not get this published. So we reframed the paper to test a "dual process" theory of political ideology, removed all mention of liberals being more biased than conservatives (although the data is right there for anyone to see), and the paper is now in press.

Three cheers for Jon Haidt's speech. if it leads even one researcher to be more sensitive to the extraordinary double standards and blindness that sometimes taint our field, it will have been a rousing success.

Edited by John Brockman

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"Edge is an organization of deep, visionary thinkers." —Atlantic.com


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Contributors include STEVEN PINKER on how the mind adapts to new technologies • NASSIM N TALEB on the destruction of precise knowledge • RICHARD DAWKINS on the consequences of infinite information • NICHOLAS CARR in the future of deep thought • HELEN FISHER on finding love and romance thought the Net • Wikipedia cofounder LARRY SANGER on the promise and pitfalls of the "hive mind" • SAM HARRIS on the wired brain • BRIAN ENO on finding authenticity in a world of endless reproduction

Other thinkers include tech theorists TIM O'REILLY, CLAY SHIRKY. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, and EVGENY MOROZOV; founding Wired editor KEVIN KELLY; Google Executive MARISSA MAYER; computer scientists JARON LANIER; Philosopher DANIEL C. DENNETT; physicists FRANK WILCZEK, MARTIN REES, LISA RANDALL, LEE SMOLIN; psychologist MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI; geneticist GEORGE CHURCH; novelists TOM McCARTHY and DOUGLAS COUPLAND; actor ALAN ALDA; artists MARINA ABRAMAMOVIC and AI WEIWIE; X Prize founder PETER H. DIAMANDIS; science historian GEORGE DYSON; and TED Conferences curator CHRIS ANDERSON.

"Edge, the high-minded ideas and tech site. (New York Times Week In Review)

"The answers are remarkable." (Sueddeutsche Zeitung)

"Edge is an organization of deep, visionary thinkers on science and culture." (The Atlantic Wire)

"The German Internet debate is stuck in the nineties. Brockman's question this year sets the chord for questions that take us beyond this set of attitudes. (Frank Schirrmacher, Feuilleton Editor & Co-Publisher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

"If you have more time and think your attention span is up to it, we recommend you enjoy the whole scope of their length and diversity by visiting edge.org." (Ana Gershenfeld, Publico [Lisbon] Weekend Magazine Cover Story)

(* based On The Edge Question 2010: "How Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think?")

Edited by John Brockman
Harper Perennial

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Contributors include: RICHARD DAWKINS on cross-species breeding; IAN McEWAN on the remote frontiers of solar energy; FREEMAN DYSON on radiotelepathy; STEVEN PINKER on the perils and potential of direct-to-consumer genomics; SAM HARRIS on mind-reading technology; NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB on the end of precise knowledge; CHRIS ANDERSON on how the Internet will revolutionize education; IRENE PEPPERBERG on unlocking the secrets of the brain; LISA RANDALL on the power of instantaneous information; BRIAN ENO on the battle between hope and fear; J. CRAIG VENTER on rewriting DNA; FRANK WILCZEK on mastering matter through quantum physics.

"a provocative, demanding clutch of essays covering everything from gene splicing to global warming to intelligence, both artificial and human, to immortality... the way Brockman interlaces essays about research on the frontiers of science with ones on artistic vision, education, psychology and economics is sure to buzz any brain." (Chicago Sun-Times)

"11 books you must read — Curl up with these reads on days when you just don't want to do anything else: 5. John Brockman's This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Shape the Future" (Forbes India)

"Full of ideas wild (neurocosmetics, "resizing ourselves," "intuit[ing] in six dimensions") and more close-to-home ("Basketball and Science Camps," solar technology"), this volume offers dozens of ingenious ways to think about progress" (Publishers Weekly — Starred Review)

"A stellar cast of intellectuals ... a stunning array of responses...Perfect for: anyone who wants to know what the big thinkers will be chewing on in 2010. " (New Scientist)

"Pouring over these pages is like attending a dinner party where every guest is brilliant and captivating and only wants to speak with you—overwhelming, but an experience to savor." (Seed)

(* based On The Edge Annual Question — 2009: "What Will Change Everything?)

Edited by John Brockman
With An Introduction By BRIAN ENO


Contributors include: STEVEN PINKER on the future of human evolution • RICHARD DAWKINS on the mysteries of courtship SAM HARRIS on why Mother Nature is not our friend NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB on the irrelevance of probability ALUN ANDERSON on the reality of global warming ALAN ALDA considers, reconsiders, and re-reconsiders God LISA RANDALL on the secrets of the Sun RAY KURZWEIL on the possibility of extraterrestrial life BRIAN ENO on what it means to be a "revolutionary" HELEN FISHER on love, fidelity, and the viability of marriage…and many others.

"The splendidly enlightened Edge Website (www.edge.org) has rounded off each year of inter-disciplinary debate by asking its heavy-hitting contributors to answer one question. I strongly recommend a visit." The Independent

"A great event in the Anglo-Saxon culture." El Mundo

"As fascinating and weighty as one would imagine." The Independent

"They are the intellectual elite, the brains the rest of us rely on to make sense of the universe and answer the big questions. But in a refreshing show of new year humility, the world's best thinkers have admitted that from time to time even they are forced to change their minds." The Guardian

"Even the world's best brains have to admit to being wrong sometimes: here, leading scientists respond to a new year challenge." The Times

"Provocative ideas put forward today by leading figures."The Telegraph

"The world's finest minds have responded with some of the most insightful, humbling, fascinating confessions and anecdotes, an intellectual treasure trove. ... Best three or four hours of intense, enlightening reading you can do for the new year. Read it now." San Francisco Chronicle

"As in the past, these world-class thinkers have responded to impossibly open-ended questions with erudition, imagination and clarity." The News & Observer

"A jolt of fresh thinking...The answers address a fabulous array of issues. This is the intellectual equivalent of a New Year's dip in the lake — bracing, possibly shriek-inducing, and bound to wake you up." The Globe and Mail

"Answers ring like scientific odes to uncertainty, humility and doubt; passionate pleas for critical thought in a world threatened by blind convictions." The Toronto Star

"For an exceptionally high quotient of interesting ideas to words, this is hard to beat. ...What a feast of egg-head opinionating!" National Review Online

Today's Leading Thinkers on Why Things Are Good and Getting Better
Edited by John Brockman
Introduction by DANIEL C. DENNETT


"The optimistic visions seem not just wonderful but plausible." Wall Street Journal

"Persuasively upbeat." O, The Oprah Magazine

"Our greatest minds provide nutshell insights on how science will help forge a better world ahead." Seed

"Uplifting...an enthralling book."The Mail on Sunday

Today's Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable
Edited by John Brockman
Introduction by STEVEN PINKER


"Danger — brilliant minds at work...A brilliant bok: exhilarating, hilarious, and chilling." The Evening Standard (London)

"A selection of the most explosive ideas of our age." Sunday Herald

"Provocative" The Independent

"Challenging notions put forward by some of the world's sharpest minds" Sunday Times

"A titillating compilation" The Guardian

"Reads like an intriguing dinner party conversation among great minds in science" Discover

Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
Edited by John Brockman
Introduction by IAN MCEWAN


"Whether or not we believe proof or prove belief, understanding belief itself becomes essential in a time when so many people in the world are ardent believers." LA Times

"Belief appears to motivate even the most rigorously scientific minds. It stimulates and challenges, it tricks us into holding things to be true against our better judgment, and, like scepticism -its opposite -it serves a function in science that is playful as well as thought-provoking. not we believe proof or prove belief, understanding belief itself becomes essential in a time when so many people in the world are ardent believers." The Times

"John Brockman is the PT Barnum of popular science. He has always been a great huckster of ideas." The Observer

"An unprecedented roster of brilliant minds, the sum of which is nothing short of an oracle — a book ro be dog-eared and debated." Seed

"Scientific pipedreams at their very best." The Guardian

"Makes for some astounding reading." Boston Globe

"Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question." BBC Radio 4

"Intellectual and creative magnificence" The Skeptical Inquirer


Edge Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit private operating foundation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher

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