Conservatives have found Haidt’s conclusions congenial, free of the condescension and tendentious research that characterize so much of this Science. It’s disappointing to learn that many of his findings are drawn from a highly self-selected sample of participants. Haidt hosts a website called YourMorals.org, where 250,000 web surfers have come to fill out questionnaires about their personal views and habits. A collection of a quarter of a million people is a sample so large that it’s not properly a sample. And the self-selection problem is unavoidable. For one thing, respondents are restricted to people who have a computer and are willing to surf the Internet until they stumble across Haidt’s website. Studies show that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to fill in Internet questionnaires for an hour or more, and those who don’t. The second kind of people—eminently rational, typically busy, possessing a life—will be left out.
The real problem with Haidt’s psychopunditry is that it shares with other kinds of determinism a depressing moral impoverishment. Haidt’s own centrism is an artifact of his Science. If the appeal of one idea versus another is explained by a man’s biology (interacting with a few environmental factors) rather than its content, there’s really not much to argue about. Politics is drained of the meaning that human beings have always sought from it. Haidt criticizes his peers for using psychology to “explain away” conservatism, and good for him. Unfortunately, he wants to explain away liberalism too, so that our politics is no longer understood as a clash of interests and well-developed ideas but an altercation between two psychological and evolutionary types.
This may be one benefit to this new era we’re entering: The latest, most cutting-edge punditry may do away with punditry altogether.
The New Phrenology | The Weekly Standard. Andy Ferguson is just the best. The whole article is great.