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Evaluativism vs Jugementalism: Psychopathy, Narcisism, and an application of the GRIN-SQ

My grandfather was a community leader and king of his family until he got Alzheimer’s—

by József Rippl-Rónai“Dad, your shoe’s untied.”

“So what?”

“So tie it.”

“It’ll just come undone again.”

“You might trip and fall.”

“So what?”

“So please tie your shoe.”

“I’ve tried. It won’t stay tied. I’m just gonna sit here anyway. It won’t hurt anybody.”

“Eventually, you’ll have to get up. Your shoe needs to be tied. May I tie it for you?”

“I just told you it won’t stay tied. You think I can’t tie my own shoes?”

“No, I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Whether I get hurt is my own business. Tie your own shoes!”

“Give me your foot.”

“Stay way.”

“This is not negotiable. Your shoe will be tied.”

“It’s my shoe. I’ll tie it myself when I’m good and ready.”

“I don’t trust you. Give me your foot.”

“You don’t trust your own father? Well that’s a fine thing…”

“Give me the damn foot! This is not rocket-science, Dad. Here…see? It ties.”

When my grandfather got Alzheimer’s, he lost respect. He became the frequent victim of judgmentalism—judgment against his beliefs, against his apathy, and against his stubbornness. That might have been a good thing. It might also be good to judge Nazis, illiteracy, and certain religious cults. Judgmentalism isn’t necessarily bad.

When people hear that evaluativism means discrimination against people whose values differ from one’s own, they can easily confuse evaluativism with judgmentalism, but not all judgmentalism qualifies as evaluativism.

Evaluativism is the discrimination that springs from the philosophy that certain disagreements, even about facts, ultimately spring from differences in values and therefore cannot be resolved as factual disagreements. However, some other disagreements spring from mere ignorance, immaturity, or illness. As examples, education can resolve disagreements over whether 2+2=4 or whether a shoe can be tied, so the evaluativist does not endorse discrimination against one’s opponent in such disagreements. In such disagreements, the evaluativist instead endorses education or health care. The evaluativist endorses segregation or other forms of discrimination only when disagreement cannot be resolved any other way.

Thus, evaluativism is discrimination across The divide with a capital “T.” It’s the permanent divide, the divide that will never be resolved. Doctrines come and go, so mere discrimination on the basis of doctrine does not qualify as evaluativism. Families merge, so mere discrimination on the basis of family loyalty or race loyalty or national loyalty do not qualify as evaluativism. Social norms advance, so discriminating against someone merely because of their stance on an issue such as gay marriage does not qualify as evaluativism—someday both liberals and conservatives will agree about that issue as much as they now agree about interracial marriage (or more). However, all of these conflicts may involve evaluativism; they may be battles in an ongoing war across The divide such that the end of one conflict leaves the same people on opposite sides of yet another conflict.

In other words, evaluativism may be the root cause behind many conflicts (which are blamed on other varieties of judgmentalism only because we fail to notice the sides in the larger war). Stop evaluativism, and a great many other conflicts may peter out. The point of the philosophers who advanced the notion of evaluativism is that the sequence of conflicts never ends, so they must be driven by deeper disagreements that can never be resolved. The evaluativist’s solution is to acknowledge this root-cause and handle it directly through segregation on the basis of our deeper disagreements (like in the book and film Divergent).  In contrast, the solution recommended by GRINfree.com is to handle the root-cause by protecting the fundamental types within each family as one would preserve diversity in an ecosystem.

How to tell when judgmentalism qualifies as evaluativism

Although the term “evaluative diversity” shares a root with the term “evaluativism,” discrimination on the basis of evaluative diversity does not always qualify as evaluativism. Discrimination against GRIN types qualifies as evaluativism because GRIN types are permanent (they are destined to re-evolve if eliminated), but evaluative diversity also includes diversity of doctrines, family loyalties (etc.). “Evaluative diversity” is a term from the 1960s. The newer term “GRIN diversity” aims to serve as a refinement that gets to the root-cause of our disagreements.

Alzheimer’s provides an example of evaluative diversity that should not be protected. Evaluative diversity would be reduced if it were cured, because that would return people like my grandfather to perspectives more like the rest of us. Thus, a blanket protection for all evaluative diversity would prevent a cure for Alzheimer’s. It would also prevent education. Yet a cure for Alzheimer’s would not reduce GRIN diversity—Alzheimer’s certainly does not represent a fundamental type destined to evolve in all societies. We cannot have a viable movement to protect all evaluative diversity, but we may be able to have a viable movement to protect GRIN diversity. Some such new concept is required to distinguish which evaluative diversity to protect and which judgmentalism to combat. The GRIN model is the best tool we have, thus far, for making that distinction.

Here’s a practical example: Psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism are three often-criticized personalities. I helped Ray Aldag run a survey among 197 Mechanical Turkers in which respondents answered the GRIN-SQ along with tests for each of these personalities to determine which personalities (if any) deserve protection. Natural gadflies were significantly more Machiavellian (d=0.74) and psychopathic (d=0.69), natural negotiators were significantly more Machiavellian (d=0.47), and the naturally relational and institutional were significantly less Machiavellian and psychopathic (d=-0.30, d=-0.40; d=-0.72, d=-0.43). None of the types were significantly more or less narcissistic.

These results suggest that the concept of psychopathy is a sloppy way of referring to natural gadflies (developed before we had a concept of GRIN types). Meanwhile, the concept of Machiavellianism is a sloppy way of dividing the GRIN types into two camps: the natural gadflies and negotiators vs. the naturally relational and institutional. Judgement against psychopathy and Machiavellianism qualifies as evaluativism, but we have no evidence that judgment against narcissism qualifies as evaluativism. Narcissism may be something we should try to cure; psychopathy and Machiavellianism appear to be misunderstood individual differences we should work to de-stigmatize.

Hopefully this example provides a sense of the importance of refining or confirming the GRIN model. The general public seems predisposed to believe that the narcissist is the misunderstood character—maybe even a viable candidate for president (perhaps because people of all GRIN types are as likely to be narcissists). To hear that the psychopath is the character who needs to be appreciated comes as a shock. It has even been proposed that the neurodiversity movement exclude psychopaths, even though that would be obviously inconsistent (see here, here and here). If psychopathy really is misunderstood, it is plausible that public opinion polls and scriptural exegesis would fail to discover that. The claim needs to be tested scientifically. It requires something like the GRIN-SQ, and the the GRIN-SQ is what we will use until something better is available.

To evaluate types of evaluative diversity may sound ironically circular, and it would be simpler if we didn’t need to draw a line between good evaluative diversity and bad. It would be simpler to embrace all diversity and stop trying to cure Alzheimer’s, narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, etc. It would also be simpler to embrace all judgmentalism and discriminate against anyone who disagrees with us. Neither of these simple approaches is ideal. Furthermore, we live in an age in which we can manipulate our own genes (or at least do things to reduce the odds that our children will be of certain types), so “accept the diversity we are given” no longer holds as a default. Instead of relying on armchair philosophy, public opinion polls, or scriptural exegesis, we need to actually conduct the science to distinguish the evaluative types and to determine which ones are interdependent.

The GRIN-SQ demonstrates such research practically—if anyone has better ideas, please let us know.

Deception as a Means to Manage Evaluative Diversity

Someone more practical than me realized that there are many potential ways to manage evaluative diversity, some of which involve deception.

Photo of Jonathan G. Meath portraying Santa Claus.When I was very young, I ate peas because my Dad told me that they would “put hair on my chest,” and I was extra-well-behaved each December because I was reminded that St. Nicholas was watching. Children do need to be controlled, and any parent who doesn’t consider using deception to control their children is impractical.

To manage evaluative diversity essentially means to prevent one particular evaluative type from counter-productively overwhelming the others. Since the typical person has an evaluative bias, this typically requires moving decision-making from the individual-level to the group-level. Can that be accomplished through deception?

Churches, governments, and markets are three examples in which we move decision-making from the individual-level to the group-level, thus enabling management of evaluative diversity. However, all three institutions existed long-before any one was able to effectively articulate an argument about evaluative biases, so I submit that the only way they could have manage evaluative diversity is through deception: promising to do something else.

Markets, Governments and Churches

Markets have been criticized of late for failing to direct our aggregate power in socially productive directions. At the center of the criticism is a dispute over the purpose of markets: Do they exist to serve society or do they exist to make individual investors rich? Economists point at decade-long trends towards share buybacks and away from productive investments (like R&D and entrepreneurship) as evidence that the purpose of markets has shifted to the latter.

Yet, when we transfer our money (and thus our decision-making power) into market investments (e.g. retirement funds), the promise made to us is not “The market will find more socially-responsible ways to spend your money than you would on your own.” Rather, the promise which convinces us to submit is “The market will make you rich (or at least protect what wealth you have).” If markets exist to benefit society rather than to make the rich richer, then they do so by deception, and that deception may be wearing thin.

Governments have evolved as well. Early governments were dictatorial, citizens had no choice but obey, and governors claimed to apply greater wisdom to advance a greater good. As governments shifted towards democracy, people obeyed less because they considered their governments wiser than themselves, and more because they believed that they themselves controlled their governments. Accordingly, the responsibility assigned to politicians shifted from advancing the greater good to representing the interests of their constituents (against politicians elected by other constituents).

The major criticism levied against modern democracy is that it has become so polarized that politicians are driven less by wisdom than by a commitment to oppose each other (party against party, country against country). If the primary responsibility of a politician is to fight for the interests of their constituents, then this makes sense. If voters have enough individual wisdom to vote, then it also makes sense that voters would elect representatives who obey their constituents. However, wisdom is objective, so individually wise voters would not vote in opposing directions (which, as it turns out, voter do). Apparently, we are deceived about our individual wisdom, and that deception is wearing thin as well.

The promises offered by religions may look different from the promises offered by markets (i.e. to get rich) or government (i.e. to gain control). The ancient doctrines of religions teach that we are not wise as individuals. They teach that it is wise to relinquish some of our decision-making power to religious authorities or communities. As Maya Angelou put it,

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.

Yet, if religious practitioners believe this teaching—if they doubt their own decision-making instincts because religions promise greater wisdom than individuals can muster individually—then why do religious practitioners shop-around to find a church or develop their own personal religion (perhaps combining the religions of their parents)? Clearly, there must be some other promise (i.e. other than the promise of wisdom) which draws modern religious practitioners to religious communities.

I submit that making a career path out of clerical service has turned religions into businesses, and religious organizations accordingly adapt to the demands of their markets. Thus, they promise affirmation, entertainment, friendship, charity, even political advocacy—whatever their unwise practitioners want. The story might have played-out differently if one religion refined its doctrine (or public understanding of its doctrine) so much that it was clearly superior to all conflicting doctrines. However, the statistics tell us that has not happened. Religious scholars failed to reveal the truth in any religion, so, in practice, religion relies on deception as much as government and markets do.

History shows changes in all three kinds of institutions, changes in the direction of trying to fulfill the deceptions which are used to control people. In becoming increasingly accountable to these deceptions, markets, governments and churches became increasingly trapped in them, distracted from accomplishing social good. It becomes less and less practical to come-clean and demand, “Ask not what your economy/government/church can do for you…”

The Alternative to Deception

“Deception” is a word with evil connotations, but deception can be very kind. I do not regret being controlled by my parents through deception. I needed to be controlled, and I doubt that other forms of control would have been kinder. Likewise, the deceptions of churches, governments and markets shifted us correctly from individual-level decision-making to group-level decision-making. Why not use deception to get there?

The problem with deception is its instability. The problem is not just that people who are being deceived eventually see through the deception, but that other people leverage the deception to twist the institution. At the extreme, we have Wall Street bankers who exploit regulatory loopholes faster than regulators can plug them, lobbyists who influence policy through earmarks and political blackmail, and evangelists who build flashy mega-churches where only a minority even attend regularly much less practice their religion the rest of the week. The people at the extremes get wealthy, so the extremes will not go away, and extremes are just the tip of the iceberg.

Many people who see problems with churches, governments or markets hope to reform them by building more sophisticated deceptions: new promises that no one yet knows how to exploit. Maybe that’s a good idea. Then again, the pattern seems to suggest that any deception, no matter how sophisticated, will eventually fail.

The alternative is to face the truth, to develop genuine social self-awareness, a realization that each of us is a mere part of something larger. We do not speak of the welfare of a muscle cell terms of its happiness, its freedom, its status relative to its neighbors, or even its personal salvation. We speak of the welfare of a muscle cell in terms of its ability to serve its function in the body. Similarly, when we achieve social self-awareness, our concerns will become, “What is my personal role?” and “Am I fulfilling it?”

We determine the functions of each part of the body through science, and that’s how we must determine the functions different kinds of individuals play in society. Your function may be to dream dreams, but dreaming is not the way to discern your purpose. To promise people the ability to choose their own function would, again, be a deception. Yet, many people currently cannot tell the difference between discovering true assignments through science vs. being manipulated with false science, so science must be made transparent, incorruptible, and accessible to all.

Social self-awareness is not an alternative to capitalism, democracy or religion—rather, it provides stable motive to engage in capitalism, democracy and religion. When each of us aims to serve our own function and we let objective science (rather than subjective whims) divide our labor, then markets, governments and churches will no longer rely on deception to motivate cooperation.

This is the critical battle of our age. A battle of education. A battle of making education transparent and egalitarian. A battle of raising education to the level of achieving social self-awareness. Markets, governments and churches can all have a hand in this battle. They should advance social self-awareness—but they probably won’t. The champions of this battle are more likely to be outcasts who see no other way forward than to tell the truth. In the end, truth will prevail.

Confusing Evaluativism with Sexism

Navy womenOver the past few years, the U.S. Navy has been sending women a recruitment mailer promising, “you can do all this while staying in touch with your feminine side — and while bettering your world along the way.” It was sent to women in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. But last week the mailer was scrapped over concerns that it perpetuates sexist stereotypes.

The stereotype, of course, is that all women have a not-expected-in-the-military side that men don’t. Rather than reserve the word “feminine” to refer to women, the brochure used it to refer to an evaluative disposition. Then women not of that disposition asked, “Am I not feminine?”

The Navy obviously intended a very inclusive message. They were not the first to use the word “feminine” in a way that allows for the possibility of feminine men. On GRINfree.com, we use the term “naturally relational” instead. Base on the sample used to validate the GRIN Self-Quiz, naturally relational people are twice as likely to be female as male, however, not all are female, and not all females are naturally relational. In fact, there were women of every type, over 60% of women being not naturally relational.

One might like to administer the GRIN-SQ in the military to confirm whether naturally relational people are relatively rare there. The purpose would not be to find a more precise word than “feminine” to use in recruiting—most potential recruits have never heard the term “naturally relational.” Rather, the purpose would be to balance its diversity the way ecologists balance diversity in an ecosystem.

The most adaptive teams include all four GRIN types. A society lacking naturally relational people, specifically, would experience reduced network localization, which essentially means command would be more centralized. An error in such a network can have broad consequences; in contrast, an error in a free market would take-down no more than one business, and competitors would quickly fill the gap.

Jared Diamond famously speculated that centralized command cost China dominion over the Americas. Two hundred years before Christopher Columbus’ voyage, China had an entire fleet of ships capable of crossing the Pacific, but they were all under the control of one emperor, and that emperor decided to destroy the entire fleet. Columbus was turned-down by many countries before he found a patron for his expedition—in Asia, he would have had only one potential patron, so he would have had only one chance.

Our military is an important part of our society. We will be at a loss if it lacks one of the kinds of people it needs to successfully innovate solutions to conflict and to its own evolution. Kudos to those who were smart enough to target for recruitment people who have been called “feminine.” I look forward to the day when common language includes terms which make this message easier to communicate.

Why am I being punished?

If it’s not my job to be right…

…then why am I being punished for not doing the right thing?

Why am I in prison?
Why was I fired?
Why did my loved ones leave me?
Why do I have to pay?

Our video about evaluativism suggests that the first practical step to overcoming evaluativism is to believe that it is not your job to be right—rather, it is your job to be yourself. It says that people who aim to be right more and more often are aiming to be God, that we should instead be like lawyers in a courtroom, serving the cause of truth by sticking to our assigned opposing perspectives, knowing full-well that at least half of the opposing perspectives must be wrong in some way.

So, let’s suppose you were serving the cause of truth by sticking to your assigned perspective, it turns out that you were wrong, and now you are being punished… Should you become someone else?

The Prevalence of Punishment

First, let’s acknowledge how often punishment happens. Roughly 1.4 percent of men (5 percent of black men) and 0.1 percent of women in the U.S. are currently incarcerated. If we include probation and parole, the numbers multiply by four (about 6 percent of all men). Roughly 14 percent of working age men in the U.S. have been convicted of a felony at some point in their past, and over half of all men in the U.S. will be arrested at some point in their lives.

That is not to say that women are less likely to face punishment. If we define punishment to include any suffering imposed by one person on another, then we realize that most punishment is not imposed by legal authorities. Other countries currently host thirty-seven ongoing military conflicts, each large enough to kill over 100 people per year. Meanwhile, over 35 million people currently live in slavery, and 22,000 children die every day from poverty. Our planet currently produces enough food to nourish every single one of us, so it is perfectly reasonable for the victims of all of these atrocities to wonder, “Why am I being punished?” That question may arise just as often to women, and in countries where incarceration occurs less.

Back in the U.S., 85 percent of romantic relationships will end in a break-up, and the median employment tenure is just 4.7 years for men and 4.5 years for women. Even if you call it “amicable separation,” every ended relationship is an instance of punishment where one party maintains, “You are not behaving correctly (at least not for me).” Instead of finding ways to leverage the diversity implied by our disagreements, people are believing that we are supposed to agree, that we are supposed to converge on the same values even when our physiological differences predispose us towards opposition. We punish each other for failing to meet this unrealistic expectation.

These statistics describe just the tip of the iceberg. Punishment begins long before physical separation. It begins with apathy. Only about a third of U.S. employees are currently considered “engaged” in their jobs. The other two thirds of us are either feeling punished or punishing our employers. Many relationships with loved ones are similarly on-the-rocks, as are relationships between citizens and their government. We might not be hosting ongoing military conflicts in the U.S., but we are still a besieged nation. Punishment is happening all around us every day, even if most of us are not physically in a prison.

So, if you are feeling punished, then you are not alone. Given the prevalence of punishment, it doesn’t make sense to take it personally. The best explanation for why punishment is so widespread is that we, as a society, are not very good at dealing with each other. That is a social problem—not your personal fault.

Here’s the good news: Just as you wonder, Why am I being punished? cavemen used to wonder, Why do I have fleas? As a society advances, both questions become asked less and less often. We’re just slower at ridding ourselves of punishment.

Social Reform

Even if punishment is just an infestation not yet fully stamped-out in modern society, those of us who are being punished will still wonder, What should I do about it? Should I change?

The effect of punishment had better not be to reform the person being punished. If the person being punished simply made an error, then the solution is education rather than punishment. On the other hand, if the conflict being resolved did not result from error—if it instead resulted from differences in physiological predisposition—then to reform the perpetrator would decrease opposition, thus reducing diversity and handicapping society.

Rather than reform convicts, the effect of punishment should be to reform society. Punishment enables social reform by providing separation and shifting resources. Convicts pay the price to make social reform possible. That’s really unfair. Society owes a debt to individuals who suffer punishment, and we should repay that debt by accelerating the social reforms their punishments fund. This is obvious regarding punishment of the innocent, as in the stories of Socrates and Jesus of Nazarath, but is equally true when punishing the guilty.

For example, suppose a child becomes addicted to a drug: Although we confine the child to rehab to address the immediate danger, we ultimately must reform society so that it does not provide children with access to such drugs. A bored child is sent to her room for getting into mischief, but we ultimately need to reform society (perhaps a dysfunctional family or classroom) so that the child stops being bored. A debtor loses his home so a bank can stay in business, but we ultimately need to reduce the ability of sellers to convince consumers to make inappropriate purchases.

Why is it that half of the people who are released from prison return within three years? It is because society is not reforming fast enough. Imagine a man who pays a mechanic to fix his car. When he returns, the car still doesn’t work and the mechanic asks for more money. “I payed the price,” the owner demands, “You said it couldn’t be fixed while the peace was being disturbed, so I stayed away. I gave years of my life in a prison. Was that for nothing?” We should be ashamed to ask that man to pay the price a second or third time.

At one time, it seemed reasonable to blame crime on individuals, but the big insight about evaluative diversity is that no individual is complete—we are best as parts of something larger, something diverse. No one is righteous when the stability of their lifestyle relies on punishing the other parts of that something larger.

Privacy and the Threat of Punishment

One of the GRIN types, natural negotiator, has a special relationship with the threat of punishment. Natural negotiators are achievers, so they are empowered by a shift towards capitalistic systems in which they can compete; however, competition is empowering only if everyone plays by fair rules. Thus, negotiators want there to be enough fear of punishment to dissuade their competitors from breaking the rules. If the governments we construct make rule-breaking the best strategy for getting ahead, then we are systematically oppressing natural negotiators. Therefore, we need to take punishment seriously.

The point of punishment, from the perspective of the negotiator, is not to get revenge, but rather to reduce calculated future crimes. In other words, the punishment is not directed at the person being punished; it is directed at people who have not yet committed the crime. Again, the goal is not to reform the convict, but rather the goal is to reform society, to scare everyone else into not committing crimes. The best way to figure-out when punishment would discourage future crimes would be to ask a jury of peers, and that is what we do.

On the one hand, such juries need to make sure the punishment is not too mild. If the crime can be leveraged to make billions on the stock-market, then the risk of spending ten years in jail might not be enough to dissuade the crime. Even if a convict is reformed, it could be a mistake to release him/her early because that release could encourage a different person to commit a crime (expecting a similar chance at early release). When we view punishment as a threat, it would be wasteful not to make it harsh.

On the other hand, if punishment is so frequent that it seems inescapable, then people will figure they might as well commit the crime. Therefore we cannot punish every hurtful act. We also have to be very careful about discrimination: if black men, or Muslims, or psychopaths are highly likely to get punished, then the punishment system may encourage them to be criminal. To make punishment work as a deterrent against future crime, we must collect strong evidence, so that the innocent can expect to avoid punishment even if they happen to fit a certain profile.

Collecting strong evidence requires reducing privacy. Partly that is about ubiquitous cameras, but its also about getting inside people’s heads because we need to know their motives. When we use punishment to deter crime we are punishing a motive—we are punishing someone for expecting to be able to get away it. That insight inspired the movie Minority Report in which privacy is so far gone that people could be punished even before the crime was committed.

Minority Report was onto something, but rather than punish the person, we should reform society. For example, if we know that Jack thinks he can get way with robbing the local convenience store, rather than punish Jack, we can improve the security system of the local convenience store (and make sure Jack knows about it). It doesn’t seem like a violation of privacy when the knowledge is used merely to identify security holes. That is where we are headed: a world that doesn’t need punishment to deter fowl-play.

Conclusion

We have told you that it is not your job to be right—rather it is your job to be yourself. Yet such behavior seems idealistic in a world filled with punishment. Interracial friendships likewise seemed idealistic in a world filled with racial slavery. Some people currently think punishment is unavoidable just like people used to think racial slavery was unavoidable, so being yourself can be an act of courage and faith.

If a natural negotiator is punished for trying to profit, should they stop trying to profit? No. Do not be reformed. It is the rules of profit that should be reformed.

If a naturally institutional person is punished for following their religion, should they stop following it? No. Do not be reformed. It is the religions that need to reconcile.

If a natural gadfly is punished for thirsting so much for change that they frustrate others, should they stop thirsting for change? No. Do not be reformed. Society should embrace progress so fully that gadflies are too busy facilitating change to waste time frustrating the establishment.

If a naturally relational person is punished for protecting their loved-ones, should they stop loving? No. Do not be reformed. The problem with love is that not everyone is loved enough.

It might not be right to try to profit, to follow a religion, to thirst for change, or to protect loved ones. Any of these activities can be wrong. But it is not your job to be right—it is your job to be yourself.

The short answer to the question, “Why am I being punished?” is that you are part of something larger, and you are serving that something larger by taking the hit. It is not fair, and should happen less and less often. In an ideal world, people would never do anything that would justify punishment—the only place it would be useful to talk about guilt and innocence would be in a history class. We are moving closer to that ideal world. In the meanwhile, you may be guilty, but the blame falls on all of us for not moving to the ideal world sooner.

Independence vs. Interdependence: Should I follow my conscience?

Barbies by MattelEliana Dockterman’s article in the February 8, 2016 issue of Time discussed Mattel’s plans to diversify Barbie dolls into four body types: original, petite, tall, and curvy. It said Mattel decided to sell the dolls in mixed sets to avoid the problem of “a sensitive mom read[ing] into the gift of a curvy doll a comment on her daughter’s weight.” A modern world sees beauty in diversity, and no single doll can reflect that standard of beauty. Thus, Barbie will no longer be one independent doll—Barbie has evolved into an interdependent set.

The set is interdependent because segregating the dolls would diminish Barbie’s beauty, but focus groups at Mattel reveal that lesson has yet to reach young girls. All of the dolls are named “Barbie” but, when asked which doll is Barbie, “the girls invariably point to a blonde.” The response we would prefer is: “That’s a trick question! They are all Barbie together.”

Why don’t we get that response? It may be traced back to the story of the forbidden fruit, a story which is shared by Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and which strongly influenced the development of self-concept in Western culture. The oldest version (in the Torah) may be translated as follows:

Bereishit 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman: ‘Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ 4 And the serpent said unto the woman: ‘Ye shall not surely die; 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.’ 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband [Adam] with her, and he did eat.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called unto the man, and said unto him: ‘Where art thou?’

10 And he said: ‘I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’

11 And He said: ‘Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?’

12 And the man said: ‘The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’

13 And the Lord God said unto the woman: ‘What is this thou hast done?’

And the woman said: ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’

14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent: ‘Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.’

16 Unto the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’

17 And unto Adam He said: ‘Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’

20 And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said: ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.’ 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Through this story we have inherited the doctrine that we are “as God, knowing good and evil”. It teaches us to see ourselves as decision-makers of infinite moral potential. This doctrine comes in two very different varieties:

The Independence Doctrine tells us that each human has a conscience which has god-like moral competence, such that any human has the independent ability to achieve moral perfection simply by obeying his or her own conscience. Believers of this doctrine interpret the story of the forbidden fruit as an explanation for the origin of these amazing consciences. Some Christians suggest that consciences were imperfect until Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, but those who believe the Independence Doctrine nonetheless maintain that, for at least the last 2000 years, humans have had the means to achieve independent moral perfection:

Jeremiah 31:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

The tendency to look for Barbie and beauty in an individual doll goes with this tendency to look for goodness in an individual person. The Independence Doctrine gives us the expectation that a solitary individual could be sufficient. Believers in this doctrine tend to pray “Give me the wisdom,” or “Let my words be pleasing…” They worry less about the wisdom, goodness and beauty of others because they believe one can be good (enough) despite segregating oneself from those who are not.

The Interdependence Doctrine tells us that we cannot achieve moral perfection independently, but we can contribute meaningfully to the development of a society which will converge on god-like morality collectively if allowed to evolve. Believers of this doctrine interpret the story of the forbidden fruit as an explanation for the origins of this social evolution. They point to history, recorded in scripture and elsewhere, as demonstrating a pattern of discovery in which each generation inherits greater and greater opportunity to recognize moral behavior, and they explain the conscience as merely a snapshot of how social norms currently stand.

Christians who hold the Interdependence Doctrine may believe that love is the greatest treasure we can have and that love goes hand-in-hand with interdependence, so a loving God would want everyone to be interdependent and would withhold divine wisdom from anyone who would use it to become less dependent on others. Thus, God will not fulfill the prophesy of Jeremiah until we abandon independence.  Christians sometimes refer to this as the “Body of Christ”:

Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The opposite of independence is not conformity.  Too many articles about independence vs. interdependence falsely portray interdependent individuals as lacking anything unique to contribute. To the contrary, the new interdependent Barbie dolls are more diverse than the independent dolls. Likewise, moral interdependence does not entail a lack of independent moral thought. Socrates explained the idea around 400 BC with the term “social gadfly.” The function of social gadflies is to question prevailing norms. Rather than make the gadflies right (impossible, since they question even each other), this is supposed to spur non-gadflies towards progress. According to the Interdependence Doctrine, neurons produce impulses, brains turn impulses into thoughts, and diverse societies gradually distinguish good ideas from bad ones.  Neurons can fire independently, but they cannot think independently; likewise, brains can think independently, but their independent moral facilities are limited (at best).

While it has been said that something was finished on the cross or in praying the sinner’s prayer, it is clear that our sanctification must continue throughout our lives and even after death. The doctrine of interdependence explains the mechanics of this sanctification: Abraham was part of an interdependent community which continues to this day, so Abraham continues to be sanctified as that community is sanctified. Thus, although current work in human rights, globalization, and health/environmental awareness may be inevitable consequences of the lives of Abraham or Moses or Jesus or Muhammad (etc), such current work nonetheless deserves our attention. Our response to the legacy we inherited should not be merely to accept it, but to advance it (even slightly).

Both doctrines contain conceptual elements found in the story of the forbidden fruit: moral agency, moral knowledge, moral growth/perfection, obedience vs. exploration, and convergence between humanity and divinity. However, the two doctrines yield very different answers to the practical question “Should I follow my conscience?” The Independence Doctrine says “Yes, your conscience is as wise as God—it is perfect.” In contrast, the Interdependence Doctrine says, “It depends upon who you are. Since society advances by modifying social norms, it needs most people to follow those norms most of the time, but also needs some people to explore potential improvements sometimes.”

If the second answer seems indecisive, that may be because it is a response to a trick question.  How can we ask for an objective answer which applies to everyone, if “my conscience” refers to a subjective experience? Similarly when we ask, “Which one is Barbie?” the question makes sense only if not all dolls are Barbie. It has been said that there is no such thing as a bad question, but whether these questions make sense depends upon their answers. To put this another way, the doctrines are like worldviews in that certain questions make no sense unless you happen to hold the associated doctrine.

I maintain that the worldview of the Independence Doctrine constrained scientific imagination in recent times. For over a century experiments have been confirming that we divide into types which come to different moral conclusions, yet no one bothered to test whether those types are interdependent. It was simply assumed (with no evidence) that one of the types can achieve independent moral perfection. Discrimination between interdependent types would harm society, but Jonathan Haidt, Evan Rosenberg and Holly Hom initially assumed that the evaluativism they discovered benefits society—they didn’t bother to consider whether the types might be interdependent. If worldviews can delay the course of science for a century or more, if they can can block girls from perceiving Barbie as diverse even when Mattel creates obviously diverse dolls, then the work of moving forward may be less a work of science or art than a work of social change.

Contrary to Dockterman’s article, a quick check of Mattel’s website reveals that they are selling the new dolls individually. That means Mattel is giving you the power to change the world. You can encourage your friends to buy Barbie in sets. GI-Joe figurines, with their diverse specializations, empowered children to invent stories in which teamwork was essential to competitive success. Let’s empower the next generation to invent stories in which teamwork is also essential to beauty and goodness. Let’s hope to hear Ken saying, “Wow, Barbie, what a beautiful family!”

A Recall on Moral Education

Sometimes the products we buy turn-out to be better than we expected,

… and sometimes they turn-out to be worse.

By Ragesoss (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsOn rare occasions when products turn-out to be so much worse than expected that they actually damage their owners, we issue a product recall. For example, in 2004 Merck announced a recall of the anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx, because a new study found that Vioxx promotes strokes and heart attacks. As another example, we are now told that orange juice is one of the foods health conscious people ought to moderate. Rather than a recall issued by orange-juice-makers, this recall came as a reversal in the recommendations of dietitians.

Moral education is another market where errors can be made. Beliefs distributed through moral education are products, and it is possible to teach dangerous beliefs. For example, it was once taught that left-handedness should be avoided and that conflicts should be resolved via duels. Those teachings needed to be recalled. This essay considers the possibility of another recall to respond to evidence that moral education causes evaluativism.

The Complaint Against Moral Education

We should start by considering a special problem with implementing a recall on moral education. Recalls are typically justified by new scientific discoveries, but aren’t morals matters of opinion, or, at worst, theological matters beyond the scope of science? Even if moral education does cause evaluativism, who’s to say it shouldn’t?

The complaint against moral education is not based on scientific evidence that one option is more moral than another—rather, it cites evidence that moral education messes with the brain in such a way that it limits humans from recognizing what is moral. Mind-control and manipulation are within the scope of science, so science can justify a recall on moral education if it finds that moral education is a kind of mind-control.

In this case, the relevant scientific evidence is that:

  1. Humans have moral disagreements,
  2. Rather than reflect mere differences of opinion, these disagreements sometimes reflect physiological differences such as genes and brain structure (a.k.a. “evaluative type“),
  3. Some of the evaluative types are interdependent
  4. Some man-made environments are optimized for people of specific evaluative types, thus discriminating against people of other types (this is a form of “evaluativism”)
  5. Like many other forms of discrimination, evaluativism is currently out of control
  6. Evaluativistic environments impact the chemistry of the brain, causing people of various types to experience depression, apathy, lack of self-control, and other limitations to moral faculties
  7. Modern centers of moral education produce evaluativism that divides interdependent types

The complaint against moral education is premised on these findings—if you conduct research which disconfirms the findings, the complaint is withdrawn. The paper linked above suggests that moral education can be reformed, such that it no longer produces evaluativism, divides interdependent types, and handicaps our collective moral faculty. New scientific work would be required to prove reform has succeeded; a recall is what to do while waiting for that proof.

The Scope of the Recall

If moral education is counterproductive—if it is actually hurting us—then we should stop engaging in it until it is reformed. That’s a recall. Recalls are stopgap measures. For example, once we find a way to mitigate the dangers of orange juice, then the recall will be lifted and we will be free to drink as much orange juice as we like. Reasonable efforts to test potential reforms are exceptions to a recall. For example, if someone develops tiny robots that regulate sugar in our bloodstreams, someone will need to drink orange juice while using these robots to determine whether they succeed in mitigating the dangers of orange juice drinking. Testing efforts which do not include measurement, however,  do not qualify as exceptions to a recall.

In addition to being temporary—limited in duration—recalls are limited in scope. For example, the recall on orange juice is not a recall on all liquids. There are fairly clear boundaries on what qualifies as “orange juice” for the sake of the recall. The discovery which justifies the recall on orange juice is about liquid calories, so the recall extends to all sugary drinks (including soda and other juices), but does not extend to oranges, vitamin C tablets, or the use of orange juice in a marinade.

The scope of “moral education” for the recall justified by the evidence discussed above includes only attempts to teach people to form independent moral judgments. When we teach people to specialize in a mere aspect of moral decision-making, we may actually support interdependence between people of different specialties. For example, one might teach someone to predict consequences, but to rely on others to determine which of the predicted consequences is best. Likewise, one might teach someone how to follow best practices, or to empathize, or to innovate, but to rely on others to complete other aspects of moral decision-making. When we imply that everyone should develop all the skills, or that not all skills are needed (e.g. that one can get by with mere best practices, or empathy, or innovation), we are implying that everyone ought to be able to engage in moral decision-making independently.

Teaching people to form independent moral judgments is like teaching neurons to live without the help of bone cells, muscle cells, and all the other interdependent cells of the body. That would be counterproductive education because abandoning the rest of the body and setting-out on its own would be hazardous for the neuron. It would also be hazardous for neurons to set out in groups. That’s analogous to what people do when they become convinced that they can form good moral judgments without the help of people of other evaluative specialization—they set out with people of their own type. Conservatives group with other conservatives, and liberals group with other liberals. That’s evaluativism. The recall on moral education ends when measurements demonstrate that moral education no longer produces evaluativism.

An Example: Churches

This article concludes with a description of how such a recall would look in churches. First, it needs to be said that the recall does not target churches—moral education also takes place in secular schools, workplaces and families. Second, church includes many other activities including fellowship, worship, charity, and ritual. Third, to boycott churches would be an evaluativistic form of moral education, teaching by example to segregate attenders from non-attenders.

All that said, churches are one of the leading centers of moral education and segregation in the United States, even though the bible explicitly informs Christians that we are evaluatively interdependent like the parts of a body, that we develop moral competence together, rather than as individuals. Christians generally believe that Christ opposes discrimination (especially against genetic traits), and churches have a rich history of fueling reform efforts. Moreover, Christians generally do not doubt that reform is needed in churches.

Although a recall of moral education would not include a boycott of churches, it might require churches to fail to meet the expectations of certain “customers.” One reason to become a “customer” of a church is to protect one’s legacy by instilling one’s own values in the people who will inherit that legacy. Customers with that motive would be inclined to “shop” for a church where they could bring their family to witness a preacher condemn evaluative types contrary to their own and see a room of people nod in agreement. Such a person might even settle for a church that seems to affirm their evaluative type simply by not criticizing it (i.e. to protect oneself from having one’s family exposed to opposing churches). In either case, the customer expects the church to help them influence the values of the guests they bring. Under a recall, churches would refuse to meet that expectation. Any church which delivers the expected mind-control services would be violating the recall.

“Don’t accuse me of ‘mind-control’ or even of having a ‘legacy’,” Christians might object. “I am merely expressing appreciation for the truth I inherited.”

For many Christians, this is an honest objection that should be acknowledged, but the fact that some people shop for church undermines the theory that churches merely preserve truth. If we were not trying to propagate our own values regardless of whether they happen to be true or not, then we would join whichever church is closest and debate there until the truth won out. Once churches have measurably demonstrated that they can teach morals without producing evaluativism, they will be free to resume their preservation of moral truth, for they will have untangled truth-preservation from the mind-control services sought by legacy builders.

I do not believe that mind-control is the dominant motivation for most Christians, nor for churches. I think that most of us see no biblical justification for “church shopping,” and that any mind-control which takes place in our churches is an accidental side-effect we would gladly see expelled. We agree with the Qur’an where it says “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and with the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects religious freedom (even of our own children). However, to suspend moral education would frustrate any church members who want to establish their own values in others. We need to acknowledge that pre-existing mess, so the clean-up crew doesn’t get blamed for any unavoidable division that results from clean-up.

The other major difficulty with implementing a recall of moral education in churches can be the subtle ways in which moral education takes place there. When a pastor preaching a sermon tells the congregation precisely how moral judgments should be made, when the pastor declares that no one should be ambitious, or legalistic, or subjective, or questioning, when the pastor points to politicians with some such attribute and instructs the congregation to vote against them, it is obvious that the preacher is engaging in moral education. However, moral education in churches is often more subtle.

My own pastor pointed to the book of Hebrews as an example of that subtlety. He said that the book of Hebrews has a conciliatory tone, that it simply lays out a set of facts and leaves the listener to draw their own conclusion about how those facts should impact their moral behavior. No one would doubt that the book of Hebrews aims to convince people to change their moral behaviors, but any book, sermon or hymn with such subtlety makes its claims about morality indirectly. Thus, any misinformation about morality it produces would be lies of omission.

Rather than say that no one should be ambitious, a subtle pastor might teach about a scripture that exposes a weaknesses of the ambitious evaluative type (every type has weaknesses—that’s what makes them interdependent). The pastor might explain indisputable facts about the context in which that scripture was first heard and how it would have been understood in its original language. The pastor might never say, “All of you should avoid ambitious decision-making—do not elect ambitious people,” and might not even directly claim that the scripture should be followed. The pastor will not deny that there are many other scriptures to consider. Yet many people of the congregation will hear a moral lesson loud and clear. It is moral education by omission.

Education by omission can happen in hymns and rituals as well. I know of a thriving church that is so concerned that the ritual of communion will convey the wrong message that they always preface it by explaining that no one should feel pressured to participate. It would be nice to be able to mark out the boundaries of the range of topics in which preachers can speak their mind without worrying about engaging in counterproductive moral education, but moral education in churches so often happens by omission that the only way to be safe is to preface each church service the way this church prefaces communion.

The preface might go something like this (pastors can work out their own versions—given that the preface is recited every week, they might also want have a written explanation prepared):

The Bible tells us, ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.‘ You may have come here today to make teachers of me, of our liturgists, our choir, the hymn writers, and those who wrote and translated the Bible, so I need to warn you not to get the wrong idea. God made each of us different, so perfect teaching would require delivering different lessons to different people. We want to figure-out how to provide teaching like that and to confirm it works, but are not there yet. You will not get reliable teaching from us today. We will simply have to forgive each other for failing to be perfect as we worship and study together.

Without such a preface, members of the congregation will likely assume that the leaders of the service intend to engage in moral education. They will likely hear moral lessons where none were intended. At times, a leader may slip—he/she may forget about the need for reform or may grow impatient waiting for proof that reform has been accomplished—then this preface becomes their request for forgiveness. The need for forgiveness is inevitable because failure to discuss morality could delay reform, yet appropriate boundaries of such discussion will not be known until reform proves successful.

Finally, we must ask who should issue the recall. Should pastors create their own prefaces, should entire denominations compose standard disclaimers to be recited at each service, or should some external body, such as the government, warn citizens that churches promote evaluativism? A congregation might want all three. If the pastor volunteers their own preface, the church will experience no embarrassment when the denomination and government issue recalls as well, yet the higher-level recalls may be necessary because not every pastor will issue the recall locally.

Conclusion

Most people who developed and prescribed Vioxx had every good intention. When scientists discovered that it promotes strokes and heart attacks, no one thought any less of those who discovered it. Likewise, the well-intended efforts of moral educators in the past remain heroic, despite new evidence that their efforts turned-out to be counterproductive.

Once Vioxx was found to be dangerous, to continue selling it would have been wrong. It would have been wrong to say, “I’m going to keep prescribing Vioxx, because I don’t have the resources to test these claims about strokes and heart attacks for myself.” Those who distribute a product—even if they are giving it away for free—have a responsibility to follow-up on evidence that the product my harm its owners. In the case of tobacco products, this responsibility may have driven some people to quit their jobs.

When facing the discoveries cited above, it is natural to ask what they mean for moral educators. Hopefully, you will see that moral education can and will be reformed. Like orange juice, moral education is wonderful in many ways, so we are willing to invest in finding ways to mitigate its dangers. Yet, until reform has proven to mitigate the dangers of moral education, to continue with moral education as usual would be immoral. This article aims to avoid overreaction. It discusses the limits of a recall on moral education, and proposes ways to minimize inconvenience while waiting for proven reform.