Tag Archives: diversity management

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.

Teamology: Evaluative Diversity Promotes Success

Teamology: The Construction and Organization of Effective Teams“Teamology” is the name of a new branch of science somewhere between psychology and sociology. It studies teams and what makes them successful. This seems like an important new science, given that the impact of evolution on the human genome has been increasing and optimizing the success of competing teams rather than of individuals. However, experiments turn out to be logistically far more difficult to conduct in teamology than in psychology. All of the research mentioned in Douglass Wilde’s Teamology: The Construction and Organization of Effective Teams relied on the power of professors to make guinea-pigs out of students (Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford, Loyola U of Los Angeles, Oregon State, Shanghai Jiao-Tong, Sungkyunkwan U., U.C. Berkley, U.C. San Diego, U. of Florida, and U.T. Austin)

Teamological evidence is crucial to management of evaluative diversity because the reasons to protect evaluative diversity are:

  1. Love: For the sake of our children and grandchildren who are likely to be diverse
  2. Religious: For the sake of the One who created diversity
  3. Selfish: For our own sake, believing that we are part of teams which need evaluative diversity (as ecosystems need biodiversity)

The first two motives assume merely that we have diverse predispositions, a hypothesis which is well-confirmed by a wide range of experiments as detailed in Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences. The third motive additionally assumes that diverse teams are more likely to succeed. Teamology is the only field in which experiments can confirm or reject that hypothesis (or tell us which kinds of diversity are beneficial when).

There is strong theoretical reason to expect team success to rely on evaluative diversity. GRIN-diversity reflects specialization in mitigating distinct factors which limit rate of adaptation:

  • Gadfly to increase the rate at which novel configurations are produced
  • Relational to increase network localization through subjective evaluation
  • Institutional to increase fidelity with which proven configurations are reproduced
  • Negotiator to increase selection pressure privileging better configurations

If it turns out that GRIN-diversity does not maximize rate of adaptation, then there must be something wrong with our theory of evolution. One test of the GRIN model involves comparing the success of computer systems with different GRIN-diversity. Computers with a dearth of any GRIN-type fail just like any machine missing one of its essential parts. Having found that confirmation in machines, it makes sense to compare the success of human teams with varying GRIN-diversity.

Evaluative Diversity in Human Teams

Douglass Wilde taught engineering at Stanford University. Each year, his students would work in teams to produce reports which would be entered into competition against each other and against teams from other universities. Teamology presents the method Wilde developed to form and organize winning teams. The method was tested over the course of decades and at U.C. San Diego, U. of Florida, and Jiao Da (Shanghai).

Wilde’s method essentially involved:

  1. Measuring students’ evaluative types,
  2. Dividing into teams so as to maximize evaluative diversity, and
  3. Assigning roles within each team to match measured types.

Wilde’s research was conducted before there was any way to measure GRIN-types. His assignment algorithm used a survey of preferences along Jungian dimensions: Introversion (I) vs. Extroversion (E), Structure (J) vs. Flexibility (P), Facts (S) vs. Possibilities (N), and Objects (T) vs. People (F). Here are Wilde’s formulas to transform those measures into preferences for eight roles:

Wilde formulas

Wilde reports that about 25% of Stanford teams won awards when self-selected, but about 75% won awards when formed by this method. Replication studies found similar results, though they measured success differently and also found that diverse teams “took longer to coalesce” than randomly formed teams did.

How Many Types?

Jungian personality theory disagrees with the Big Five model on the question of traits vs. types. Size is an example of a trait, while sex is an example of a type. We often point-out that types are of discrete categories, while traits fall along continuous scales, but in the context of teamology it may be more important to note that stable types are interdependent, while traits are not. For example, a human society could thrive in certain environments without any especially large members, but could not thrive in any environment without any females (or males).

Interdependency impacts the ideal number of individuals per team. For example, since bees have three sexes, their “families” should be larger than in species with fewer sexes. In contrast, diversity in traits is valuable only to accommodate diversity of situations, so diversity in traits will afford a team no advantage over the best possible individual when the situation is stable or when the individual can adjust his/her traits to match the situation. If adjustment is not feasible, a team of just two polar-opposite members could have full diversity in traits. Thus, if traits were the only source of valuable diversity, then teamology wouldn’t be so important (at least beyond pairs).

Jung’s theory predicts at least eight types and no traits, but the statistical characteristics of measures of Jung dimensions look like traits rather than types. The Big Five model predicts all traits and no types. Truth is probably somewhere in the middle—some traits and some types. The GRIN-SQ produces the statistics to prove that at least four types exist. One might wonder whether teamology could be used to further increase the number of types proven to exist.

The studies Wilde cited involved teams of three to five members each, so they could not possibly have demonstrated the interdependence of more types. If they balanced types, those types might best be called S, N, T and F, since those variables are doubled in his formulas. In the data Wilde provided from his 2006 class, of the 13 students assigned to fill multiple roles, 92% were assigned to be both P and J and 69% were assigned to be both E and I, so any specialization would have been on other dimensions. As implied by the diagram above, the typical team had one member with primary specialization in each quadrant (though some students were also assigned to serve as back-up for other quadrants).

The experiments described in Teamology compared teams formed by Wilde’s method to teams formed randomly or though pure self-selection. It would be far more instructive to compare to teams with all but one type, so that one might identify specific types which make a difference (and perhaps characterize the difference each makes). Wilde initially doubled team performance merely by assigning the students with highest MBTI-Creativity Index (T+2E+2P+6N) to separate teams (leaving no black-hole of gadflydom), but tripled performance relative to self-selection by separating the highest scorers in all eight roles. The difference between these experiments does imply that creativity diversity isn’t the only kind that matters, but specifically what else matters remains to be measured.

Separation of Powers

The reason why the diagram above divides the roles on the left against the roles on the right is that Wilde’s scoring formulas mathematically make those on the left equal to the negative of those on the right. For example, even if a student’s two most preferred roles really were Tester/Prototyper (E+P+2S) and Visionary/Strategist (I+J+2N), the results of Wilde’s preference measure could not possibly reflect that reality. They sum to zero, so at least one is guaranteed to be zero or negative. That is a consequence of the assumption that diversity is structured around dimensions.

It would not be surprising that  the person responsible for devising visions should like to be the person with the power to decide whether those visions are good nor that the person responsible for empathizing should like to be the person with the power to interpret policies (and thus to show mercy). However the danger in mixing such roles is rather obvious—we might call it “conflict of interest”—so we can appreciate the separation of powers forced by Wilde’s method. Wilde’s claim that Visionaries should not be the Testers sounds reasonable (and is supported by his research), but this might have nothing to do with preference.

Are Teams With Greater GRIN-Diversity More Successful?

In theory, the S, N, T and F roles sound like the four GRIN-types:

  1. The S roles include “Tester”, “Investigator” and “Inspector” which match the Negotiator specialization in selection
  2. The N roles include “Innovator”, “Entrepreneur” and “Visionary” which match the Gadfly specialization in generating novelty
  3. Wilde’s measure for T associates it with “logic”, “truthful”, “unaccommodating”, “intolerant” and “impartial” all of which match the Institutional specialization in fidelity.
  4. F would be Relational by process of elimination. Specialization in network localization is undermined in Wilde’s experiments because the structure of students’ social networks is designed and enforced by the experimenter. However, students would be accustomed to social processes developed for groups formed more naturally, so a team lacking relational evaluators would have the handicap of needing to engineer new social processes (e.g. radically new ways to resolve conflicts). Thus, a Relational member might be valuable even in engineered teams.

Empirical comparison of measures confirms that teams formed by Wilde’s method would have greater GRIN-diversity than teams formed at random. N correlates strongly with the Big-Five dimension of “Openness” which is significantly related to Gadfly evaluation. F correlates moderately with the Big-Five dimension of “Agreeableness” which is significantly related to Relational evaluation. Thus, teams formed by Wilde’s method are likely to include one natural gadfly, one naturally relational person, and two people of other GRIN type(s).

Yes, the more successful teams do have greater GRIN-diversity. Again the GRIN model is supported.

But what we really want to know is in which circumstances any of the four GRIN-types might not promote success. To measure that, we would need to compare teams with each type deficiency (and with none) in different circumstances, and it would be better to use direct measures of GRIN-type than to use Jung-types as a proxy. Also, instead of imposing team structure, it would be better to let people form (and re-form) their own teams, and teams-within-teams (unless people segregate so much that they offer no opportunity to observe naturally formed diverse teams). There is much research yet to conduct.

Engaging Conflict

On March 18, Greg Carpenter and Chris Santos-Lang will present a workshop titled “Engaging Conflict” for the Wisconsin United Methodist Church Laity Convocation. Click the image below to see the slides:

engaging conflict

Greg and Chris will speak about resources to help churches with existing conflicts, but emphasize resources churches can use proactively to keep conflict from becoming destructive in the first place. For example, churches can build humility by:

  • Spreading Teachings which reveal the weaknesses of each type,
  • Listening to people different from oneself (use the GRIN model to discover/articulate differences)
  • Monitoring shifts in diversity and support for it

Chris will discuss the Books reviewed on this site. The following articles on this website are also relevant to the workshop:

People who want to help address evaluativism should be sure to contact Chris.

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.

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.

Discrimination threatens families, churches, businesses, and nations

Witness evaluativism in the dinner scene from Lee Daniels’ The Butler:

Then consider the science behind why we act this way (note that this kind of discrimination needs to be managed differently because, while there is no race or gender we should not tolerate, one can easily invent values that we should not tolerate):

Finally, help spread the word. Just like racism, sexism, classism, lookism, and ableism, evaluativism will run rampant if we do not raise awareness.

 

Transcript of video, “Overcoming Evaluativism”:

The award-winning movie The Butler follows the life of Cecil, a butler at the white house. Cecil fought for civil rights by building the trust of powerful white men while his son, Louis, fought for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. by building conflict with powerful white men. Cecil and Louis disagreed, but the movie makes a compelling case that both approaches were essential to the advancement of civil rights.

“Evaluativism” is when we fail to appreciate disagreement, when disagreement frustrates us so much that certain topics, like politics and religion, become taboo at the dinner table. In The Butler, Cecil and Louis avoided communicating for years to avoid disagreement, and many people sadly witness this kind of evaluativism in their own families.

Evaluativism is irrational. Disagreement is so valuable that we are genetically designed to disagree with each other. Evaluativism interferes with this design, such that the values of young people like Louis tend to align with their genes only after they achieve financial independence from their parents, and only until they lose it again through old age. Likewise Cecil was unable to express his values to his boss because evaluativism interacted with racial privilege.

As with sexism and racism, we engage in evaluativism instinctively. Jennifer Mueller of Wharton manipulated experimental subjects’ values regarding creativity, and found that, although all groups endorsed the same values, differences in speed of endorsement revealed subconscious biases which influenced ratings of product prototypes. Subconscious biases make a big difference.

Is evaluativism weaker than sexism and racism? To the contrary, Jonathan Haidt of NYU found that college students have significantly less comfort with evaluative diversity than with diversity of race, appearance, class or religion. Likewise, Shanto Iyengar of Stanford found that evaluativism biases resume review seven percent more than racism does.

What would change if there were less evaluativism? We would probably see a decrease in the divorce rate, for one. You may think your marriage, and those of others dear to you, are bullet-proof, but the current divorce rate is high enough to merit precaution against evaluativism between spouses.

Politics is another area that would probably shift. The Pew Center found that between ten and twenty percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” or “consistent conservatives”. Consistency may be a strength, but not when these people accuse each other of threatening our nation. This is evaluativism tearing America apart as it tore Cecil’s family.

The problem is not that we disagree, but that we do not appreciate our disagreements. Perhaps we can gain appreciation by learning the reasons why our genes give us the evaluative diversity that they do.

You used to look like this: a single unified stem cell called a “zygote”. Then you divided into more stem cells… and more… and more. Why be so divisive? Why not remain united as a single-celled organism? The advantage to division became apparent when your stems cells began to specialize, like this stem cell turning into a neuron. The specialized cells of your body are very different from each other. Bone cells do things muscle cells could never do, and muscle cells do things bone cells could never do. But all of these cells are you, so you can do all of these things. You can do things that single-celled organisms could never do. That is the purpose of division.

I have three practical suggestions about how we can let our evaluative diversity serve its purpose:

  1. The first is to believe that it is not your job to be right. Only God is right all the time. Cecil and Louis were never both right—Cecil was right sometimes and Louis was right at other times. If you believe that you are supposed to become right more and more often, then you are aiming to become God. Instead, try to be like the opposing attorneys of a courtroom. If attorneys tried to be right all the time, defense attorneys would stop defending clients whom they judged as guilty, and prosecutors would stop accusing people whom they judged as innocent. Such attorneys would be playing God. Trying to be right would distract them from their real jobs. Your real job is to be yourself, and that will entail disagreeing with each other.
  2. I call my second suggestion “multi-level love“. This is my son Miguel. And this is a skin cell in Miguel’s hand. We’ll call this skin cell “Miguel Junior”. If Miguel sees that I love him, but never sees that I love Miguel Junior, then I am teaching my son that mere parts are not lovable, and that he would not be lovable if he were a mere part. That might pressure him into trying to be right all by himself. So I’m going to start modeling multi-level love right now by showing you what I love about Miguel Junior. Do you see that gap? That’s a wound. Now take a look at what cells like Miguel Junior do to heal a wound. See how he leaps from the comfort of his family to reach across the isle? How can you not love skin cells? I love my son, but I’ve got to say I would love Miguel Junior even if he were not a part of Miguel.
  3. My final suggestion is to devote journals and academic departments to test claims about interdependence. Your own body developed from in-dependent stem cells to in-ter-dependent specialized cells, yet some people expect to progress in the opposite direction. They think advancements in education and medicine should make us more flexible and balanced individually, so that all individuals will converge on the same ideal. We have journals and departments to test claims about race, why are there none to test these claims about evaluative diversity?

Sexual diversity is one example of interdependence. Mushrooms have no sexual diversity—they are all female. Each is basically identical to her mother, so there is hardly any hope of progress across mushroom generations.

In contrast, flowers can reproduce sexually. When daughters are unique mixes of mother and father, there can be progress, but each flower is both male and female, so it risks pollinating itself, which would put flowers in the same boat as mushrooms.

The blue-banded goby switches back and forth between male and female, so it cannot impregnate itself, but sex change would be very difficult outside water, so mammals get to keep the sex they were born with. Granted, each still has to find a mate, and that can take years in the case of humans.

Bees, on the other hand, have only one sexually active female per hive. She mates once, collects about six million sperm, then lays about one-thousand eggs every day for the next six years. This lets most bees focus on concerns other than reproduction.

Currently, some human beings shift evaluative type like gobies, but others are more like mammals and bees. Which should we expect to go extinct? the small businesses where one person wears many hats, or the large corporations in which people lock into specializations? Science should help us reach better-informed answers.

Science can also help us monitor diversity and see where it is helpful. As an example, consider Christian churches. Here we see differences between the diversity mixes of Christians and non-Christians in the United States. These differences are amplified when we look at people who convert toward or away from Christianity. Some evaluative types bridge Christian and non-Christian social circles, but others seem to be victims of evaluativism. Here we see mixes among Americans with artistic careers, Americans with enterprising careers, Americans who identify with child or elder care, Americans who identify with sports, Americans who identify as conservatives, and Americans who have been accused of a crime or other serious betrayal of trust. The same measurement techniques could be applied to monitor the evaluativism of particular congregations, workplaces, clubs, and school programs.

We can also monitor consequences of evaluativism. For example, studies at many universities have now confirmed that the prevention of self-segregation when forming design teams raises interpersonal conflict, but ultimately yields superior results.

The evaluativism that tore Cecil’s family apart threatens our own families, churches, workplaces, and nation, but we don’t have to be frustrated by disagreement. If we study interdependence, we can discover its value, and maybe that discovery will allow us to disagree like attorneys—in a spirit of appreciation.