Tag Archives: evaluativism

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.

Microevaluativism and Macroevaluativism: A Romeo and Juliet tragedy

You’ve heard of microeconomics, which deals at the level of specific transactions (e.g. price-setting), and of macroeconomics, which deals at the level of entire economic systems (e.g. unemployment rate).  Discrimination also operates at the micro- and macro- levels, and tragedy befalls anyone who attempts to address one but not the other.

Romeo, Juliet, and CinderellaThe stories Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet provide classic examples of discrimination operating at these levels.  Romeo is a Montague, but Juliet is a Capulet.  At the macro-level, the Montagues and Capulets are segregated—they don’t have much opportunity to get to know each other, so they have to accept on faith that everyone from the opposing camp is ultimately bad.  However, Romeo and Juliet happen to fall in love.  When they discover each other’s identities, they must deal with discrimination on a micro-level, confronting their personal biases against people of the other kind.  They overcome discrimination at the micro-level, but not at the macro-level, so their love is doomed.

In contrast, Cinderella stories have happy endings (at least in versions following the popularization by Disney).  Again, two lovers come from socially segregated groups—different socioeconomic classes.  That’s the macrodiscrimination.  Again there is a necessary grappling with personal biases when their identities are revealed.  That’s the microdiscrimination.  The difference in the plot of Cinderella stories is that one of the lovers has so much social power that ending their microdiscrimination automatically ends the macrodiscrimination; if the prince will not discriminate against people like Cinderella, then neither can anyone else in the kingdom.

For macrodiscrimination to fall with microdiscrimination seems too good to be true.  They are typically two separate struggles which require separate solutions.  Microdiscrimination typically ends by achieving humility, but humility is achieved one person at a time, while macrodiscrimination is system-wide.  In contrast, macroevaluativism typically ends through institutional reform—for example, the end of macroracism required the abolition of slavery—but institutional reform is not sufficient to end microdiscrimination which continues even subconsciously in certain individual brains.

 

A More Realistic Scenario

For those who intend to overcome evaluativism (i.e. discrimination against people of different kinds of values), it is important to understand the difference between microevaluativism and macroevaluativism, and to appreciate the need to fight on both fronts.  Here’s a realistic modern example: Suppose you teach your daughter that education is valuable, and send her to a nice college where she meets a bright physics student, and they fall in love.  Her lover is a natural gadfly, and develops the opinion that college does not provide very good education—it exists mostly for dogmatic purposes that are wasting his youth—so, in his senior year, he drops out of school (like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg did) to join a start-up company.  His business has a remarkably good start, and the lovers get married.

Then the company hits some bad luck.  It struggles for about ten years before petering out.  Your son-in-law applies for other jobs as a scientist or engineer, but is disqualified because he did not complete his degree.  He applies for jobs unrelated to science, and is able to get some temporary and part-time work, but jobs are designed for particular IQ levels, and employers are reluctant to award full-time positions to anyone mismatched.  He becomes depressed.

The system seems to expect people of his IQ to have certain credentials, but getting the credentials requires much more than just taking an IQ test.  He cannot simply finish his senior year; college students quickly forget most of what they learned in school, so he would need to retake all his prerequisite classes as well.  These complications reinforce his conviction that his education had no educational value, and he cannot stand to subject himself to such hazing all over again, this time with eyes wide open and no scholarship or parental contribution to pay the bill.  He’s the kind of guy to stand against hypocrisy and injustice, not the kind to suffer them.

Your daughter is not naturally a risk-taker, but she overcame her bias against gadflies to fall in love with this man.  Now she is falling out of love.  Managing microevaluativism is an endless job—we say it has been “overcome” when the struggle gets easy, but it is always possible for the struggle to become difficult again.  She previously managed her bias through empathy, but empathizing with someone who is trapped makes her want his release, and it is exhausting to want what she cannot control.  Like most other human beings, your daughter’s brain is designed to stop empathizing when exhausted.  Her marriage has become a trap for her because being herself with her husband impacts her brain in a way that prevents her from being herself.

Your son-in-law doesn’t want to trap anyone, so he projects a front designed to minimize her pain; he enjoys life as much as he can while waiting for his big break to magically arrive.  They don’t talk about his career.  In fact, they don’t talk much at all.  Each has his/her own support-network of friends, and spends more and more time with those friends as things get worse and worse.  He comes home late each night.  They sleep in the same bed, but that’s about all the interaction they have.  It’s better than hurting each other.

You are part of your daughter’s support-network, and like everyone else in both support networks, you are fighting microevaluativism.  You struggle to convince yourself that this guy’s values are not messed-up, that they do not create an impasse, that the evaluative diversity of your daughter and son-in-law is a gift which brings strength to society and to their marriage.  You can make progress at accepting them both in your own heart, and that may help them to accept each other.

However, your son-in-law is also a victim of macroevaluativism, and is dragging your daughter down with him.  To filter job-applicants by educational credentials perpetuates classism—which is the justification for financial aid—but also perpetuates evaluativism against natural gadflies, some of which will rebel against the education system.  To supplement your struggles with microevaluativism, someone needs to address the macroevaluativism by reforming the job-applicant filtering process.

The institutional reform required to make hiring processes non-evaluativist would be as intense as the reform that was required to make the cotton industry non-racist (i.e. to abolish slavery).  It would likely create economic disaster for some businesses, so even just discussing such reform could be threatening to some people.  Most people simply want to reduce the pain—they have no intention to threaten anybody—so they avoided deeply discussing the situations of slaves and now avoid deeply discussing your son-in-law’s career and marriage.  Unlike in the Cinderella story, there is no prince who has the power to reform the system by himself (although someone who employs scientists might be able to bend the rules of the hiring process for your son-in-law, if nepotism is allowed—in that way, all forms of discrimination could be more painful for the poor).

 

What is the solution?

We are fortunate to live in an age in which we can be encouraged by progress already made against various forms of discrimination.  We can be assured that the situation is not hopeless, and can use the history of social progress as a map for future advances.

Macroevaluativism and microevaluativism cause each other.  Social stress causes discrimination to flare-up, which causes more social stress.  The quality of your son-in-law’s relationship with his wife (and with you) depends upon his dignity, which, in turn, depends upon the quality of his relationship with society.

Progress made on microevaluativism will unravel if macroevaluativism is not also addressed.  For this reason, we need large national/international organizations to address various forms of discrimination through institutional reform.  On the other hand, we also need to address microevaluativism because discrimination comes in forms laws cannot punish.  For example, studies have shown that subconscious racism influences clinical decisions, robbing minorities of life-saving prescriptions.  We can see that pattern statistically, and even identify doctors most likely to make racist decisions, but not all of those doctors’ decisions are racist, and we cannot tell which particular prescriptions are inappropriate.  Likewise, if we do not overcome microevaluativism, job applicants will misrepresent their natures, and diverse teammates will not leverage each other’s strengths—no laws can fix these inefficiencies.

It may not be practical for a single advocate to fight on both fronts simultaneously, but that’s OK.  It is appropriate that advocates for interdependency are interdependent.  Don’t consider yourself adequate to address evaluativism alone.  Be part of something larger.

Measuring Support for Invisible Stigmatized Identities

Evaluative diversity is in a category of diversity known as “invisible stigmatized identities” which also includes sexual orientations, learning styles, economic backgrounds, and mental conditions. So far, we have identified three approaches to managing environments to support such diversity:

  1. We could follow the approach of ancient religions, and build humility by regularly reminding people of the inadequacies of their own personal types
  2. We could follow the approach of biodiversity, and monitor the environments we maintain, implementing interventions when measures exceed thresholds
  3. We could follow the approach of the gay-pride movement, and talk about who we are and how we feel, so that love will translate into support

The second approach may be a prerequisite for the third. Harvey Milk’s push to disclose sexual orientation was controversial in the 1960s, because ”coming out of the closet” was typically met with rejection and even abuse. Even today, young people are advised not to disclose their sexual orientations to their parents until they leave home.

On the other hand, Belle Rose Ragins has advanced the theory that humans have “a primary psychological need to create social identities that reinforce coherent self-views.” Hiding core aspects of one’s identity would frustrate the satisfaction of that psychological need. Thus, while it might be hazardous to disclose one’s identity in the most caustic environments, it might be hazardous to not disclose core aspects of one’s identity in supportive environments. I would want to know which kind of environment my children are in (and will be in) before advising them about whether to disclose their evaluative types. That requires measurement.

In her dissertation, The Disclosure Process of an Invisible Stigmatized Identity, Jessica Hudson demonstrated two kinds of measures we can use to distinguish between caustic and supportive environments: measuring perception of support, and measuring impacts of disclosure.

With respect to perception, she found significant correlations to mental health (measured using Derogatis’ Brief Symptom Inventory) for:

Such measures of perception may be a step removed from measurement of actual support, but Hudson’s research shows they are nonetheless meaningful.

Theoretically, it is even better to measure actual health impacts of disclosure. In an environment of persecution, such as an evaluativist school, church, or workplace , one would expect significant negative correlation between disclosure and mental health, since persecution more directly targets people who have disclosed their identities. However, at DePaul University, Hudson found no significant correlation between disclosure and mental health. This demonstrates reduced persecution compared to the 1960s, and, if Ragins is right, DePaul University could go even further to achieve significant positive correlation.

It is left to the rest of us to create benchmarks for schools, workplaces and churches by implementing such measures broadly. This will allow us to recognize the accomplishments of people who aim to create supportive environments. The measured success of such leaders also provides evidence which can justify following them.

Here are versions of Hudson’s measures, adapted to measure support for evaluative diversity at a university. Scores would be calculated as follows:

  • Perceived Stigma= q1+ q2+ q3+ q4+ q6+ q7+ q8+ q9- q5- q10
  • Perceived Social Support= q11+ q13+ q14+ q15+ q18+ q19+ q20+ q21+ q22+ q23+ q24+ q26+ q27+ q29- q12- q16- q17- q25- q28- q30
  • Perceived Institutional Support= q32+ q33+ q36+ q37+ q38+ 3q9+ q40+ q42+ q44- q31- q34- q35- q41- q43
  • Disclosure= The sum of q45 through q50
  • Psychological Symptoms= The sum of q51 through q103
  • Impact of Disclosure on Health= The correlation between Disclosure and Psychological Symptoms

Evaluativism’s Victim: The Relationship to Ageism

Evaluativism is our instinctive irrational frustration with people who have values contrary to our own. It is irrational in the same way it would be irrational for a prosecuting attorney to wish the defense attorney stopped showing up at court. Evaluative diversity makes society more successful on average, which is good for everyone (see Evaluativism 101). Thus, in one sense, evaluativism makes victims of us all.

In another sense, however, evaluativism hurts certain individuals more than it hurts others. It creates conflicts, and certain people lose those conflicts. The people most likely to win–parents, teachers, bosses–are people with privilege. This is where evaluativism aligns with ageism (and perhaps other forms of discrimination).

Variance Components by AgeThe above graph from an article by Peter Hatemi and his colleagues in the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Politics show the results of comparing the political values of identical and fraternal twins separated at birth vs. raised together. Such twin studies tell us whether our values come from our genes, from siblings’ shared environments (e.g. parenting), or from something else. For example, if the values of identical twins are more similar than the values of fraternal twins, then genes must play a significant role. Such studies have been conducted for decades and confirm that genes play a significant role in all human behavioral traits–what’s different about this graph is that it breaks-out the results by age.

The surprise here is that the significance of the role of genes (i.e., the blue bars) varies by age. It plays a minor role until the mid twenties, but becomes the dominant factor by age 50. A similar pattern is found with religious values. The values of identical twins raised apart gradually become more similar as they get older, even if they do not interact with each other.

I asked John Hibbing whether this indicated that younger people are oppressed, and he thought “oppressed” might be too strong a word. Maybe it just takes humans 20-50 years to find themselves. Maybe older people are more stubborn. Maybe society is blessed that many 50-year-olds can remember what it was like to be on the other side of the fence.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t educate our populace by forcing people to experience other races, sexes, and disabilities. Even if society would be better for it, such education would put undue stress on students. Many homosexuals do know what it was like to exhibit a different sexual orientation, but we count that as oppression, rather than as education.

Furthermore, the alignment with genes is low for the old as well as the young. It is awfully suspicious that the pattern so closely matches the ages in which people lack privilege. In fact, Hetami found that alignment of one’s values with one’s genes happens in the early 20’s only for people who leave their parental home. This suggests that the parental home, rather than age, is the trigger–that the parental home provides a kind of brainwashing that temporarily blocks people from discovering their own values.

It turns out that oppression is so rampant that it would be naive not to blame it for this pattern. Shanto Iyengar had 1021 people judge applications for a scholarship. As expected, the result proved that judges have an irrational bias against resumes that included hints of racial minority, but it also proved that they have an even stronger irrational bias against resumes that show hints of an opposing ideology (e.g., President of the Young Republicans).

Through other tests in the study, Iyengar found that this bias is instinctive and more of a hate bias against opponents than an affinity bias towards people with similar values. Young homosexuals are advised not to come-out to their parents until they are financially independent; given that parents, teachers, and bosses instinctively favor children, students and employees who exhibit their own values, it seems equally advisable for the underprivileged to temporarily adopt the values of their oppressors.

As mentioned at the top of this article, evaluativism is irrational. Parents, teachers and bosses who suppress evaluative diversity by discouraging the expression of contrary values handicap their families, companies and nations, thus ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. Ideological opponents are extremely valuable. Causing opponents to temporarily abandon their values is not equivalent to taking years from their lives, but it does greatly diminish their value to society. In that sense, evaluativism is foolish in the same way as slaughtering one’s workforce or killing endangered species.

To compensate for their instinctive evaluativism, authorities should create cultures of appreciation by demonstrating a commitment to learn about evaluative diversity. We should do this for our own sake, but also out of compassion for the underprivileged who are especially victimized. Hatemi’s results appear to exemplify intersectionality–where the intersection of two kinds of discrimination (in this case, evaluativism and ageism) produce a whole new kind of oppression (divergence from genetic predispositions). This should make us ask to see twin studies broken-out by race, class, gender, and sexuality as well.

What makes the intersection with ageism special may be that ageism is so widely experienced. All adults can recall being young, and many would resist subjecting themselves again to the authority of parents, teachers, and bosses. Hatemi’s results further warn that those who enjoy privilege now are likely to lose it in old-age. Evaluativism seems to be something we cannot avoid forever, unless, of course, we address it before we find ourselves on the receiving end.

Who’s to Blame for Disagreement? An Interview with John Hibbing

Beyond Dislike: Viewing the Other Party as a ‘Threat to the Nation’s Well-Being’John Hibbing and Kevin Smith co-direct the Political Physiology Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Their recent article in Trends in Cognitive Science concludes: “Although many people want to believe that their positions on moral, religious, and political issues are the product of rational, conscious thought, the reality is that subthreshold, biologically instantiated predispositions shape all human attitudes, leading people to rationalize their positions and actions.” John generously allowed me to interview him about it:

Chris: John, first tell us about you. What got you interested in the relationship between biology and political science?
John: I was trained as a traditional political scientist and studied Congress, elections, and public attitudes, but I increasingly came to the conclusion that surveys (in which people report their own perceptions) do not reveal everything, since humans are notoriously bad at understanding themselves. Thus I became interested in techniques that would help us understand the human condition, especially as it relates to politics, without forcing people to try to explain themselves.

The lab you co-direct with Kevin Smith is unique. What kinds of journals and departments, if any, should develop elsewhere to confirm or expand your findings?
Our lab was probably the first of its kind in a political science department, but, for some time, psychologists, neuroscientists, and behavioral geneticists have been probing the extent to which political orientations mesh with non-political aspects of our person. There is a gradually growing core of people–mostly psychologists–expanding and confirming our findings. A good indication of this was a piece we recently published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences that attracted 26 commentaries.

You have been studying the role of biological factors in explaining political variation for 20 years, and the law that all human behavioral traits are heritable has been known for well over a decade. How, then, does your work in Trends in Cognitive Science qualify as a “trend”?
I’m not sure. The editors from Trends in Cognitive Science asked us to submit that piece, so they must have thought there would be interest. There is more attention to the politics-biology connection now than there was 10-20 years ago, and I think it is only going to grow.

After acknowledging that twin studies consistently find political orientation to be strongly heritable, your article highlighted research on the particular gene DRD4. Why bother studying particular genes?
In terms of understanding the pathways through which biology affects politics, it would be quite useful to know the particular genes involved because that would indicate where in the brain to look. DRD4, for example, directs attention to the dopamine reward system.

What would it cost to identify the particular genes that make behavior heritable, and who would fund such research?
It is not that expensive these days to genotype people. The problem is that, to do the research properly, you need sample sizes of many, many thousands, and that can be a problem, especially when it is not common to collect political data along with the DNA. Our lab has moved away from doing candidate gene association studies because there is so much more to biology than just the DNA nucleotide sequence. For example, many environmental experiences can eventually become instantiated in our biological characteristics, so it is important for readers to realize that biology does not have to be genetic [to be immutable].

You also wrote about measuring biological underpinnings using EEG, the technology behind neurogaming. Does this imply that one might use a neurogaming headset to identify environments, such as particular workplaces, which are more or less likely to overwrite one’s values?
We do know that experiences, such as driving a taxi in London, can alter certain areas on the brain…

Beyond Dislike: Viewing the Other Party as a ‘Threat to the Nation’s Well-Being’The Pew Center recently reported that 27% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans in the U.S. see the opposing party as a threat to the nation’s well-being. How should they act on their beliefs, given the evidence that the disagreement stems from biological diversity?
Research by Shanto Iyengar shows that political differences are increasingly a reason for bias–people are more likely today than a few decades ago to say it would bother them to have their child marry someone with opposing political beliefs–while most other traits and factors (e.g., sexual orientation) are decreasingly a reason for bias. So the problem is real.

Our basic pitch is that, if people recognize that that their political opponents experience the world differently from a cognitive and physiological point of view, it should make them more tolerant of political differences, just as we became more tolerant when we found out that mental disabilities, left-handedness, and sexual orientation had biological bases. People should be less proud of their own beliefs, because hubris is a big reason we have the gridlock and terrorism that we do.

Lamenting terrorism, failed policy initiatives, and ruined family reunions, you wrote that research findings suggest a need to revise traditional views of political opinion. Care to elaborate?
Quit calling them names and thinking that they will “come around” when persuasive arguments are made. Compromise needs to be stressed more and deliberation needs to be stressed less.

 

The imperative for compromise is John’s big message. We spoke at length about how compromise might be determined, but ended up with unanswered questions. John’s insight that humans are bad at understanding themselves is demonstrated by his experiment in which the average conservative and liberal claim to have the same reactions to pictures of dead animals, but brain scans of those reactions reveal differences significant enough to identify political orientation. We also discussed evidence that genetic and self-report measures correspond differently at different ages. The average person seems to spend 20-50 years shifting his/her self-report, but efforts to mold the young tend to unravel, leaving us ultimately aligned with the diverse orientations we inherited at birth. John wanted to emphasize that schemes to control politics through genetic engineering oversimplify the way genes work. Many different genes interact, and they interact with major life events, including social reforms. His discoveries are tools less for social engineering than for giving politicians the same reverent respect for societies that medical doctors have gained for the human body.

To learn more about John and Kevin’s research, buy their book, Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences, coauthored with John Alford from Rice University.

Evaluative Diversity in the Body of Christ

Stained glass scene
Paul Separated from Ephesus

On February 8, 2015, at Grace United Methodist Church in Belleville, WI, Chris Santos-Lang will speak about Ephesians 4:11-16 and its relationship to evaluativism.

Ephesians 4:11 (NIV) says: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers“. Chris will discuss how this passage can reflect diverse priorities:

  •  Apostles (the face of the church) – Priority on image
  •  Pastors (protectors) – Priority on the family
  •  Evangelists – Priority beyond the family
  •  Prophets – Priority on new wisdom
  •  Teachers – Priority on established wisdom

Many bible commentaries claim that the diversity described in this passage decreased as the church evolved to its modern state. For example, Matthew Henry’s Commentary says:

The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts—extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists. …And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers…how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts!

Chris will review evidence that Americans tend to segregate based on values without even realizing it, much as cells of the body segregate into organs, and that this evaluativism could explain the decrease of evaluative diversity in the church. A better understanding of this phenomenon (which spans sociology, neuroscience and genetics) may help us better judge whether it is possible, or desirable, to reduce such segregation.

If you want to know what recent science tells us about this kind of discrimination, you are invited to join Grace United Methodist Church for our regular Sunday service at 10:00 am on February 8 at 246 West Pearl Street in Belleville, WI.

Chris’ opinions do not necessary reflect the opinions of Grace UMC nor the United Methodist Church at large.