Building a Better Bloke

The left-wing moral shortfall

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam de Brito on December 1, 2009

By Thomas the Think Engine

“Imagine visiting a town,” Dr. Jonathon Haidt writes, “where people wear no clothes, never bathe, have sex in public, and eat raw meat by biting off pieces directly from the carcass.”

The author's moral fibre

Dr Haidt’s site is, where I got my fibre tested. I’m the green bars. You can see that I consider Harm and Fairness to be important moral values. I am less convinced on Loyalty, Authority, and Purity, as moral values.

The main point of the graph is not that my low scores reveal me as base, ill-bred and exquisitely suited to a career in politics.

It’s the difference between the blue lines and the red lines. Blue is the scores of people who identify as ‘liberals’ (in the American sense). I line up closer to the liberals. Red is conservatives. They consider three extra categories to be just as morally important …

Included in these is ‘purity’. Liberals might consider the scene described in the intro as ‘in poor taste but not hurting anyone’. Conservatives probably view it as immoral, on a par with harming someone.

This explains the weird bits of your bible to a secular person. The stuff about shellfish, pigs and menstruation. Apparently some people feel these as moral issues. Now this doesn’t mean they’re right. We’re not obliged to acquiesce to someone’s homophobia just because they feel its a moral issue. But it does give us perspective that can help win arguments.

Note this: conservative morals are not offset by a major shortage on the things that liberals care about. Conservatives actually care about what liberals care about and more!

On the upside this gives them an unreciprocated perspective on issues that matter to liberals. On the downside they are far more likely to find their moral views contradicting each other.

So what?

Well, let’s have a look at a little quote from a website called It’s talking about closing Guantanamo Bay :

Obama’s hypocrisy and brutal inhumanity in light of recent events shocks even the most jaded among us. Americans had to listen to his daily tongue lashing about our morals and values as he defended closing Gitmo (home to the worst war criminals), admonishing us for the benign use of waterboarding in order to save thousands of American lives, and in his latest attempt to create a “torture” prosecutor.

Yet what was done at Gitmo was all done in defense of this dear country. It is a testament to our moral authority that Gitmo exists. Saner men would have lined up the enemy in front of a firing squad. It is a tribute to our moral superiority that Gitmo guards wear splash guards on their heads to protect against flying excrement and urine.

Obama’s strange attraction to savages and despots is repugnant and enormously dangerous in a world teetering on the brink. I, for one, am sick of being preached to by a man who increasingly seems to be devoid of the basic decency that is inherent in those who have the genuine moral sense to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong.

It seems nonsensical, until we understand that these people see ‘loyalty’ as a moral code. This means actions that protect the group (in this case America) can be warranted even when they may (to a liberal) seem ‘unfair’ or ’cause harm’. There’s also echoes of the purity concept in the description of ‘flying excrement’.

Both sides think they are acting ‘morally’ and ascribe hidden motivations to the other. Liberals conclude the ‘American thinkers’ are racists, while they think liberals hate freedom/America/God/etc/etc.

What Dr Jonathon Haidt’s research does is provide the first phrasebook for translation between conservatives and liberals. America needs it, but it’s useful in understanding Australia too.

If you surf to, let us know what you think of the survey. Do you line up with what you expected?

What do you reckon about Dr Haidt’s theories? Are they on the money? Are they even useful? Share your reactions below.

Read more of Thomas here.

12 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I have a problem with authority said, on December 2, 2009 at 7:11 am

    This was very interesting. I look forward to taking the other tests too. Ta.

    My results;

    Harm 4.7
    Fairness 3.0
    Loyalty 3.3
    Authority 1.8
    Purity 3.2

  2. Bender said, on December 2, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    A recent study suggested that people morals are determined more by what they want to do rather than what might be morally “right”. They tend to make up their morals based on what they justify to be God’s mind and use that to justify their actions.

    “Researchers led by Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago, said believers often rely on what they think God wants them to do as a ”moral compass”. But this is a poor analogy, they found.

    ”The central feature of a compass is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing,” they wrote.

    ”Unlike an actual compass, inferences about God’s beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing.”

  3. Tinman said, on December 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I think I live in that place you were talking about at the start of the post. It sounds like Melbourne at about 2am on a Saturday night.

    My result…

    Harm: 4.0
    Fairness: 3.5
    Loyalty: 2.2
    Authority: 2.5
    Purity: 0.7

  4. Rob said, on December 4, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Interesting. My results were:
    Harm: 3.5
    Fairness: 3.0
    Loyalty: 3.7
    Authority: 3.8
    Purity: 2.2

    It seems in fairness, loyalty and authority I out-conservative the conservatives, which was a big surprise to me. I fall in the middle of the liberal/conservative camps for harm and purity.

    I’m not quite sure what this means. I’ll have to think on it.

  5. MEN said, on December 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    From my results, it looks as if I am morally superior to both Liberal and Conservatives!!

    Hmmm… I think I might take up TV evangelism…or would that turn me immoral?

  6. bill said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:36 am

    3.8, 4.5, 3.3, 3.3, 0.5

    I’m clearly not into purity.

    Like this a lot.

    I lose a bit on loyalty for not wanting to always preference my group against the needs of strangers, however made up some ground on thinking its very important to love your country. Love being the important bit, not blind loyalty.

    • bill said, on December 9, 2009 at 8:38 am

      I also didn’t get where the maths bit came into it! If a person is good at maths, that makes their decisions moral? No way. If a person’s decision is justified by excellent maths, that may make it a better and more moral decision, but that’s not what the question asked. Just if a person was good at it. Haha.

  7. Simpleton said, on December 9, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I think the problem with this graph is metric bias. Is a man conservative because he values ‘purity’ or is a man conservative because he manages to define what is ‘pure’? In my view examination of the nature of those five qualities renders an interesting disparity: while ‘harm’ and ‘fairness’ can be contentious they’re much easier to explain then notions of ‘loyalty’, ‘authority’ and ‘purity’.

    And I think this is where the problem with these metrics rears its head. Imagine if the research examined people’s views on the preservation of the constitutional or human rights by their government. In that context liberals might show up as the ones valuing notions such as ‘authority’ and ‘purity’.

    So, yeah, i disagree with this assessment.

    • thomasthethinkengine said, on December 10, 2009 at 9:09 am


      Did you do the test at

      I agree that the research could be shaped by the implicit definitions that shape the questions. Jonathon Haidt is a liberal. You’d want to see the research replicated using different frameworks for what constitutes each of the criteria before you took it as gospel.



  8. jf said, on January 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    What the test is missing is how people define each of these foundations. Like most things dreamed up by hippies and liberals, it is lovely and touchy-feely but lacking in reality and pragmatism.

    In addition it is so badly flawed in that the questions are highly subjective and depend on the survey writer’s judgement as to what is moral. More than that, it is a heavily biased survey tailored to produce the results that it wants and therefore a lie. Is dishonesty immoral?

    For instance, most people, conservative and liberal, would see fairness as a good thing. However, liberals typically equate fair with equal. They do not see it as fair a person that works harder, is more talented or is prepared to take more risk should be financially wealthier than anyone else. Conservatives would see it as unfair if that person described was not rewarded.

    Thus, your response to the question in this survey as to the morality of the children of wealthy parents inheriting a lot of money whereas the children of poor parents get nothing will give you more fairness points on the fairness foundation. A very strong argument could be made that it would be unfair if the wealth person was not able to direct their legacy as they see fit.

    Similarly, the questions on harm are flawed. For instance, whilst violently opposed to the death penalty, I answered ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement that “it can never be right to kill a human being” – the question is framed so that you can either strongly agree or strongly disagree. If by killing someone, I was going to save my own or someone elses life then it may be that it is right to kill a human being. In fact, I would see it as morally reprehensible if you found yourself in a position where you could save one or more people by killing someone else and you failed to do so because it was distasteful to you. Thus I find myself in the same moral camp as the most redneck, hang ‘em high death penalty advocate whereas the bloke that could have stopped one or more deaths by killing someone else is more moral.

    Most liberals would have answered that they agree that “compassion for those who are suffering is the most crucial virtue” whereas I disagreed. Not because I don’t think that compassion for those as suffering is a crucial virtue but because I don’t see it as the most crucial virtue. To me, the most crucial virtue is actually doing something to ease the suffering. Again, this is a agree or disagree question because of the way the question is framed. You either agree or don’t. So, I find myself in the same camp as the most socially inept psychopath despite the fact that I see it as an important virtue but less important than actual action whereas the liberals who do nothing are once again more moral.

    Stupid, stupid survey.

  9. Shawna Hoell said, on February 3, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Hi there, neat web site, just curious what antispam program you use for cleaning up comments since I have been hit by so many spammers on my website.

  10. said, on February 11, 2013 at 3:58 am

    I blog often and I really thank you for your content.
    This article has truly peaked my interest. I am
    going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for
    new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: