The Real Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

(pic: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch, 16th century, found at

For a mere eighteen minutes of your time, a full lesson in moral psychology is found in this video, entitled Jonathan Haidt: the real difference between liberals and conservatives.

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The gist of the talk is that there are five moral values that form the basis of our choices, whether left, right or somewhere in the middle. The moral mind, which he discerns from social psychology studies worldwide, anthropology, evolution of social mind, etc. is present at birth and is influenced by environment. The five values are harm/care (protection esp. of the weak, vulnerable, compassion), fairness/reciprocity (golden rule), in group loyalty (cooperate in groups, i.e. tribal think often for preservation of group), authority/respect (based on voluntary deference, even love), purity/sanctity (i.e. sexual purity, food purity). According to his theories and testing (take tests at,liberals are high in the first two: harm/care and fairness/reciprocity. Conservatives are high in all five. Moderates are, as you\’d expect, in the middle. Liberals are strong advocates for the rights of the vulnerable, voiceless populations and often think a revolution of sorts is needed to change their plight. Open-minded change is embraced, without noting the impact it will have on social order. Conservatives recognize how precarious the keeping of order is (chaos is always pulling) and work to maintain it while advocating the morals they hold with liberals (fairness and do no harm)…conservatives also recognize that to maintain order/harmony some will suffer as a result (i.e. Jesus saying: \”the poor you will always have with you\”) at least in the short term. Conservatives recognize that order is very hard to achieve and easy to lose. Liberals want justice, even at the risk of chaos.

The triptych above (The Garden of Earthly Delight) is part of the video and portrays how order/harmony (i.e. Garden of Eden–first panel) can quickly digress into moral chaos (second panel) and eventually land in hell (third panel). Jonathan notes the chaos panel looks like the 60\’s and the hell panel looks like the 70\’s. I can see liberal boomers everywhere shifting in their chairs and their children nodding knowingly. Having grown up in those years, I personally think we\’re still in the second panel, but digressing quickly into the third panel. Order tends to decay, social entropy is the idea here.

His solution is is to step out of the moral matrix and just see that this is happening and not be a part of it (he cites the Dalai Lama, Ying and Yang, and the Hindu gods of Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the changer [they share the same body] as good examples). He doesn\’t eyeball the God of Christianity, for he probably sees Christianity as a dualistic religion: God and Satan warring, Christ defeating the forces of evil through His death and resurrection, but I think it is fair to say that both Jesus and Satan dance together to bring about God\’s highest good, His Will which will eventually paint a picture like the the first panel (read Revelation 21 & 22, the last two chapters in the Bible)–something not seen since Genesis 1. Maybe the triptych should have a fourth and fifth panel, the fourth being God\’s discipline/judgment meted out (depicted in another one of his graphs showing that discipline motivates) which brings humanity to its senses and helps it turn toward God (authority/respect and purity/sanctity values), and start becoming warriors in the heavenly realm (cooperate as a group value), so Harmony, Love and Life can eventually vanquish the powers of evil (justice/fairness value and do no harm value). The fifth panel would look like the first, only better, for evil, chaos and entopy wouldn\’t be a threat.

Anyway, I\’m not warming up to his solution. Being objective is good, letting go of self-righteousness is good, but isn\’t the highest good (sorry Dalai Lama). In my mind, we can\’t save ourselves, we can\’t heal ourselves, our worldview matters but cannot pluck us from hell. Moral humility is only achieved by recognizing our place before God, by accepting the fact that we need a Savior, by accepting that Savior and letting Him transform us into vessels through which He can move to bring healing to the world. Healing that comes through His Spirit working through us, whatever that looks like (which is not always what we\’d expect, check out Paul\’s work in the book of Acts).

Well, I found this video rather stimulating, hope you agree. At times, while watching, I feel a sick spot in my stomach, signaling that maybe all he purports isn\’t accurate, and then he is rather cruel at the get go, setting up the audience the way he does (leave it to a psychologist to pull this stunt), but then it kind of reminds me of how Jesus worked in the Gospels with the prevailing authorities…get them aware of their own mind-set and them give them the old one-two punch.

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