I am currently reading a book by Jonathan Haidt, one of the most perceptive cognitive scientists around today, with a particular talent for explaining the psychology of moral phenomena. Edge.org, a pretty interesting site in its own right, asked a long list of people for reasons to be optimistic about the future. Haidt, who was on the list, answered: “I am optimistic about the future of social science research because the influence of the baby boom generation on the culture and agenda of the social sciences will soon decrease.”
Here is Haidt’s readout on the Boomer effect on his chosen field of study:
1) Moralistic antinativism. The deep and politicized antipathy to 1970s sociobiology produced a generation of social scientists wary of nativism in general and of evolutionary thinking in particular. [. . .] I look forward to the day when most social scientists learned about the astonishing findings of twin studies in their twenties, and very few know who Stephen Jay Gould was.
2) Moral Conformity Pressure. Imagine an industry in which 90% of the people are men, male values and maleness are extolled publicly while feminine values are ridiculed, and men routinely make jokes, publicly and privately, about how dumb women are, even when women are present. Sounds like a definition of “hostile climate” run wild? Now replace the words “male” and “female” with “liberal” and “conservative.” and we have a pretty good description of my field — social psychology — and, I suspect, many other areas of the social sciences. I have no particular fondness for conservatives. But I do have a need for them. I study morality, and I have found that conservative ideas (about authority, respect, order, loyalty, purity, and sanctity) illuminate vast territories of moral psychology, territories that have hardly been noticed by psychologists who define morality as consisting exclusively of matters of harm, rights, and justice. If social psychology had been a morally diverse field, we would have done a much better job of studying the full expanse of human morality, and we’d be in a much better position right now to understand the morality of radical Islam.
Haidt claims to be “technically” a Boomer, having been born in 1963, but has far too much hair to be taken seriously. He also spends more time than necessary in ritual praise of the Boomers’ supposed social conscience — even our detractors can’t see us in clear focus.
We Boomers are posers. We impersonate a social conscience at work, just like we impersonated love and revolution in the Sixties. None of these things mattered to us — only we mattered to us. The best that can be said about Boomers is that we grew up to be the opposite of what we pretended: that is, hard-working (we like money), and good parents (kids are little us, after all).
Otherwise we are conformists — moral mice. Good for young Haidt for saying so. (Via Instapundit).