I just finished watching the Sam Harris followed <a href=“http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSR2ZhTJkAM&feature=BFa&list=PL1C406C40517A45B3&lf=context&c>Jonathan Haidt</a> and he directly addressed Haidt’s thesis. This, believe it or not, has been something I have been specifically looking for for some time. But I was surprised at Harris’ rejection of Haidt’s thesis (if i understood correctly).
When I speak to religious people they seem *extremely* susceptible to authority; both human in the form of religious leaders and in the form of God itself as a stern authoritative figure. I think to us secularists this appears like laziness or just plain stupidity. But isn’t there some evolutionary basis for thinking that people need to be responsive to authority?
Haidt asserts that this is not a left/liberal moral value and indeed it seems to often cause moral revulsion in the secular left. I know it does in me. But Haidt himself doesn’t advocate the very thing his thesis seems to suggest: adoption of an authoritative approach when communicating with the religious. One of the things I think is particularly unique about Harris is that he’s actually is advocating that science *can* provide an authoritative picture of morality. In other words, I actually wonder if Mr. Harris isn’t actually a practical application of Haidt’s prescription? When I hear the common refrains from the scientific community it seems like the authoritative tone as well as the possibility of scientific prescriptions for morality causes the most strident opposition and I can’t help but to think that this is partly due to unconscious anti-authoritarianism; a reflexive revulsion to even the slightest moral certitude.
I myself am extremely anti-authoritarian and I find myself squirming even writing this. But isn’t it something worth considering when thinking about how to communicate to religious people? We on the secular left might find it extremely uncomfortable, but maybe this is precisely one of the reasons why we fail to successfully bridge the gap? I submit this question with humility and without any special expertise, just something bouncing around in my head.