The Righteous Mind
By Jonathan Haidt
Published in 2012
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
This is going to be a short review because I didn’t make it past the fourth chapter. The book covers various evolutionary psychology experiments and attempts to explain why people believe different things. In many ways, it is a more data-heavy and less poetically written version of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.
I stopped reading the book because I found it boring and thought that the “science” seemed a tad flimsy. For example, one experiment consists of interviews of people of different social classes and asks them to answer various moral questions. Upper class people tend to differentiate between things that are distasteful but don’t hurt anyone and things that are immoral; while lower class people do not. Haidt offers a wide variety of explanations but ignores the obvious: IQ. To me it seems like people who have lower IQs will tend to be poorer; and people with higher IQs tend to be wealthier. A simple way to verify this would be to test high IQ poor people and low IQ rich people. Ben Carson grew up extremely poor and was the child of a single mom; but he had a very developed and nuanced view of ethics. As a result, he became a successful neurosurgeon. By contrast Paris Hilton grew up wealthy. She uses third grade vocabulary in interviews and seems pretty clueless; I wouldn’t be surprised if her views of ethics weren’t very developed.
My point isn’t that IQ destroys the entire book; far from it. He may even address it later. My point is that there are so many variables to consider that I am generally very skeptical of statistically-driven social sciences like psychology and economics. Statistics to add color to anecdotal experience-based accounts are great; but statistical accounts lose the point.
There might be some data people who enjoy reading this, but I decided not to finish it.
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