25 January 2011

Parenting continuums and moral cognition

I see parenting tactics and strategies as somewhere between this and this .

And I'm far happier seeing parents adopt the latter than the former. Because most of the effort is wasted or unnecessary protection and otherwise imposes demands rather than allows for a bit of flourishing of the individuals.

Speaking of efforts that might be wasted... , kids apparently start early on that whole good-bad thing. Well before we get to them and start programming our particular favorite set of mandated religious rules.. err, whatever it is we prefer as moral flavor. Evolutionary speaking, this is not surprising that a social animal would have more or less pre-programmed to recognize good and bad social cohesion and to avoid bad behavior which might be harmful to the survival of the species by a) punishing it or b) avoiding it.

What's most interesting to conclude here is this part however. . Human beings appear to come pre-programmed to be bigots. Or at least to have heavy preferences for people who share common ground and to be disposed to actively dislike people who do not share those common interests. There are again, sensible evolutionary reasons why this would make sense. It fosters social cohesion to have groups of relatively like minded people, though it also may be sacrificing social innovations. But basically, "tolerating" other people is akin to "I don't give a shit" about you, and you, and you. Having a strong attachment to a particular interest however means that you will tend to have a strong dislike for its opposite when it appears. And this is pretty much where our sports rivalries come from (which I don't usually care about one way or the other, other than it might produce good quality games), and more importantly, where our political and religious sectarianism comes from.

What wasn't discussed up there, but what occurs to me, is that it's possible that infants are seeing these distinctions as "bad actions" worthy of punishment, because they do not align with their own likely goals. Of course we don't, in most cases, extend active hindrance of people's choice of food or music, but we do in competitive ventures like sports, politics, religion, and nationalism (and yes, most of religion is about signaling your competitive group associations with like-minded people, and not about establishing a better world). If our opposites in these fields are doing something "bad" by not sharing our preferences, then it is reasonable that we should desire to see them punished for it.
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