Monday: Vote Tomorrow! That’s Tuesday, November 8, 2016. No Excuses!

Seriously, we have an unlikable but qualified woman running against an egotistical, ignorant, cruel, racist, authoritarian, torture-praising misogynist who can be sent into a rage by an errant tweet.

Vote tomorrow.

No excuses.

Of course, if Trump loses, he might not actually concede the election. He said he’s going to “keep us in suspense.”

God help us all.

Meat-Free Monday: Why Not Eat Vegan? 

There are a few reasons beyond just the obvious one: it’s a big adjustment to your life and can be quite inconvenient and difficult if you don’t live a bigger city.

And some people have been burned by self-righteous vegans who treated them like garbage and turned them off to the possibilities altogether.  

Now, I’ve experienced great support from family, friends, and co-workers as I’ve gone fully plant-based. They’ve been encouraging and accommodating, and it warms my heart.

But why do so many people go for   crash diets or even gastric surgery without ever trying a plant based diet? Surely that adjustment is far more inconvenient than going vegan. 

I think an answer may come from moral foundations theory.

Most of us approach vegetarianism and/or veganism from the moral foundation of  care. We see the videos of animal abuse inherent in factory farming,  and we want to change,  to prevent that suffering,  even if just for the few animals per year who suffer and die for our consumption.

Sometimes it’s a fairness issue. I have no problems with my grandparents’ past cattle farming, just like I had no problem with them using leaded gasoline in their cars.

I had no problem with my ancient ancestors’ hunting and herding. 

But this isn’t 1940, or 1423, or 3000 BCE.  We don’t need to do that to live,  and our methods for raising and killing animals have grown far crueler and more wasteful since then,  due to industrialized agriculture and maximized profits.

We don’t have to do that any more, so I don’t.

But a lot of people don’t solely operate from care and fairness. A lot of people also care about the moral foundations of authority,  in-group loyalty, and sanctity. 

So how might these moral foundations make a person more resistant to going plant based? 

Authority (tradition) 

We are taught throughout school that cow’s milk “does a body good,” that we have to drink plenty or our bikes won’t grow strong. 

We are taught to eat meat,  too, though somewhat less directly. 

Also,  vegetarianism and especially veganism are strange,  and strangeness and eccentricity are actively devalued by the authority mindset.  

Why?  Because going against the grain small matters prepares you to go against the grain in large matters. 

In group loyalty

Meat is the American way, at least according to the beef industry’s ads. BBQ’s are patriotic, and refusing the celebratory meat is tantamount to disloyalty. This sounds silly,  but don’t most of our patriotic holidays involve a barbecue?


Somehow,  despite being purer in the senses of cruelty, bacterial contamination, and  actual contents, many vegan protein sources sound strange, fake, or otherwise suspect.  

In American culture, plant based proteins are ritually, or at least metaphorically, unclean. I’ve seen this reaction, but I can’t explain it. 

So there you go: a few reasons people might openly object to veganism or vegetarianism. 

Just because something doesn’t make sense to me,  doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense from the other person’s perspective. 

Life isn’t always logical, but it always has a logic of its own

Truth and Lies: The (Dis)Honesty Project


If you haven’t watched this documentary,  your should.  It’s on Netflix, and it’s a great introduction into the field of behavioral economics, the science of lying,  and the costs associated with lying and cheating. 

It basically alternates between Dr. Dan Ariely and his co-researchers explaining what their experiments have shown,  and people who’ve been caught lying or cheating telling their stories, including what was going through their minds when they were doing it. 

It’s amazing to see how things like transactional distance make people more likely to cheat, but being reminded of an ethics system (even one from a religion you actively don’t believe in)  makes people less likely to cheat.

Give it a watch some time.  

Theory Thursday: Moral Foundations

I’ve been reading and thinking about moral foundation theory, and it’s really been eye-opening. It helps to explain and understand the reasons people hold different political and social positions and beliefs.

I’ll be writing more about this in the weeks to come, but I thought I’d start with an overview.

The five primary moral foundations are

  1. Care (vs. Harm)
  2. Fairness/Reciprocity
  3. Authority
  4. In-Group Loyalty
  5. Purity

Typically, Liberals and Progressives focus on the first two. Conservatives favor all five, typically putting that last three (Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity) above the first two (Care/Harm and Fairness/Reciprocity).

There’s a sixth one, Liberty, that is gaining traction. Libertarians value that above all others, though everyone values it to some degree.

Caring about Care/Harm and Fairness is obvious – we don’t want people to be hurt. We don’t want people to be cheated. And every side of the political fence cares about these two.

But why care about the other three? Order tends to decay unless effort is put into maintaining it. Just like houses and engines and our bodies. In times of chaos, everybody gets hurt. Thus, it makes sense to put some effort into maintaining order. Thus, Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity.

Why do progressives reject these, then?

Because Authority is power. Not only does it corrupt, but it is sought by the most corrupt. Accepting authority with little or no questioning means signing your name to all its abuses. Voting to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004 meant giving your sanction to Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq War, and the Patriot Act. Voting to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012 meant giving your tacit approval to his ongoing an unaccountable uses of drone strikes on civilians in countries we weren’t even at war with, like Pakistan.

Because In-Group Loyalty inherently leads to the marginalization (or worse) of those who do not fit into the group, and the destruction of those who threaten the group. I suffered through enough bullying in K12 to never trust a clique, team, or identity fully, and what I went through was nothing compared to what some of my LGBT+ friends experienced. Nothing at all. This sort of mindset leads to people cheering and dancing in the street when a terrorist leader is killed. This sort of mindset leads to people covering for their fellow cops when an unarmed 12 year old is killed. This mindset is at the heart of racism and homophobia.

Because Purity usually means men controlling women’s lives and sexuality, blaming them for our lusts and our bad actions. Jesus said “if your eye offends you, pluck it out,” not “if your eye offends you, tell whoever you’re leering at to wear thicker clothes.” Purity drives male domination of women across the world.

There are benefits to the moral foundations of Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity, but progressives look at the harm that has been done in their name to ethnic minorities, to women, to gender and sexual minorities, and the harm that is still being done, and figure we’d all be better off sticking to Care and Fairness.

But the question comes about: how do we then create a stable society, especially during a crisis?

It’s no wonder that progressive movements tend to have their greatest gains not during times of crisis, but during times of stability. This is especially true during times when the prosperity is not shared anywhere close to equally between groups: the Gilded Age, the Post WW2-Boom, the last thirty years. During times of crisis (WW2, immediately post-9/11/01) people take a more conservative (or even hardline) turn. This ebb and flow may be a natural part of society’s life cycle, but it’s important to keep an eye on it, to prevent it from giving rise to a violent mass movement (like the Nazis, Al Queda, or the Islamic State).

To learn more about Moral Foundation Theory:

Moral Foundations website

Moral Foundations on Wikipedia

Moral Foundations and Political Backgrounds Quizzes

Here is Johnathan Haidt’s TED talk about Moral Foundations in Politics.