A Response to Sam Harris's Writings on Moral Truth Pt 2 of 3

In August of 2013, Sam Harris issued a challenge to refute the central thesis of his book, The Moral Landscape. This thesis is that "questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science." This is part 2 of a 3-part post explaining why I agree with everything in his book except the central thesis.

A Response to Sam Harris's Writings on Moral Truth Pt 1 of 3

In August of 2013, Sam Harris issued a challenge to refute, in 1,000 words or less, the central thesis of his book, The Moral Landscape. This thesis is that "questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science." In a three-part blog post, I explain why I agree with everything in his book except the central thesis.

Good, Neutral, and Bad Selfishness

Most of us have been taught from an early age that placing our own needs before the needs of others is wrong. Such behavior is discouraged with the disparaging label, "selfish." At the same time, self-help experts tell us that "self-care" is essential to our well-being. So, how do we tell the difference between "bad" selfishness and healthy self-care?

Why Your Moral Rights Will Not Get You What You Want

Perhaps given the introductory statements in the Declaration of Independence, Americans believe that they have inalienable rights. Actually, rights are complete fictions, and trying to appeal to your rights is an ineffective way to get what you want. This post discusses two alternatives to invoking rights as a means of getting what we want.

Acquiescence and Social Desirability: Psychometric Bogeymen

It seems obvious to may lay persons and professional psychologists that people are likely to misrepresent themselves on personality tests, especially when being evaluated. After some 50 years of research, strong evidence for this alleged problem is lacking. Nonetheless, belief in response sets and styles continues, just like children's belief in the bogeyman.

Paul E. Meehl: Smartest Psychologist of the 20th Century?

In 1975, my undergraduate abnormal psychology teacher made a claim that I will never forget: that Paul E. Meehl was "the smartest living psychologist." Meehl died in 2003. In this post I consider whether Meehl indeed might have been the smartest psychologist of the 20th century.

Who You Know Really Does Count

On my first day of retirement from academia, I reflect on the importance of social connections to my educational and career success. Hopefully, the illustrations I describe from my own career history will demonstrate the importance of social connections to career success, not just in psychology, but in any career.

Beyond Basketball

For life to have meaning, we need to dream about experiences that we hope will be ultimately fulfilling. I use as a personal example a 30-year dream of participating in a basketball workshop at the Omega Institute.

Preconceptions May Color Conclusions about Sex Addiction

Proponents and opponents of the concept of sex addiction claim to have data supporting their views. My examination of the data and arguments have led me to hypothesize that participants in the debate have allowed their personal preconceptions to color their interpretations of the data.

Are Research Psychologists More Like Detectives or Lawyers?

Textbook models of the scientific method indicate that research psychologists are to act like objective, dispassionate detectives, tracking down facts to arrive at the truth. Evidence of the actual behavior of researchers suggests that, in reality, they act more like lawyers, searching for evidence to persuade others of a presumed truth.

Selfless Service, Part II: Different Types of Seva

People usually think of seva (selfless service) as helping the unfortunate: feeding the hungry, nursing the sick, educating the illiterate, and so forth. As such, seva would seem to be the special province of those resembling the Holland Social personality type who are naturally inclined toward these activities. This post explains how the other Holland types can do seva.

Selfless Service, Part I: Is Selfless Service Possible?

A long tradition is psychology claims that people are motivated by rewards: We engage in activities that we think will be rewarding. But an even longer tradition in moral philosophy claims that we ought to engage in selfless service, helping those in need without expectation of reward. If we are motivated by rewards, is it then possible to engage in "selfless service?"

How Helpful are Evolutionary Insights at a Personal Level?

Throughout my entire educational and professional career, I have assumed that insights from the science of evolutionary psychology can increase the quality of life. In this post I ask myself honestly whether my personal life has benefited from possessing knowledge of evolutionary insights, and I invite readers to ask themselves the same question.

Are 'I' Statements Better than 'You' Statements?

In theory, someone who hears "I feel bad when you do that" will feel less defensive and will be more likely to change his or her behavior to your liking than someone who hears "You make me feel bad when you do that." But does the choice of the pronoun "I" or "you" really make that much difference in how a listener reacts?

The Unsavory Psychology of Two-Party Politics

The US political system has settled in on allowing only two major parties to produce candidates for political office. In this post, I argue that the two-party system encourages overly-simplistic, biased, polarized thinking that leads to grave harm. A solution might be to outlaw political parties.

Moral Outrage as a Dark Side of Moral Goodness

That people should feel morally outraged toward a pedophilic predator and those who may have covered for the predator to protect their own interests needs no explanation. That much is a no-brainer. But why is the level of outrage so high that it extends toward those who merely question whether a cover-up occurred or whether the sanctions against the institution are fair?

Don't Blame Yourself (or Others)

Getting blamed does not feel good, whether you deserve it or not. I share some thoughts on how to avoid self-blame, how to not let blame from others get to you, and why you might want to give up blaming others—for anything.

Being Good Versus Feeling Good

People sometimes argue that seeking pleasure (feeling good) and striving to be virtuous (being good) are at odds with each other. I think the issue is a little more complicated than that.

The Patriarchy and Bella Swan's Vampire Desires

Is the patriarchy to blame when Bella Swan demands another round of bedboard-breaking, bruising sex and chooses not to abort the demon-baby that is killing her?

What Explains Different Expectations about Pleasure?

Terri Conley of the University of Michigan claims that women and men are equally motivated to pursue pleasure in casual sex and that pursuit of pleasure explains sexual behavior better than concepts from evolutionary psychology. I explain why this claim is incorrect.

Are Women as Driven by Sexual Desire as Men? Part I: New Research Says “Yes”

It is both common knowledge and scientific fact than men are so much more eager for sexual pleasure than women that they are more likely to seek short-term flings. Or are they?

What Anti-Evolutionary Psychologists are Really Worried About

Evolutionary psychologists and behavioral geneticists all agree that both genes and environments are equally important determinants of mind and behavior. Why, then, do a number of psychologists claim that nurture is more important than nature, and why do they falsely accuse evolutionary psychology of claiming the opposite view?

Frequently Asked Questions About Personality Testing

Do you have a question about personality testing? Chances are good that it is in my FAQ file. If your question does not appear in this blog post, feel free to ask it in a response, and I will do my best to answer it.

Economic Fairness—What Is It?

Most people recognize meritocracy (a system where what you get is proportional to what you give) as a fair form of compensation. The problem is that we all start out in life with different resources. If Monopoly were like real life, some players would start out with $1500 dollars and other players would start out with $10. Is there a fair way of evening the playing field?

Review of Reclaim Your Family from Addiction, by Craig Nakken

I review the premise of Craig Nakken's Reclaim Your Family from Addiction, that four fundamental drives guide our behavior, and in order of descending importance, they are the drives for connection, meaning, pleasure, and power. In addiction, pleasure and power take precedence over meaning, and recovery requires a restoration of proper priorities.

Morality: Cui Bono? Part 2

There are no moral truths. We engage in ethical discussions, not to seek moral truths, but to advance our own interests. Engaging in ethical discussions only sometimes advances the interests of other people.

Suggesting that human beings are either this or that represents faulty, Manichean thinking

For Dr. Narvaez to suggest that human beings are "naturally" one way or the other, that evolutionary psychologists have chosen the wrong side of the dichotomy, and that she has chosen the correct side, is simplistic Manichean thinking.

Freedom and Control

We often associate freedom with being in control of things. While that might be true sometimes, it seems to me that sometimes the opposite is true.

Life as Poker

Can life ever be made fair, given that we are dealt different genetic endowments and early life experiences?

Trait-Haters, Inc.

Professional personality trait psychologists take for granted the importance of personality traits. Thousands of non-psychologists flock to online testing sites to learn more about their traits. At the same time, there has been a persistent anti-trait movement in psychology. This post describes who these trait-haters are and what they might have against traits.