As a psychologist and someone who shares a few professional affiliations with Dr. Haidt, I have a somewhat different take on his book. I am very impressed with how he has built up his argument, tying to together many different themes from across a number of disciplines. I also appreciate a good theoretical story – one that lines up with what makes sense with our everyday experience. However, a good stories can be as much fiction as non-fiction and how can we tell the difference?
So here are some questions to ponder:
- Since psychology is a science, has Dr. Haidt relied enough on empirical evidence to back up his claims? Can you provide examples of such evidence – based upon a prediction, followed by observation to see if the prediction came true? Please note the phrasing – psychology is a science and follows the scientific method just the same as physics, chemistry, biology, and the other social sciences.
- Haidt gives you one story, but often times there are several stories that can explain the same phenomenon – up to a point. As a scientist, you have to find ways to test for differences between theories to see which one most consistently or best predicts what you observe. Thus, the process involves confirming a theory, but also disconfirming theories. Can you find examples of competing theoretical models in Haidt’s book? Do they sufficiently convince you that Haidt’s conclusion is best? Better yet, can you think of a different competing theory?