The Ethical Guinea Pig

Which would be…you!


Don't say I didn't warn you!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

A group of professors and graduate students from the University of Virginia, The University of California (Irvine), and the University of Southern California have announced that they are performing research on “how moral minds work” and inviting volunteers to be subjects  in the study…

“Why do people disagree so passionately about what is right? Why, in particular, is there such hostility and incomprehension between members of different political parties? By filling out a few of our surveys, you’ll help us answer those questions We, in return, will give you an immediate report on how you scored on each study, quiz, or survey. We’ll show you how your responses compare to others and we’ll tell you what that might say about you.”

You are invited (by them) to register (you can do so anonymously if you choose) online and begin the process. The website is here, at

If this turns out to be a secret government plot to identify those with insufficient “social justice” inclinations and send them to forced re-education camps where they’re required to listen to Lauryn Hill songs, Sandra Fluke speeches and Michael Moore rants all day, don’t blame me: I’m not endorsing the study, just letting you know about it. I have been singularly unimpressed with most scientific research in this field, and not just because it seems unusually vulnerable to the biases of the researchers.

I was recently listening to NPR interview a researcher in animal morality who informed the audience that “dogs are a species that don’t hold grudges.” Tell it to my Jack Russell, Rugby, a dog who loves everybody and everything except the two Belgian Shepherds that belong to my neighbor, which look sufficiently like the two dogs of the same breed that attacked Rugby when he was a puppy that he races to the window every day at the exact moment they walk past our house, whereupon he growls, barks and generally goes nuts in an orgy of fury, using his big-dog bark to say (this is a rough translation): “GET AWAY FROM HERE YOU STUPID CRAP-HEADS!!! JUST WAIT UNTIL I TRACK YOU DOWN!!! YOU’RE DEAD, DO YOU HEAR ME, DEAD! YOU THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN??? SOONER OR LATER, I’LL GET YOU, JUST YOU WAIT!!!!! IHATEYOUIHATEYOUIHATEYOUIHATEYOU!”

Anyway, good luck.


Pointer: Charles Green (Thanks, Charlie!)

23 thoughts on “The Ethical Guinea Pig

      • Serious.

        It showed me zero across the board. I suspect they didn’t record my answers properly. Either that or I actually am a psychopath. I strongly agreed that hurting animals is horrible, so it’s probably not the latter.

        • Maybe it’s like golf, the lower the score the closer you fit with the set of morally ideal parameters as determined by a body of professors and graduate students.

    • I wasn’t going to participate until I read of the problem you had with it. No glitches or anything on my end. But I do hate all five-point-scale surveys because of the vagueness of the questions, and this is certainly no exception.

      • Did you complain about the questions in the complaint box? I did. Maybe my complaints invalidated my score.

        I really wanted to write “it depends” for multiple questions. The commanding officer one was especially bad.

  1. Our late German Shepherd hated, and I mean HATED, the UPS man.
    He’d start barking and snarling when the truck was six blocks away.
    I do think dogs hold grudges.

    • No, the UPS thing is compliance—all dogs get a command from Canine Central that they have to bark at the truck. My dog loves the UPS employees, and always tries to get into the truck to ride along.

  2. I didn’t have a lot of time so I just took the test where you rate Americans against non-Americans in areas such as laziness and immaturity.
    My results were considerably off from both the Liberal and Conservative scores.

    My guess for this outcome is because I lived outside of the US for ten years.
    I can relate exactly and fairly reliably as to how I measured up (or not) to others.
    Plus insider observation.

    • I don’t think living outside the U.S. was necessary. Not being a sheep is good enough to get your scores to not match either. The average liberal belief and average conservative belief both tend to be bad.

  3. Interesting. What do morals and ethics have to do with the test taker’s politics? That seems highly questionionable.

    • I think there’s a bit of a priming problem (the politics questions should be randomly at the end for some people, to see if there’s a difference), but otherwise, I don’t see your issue.

  4. I openly invite anyone who has a problem with my absolute and total lack of any notions of “social justice” to come and try to take me off.

    It will be an exceedingly unhealthy life-choice they would be making, but I would not dream of forbidding the attempt.

  5. “I think it’s morally wrong that rich children inherit a lot of money while poor children inherit nothing.”

    I want you all to find me people who “strongly agree” with that sentence and bring them to me, so that I may punch them in the throat.

  6. I took only one of these tests and ugh — so many problems with it. Of course, the answer to just about every question is “Um, it depends — can I get some context here?” Am I being “disloyal to my group” because I became a young adult and realized my group was the Klan? If my group is the Klan, I can pretty much guarantee that I don’t care about loyalty. Anyway, it appears that I outscore both Dems and Repubs on issues like fairness and harm, and underscore both Dems and Repubs on loyalty, purity (someone hand me a scarlet letter), and authority. In any event, I don’t understand how this makes me more or less “moral” and I guess I don’t care.

    • “Of course, the answer to just about every question is “Um, it depends — can I get some context here?”

      Sums up the surveys quite succinctly.

  7. I liked the one I took last year that had me rank the (5 points) spot between two different attributes. One of the questions boiled down to “are you open-minded or are you a moral person”? I wisely chose the latter because this “values” survey (done by Gallup) was required by my employer. Although I was assured it was ‘anonymous’, I had to login with my employee ID and name. This sort of nonsense is the danger of treating these surveys and this field as “science”.

    This is opinion, not science. Intelligent, well-meaning people often disagree when it comes to interpretation even of facts they both agree with. Why do some people claim that Big Bang theory means that there is not God and religion is foolish, while others vehemently fight Big Bang theory because it give major support to religious views about the creation of the universe?

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