[ If you want to skip my explanation, you can start with paragraph #5.]
It’s a new year, and the last one had several outbreak of complaints here, some fair, some contrived, and some obnoxious, about Ethics Alarms being an “echo chamber” that either had insufficient diversity of opinion, discouraged diversity of opinion, inevitably favored one political/partisan end of the political spectrum over the other, or artificially tilted its analysis and reader reactions to my personal biases.
The analysis here should be consistent, and I expect readers to blow a whistle when it is not or seems that way. I also furiously reject the concept of ethical relativity, or that “you have your truth and I have mine.” A society needs to settle on its values and objectives, and those decisions need to be based on linear constants, or the result is chaos. It is also important, however, that those values and objectives be subject to constant analysis and reexamination. We learn by experience and debate: that’s the nature of ethics, as opposed to morality. It is also why diversity of viewpoint is valuable on an ethics blog. Different perspectives are invaluable in helping us cut through the underbrush of bias, conventional wisdom and lazy assumptions that impede our ability to distinguish right from wrong.
But there are structural flies in this buttermilk, the prime among them being human nature. People tend to want to see, hear, read and believe things that they find comforting and confirm their world views; being open minded is uncomfortable, even painful. Sometimes, it can be dangerous, or at least scary. One reason I spend the time I do on Ethics Alarms is that it forces me to read and consider opinions and examine topics that I normally would not.
The goal here has always been to promote a colloquy of thoughtful and articulate readers to focus on ethics and sharpen our habits of analysis while avoiding the jargon, excessively abstract navel-gazing and mind-numbing theoretical intellectualizing that has killed ethics as a topic the general public has any interest in or sufficient competence in applying. Whatever the reasons for it, the perceived trend, at least in the comments, for opinions to run in the same general direction (when there are valid and legitimate positions that point elsewhere) is “concerning” (as Prof Turley would say.)
This is all prelude to asking readers to place themselves on the ideological/political beliefs spectrum/world view spectrum. Before WordPress went to a hopelessly complicated system, I would have used a poll for this purpose, but none of the Ethics Alarms polls attracted more than a couple hundred participants out of the thousands that visit the blog every day. Now I’m going to give you a range of choices to answer the question, and I’ll be very grateful to those who take the time to answer it.
- Just describe where you see yourself fitting.
- Use a ten point scale with #1 being knee-jerk extreme Left on all matters and #10 being the opposite.
- Take this online survey, which is dated but appears to be pretty good based on my own experience.
- Or this one, which is also pretty good, by the Pew people.
- Or you can try this one.
I’d like to hear from more of you than just the regular commentariat, so for this purpose only, I will accept submissions labeled “anonymous” or the equivalent. I will also relent and accept submission from readers who have been banned from commenting, as long as they stick to the topic.
None of the online tests are perfect, and many of the questions or propositions are too general (or specific. But I’ve taken all of them more than once, and have been surprised to find that they were remarkably consistent in their findings, and, at least in my case, perceptive. For example, here is where the Political Spectrum Quiz places me:
That’s not only where I think I am, it’s where I think I should be, as opposed to where the same survey places the average participant, which is where the green pointer resides:
I eagerly await your assistance.