They lack the thinking skills taught to earlier generations.
In “If It Feels Right … “ (New York Times, September 12, 2011), David Brooks complains,
It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.
Odd, coming from the inventor of the evolutionary psychology novel. So why trust his judgement? Here’s what his source reports,
During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.
With what outcome?
When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.
The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”
As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”
Some hope they’ll mature, but historical experience is, in general, that people so rudderless do not mature. Lucky if they merely morph into a crowd; too often, that crowd is a mob that later forsakes chaos for order imposed by a dangerous fanatic adored by masses. Now that’s the experience of a lifetime, to be sure.
Which reminds us: If Dawkins talks the way he just did on TV and Paxman joins in, prompting a complaint to the BBC, how is he supposed to be a good influence on children? Why should anyone buy or recommend his children’s book?
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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose