Why Does The Arc Of The Moral Universe Bend Towards Justice?

Tuesday was a historic victory for the Democratic Party and the Moral Universe:


Sexual Equality:


“For the first time, after more than 30 losses, gay marriage won approval at the ballot box,””

“Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states in U.S. history to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, while Minnesotans rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have made same-sex marriage illegal.”

“Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, became the first openly gay politician to win election to the Senate, defeating former Gov. Tommy Thompson.”

Gender Equality:

In the Senate, women made historic gains, now holding 19 seats.

New Hampshire also added another coup; they have the only state in history with an all female delegation.

Racial Equality:

The first Asian American women was elected to the Senate.

Religious Equality:

A Buddhist Senator and a Hindhu Represenative will join Congress for the first time.

Reproductive Liberty:

On reproductive rights, voters sent a powerful message to pro-lifers, [defeating] Todd Akin and Richard Mourdoch, after being appalled by sentiments that rape victims shouldn’t be entitled to abort a rape related pregnancy.

Cognitive Liberty:

Colorado and Washington both voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Arc of the Moral Universe

At the the peak of the last great expansion in civil liberties, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said:
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”.

But I think most people don’t understand why this is the case.

Why does it bend rather than stay straight?This is an important question.It is what any philosophically inclined person must ask.

“Why does something happen rather than nothing?”

To understand why the moral arc of the universe does indeed bend, you must understand how to apply evolutionary and developmental systems to moral development.

You must understand that natural selection plays out on the field of memes.

You must recognize that genetic evolution is no longer relevant. The process is so slow so as to be irrelevant.

Evolution and development now occur “memetically”.

Not genetically.

It occurs in the economic and socio-political realms, rather than the jungle or the savannah.

And development’s forward driving mechanism is “adaptation”.

More evolved states of conscious and expanding spheres of moral awareness win because they are able to access behaviors that are more adaptive than their less enlightened predecessors.

What adaptive behavior did the more morally developed Democratic party have in this election?

Trust in data rather than trust in opinion.

The scientific method over hubris.

Modernity over pre-modernity.

Natural Selection in Political Punditry:

Data and science trumped gut and experience in the world of political punditry:

“The New York Times election statistician Nate Silver perfectly predicted all 50 states last night for President Obama, while every single major pundit was wrong – some comically wrong. Despite being derided by TV talking heads as a liberal hack, Silver definitively proved that geeks with mathematical models were superior to the gut feelings and pseudo-statistics of so-called political experts. The big question is, will the overwhelming success of statistical models make pundit forecasting obsolete, or will producers stubbornly keep them on the air?”

Natural Selection Electoral Politics:

And the Democrats used the same advantage of science over gut informed experience to turn out the vote and by the standard of electoral college, win the election by a landslide.

Here is your case study on how the Obama campaign used data to create a turnout machine that the GOP themselves decried in a public memo was,


Slate explains: Why Obama Is Better at Getting Out the Vote

Darley-Emerson’s rounds—and those of hundreds of thousands of other canvassers and callers in the closing hours of the election—may look like the basic work of campaigns, the slog of door knocks and repetitive phone calls. But as is the case with much of Obama’s campaign, the dutiful fieldwork is undergirded by sophisticated analytics unmatched by his Republican opponents. The houses on Darley-Emerson’s list were not only likely to contain supporters, but supporters for whom a visit from a canvasser could make all the difference.”

Over a two-week stretch starting at the end of July, the Obama campaign’s analytics department contacted 54,739 voters from paid call centers and asked them how they planned to vote. Obama’s databases already knew a lot about the approximately 180 million registered voters in the United States (and even a bit about those who weren’t registered, in a way that could help guide the campaign’s efforts to enroll them). The goal was to collect intelligence about potential voters’ 2012 intentions and distill that down to a series of individual-level predictions. The most important of these scores, on a range from 0 to 100, assessed an individual’s likelihood of supporting Barack Obama and of casting a ballot altogether.”

Campaigns tend to focus their mobilization efforts on voters who have been assigned high support and mid-range turnout scores. Those with turnout scores outside a span of, say, 30 to 80 are not worth the effort: Those above it are self-motivated enough to vote already, and those beneath it unlikely to do so under any circumstances. Democrats approach the question of prioritizing voters for turnout in much the same way as Republicans. Obama, however, goes a step farther.

Since 2008, Democrats have administered randomized-control experiments to test the impact of  Get Out The Vote [GOTV] contact on voters with different score combinations, with the goal of quantifying where those contacts are most likely to produce a net vote. The most fruitful terrain turned out to surround voters with turnout scores centered around 45. Delivering a GOTV contact to a voter with a 100 support score and a 45 turnout score increased the likelihood of netting a Democratic vote by 4.5 percent; delivering a GOTV contact to a voter with a 75 support score and a 45 turnout score increased the likelihood of netting a vote by 2.7 percent.

Obama’s analytics department synthesized all of this research into a new GOTV score that combines predictions about one’s likelihood of voting and supporting Obama. It, too, ranks voters from zero to 100, but this one doesn’t assess voters’ characteristics so much as prioritize them based on their susceptibility to the campaign’s efforts to modify their behavior. When canvassers like Darley-Emerson get a list of names, it has been edited according to the one criterion that matters: how likely her visit is to generate a new vote towards the president’s re-election—whether the canvasser remembers to ask who the voter is supporting or not.

The consequence of the Democrats adapting the new ability to use science and data to more effectively campaign for elections may result in nothing short of the collapse of the Republican party.

John Stewart and Rachel Maddow put the nails in the coffin:

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
– H. G. Wells