New study shows that greens are less moral than ordinary people

From libertarian John Stossel at ABC News.


People who commit their lives to going green are just better people. They’re more moral, more honest. At least, they keep telling us that, and apparently many students believe it, say University of Toronto psychologists:

They initially quizzed the students on their impressions of people who buy eco-friendly products, and for the most part, they considered such consumers to be more “more cooperative, altruistic and ethical” than ordinary consumers…

Then the researchers took it an extra step: They ran a test to see who would be more likely to cheat and steal: Greens? Or conventional shoppers?

They divided the greens and conventional shoppers, and then gave the students a test that tempted them to steal money. The researchers found:

The green consumers were more likely to cheat than the conventional purchasers, and they stole more money when asked to withdraw their winnings from envelopes on their desks.

This concept of moral license has been demonstrated before, writes Wray Herbert in his blog for the Association for Psychological Science.

(W)hen they have reason to feel a little superior, that positive self image triggers a sense of moral license. That is, the righteous feel they have some latitude to stray a bit in order to compensate. It’s like working in a soup kitchen gives you the right to cheat on your taxes later in the week.

Maybe that’s why sanctimonious stewards of the environment like Al Gore are comfortable lecturing the rest of us while living large in mega-mansions.

Beware of those who select an alternative moral standard (global warming,  foreign aid, animal rights, veganism, yoga, etc.) that gives them self-esteem and respect from others. I think real morality is the old morality, where people had to restrain themselves in their own personal lives. E.g. – chastity, frugality and sobriety.

Today it seems to be popular to do anything you want with alcohol, consumerism, and sex, as long as you take on some fashionable cause that doesn’t involve you having to give up the pursuit of pleasure. But the real measure of a man is the moral law, which does not change. It’s moral values like chastity, frugality and sobriety that require you to not hurt those around you.

There are a lot of Hollywood actors and famous/rich people who are apparently terribly concerned (in public) about things like global warming and animal rights. But in private, they act in the most selfish ways destroying the lives of those around them. Being associated with glamorous causes makes them happy, just like cheating on their spouses makes them happy.

35 thoughts on “New study shows that greens are less moral than ordinary people”

  1. I think the lesson here isn’t that environmentalists are hypocrites but that sanctimonious people are. And frankly, that includes a heck of a lot of religious zealots, quite a few of them in our nation’s capital. And many who write blogs.


    1. Well, we don’t know that. The study shows that environmentalists are hypocrites. We don’t have any data to back up your assertion.

      From Al Gore’s carbon-profiteering to environmentalists flying to green summits on private jets – environmentalists are hypocrites. We have the evidence.


  2. This is an awesome study! I’m going to file this one away for future debates with online leftists. I’m not surprised by the results, either.

    Leftists are for the most part hostile to traditional religious beliefs and need some substitute to make them feel good about themselves. So they latch on to whatever the flavor of the month pseudo-righteous cause is.
    The problem is, these fashionable causes don’t really have any moral fortitude underneath the hood.

    This kind of reminds me of the study by Arthur Brooks that shows that conservatives are far more generous in their giving of time and financial resources than liberals are.

    Essentially, these studies show that liberals are the Pharisees of our day. The more things change, they more they stay the same, I guess.



    1. And, while you’re both congratulating yourselves, perhaps you would like to deal with the survey that says that porn usage is highest in the Bible belt.


      1. McSpinster,

        I don’t know why you are bringing your religion into this discussion. The blog post is just reporting the results of a third party study.


        1. I thought that’s what this post was about. The new morality vs the old (Bible based?) morality.

          It’s not?


      2. //
        perhaps you would like to deal with the survey that says that porn usage is highest in the Bible belt.

        I’d need to see the research. I’ve done an Internet search for this and I haven’t found anything substantive.

        And if you are trying to draw a correlation between reading the Bible and looking at porn I’d love to know what your rationality is for that. What exactly is your best explanation on how reading the Bible on a regular basis causes someone to be more likely to want to look at pornography?

        I think what is really going on here is that you do not like the results of the Green consumers research and this is your (somewhat immature) way of expressing your displeasure!



        1. What concerns me is that the attitude to a study from some commenters is one of moral equivalence/moral relativism. The study shows that environmentalists are immoral. What is the response of the secular-left commenters? To attack Bible-believing Christians. Without evidence. They would rather attack Christians without evidence that to admit where the evidence leads.

          And the goal of smearing people who are good and defending people who are evil is to deny that an objective standard of morality exists at all. They want to obliterate moral judgments by attacking the good, and defending evil – so that everyone is equal and no one needs to feel bad about sin.

          Evan Sayet’s lecture on the worldview of the secular left is a good place to start.

          It doesn’t do anyone any good to say there is no right and wrong, and then stand by when people hurt themselves because you told them there was no right and wrong. The reason why I make moral judgments is not to make people feel bad. It’s to tell people the truth so that they don’t make choices that will damage them, those around them, and society as a whole. Every sin takes a person further away from God and makes it harder to repent. Substituting recycling for chastity, or driving a Prius for truth is not good for us, and not good for God either.


  3. Use your head, here! Students instructed to buy green products and instructed to play a game does not equal people who actually buy green products! This research is completely stupid.

    I know you don’t like anything remotely “green” or “eco friendly” but you are breaking the ninth commandment here: bearing false witness.

    Shame on both of you!


    1. //
      I know you don’t like anything remotely “green” or “eco friendly” but you are breaking the ninth commandment here: bearing false witness.

      Shame on both of you!

      How exactly did I break the ninth commandment?



    2. > you don’t like anything remotely “green” or “eco friendly”

      Slightly off topic, but being politically ‘green’ and being ‘eco friendly’ I think are two different things.

      I’m eco-friendly to a sensible level. Re-using things, recycling, reducing waste, etc.

      But I’m very far from politically ‘green’. For start, I believe in advancing technology rather than dragging and taxing the world back to stone age.


  4. I do not find in the article where students were simply told to go buy green products and others were to be “conventional shoppers”. It seems that the study is based on those who were really “green” shoppers and those that were really “conventional” shoppers. Now I don’t think I would agree with McSpinster too often after looking at her blog but I agree with her that this one study should not be used as proof that conventional shoppers are more ethical than green ones any more than one study proves that homosexuality is genetic. I bet that most criminals behind bars are not demanding to be served an organic/green diet.


  5. One of Bill Gothard’s assertions was that when basic, God-given moral impulses are suppressed and violated (don’t kill your unborn child), man’s innate and persistent moral sense shows up elsewhere (don’t kill the polar bears). He called it displaced conscience.

    I think there’s some truth to this. Misplaced, misguided moral concerns may actually be a positive indicator that a person has abandoned traditional moral values. Even Mafia members who think nothing of the commandment “do not kill”, have a highly-developed moral sense (don’t rat).


  6. I probably shouldn’t even bring this up. But part of me just can’t help it.

    Call me old fashioned because I believe the Bible when it says that judgement begins in the house of the Lord.

    I’m not sure leftists give a rip about greeners taking a bit more money than non-greeners when things like this are going on in major Christian (religious right) organizations.

    (Here’s some sort of link for you Tom. Probably not the one you want. But it is to a respectable Southern Baptist Blog.)

    As long as we have Achans in our own camp AND leadership HIDING the Achans in our camp, it’s hard be credible to anyone outside the camp.


      1. You’re kidding, right, Wintery?
        You’ve never heard that verse? It’s in the N.T. in an epistle written by one of the 12 apostles who walked with Jesus. It’s not some obscure O.T. verse.

        I Peter 4:17 for the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us what shall then end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

        Also, I don’t see where I said anywhere that judging is wrong. Don’t put words in my mouth.

        Understand. I’m not saying greeners have a right to do what they do. Nor do I accuse anyone here of being guilty of blatant sins like the pastor in the link I provided, nor of the sins of the leadership that covered for him.

        Plus, I am part of the religious right. I vote conservative, pro-life. I’m no Obama fan and Hillary gives me the willies.

        I’m only putting this up because it does my brothers and sisters no good to be ignorant of what the world sees. Be aware of these things. Be shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves.

        I understand this is a political blog and therefore it’s focus is political. But there is sin in the camp and it undermines the good you wish to do, ESPECIALLY if it is not acknowleged, made light of, or again swept under the rug.

        I’d really hate to see the religious right made irrelevant because it won’t even acknowledge, let alone deal with it’s own issues. And I only posted one link of many that I could. I’m not trying to rub peoples’ noses in it. I just want peoples’ heads out of the sand.

        When one part of the body hurts, it hurts the whole body, and often the whole body’s witness. It’s not fair. But it is what it is.


        1. OK, ok. That sounds a lot better. We don’t have to agree completely, but I have to protect other Christians! I apologize because I really was too mean. It turns out that you were quite right and I jumped to conclusions.


    1. //
      I’m not sure leftists give a rip about greeners taking a bit more money than non-greeners when things like this are going on in major Christian (religious right) organizations.

      I have to ask. What exactly is the “religious right”?


      1. People who believe in the Bible and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As opposed to the secular left, which substitutes a variety of fashionable causes for objective morality and tries to derive a sense of meaning and value apart from a relationship with God in Christ. E.g. – by voting for big government social programs that reward people for bad decisions and encourages them to make MORE bad decisions.


        1. Corporations are some of the biggest supporters of sustainability. They do it because the majority of Americans support these “fashionable” causes and they cannot compete without aligning themselves with a pro-environment mindset. So I don’t think support for “green” initiatives can be so easily dismissed or attributed to any religious/non religious affiliation. Take recycling, which has become a way of life. So is conserving energy (makes fiscal sense), preserving forests and natural resources (good for economies, particularly those relying on tourism as economic engine). So I don’t think that the fashionable label is enough to define the secular left any more than “unfashionable” is enough to define the religious right.

          Wouldn’t it be better to identify areas of common concern and work together to achieve them?


          1. Well, I am interested in truth and in my relationship with God. For me, there is no right and wrong apart from a relationship with God. I don’t want to work together with non-Christians on “good things”. I want God. It’s out of that relationship that good deeds flow. And God decides what is right and wrong, not the group. And we don’t take our ideas of right and wrong from influential non-Christians like Al Gore. For example, pride is evil. Adultery is evil. Abortion is evil.

            Non-Christians don’t share my goal. My goal is to know God in Christ and to make him known. The rest is distractions from knowing God and loving God. God first. And personal morality (e.g. – not cheating on your wife or abandoning your children) comes before animal rights activism.


          2. God is not a God of male or female, Jew nor Greek, bond nor free., Christian and non-Christian.

            And caring about your wife and family and caring about animals being free from abuse are actually things you can do—at the same time! That’s right, they are not mutually exclusive!


          3. Do you think that people who do not believe in Jesus are resurrected to eternal life?

            Do you believe in a place called Hell, which is a place of eternal separation from God where people who do not know God in Christ go on the day of Judgment?

            Do you think that a conscious, sincere profession of faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin is a necessary and sufficient condition to be resurrected to eternal life?


          4. I believe that life is eternal, the way I believe in mathematics. If you add 2+2 and for you it equals 5 then the principles of mathematics are still in effect, even if you get the wrong answer. So I believe that life is eternal on principle. If you were a miserable SOB in life, dying won’t resolve that for you. You will continue to work out in the afterlife what you didn’t work out on earth. As for people who don’t believe in Jesus, I am constantly surprised by the number of people who DO believe in him. They might be Buddhists, they might be Muslims, but Jesus is actually very well respected among people I talk to, even those of other faiths. So I wouldn’t venture to say whether or not they’re resurrected. I mean, the fact is, after someone is gone, we just don’t know what their journey is. I will say, however, that most people I talk to very much identify with what Jesus stood for, even if they don’t necessarily identify it that way.

            I do not believe in a place called hell: I do believe it is a state of consciousness, just as “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” But it’s not a physical place apart from where we already are. I see heaven in places where many other people see purgatory. God to me is everpresent; therefore, I try not to let what my eyes tell me blind me to the fact that he is with me, even in desolate places. I also believe that we cannot ever be separated from God. We may think we are separate, but what we need to handle isn’t real separation but the erroneous belief that we are separate. LIke the story of the Prodigal Son.

            I do not share your belief in Christ’s atoning for sin. I don’t see Christ dying for my “sin,” I see his death and resurrection as proof that sin and death can be overcome through complete obedience to God. I’m not sure if that is the same thing as you are saying. But I do not believe man is inherently sinful. However, humanly speaking, there does appear to be a lot of sin in the world. However, it is something not natural to us. Part of the human condition, sure, but I believe that our spiritual identity is our true identity. Not sure if that answers your question. It’s certainly a different point of view.


  7. I found the points about the “single-action bias” very interesting. It appears to be an intersection of what I like to refer to as the “do-something disease” and the selfish and hedonistic pursuits of significant parts of our culture.

    After all, big corporations and the combative free market make such easy targets when people think wealth and resources ought to be distributed according to some fallacious idea of equality of outcome. And if a solution involves things like spending money or making others spend money, isn’t that easier than changing their lives?

    Chesterton noted that it’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it’s that it has been found difficult and not tried. The majority of our society and culture are people who are more interested about how their night-life compares with their neighbors. Morality and ethics and real changes and significant issues are pushed under the rug and hidden from view because we can’t be bothered by them.

    Then in cases such as those pet issues of the green movement, which are based, perversely, on evidence as substantial as a gangrenous leg, we see this single-action bias resulting in easy outs. A way to assuage the uninformed guilt and calm the ignorant fears in the really unrepentant masses.

    The error the greens made was not in the manufacturing of their crisis, but in the nature of their issue. There are insufficient people willing to believe such things as the greens believe and address the solutions seriously. The vast majority of people who are convinced by arguments of environmental Armageddon are the shallow and selfish masses mentioned previously who will only devote enough mental effort to see that someone is doing something about the issue and not have to put forth any further effort themselves.

    Most serious-minded folk are serious of mind both in evaluating an issue and a solution. Serious evaluation of environmental issues reveal the lies of the radical green arguments and the truth of sensible and market-driven solutions to the issues that do exist.


    1. Recycling, carbon taxes, etc. is:

      “A way to assuage the uninformed guilt and calm the ignorant fears in the really unrepentant masses.”

      Holy snark! There’s wisdom in that.


      1. Wintery, you are such an old curmudgeon for a young guy. Get with the program, dude. Recycling is fun! Instead of throwing out big garbage bags filled with plastic, baby diapers and paper, you separate them out, pack them nicely for the garbage man, and feel that you are doing something small to minimize what goes into landfills. You should try it. I know you get immense satisfaction out of being oppositional and standing on the conservative Christian soap box, but I dare you to try it. Just once! I think it will suit your pioneering spirit. I know you don’t like waste—you’ve said so often. Well neither do people who recycle! Really, you have more in common with them than you think!


  8. He’s not a curmudgeon, he is just tired of the BS and people being duped into things because they are ill informed (not just misinformed) and not willing to do more than put cash in a bucket. Like most Christians and missions work. They wont go but they know they are being disobedient to the great commission so they put cash in a bucket and send on the willing .01% to the ends of the earth for the sake of the Gospel and the joy of the people and above all the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    If your a curmudgeon then so am I. I feel ya Winter, give glory to God. Hosea 4:6


  9. Wintery,

    It’s not harder (for those who can afford it) to buy “green” products than to not buy them; there’s very little deprivation in driving a Prius instead of a Hyndai; however, there is a lot of pleasure that a person denies himself when he stops eating meat and fish. Just ask any Catholic about Lenten fasting.

    I’ve been a vegetarian since 1998. While there are certainly some upsides (I’m healthier, my food is less expensive, and I’m more aware of what I’m putting into my body), there are still days in which it is just hard. Days in which I look at pork and think that I just want it. Like chastity, it’s much easier if you get used to living your life that way, and, like chastity, you know that the benefits accrue in the long term.

    Abstaining from meat is a type of chastity, Wintery – and I don’t think that’s just my Catholic upbringing at work.


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