Dan Gilbert
Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

What should be the big issues of the 2008 presidential election?

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Dan Gilbert says the environment should be the most pressing issue because of its urgency and gay marriage, precisely because it is a non-issue.

Dan Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research with Tim Wilson on "affective forecasting" investigates how and how well people can make predictions about the emotional impact of future events.

Dan has won numerous awards for his teaching and research—from the Guggenheim Fellowship to the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. However, he says that his greatest accomplishment is that he appears just before Dizzy Gillespie on the list of Most Famous High School Dropouts.

Dan's research has been covered by The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Money, CNN, U.S. News & World Report, The New Yorker, Scientific American, Oprah Magazine, Psychology Today, and many others.


Question: What should be the biggest of the 2008 election?

Dan Gilbert: There are a lot of fundamental issues that should affect our votes in the U.S. election in 2008. But could there be one more fundamental than the environment? Again I think not. I think all … all problems and their solutions are predicated upon our ability to be here, to solve them. If we undermine … if we get rid of the platform on which we’re all standing, it doesn’t much matter what great realizations we come to. It doesn’t much matter what we say to each other. It doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong. So solving the basic environmental problem seems, to me, the single most pressing issue for all of us. 

Personally I care a lot about a number of issues. I care a lot about the issue of gay rights and gay marriage. It seems to me that this is a perfect example of a non-issue … an issue in which there … those against it can’t name a single cost. They can’t name a single harm. I hear opponents of this saying, “But it harms the institution of marriage.” I don’t know what those words mean. That’s just a bunch of lip-flapping. That’s a way of saying, “I don’t like it.” Well I know you don’t like it. Tell me why. And there is no answer to why except, “But I just don’t like it.” The idea that in this part of the 21st century, in the freest country that’s ever existed on the globe, we can deprive people of fundamental rights because, “Well, we can’t really say why. We just don’t like it,” is a horror, and I would like to see resolution to that.

I could go on and name issue after issue and you can probably predict where a Harvard professor would come out on many of them. You’d be surprised on a few.

Recorded on: 6/12/07