Faith in Reason?

Bill Moyers notes a  study from the University of Michigan “deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information.”    The study found that when people who had been misinformed “were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs.”

We often base our opinions on our beliefs … and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

This explains a lot about politics.

I would also like to point out something about faith and reason, from a Christian point of view.

It is not an empirical reality that people in fact live according to reality and make decisions according to reason.  Reason is an ethical imperative.  We ought to live according to truth, reason, and reality.  The common human refusal to face reality is another name for sin, collusion in willful self-deception.

Faith, in the Christian sense, is not about clinging to irrational beliefs in spite of facts.  Faith is a commitment to living according to justice, peace, and truth.  Life according to justice, peace, and truth is the Way of Jesus Christ; and it includes making decision according to reality.

One fact of recent history is that the Wall Street High-rollers reckless ways destroyed the economy, forced middle-class taxpayers to bail them out, and made billions in personal profits in the process.  People are justifiably angry but they have no way to pour out their wrath on the guilty.  So they look for a target nearer at hand and they find the people who cut our meat, harvest our vegetables, changes the sheets in our hotels and perform other dangerous, difficult, or menial tasks that we prefer not to do ourselves.

We can’t punish them directly, so instead we choose to punish their children.

The children of undocumented workers have broken no laws.  The state representatives today voted to punish them by tripling their tuition rate if they chose to go to college in the only home state they know.

This is not a solution to any real problem.  It will not increase revenue, it will only prevent the kids from getting an education and contributing to the state economy.

Maybe our state senate will show more wisdom.

3 Responses

  1. I wonder, is this really about facts or the conclusions that people draw about said facts?

    Here are some problems that I see with this:

    1. Rarely does everybody consider every fact that is presented, especially if those facts appear contrary to other presented facts.

    2. Even if we all account for the same facts, what about our own application of bias? In other words, if you and I were presented the exact same case with the exact same facts, our own bias would easily cause us to conclude differently about what the facts mean.

    Having grown up in a lower middle class neighborhood in Denver, I can tell you, with no lack of confidence that the children aren’t as innocent as we’d like to think. They are raised by law breakers – and learn to live as law breakers. To help them, the school system and various government welfare systems help teach them how to game the system. For example, in my high school, minority children were encouraged to have children of their own as this was a way to make more money without getting a job.

    Many times (not always, but frequently) parents immigrate to the states to give their children a better chance. Perhaps the intention of the laws that are being passed is to discourage parents from taking illegal routes to benefit their children?

  2. You are right that we all apply our biases. I still think we have an obligation to consider all the facts that are available to us and to be willing to change our minds.

    I should clarify. When I said, “The children of undocumented workers have broken no laws” I meant they did not break any law when there were brought here by their parents (because they were under age) and they did not break any laws by graduating from high school in the town and state of their residence. I’m not referring to absolute innocence. If they have broken other laws, they should be held accountable, like everyone. I’m saying they did not break immigration laws when they entered the country because they were minors and they had no choice. And I am saying they did not break any laws by attending high school, earning passing grades, and graduating. They should not be denied the opportunity to go to college because of laws their parents broke.

    Charging them triple tuition to attend the university in the state where they reside effectively shuts the door to the possibility of them getting an education.

    On welfare, I agree with you. I don’t know how effective the welfare reforms of the Clinton presidency have turned out. I remember that he asked teenage girls what could be done, and they said, in effect, “stop paying us to have babies.” I know the “welfare to work” program must have had some good points because the liberals hated it.

    The welfare system has penalized families, discouraged marriage, and rewarded irresponsibility. It needs to be changed.

    As a Christian I have a dilemma. Although the above is true, as a pro-life person, you can’t let babies starve; and I don’t think we want to go down the road of forced sterilization and arbitrarily removing children from their biological parents. Maybe it wouldn’t be to harsh to require parenting classes, to present adoption as an option, to require that the mothers stay in school and train for a career . . . I don’t know what the answer is, but I think there are smart and compassionate people who can find better solutions.

  3. “You are right that we all apply our biases. I still think we have an obligation to consider all the facts that are available to us and to be willing to change our minds.”

    Totally correct.

    On the issue of immigration: The entire thing is a mess. Immigration laws as they are today punish the innocent while coddling the criminal. This goes way beyond the children.

    When my wife worked at KSU, many of the people in her lab were tax paying non-citizens. The hoops they had to jump through to keep their rights to work and learn in the USA was astonishing. Meanwhile, my neighbors, who are totally illegal, have few hoops to jump through, get checks from the government, and have absolutely no intention of becoming citizens of the USA – because they don’t have to.

    Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Yet, this is what the government says is OK. Wanna be legit? We’ll run you through the ringer forcing you to leave the country sporadically, on your dime. Here illegally? NO worries, collect your check every month, and you’ll never have to leave.

    You raise a great question: what do we do as Christians?

    I think the answer is simple. We love our neighbor. We have to be extra cautious about allowing the government to take the role of the Church. Sadly, we pass off our individual roles to organizations – including the government. It isn’t the Government’s role to clothe those without clothes. It isn’t the governments role to feed those without food. Yet – we partition those responsibilities off on the government – and even worse, give our brothers and sisters flack for usurping the system.

    I don’t think this is the way that Christ wanted it to be.

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