Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fatal Conceit, We Are Not Gods

To start off, I want to establish a few basic ideas to build from. This first one is to establish that humans vastly overestimate their intelligence, and suffer greatly by assuming that our feeble reckoning can guide our lives. To embrace "moral relativity" as it is called or attempting to "do what is right for me" is no more helpful than slamming ones face into a door.

Your boss comes by and asks if you have started that report. Do you lie and say "Yes" or do you tell the truth and incur his criticism? What if you lie? Will he believe you or will he ask to see what you have not accomplished? Is this a 40% chance of getting caught or a 10% chance? Can you even calculate this? In a split second? How many contingencies do you have to cover? 10? 100? 1,000,000? Quick, you have 2 seconds.

Why do we lie? Because it often "works". Usually we can maintain our bloated reputation, so we do it. We lie over and over again to hide our flaws and weaknesses and present an image that exaggerates reality. But when it doesn't work, it can really blow up. Fundamental to this behavior is an assumption. We are gods and others are fools.

Not too long ago I read through Frederick Hayek's "The Fatal Conceit" and a portion of "The Counter-Revolution of Science" These two books have had a great impact on my religious views. (I was hoping to find a killer quote, but none of my flagged pages yielded any)

Hayek criticizes the use of empiricism on the social sciences. His main criticism of socialism boils down to a lack of information problem and violations of the basic principles of science. An economy is infinitely complex and no controlled experiment can ever be performed.

Socialism, or any form of government planning, is not just impossible in practice, it is ridiculous in theory. No one is smart enough. Not even close. What we get from our intellectuals are elaborate rationalizations for mistakes.

The same narcissism that infects many of our academic elites and political leaders infects us as well. Why can we lie and get away with it? Because we are smart and they aren't. Why can we steal and get away with it? Because we are more clever. Why can we gossip and talk behind their back? Because we are more righteous and not quite as trashy. We are either book smart or street smart, but we are definitely smarter.

Being ignorant to the full depth of other minds, we kid ourselves that we are little better. In our heads, we are gods. Awareness of this natural inclination was captured all the way back in the Genesis account:

Genesis 3:4-5 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The first sin was, and I believe all sin is, born from pride. We want to be the god in our little worlds.

Side note: Christians should be wary of sociological studies that prove that a moral behavior is objectively beneficial or harmful regardless of the source. These kinds of studies have rampant uncontrolled variables and other biases. In my experience, children might find this kind of information persuasive, but most adults have built up walls of skepticism to defend their egos.

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