I’ve recently become enamored with a video on YouTube by Michael Stevens (Vsauce). In this video, he delves into an overview of the emerging study of reasoning–that is how we come to draw conclusions using logic (or don’t). Everything he says in the video is worth a watch (I’ll put the link at the bottom), but what really struck me was the idea of the evolution of reasoning, not as a problem solving tool, but a social tool. You’ve probably heard of “the wisdom of the crowd” or terms like “collective reasoning.” Here’s a quick example…fill this out real quick…
The idea behind collective reasoning is that when a group of people apply brainpower to a problem, their collective wisdom can round out any one person’s error(s) in judgement. So in theory, the average of all of our collective answers to the question, “How many feet tall is the Jesus window?” would be closer to the actual answer than any one particular person’s answer. It’s possible that someone might get lucky and hit it dead on…but what if we went around and asked you to guess every window in the sanctuary? Would the same person get it exactly right every single time? No way. This idea is foundational to committees like Trustees and Finance, and you know, democracy in general, but it’s not without its flaws (by the way, live survey results at the bottom of the blog).
Let’s get back to this social theory of reasoning. Humans–we aren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, creatures on the planet, but it’s our collective cognition that really sets us apart. The ability to coordinate and share brainpower is what has really helped us to develop as a species. For example, we don’t all have to be doctors, plumbers, electricians, farmers, or whatever it is that you do. The collective knowledge, perspectives, and experiences of our species are spread out, distributed, and shared as needed with those around us.
Furthermore, our ability to weigh disagreements and debate conclusions is a social tool that allowed humans to evolve in just a few years compared to the millenia it takes for other species to adapt and evolve. Think of how fast we went from the Model-T to the Tesla. Meanwhile, for any one evolutionary shift or adaptation to take hold in a range of other species takes up to a million years. You might be familiar with the recent movie Ford v Ferrari which is based on true events. Ford didn’t create a successful racing program because everyone agreed on what the best course of action would be, but because there were a lot of disagreements that contributed to building the fastest car to ever race at Le Mans.
Why does this even matter to us, right now? This is, afterall, a church blog…Well as Methodists, we believe that there are four primary sources of Christian revelation…that is, how does God reveal God’s self to creation? We call it the Wesleyan Quadrilateral which consists of Scripture, Tradition, REASON, and Experience.
- God reveals God’s self to us through scripture (no brainer, but fair to point out the collective wisdom that is apparent in our holy scriptures).
- God reveals God’s self to us through the tradition of the church (the collective wisdom and reasoning of ALL the saints that have gone before us in the faith).
- God reveals God’s self to us through our own ability to reason, which we have now defined as a particularly social tool.
- God reveals God’s self to us through our own experiences, which must be interpreted through God’s gift of (collective) reasoning in and through faithful dialogue in the midst of Christian communities.
The commonality between each of these sources is that we can’t be faithful, Christian people in a vacuum. More precisely, when our perspectives, experiences, and social lenses become isolated through disconnection or even homogeneity (that is to say, I’m only surrounded by people who think what I think), then the collective power of our reasoning is weakened and therefore our ability to see the ways God is revealed in community is diminished.
That means that we see and know God better, when we see and know our neighbors better–especially those neighbors who are different and who see the world differently than we do. Thus, it might be said that God is revealed in diversity. Additionally, it might be said that God is revealed when we earnestly, and faithfully commit ourselves to (diverse) Christian communities (like covenant groups) where we can share, weigh, and hone our understanding of who God is, why it matters, and what we should do about it.
If you have thirty minutes, I highly recommend Michael Stevens’ “The Future of Reasoning.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ArVh3Cj9rw
Oh and here are the live results for how tall we all think the Jesus window is in the sanctuary:
Who knows…I could be wrong about all of it, so if you disagree, we should probably talk it out. What if God actually showed up?