#97 Feeling vs Thinking

the christian economist dave arnott

#97 Feeling vs Thinking

We live in a time of stupidity.  Since we believe “The truth will make you free,” the Christian Economist encourages us to do more thinking and less feeling.  

How many times have you asked, “How can people believe such stupid stuff?”  I often remind Ginger that she believes a woman got pregnant without having sex.  She gave birth to a son who was fully human and fully god and was a member of a three-part trinity that was one, but really three different beings.  He died and came back to life.  Then, he was assumed into heaven in full bodily form and never died.

Now, you want to criticize Hillary Clinton, for saying “Don’t let people tell you it’s companies that hire people.”  She believes some pretty strange stuff, also.

In podcast #89 titled Antitrust and the Fallen Nature, I tell the story about a person whom I highly respected who said to me, “You can change what people think.  You can’t change what they believe.”  There is a lot of context in that story that I will allow you to gain from watching podcast #89.

We are divided by feeling vs thinking.  Honestly, I think every politician, talk-show host, professor and pastor and influencer of every kind should have a stickey note in front of them reading “Conservatives think, liberals feel.”  It’s that simple.  

We live in an era of feeling, and it’s effecting our Christianity and our Economics.  

The Social Science Iceberg

Here’s how I show it in the classroom.  This iceberg represents what we know as facts above the water.  In social science terms, we call them constructs.  There are two requirements for our consideration today: Constructs must be observable, and replicable.  So if I see ten, you agree there are ten.  Examples on the iceberg include the height, width, color, and temperature.  But the iceberg is held up by the larger mass under the water that is much harder to measure.  In social science terms, those are concepts.  Politicians like to say, “I want a country that is safe, secure, and prosperous.”  Those are all concepts.  We don’t know how they measure those until an aggressive journalists asks for measures of those conceptual terms.  

Connecting concepts, under the water, to constructs, above the water, is what social scientists do.  Economics is a social science.  So we start with conceptual terms like prosperity, wealth, and quality of life.  We tie those to the above-water terms of GDP, income and life expectancy.  The line that ties concepts to constructs is called an operationalization.  Yea, I know, big word for a simple idea.  But which constructs operationalize the concepts is where we have disagreements. 

People can believe in some pretty outlandish operationalizations.  A distant friend of ours thought the implosion of the old Texas Stadium in Irving, TX, led to earthquakes weeks later.  People believe that fracking for gas effects water quality, when geologists clearly explain that they are in totally different underground strata.  

The confusion between correlation and causality requires an entire podcast on its own.  Stay tuned, maybe that will be written at a later date. 

I’m tempted to get into global warming, but I already dipped my toe in that hot water in podcasts # 92 and #93 titled Public Ownership and Scarcity, so I will refer you to those podcasts for more information.  For today, simply stated, human behavior has very little effect on the climate.  Now, can I go on?

The Golden Age of Stupidity

Lance Morrow, writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, claims we are living in the Golden Age of Stupidity, and in many ways, he is correct.  He points out that President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is a classic case.  And, the vaccine debate is just full of meaningless blather.  

Mr Morrow goes on to write that stupidity is one of life’s big mysteries, like evil, like love, an ineffable thing. You cannot exactly define it, but you know it when you see it, as Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography.”  Or, as I just explained, it’s a concept. 

We’re supposed to be in the age of reason, so why are people so unreasonable?

I apply a lot of it to relativism.  You see, if everyone is free to believe whatever they want, then each person constructs their own little kingdom of beliefs.  And the internet supports these wacky ideas by supplying a set of facts to support idiocies. 

The relativist says, “My idea – that all ideas are equal – is better than your idea.”  Huh?  If all ideas are equal, why would I listen to yours?  Oprah Winfrey famously said from the Golden Globes stage, “The most valuable thing you have is your truth”  If we all have our own truths, then why would we listen to Oprah?  How is her truth better than my truth?  I unpack more of this is podcast #78 Are We Made Good? and in #59 The Intolerance of Tolerance.  You’re welcome to think about the Tower of Babel as a prime example: Each person speaking his own language, louder and louder. 

Think about it.  Every time we open your mouth to say something – or in my academic industry, write a paper – we’re stating what we believe to be true.  We’re all arguing, all the time.  That’s what life is about.  

The Christian Worldview

So much of the division and stupidity can be traced to worldview.    

When I rode a bus five miles to junior high in the winters of South Dakota, the bus would get frosted over quickly.  To see out, I would breathe on the window, then rub it with my sleeve.  It gave me about two square inches of clarity for about ten seconds, before it frosted over again.  In the Christian Worldview, we call that “Looking through a glass darkly.”  Or as it reads in the Old Testament, “My ways are not your ways.”  You see, as Christians, we believe we only get a glimpse of reality.  God can see as though the bus windows are perfectly clear on a summer day.  We’re looking through a peep-hole for a few seconds. 

By the way, that’s what we believe Maslow was writing about in his hierarchy of needs.  He called the top level “self-actualization.”  You’ve had those moments when your team won a championship, or you earned an A on a difficult academic paper.  You were functioning at your highest and you got a glimpse of perfection.  But then, the bus window fogged over and you were returned to fallen earth with the rest of us, into what philosophers call Plato’s Cave.

Actually, a friend of mine says that the Holy Spirit helps us escape the cave.  That’s a little too philosophical for me today. 

But, Christians believe there is a higher understanding that we can’t reach because “There is a God and you’re not it.”  That happens to be the title of an unpublished manuscript that I wrote years ago.  If I ever get time, I might publish it.  But you can see how, this acceptance that there IS a greater being, allows us to accept the finitude of our human understanding.  Conversely, if you don’t believe in a greater being, you think YOU are God, and your ideas are correct.  It must be quite a burden to bear, having to be perfect all the time. 

I unpack some of this in podcast #34 No Utopia, and it’s an important section in the book I wrote with Sergiy Saydometov Biblical Economic Policy. 

You see, if we believe there IS A truth that is greater than ours, we will seek it.  But if you don’t believe that, then YOUR truth is accurate.  All the time.  You can never be wrong.  Bring on the fights.  Or, just turn on the TV or look at social media.  It’s all caused by the belief that there is no creator God.

Southern Methodist University, is across town from my institution, Dallas Baptist University.  Their motto, “The Truth Will Make you Free,” comes from John 8:32.  The most important word in the motto is the first word, “The.”  It assumes there is one, and only one.  Then we must seek it.  But if you believe there are multiple truths, bring on the fights. 

This leads to political divisions.  I have more to say about this in podcast #72 titled Two Worlds.  It’s quite clear that if you believe the Christian worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption, you see the world differently than if you deny one of those elements of what is sometimes called “The Three-Chapter Gospel.”  If you believe humans were created, you would be pro-life.  More about that in the next section.  You have to believe people are fallen, because that’s where the self-interest of economics comes from.  Think about it: The definition of economics is “The production and distribution of goods and services in a scarce environment.”  Where did scarcity come from?  We believe that in the created order, in the Garden of Eden, there was no scarcity.  It began with the fall.  Makes you wonder to what do atheist economists attribute scarcity?  Redemption means, “It can get better.”  And it HAS gotten better.  Angus Deaton teaches economics at Princeton and is the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Economics.  His book The Great Escape, explains how humans escaped poverty after thousands of years of grinding poverty.  The first line of the book reads, “Life is better now than almost anytime in history.”  The Dave Arnott extension is, “It’s going to get better.”  Why do I believe that?  Because I believe in a God who guards and guides.  The God who has inspired humans to discover new and innovative ways to use His creation is still at work through the humans He created in His image.  In Economics and the Christian Worldview, I wrote, “There is a limited amount of land and God isn’t making any more.  But He is making creative humans who find more efficient ways of using it.”  He’s not done showing us ways to create greater value for our neighbors, and we’re not done following his creative nature. 

Ignorance or Malfeasance

I swear, I saw a poster recently reading, “Abortion is healthcare.”  You have to wonder how a medical doctor can claim she is keeping the Hippocratic pledge to “Do no harm,” when she cuts off the legs and arms of a fetus and pulls it from its mother’s womb.  Oh, and she does it in a way that preserves the valuable organs so they can be sold.  While we’re at it: 36% of abortions are to black mothers, and a large percentage of those harvested body parts are put into white babies.  So let’s think about this: They are harvesting black baby body parts to save the lives of white babies, and we’re being told this is healthcare?!  

We’re told in 2 Timothy 2: 23 to avoid foolish arguments.  It’s like when I was teaching my 4-year-old grandson to catch a baseball last week.  I had a basket of 30 soft, rubber balls and I just kept throwing them to him until he learned how to catch.  I didn’t yell at him, because he didn’t know HOW to catch.  He was being ignorant, not exercising malfeasance.  

But you have to wonder about the abortion issue.  Do the abortion supporters NOT know that 36% percent of abortions are performed on black mothers?  That means that of the 63 million abortions performed since 1973, about 20 million have been to black mothers.  The current black population is just over 40 million.  If you do the math, you find that abortion has reduced the black population from 60 million to 40 million.  That’s a one-third reduction.  So today’s headline, across America should read, “The Democrat party policy of abortion has reduced the US black population by one-third.”  And, that’s assuming that none of the aborted babies would grow up and reproduce.  Which they certainly WOULD do.  So you’re talking about this one policy reducing the black population by maybe 40 to 50%!  

Ignorance, or malfeasance?

You can Change Economic Policy, but you can’t change economic law

Way back in 2015, yes, my college sophomores were in junior high – Kyle Peterson wrote an article titled “The March of Foolish Things,” based on his interview with the esteemed Thomas Sowell.  Professor Sowell said, “At one time you had a lot of people who hadn’t had any economics saying foolish things. Now you have well-known economists saying foolish things.”  Mr. Peterson goes on to write, about what’s happened during the five decades of musings from Sowell, “What strikes is how little the political debate has changed. Maybe economics isn’t merely a dismal science, but a futile one.  He cites the minimum wage debate and disparate impact, which Mr. Sowell has elucidated upon in his book Disparity and Discrimination.  He continues to claim that “In human affairs, happenstance reigns.”  Ok, I won’t disagree with the estimable Sowell, but I will only point out that what others call coincidence, believers call providence.  It has the same end, but a different cause.  

“There’s a market for foolish things,” Thomas Sowell says.  But then, he explains them as clearly self-interested.  When you appoint an Equal Opportunities Commission, you shouldn’t be surprised that they find discrimination.  That’s what they’re rewarded for finding.  “People want to believe what they want to believe, and the facts are not going to stop them,” says Mr. Sowell.  Hmmmm sounds a lot like a quote we heard earlier in this podcast. He says that black leaders feed a sense of grievance, victimhood and resentment because that’s where the votes are.  He’s right, people are voting with their hearts, not their heads. 

I’ve read every book written by Malcolm Gladwell.  In his second book Blink, he explains that some things we know in a blink.  My extension is, “About some things, we have to think.”  So which is it?  After reviewing the book Blink for my grad students, I ask the following essay question, “Does God want us to blink or to think?”  That’s a good summary of my topic today about thinking vs feeling.  Does God was us to blink or think?

I think……did you notice, I didn’t say, “I feel.”  That’s an assignment if want to accept it.  Notice whether people say “I think,” or “I feel.”  That separates people into different personality categories, but I’m running out of time and can’t unpack that today.  Perhaps Gladwell unknowingly provided his own answer.  If he was feeling, he would not have written the book.  Writing a book requires thinking.  And “I think!!” that’s what Christian Economists should do.  Less feeling and more thinking.  Because as Christians we believe there IS a truth that will set us free, but we have to think to find it. 


Read Along with The Christian Economist:

Biblical Economic Policy 

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality 

Economics and the Christian Worldview 

Discrimination and Disparities 



Watch the full episode here