Friday, February 27, 2009

Crowds,cows, and cowards

Several years ago Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's half cousin, conducted an interesting experiment on crowd intelligence. During a local county fair, he proposed to some eight hundred people that none of them could accurately guess the weight of a cow that was on display. Sure enough, everyone of those eight hundred people were wrong, but when Galton went home to crunch the numbers he discovered something fascinating. When all eight hundred guesses were combined and averaged out (also known as the median) that number was shockingly close to the exact weight of the cow. Number crunchers have since then conducted this experiment several times with similar results, thus coining the phrase "the wisdom of the crowds." Simply put, collective intelligence is greater than the intelligence of a few. But is the crowd always right? Some would have you to believe it is. In today's world everything is global, and global problems require global solutions. Slowly but surely any group, country, or ideology that doesn't agree with the global solutions will be marginalized and labeled as narrow minded, primitive, or naive. These attacks are far from obvious- that would be barbaric. Instead they cloak themselves in the form of the norm. When people can collectively agree that something is wrong without making it a written rule it becomes a norm by default. This happens all the time in social settings. The norm by itself can carry with it enough weight so that anyone who doesn't comply feels the "pressure." God help us as we near the future to not succumb to "the wisdom of the crowds." I am personally concerned about what today's crowds are doing. (In some cases these crowds are 30 min.  north of my front door). The crowd should be challenged regardless of its pressures. Immorality needs to see modesty and dishonor needs to feel the warm light of honor. I am shocked by "Pennie-costals" who look on with disgust and roll their eyes when the Church doesn't mesh with what they just learned at school. (Complements of their ex-hippie, drug smoking, Birkenstock wearing, pro-abortion professors.) I lived most of my life as a coward, whatever the crowd declared to be wise was alright with me. Then I got saved, and God was all too quick to show me that against the grain is the way to go. The world doesn't need cowards -they already have them by the batch, needless to say. God's Kingdom can't do much with them either. I can hear the clear but distant echoes of the Apostles Paul, who after debating with countless crowds and their wisdom declared, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the Power of God unto salvation." If I come across as ranting please bare with me in my folly, but it's Friday, and I had crowds, cows, and cowards on my mind.



Shannon said...

May we never cower, and may the golden cows of society crumble!

Sam Hassas said...