A Conflict of Visions

In the meantime, perhaps we shouldn’t vilify the person that we “know” is wrong, even terribly wrong, about matters which are of upmost importance to us.

Series: Visions, Worldviews and Divisions

Last Post: Meaningful discussion between people who disagree on the social and political issues of our day is often difficult. I posit that the primary reason that is true is because people approach those issues from radically different underlying presuppositions, especially those that comprise our worldview.

Topic #2: A Conflict of Visions

Over the last two years I’ve become far more familiar with the writing and ideas of Thomas Sowell. I wish I had started reading his book length works long ago because he has been enormously helpful to me.

One of his books that is especially insightful as we consider the deep divisions in our country is “A Conflict of Visions.”

Sowell suggests that there are two opposing visions which influence our positions on controversial social issues; 1) the unconstrained vision, and 2) the constrained vision.

Those who lean left tend to have an unconstrained vision, while those who lean right tend to have a constrained vision.

Now, one reason I like this approach to our analysis is that it assumes positive intent for both sides. Needless to say, to the degree that we vilify those with whom we disagree, the less likely it will be that we can reasonably discuss our differences. And without meaningful discussion, the chasm increases with nothing but negative consequences.

Of course, there are shallow, menacing, wrongly motivated people on both sides of the divide, but his discussion of visions allow us to assume the best about those with whom we most disagree.

The Unconstrained Vision

For Sowell, the unconstrained vision is a view of outcomes which anticipates finding perfect solutions to our societal problems. The key word is solution. Every problem has s solution, and that solution, rightly understood, altogether solves the problem.

As the name, unconstrained vision, suggests, there are no constraints to solving the problem. Perhaps there are obstacles, but they are never insurmountable; they do not have to lower our sights to the outcome we desire. If we apply ourselves and our resources we can achieve the outcomes we believe are correct in absolute terms.

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A Divided People – The Role of Worldviews

Series: Visions, Worldview & Divisions

I have often wondered why people from relatively similar backgrounds reach such diametrically opposed opinions about the critical issues in life and society. More to the point, it seems that people can’t even communicate with each other effectively about such important matters.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one important reason for the disconnect is that people approach such issues having very different underlying presuppositions which support their thinking. The most important set of these presuppositions are those that comprise a person’s worldview.

Worldview – a Platform for Thinking and Deciding

A worldview consists of one’s most basic and foundational beliefs about the nature of reality and human life. Our worldview is important because it informs all the opinions we form, beliefs we hold, and decisions we make about politics, religion, interpersonal relationships, personal goals and behaviors, science, societal reform, and more.

Everybody has a worldview. However some people have intentionally developed their worldview over time and as a result of study, reflection, discussion, and observation. Others, have, more or less, absorbed their worldview as they have been influenced by family, friends, media, teachers, faith leaders, and pop culture. Upbringing is a key influence for nearly everyone as early life absorbers. Some of these may never grow their worldview beyond their initially absorbed worldview. However, for many of other “absorbers,” political correctness largely shapes, or reshapes, their underlying worldview, as well as conditions the morphing of their worldview over time.

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Risks and Benefits: Everyone’s Concern

Now, what keeps sticking in my craw is the idea that our leaders don’t trust us to be able to think in terms of risks/benefits in analyzing what the next steps should be and what first steps should have been.

For my first post to this new blog, I’ve chosen the subject of our national response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been uneasy about the handling of this crisis from the very beginning, but there is so much that is unknown, and so much of what is known that is difficult to understand. And that is complicated by the fact that experts abound who will tell us what is happening and how we should, even must, respond. And who am I to question the experts.

But right-minded skepticism can be healthy in the public arena when so much is at stake; specifically, the lives of so many citizens, especially the elderly and physically vulnerable, the economic wellbeing of an entire nation and world, the liberties our forefathers wrote into the constitution and too many thousands of our brave have died to defend, the retirement incomes, not of the rich, but of the middle class, the jobs of millions, many of whom go paycheck to paycheck even in the good economy that preceded the coronavirus and was stolen by it, and so much more.

To complicate matters even more, as a follower of JesusChrist I am compelled, as much as is possible, to consider even this issue from the perspective of a Christian Worldview, and in light of my commitment to Jesus as Lord. That said, often it is not as easily done as it is said. 

So, my thoughts and concerns regarding the past 6 weeks find partial expression in this post. 

I should say upfront that I have determined that the correct action for me as a Christian at this current moment, given our circumstances and the limited amount of knowledge that I have, is to obey the civil authorities; first, because they are the civil authorities and there is a biblical mandate to do so, and second because I am not sure that another course of action is better. 

But I must admit that I have a lot of concerns and questions about the way it has been handled from the word go; and I’m hoping there is a rigorous discussion, if not now, then after the current threat has passed. My biggest complaint so far is that this discussion is just now getting started; at least in the public’s hearing. I have been relieved to finally begin seeing in print and hearing over the airwaves, some critical thinking about the actions that have been taken.

Additionally, the presumption that the number of lives saved, in this moment, is not only the most important consideration, but the only consideration. I realize that for a Christian to question this presumption seems counter-intuitive and in a later post I would like to address that issue more directly; suffice it to say that i do question that presumption which trumps all other considerations.

I heard Governor Cuomo say, and please know I respect how he has handled the crisis for New Yorkers, that if his restrictions save just one life then they, i.e. his imposed restrictions, are worth it. Now I believe he means that in some sort of way; but I also believe he is smart enough to know that that isn’t strictly true. For if the saving of even one life was the exclusive concern for his role as Governor he would immediately lower the speed limit on all highways to below 40 miles per hour. Doing so would save thousands of lives each year in our country and hundreds in his state. Over the years those lives mount up. I appreciate a cars.com article from a year ago which poses the reality of such things with this article title, “Higher Speed Limits or Fewer Deaths? The Choice Is Yours, Study Shows.” Hmm! The choice is ours; provocative thought.  My son, Andy, knowing my concerns in this regard, referred me to a recent article in the New York Sun, by Edward Lampert, which makes the same point and that much better than I would be able to. 

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