Faith-Based Realities

A comment to yesterday’s blog on “fact rejection” referenced a similar meditation by Paul Krugman. Krugman, as one might expect, focused upon the phenomenon in the context of economic dogma versus performance.

You might wonder why monetary theory gets treated like evolution or climate change. Isn’t the question of how to manage the money supply a technical issue, not a matter of theological doctrine?

Can anything reverse this descent into dogma? A few conservative intellectuals have been trying to persuade their movement to embrace monetary activism, but they’re ever more marginalized. And that’s just what Mr. Nyhan’s article would lead us to expect. When faith — including faith-based economics — meets evidence, evidence doesn’t stand a chance.

Seven years ago, I wrote a book titled God and Country: America in Red and Blue (still available through Amazon if anyone is interested), in which I explored–among other things–the effect of America’s early Calvinism on present-day social welfare and poverty policies.

My research confirmed that several of our ostensibly secular policy preferences have decidedly religious roots. From poverty to foreign policy to the environment, religious world views are far more potent than most of us realize.

Our everyday experiences with “reality rejection” tend to reinforce the prevalence of the phenomenon.  At least mine do.

Several years ago, I was the guest on a call-in radio program in Charleston, South Carolina, and the discussion turned to what was then a hot issue: posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. A caller who favored doing so “quoted” James Madison to the effect that the Bill of Rights could only be entrusted to people who lived by the Ten Commandments. The quote had been previously circulated by an extremist organization and thoroughly discredited; Madison had not only never said anything of the sort, but the sentiment was contrary to everything he did say.

I politely informed the caller that his information was incorrect, and referred him to a Madison scholar for verification, whereupon he yelled “Well, I think it’s true!” and hung up.

Those of us who try to live in the “reality-based community” have our jobs cut out for us.