Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Elinor Ostrom

There was sad news this morning that Nobel laureate political scientist Elinor Ostrom has passed away (she won the prize in Economic Science in 2009). Prof. Ostrom pioneered a fusion of field-based, almost anthropological, research with the experimental methods of her colleagues at Indiana, notably Prof. James Walker, to teach us much about how real people solve real commons dilemmas problems. She wasn't a Polyanna; common dilemmas indeed are problems and sometimes failures occurs. But she also documented the ability of people with local knowledge and local institutions to do much more than those textbook models which read something along the lines of "this is market failure... the government must intervene to fix the problem." She called the focus of her model "polycentrism." You can find her biography and her Nobel Prize lecture here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We Will See Clearly

Motivations matter. There was a story from an experimental economics lecture that illustrates this point well, 
Consider these three scenarios: 1) I trip and spill a hot cup of coffee on you, 2) I walk up to you and toss a hot cup of coffee on you, 3) Someone else hits me over the head with a 2x4 and I spill a hot cup of coffee on you. In all three situations a hot cup of coffee has been spilled on you ---but you feel differently and would judge me differently in each scenario. 
What really gets under our skin is the motivation. Yet, it is not easy to infer motivation from conduct and there are also biases we must fight against. For example, in psychology there is the well known Fundamental Attribution Error in which we blame the character (attribute) of someone rather than the circumstances (Here are some examples of attribution error). Most things are mixtures of circumstances and character. 

Today in church we read a passage that I have read many times before (1 Corinthians 13:12), but, never in this way, 
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I always perceived what would be made complete was my lack of informational knowledge.  Like explaining the presence of suffering in a world with a loving God. Or, asking about dinosaurs. But, our pastor pointed out that the last part, ". . . just as God now knows me completely," suggests something else. We see each other imperfectly. We do not know the hard battles each other are fighting. And, on top of that, we fear that if we were to give the benefit of the doubt they would take advantage -or- things would never get better. When we see things clearly we will see each other as God sees us.

We should be people that refuse to live in fear, but, instead pick the path of love. And, we should know that whatever sufferings we endure from love are not in vain. I want to close with a beautiful and poignant part of Rick Joyner's book The Final Quest:

I looked at the old eagle, and for the first time I noticed the scars amid his torn and broken feathers. However, the scars were not ugly, but were lined with gold that was somehow not metal, but rather flesh and feathers. Then I could see that it was this gold that gave off the glory that emanated from the eagle, making his presence so awesome.  
“Why did I not see this before?” I enquired. 
 “Until you have beheld and appreciated the depths of the treasures of salvation, you cannot see the glory that comes from suffering for the sake of the gospel. Once you have seen it, you are ready for the tests that will release the highest levels of spiritual authority into your life. These scars are the glory that we will carry forever. This is why even the wounds our Lord suffered are with Him in heaven. You can still see His wounds, and the wounds that all have his chosen ones have taken for His sake. These are the medals of honor in heaven. All who carry them love God and His truth more than their own lives. These are the ones who followed the Lamb wherever He went, being willing to suffer for the sake of truth, righteousness, and the salvation of men. True leaders of His people, who carry genuine spiritual authority, must have first proven their devotion this way.”