Sunday, August 11, 2013

How a Steady Diet of "I was born this way" Affects Behavior

I saw an interesting experiment on "Through the Wormhole: Season 4, Episode 9, Do We Have Free Will?" where a researcher first exposed individual college students to a series of slides which said something along the lines of "You have no free will, everything that you do is a result of your genetics, or your behaviors have been shaped by evolution, etc." (Group A), or to a series of slides that stressed the subjects' ability to choose because they possessed "free will" (Group B).

The students were then asked to take a test, and then they had to grade their own test (unsupervised). They were told to take a dollar coin out of a jar for every correct answer.

The result was that those in Group A wound up been more dishonest (as witnessed by a hidden camera catching them taking more dollar coins from the jar than they deserved).

This does not say much about the concept of free will since the investigator's conditioning messages appear to have influenced the will of the research subjects, but it does say something about what happens to people and perhaps society as a result of consuming a steady diet of a particular worldview.

Indeed, the prevailing worldview would teach that individuals are both slaves to their genetic inheritance (which in a sense is blaming the sins of our fathers) as well as being victims of their upbringing. At least that appears to be the message I hear from the various sports and political scandals, as well as the nefarious court cases presented by the news media lately. Rarely do we hear the words, "I did it. It is entirely my fault. I made these choices and have no one to blame but myself."

I am reminded of the following parable,
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Luke 18:9-14 (Standard King James Version)
While not entirely parallel to the question of free will, I see a similarity between our Lord's use of "exalteth" and "humbleth" with this post's current concern over what I would call "attribution" and others might call "blame". As in whosoever blames another is himself to blame.

Does anybody remember Flip Wilson in the character of Geraldine claiming, "The Devil made me do it!" You hardly ever hear that one anymore!

How about, "The buck stops here."

Nope, but I bet you've heard,

Can we conclude that a steady diet of "I was born this way" leads to poor moral choices, irresponsible behavior, the blame game, and distancing oneself from God, whereas a consistant message to accept  the actions of one's free will leads to humility, a walk towards God, a walk towards exaltation?

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