Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Link: NYT--Don't Blink! The Hazards of Confidence

Here's another fun link over at Mockingbird and a link to the original article.  I have landed upon a different money quote than Mockingbird has:

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence? The answer is yes for diagnosticians, no for stock pickers. Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities? The answer here depends on the professionals’ experience and on the quality and speed with which they discover their mistakes. Anesthesiologists have a better chance to develop intuitions than radiologists do. Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. [emphasis added] Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.       

This is useful advice when considering things said by celebrity rock star pastors as well as stock brokers.  The independent study that comes from investigating biblical literature, historical theological development, and related subjects can reveal that the confident preacher (as well as the bloggers some preachers confidently talk about) don't actually know what they're talking about.  There are people who are not as knowledgeable or informed in things as they imagine they are.  People who subscribe to an axiom that one must not doubt one's own greatness are rarely ever great.  Confidence can be mistaken for competence.

The late Internet Monk, Michael Spenser, wrote years ago about a lower profile form of prosperity gospel that is rampant in evangelicalism.  It holds the idea that if you're just really smart and wise and godly then, basically, you won't be poor.  A contrast to this axiom is the great British pilot's proverb that, if memory serves, may have originated in World War I.

"I'd rather be lucky than good any day."

Which gets me to Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.

Yep, I have certainly discovered a few things about how evil times can fall unexpectedly upon a person.  My evil times are not as bad as those of others and I still have a lot to be thankful for, not least some generosity extended toward me by many people during a difficult time I've had in the last two years.  When times are good be thankful and when times are bad consider for God has made one as well as the other so that man may not know what is to come after him. You may be Ahithophel ,with wisdom and experience so great that your words are considered like the words of God Himself.  Yet David can pray one day that God might make the wisdom of Ahithophel foolishness and God may answer that prayer.  Then it will be a terrible day to be Ahithophel!

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