Sorry folks, but you’ll have to tolerate some philosophical table setting before getting to the LiberalEvangelcial point and payoff.
So many of our day-to-day duties involve sorting. Sorting is one of the fundamental ways that we take the relative chaos that the universe presents us and work it into a manageable form. Occasionally, these sorting tasks are conscious operations, like sorting the mail (the source of the pigeonhole analogy) or deciding which budget category a particular expense should fall into. If I write a letter of recommendation for a student, should I file a copy under “professional correspondence” or under “student records”? Many of these decisions seem to be quite inconsequential…until they go wrong.
Luckily, however, we have extremely sophisticated brains that have evolved over the millennia to take on most of these sorting tasks and perform them without our conscious participation. Think about all of the “sorting” tasks you undertook today without consciously engaging. You sort out relevant sounds from irrelevant “background” noises. If you took public transportation your brain was working overtime sorting out faces from other less relevant images. If you drove, and have been driving for more than a few months, most of the data that inundated you as you cruised down the road was non-consciously sorted and processed as you steered your car and worked the pedals, allowing you to give conscious attention to the radio talk show, the kids in the back or the conversation your passenger was relating. I am hyper-aware of the difference between conscious and non-conscious processing because I live in a part of North America where half of the conversations I hear, I understand without conscious effort and the other half require that I engage and often struggle to sort sounds into nouns, verbs and meaningful sentences. French requires my conscious attention while English does not.
As I see it, there are at least three kinds of sorting processes at work 1) the non-conscious ones we are born with (recognizing faces), 2) the ones that we learn so well that they can become non-conscious (language usage), and 3) the processes that require our conscious attention (sorting the mail or organizing the basement). All three involve forms of judgment and all three can go wrong with varying consequences. And this is what I want to talk about with you here: what happens when our sorting processes go wrong in ways that have damaging real world consequences. Click below for the promised point and payoff. But we warned, I’ll be assigning some tough reading.