Critical information ignored via bounded awareness

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 20:53

Bounded awareness causes people to ignore critical information when making decisions or arriving at conclusions. Bounded awareness is caused by many factors, but four seem to be predominant when it comes to matters of faith and reason.

Faith projection tends to exclude evidence that may contradict what is wise, prudent or reasonable. This might also be termed faith focus. While focus is necessary in any endeavor, it holds the potential to blind one to peripheral threats, opportunities and the rational thought processes.

Jeremy Wolfe and Todd Horowitz of Harvard Medical School and Naomi Kenner of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston say that when it comes to bounded awareness, the less something is seen or used, the more likely it is that it will continue to be missed. This suggests that when people of faith see reason as inhibiting the divine prerogative, the more they will conclude that it is unnecessary in reaching conclusions or making decisions about theological matters, or any matter at all.

One of the results of bounded awareness is a failure to see information that may be available and could result in better conclusions and more beneficial decisions. An outside or peripheral view of a topic can lend a different perspective and a well-rounded deliberation of all available factors.

Bounded awareness also results in a failure to seek information. This might best equate to reviewing precedent setting factors that can result in better outcomes. The failure to seek information often results in bizarre, not well thought out actions by people claiming to be acting in faith.

If Scriptural authority is advocated as a safeguard, then it must also be advocated as an objective source that, through precedent, validates or refutes practices and policies in theological circles.

This also applies to the need to at least consider conflicting information. An honest, unbiased review of any topic necessitates, at the very least, a cursory deliberation over opposite points of view held by credible sources. Knowing why someone would hold a different point of view can be essential to clarifying the position that one holds on a given topic. When selected outcomes are biased, information that is inconsistent with the preferred viewpoint will lay outside the bounds of awareness.

Bounded awareness can come in the form of refusal to accept instruction or correction and is often brought about by assumptions that have resulted in limited success. An example of this would be Swiss watchmakers, who invented quartz technology, but failed to use it because of their success with mechanical watches.

The theological parallel seems apparent. While the Bible is a book of reason and logic, many have limited its impact to matters of what is called faith only, not understanding the true intellectual nature of faith. The Bible serves no purpose for man if it cannot be understood within the confines of his own intellect and ability to reason.

It is almost a given that if there is a failure to see, seek or use information gained through the reasoning process, it will not be possible to share any relevant information with anyone that goes beyond theological platitudes, which do little to convince anyone of anything.

Those in leadership roles in the Christian community have a fairly simplistic task to perform, at least as described in the Biblical narrative. The task involves instruction in how to be circumspect regarding all matters.

This is in no way detrimental to an assertion of faith, in fact, it is complimentary to it. Those that follow the teachings of Christ are not told to simply accept matters on the basis of an intangible faith alone or at all. They are told to do those things that will dissipate their bounded awareness.

People too often take the status quo as a given. By contrast, creative conclusions and decisions emerge when one questions common assumptions about how things work and why they must transpire as they do.

Such a policy of circumspection nurtures an environment of ingenuity at every level. No organizational entity should be better at creating such an environment than the one(s) that claim to be following the Biblical model or the Christian ethic.


Dr. M. Hildon Guy is president of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River. He holds doctorates in biblical studies, education, counseling and apologetics.

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