Monday, August 02, 2010

On being a Christian in Extremistan

I believe in Jesus because He is the Truth, not because of any utility derived from the lifestyle of following Him. Having said that, if Christianity is true, then it should match the universe batter than any alternative world view. With that in mind I want to explore the implications of the Black Swan and the Christian.

Taleb was raised a Christian but as far as I can tell he isn't one now. He seems to aspire to being a Stoic. I think he would probably disagree with my analysis presented here.

As I see them, his main are something like this:

  • You cannot predict anything.

  • The bell curve is a lie and reality follows power laws.

  • Maximize your exposure to positive black swans and minimize your exposure to negative ones.

  • Humans apply a narrative incorrectly to explain random events. But obvious fragility can show future disasters are on the horizon, just not the exact time and severity.

  • Luck explains a lot of success and failure.

  • Go to a lot of parties. This increases the possible random connections and exposure to positive black swans.

  • Invest in preparedness not prediction.

  • Debt increases fragility.

  • Age and wisdom have seen more black swans so are better prepared.

  • Thanksgiving is a black swan to the turkey, not the butcher.

  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

In light of these ideas how should a Christan live? My observations are:

  • God is the ultimate black swan. We cannot predict His behavior – assuming we can has robbed many people of their faith.

  • Christians believe in miracles. We are open to them the way a skeptic isn't. Nothing is impossible with God, and everything has a meaning for us, we just put the discovery off until after death. This helps us to be open to positive black swans and to not despair in the wake of negative ones.

A common saying is “There but for the grace of God go I.” While not believing in luck we realize that it is not our skill and charm which determines outcomes, but God. And we cannot predict what He will do. It brings humility to us and compassion for the losers because we are all in the same boat.

We are commanded to love our enemies, which makes it easier when yesterday's enemy is today's friend. Giving to the downtrodden creates a culture more likely to help us when we fall (randomly.) Contentment no matter what allows us to profit from a positive black swan and not be devastated by a negative one.

It may be said that Christianity is an evolved response which best fits life in Extremistan so the observer bias is alive and well, or it could be said that Taleb is merely observing without faith the world as God created it.

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