Dr. Chad McIntosh recently discussed Over 100 Arguments for the Existence of God with Capturing Christianity, and I was inspired to shore up a second original argument from economics. Economic arguments are really an unappreciated niche in my view. Then a super trivial third one dawned on me, so I will jot it down two.
Majesty of Reason is also pretty cool and that channel recently went over the paper called Nontraditional Arguments for Theism from McIntosh. With respect to my first economic argument for theism, I recently further steelmanned my already uniquely steely iteration on Pascal’s Wager.
I. The Argument from Institutional Durability
In economics, a durable firm or a durable institution is considered efficient. Efficient firms are characterized by accuracy. This notion is similar to the idea of the applicability of science: The reason science works it because it is making statement close to truth.
Consider a competitive market of shoemakers. There are many shoemakers that make identical shoes and target the same consumers, so market share is even. One shoemaker comes up with a new technology that allows cheaper manufacturing. This shoemaker undercuts the market and takes market share, becoming the leader. Eventually others will adopt the technology and share will return to an even state, unless the firm sustainably leads in technology over time.
Why would a firm sustainably lead in technology over time? Because they have a framework that leads to high accuracy. They tend to come up with ideas that are closer to truth compared to the competition. Further, the framework itself is a technology, which indicates that it is closer to truth in expectation compared to alternatives.
Now consider that Christianity is such a durable market leader. For empirical propositional support I point to (1) rapid growth from the outset, (2) sustained dominance in the global market for mindshare, (3) flourishing in the West, and (4) the principles of Christianity accord with market principles, for example to detest deception and violence. Notice the contrast with Islam, a close competitor for mindshare, which allows deception and encourages coercive activity.
From Christianity’s dominance we might argue for a few similar but distinct conclusions:
- Abductive: Christianity is the truest religion. Technically, it has the highest truth value, where a truth value is computed as the sum of the benefits for each true claim. This is like quality multiplied by quantity, it’s not simply a large number of true claims and is more than a probability statement.
- Self-affirmative: Given that Christianity is an accurate framework, we should expect the claims and entailments of this framework to be true even if they are not independently verifiable. Christianity identifies itself as true, therefore it is expected to be actually true; or, it is probably close to true.
- Preferential: Christianity is efficient which means that it improves well-being and flourishing. Therefore, individuals and societies ought to prefer it in the absence of a defeater, even if it isn’t independently verifiable.
Notice that this all moves in a similar manner compared to what Dr. Bret Weinstein has called Metaphorical Truth in the perspective of evolutionary biology. A metaphorically true claim adds to flourishing or survivability in evolutionary biology, and it adds to productivity in economics. They are essentially the same.
Note that this argument empirically prefers Christianity even on the proposition of the Moral Landscape from Sam Harris.
II. The Argument from Pure Preference
We can take the preferential form of the argument from institutional durability and separate it from institutional economics. It becomes an even more basic economic argument, perhaps the most basic such argument conceivable. This is an economic isomorphism of what would be called a properly basic or phenomenally conservative belief in epistimology.
- A person ought to believe that which they want to believe.
- We could add some warrant clause, eg ‘in the absence of a defeater’ or ‘in the absence of sufficient defeat’, but the pure economist would quibble and point out that sufficient defeat is subjective to the consumer.
- It’s also not obvious to me how to net out pros and cons in a purely logical way. It seems to me that even philosophers end up weighing preferences to select results when there are pros and cons on both sides, as in the selection of Christianity.
- The economist would further quibble and say “consumption should optimize utility at a given price level,” so let 1 be considered a parsimonious statement of that. You should believe what you want to believe after accounting for alternatives and costs, including costs associated with collecting logical defeaters.
- I want to believe Christianity is true.
- Again, let this statement be inclusive of costs and analysis of alternatives.
- C: Therefore, I believe that Christianity is true.
This is a fairly trivial argument but notice how deeply it ties into our experience. People do in fact act this way. Confirmation bias inescapable. Converts tend to come, or perhaps exclusively come, from that population of listeners that wants to be converted at some level. Notice that this argument captures a weighted cumulative argument. Where the typical cumulative argument proceeds only from likelihoods of true and false, this weighted argument accounts for personal preference on each member of the accumulated collection. I suspect this has fabulous application as a diagnostic tool.
A response might be “you shouldn’t do something just because you want to,” but on deeper inspection (1) there isn’t an obvious justification for this claim, and (2) this is what people actually do all the time, (3) joy is arguably a great-making property per se. At least in the Christian view, joy is a fruit of the spirit and has a positive moral value. It’s clear that considerations of joy do not dominate other moral considerations, but ceteris paribus it seems morally good, not simply non-morally preferential, to select that which brings joy to the selector.
A fourth defense (4) comes from Roman Catholic teaching, and I suppose other schools share it, that man’s will is necessarily directed toward at least the apparent good. This seems to be reflected in broad natural theology including Locke, thoughts in the American founders, and so on. See a clip from Bishop Robert Barron below on this. Add a dash of phenomenal conservatism and we have a reason to think that an apparent good is an actual good, again barring defeaters.