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Can We Use the Wisdom of Crowds to Find Religious Truth?

James Surowiecki, the man behind the book “Wisdom of Crowds,” provides a survey of how the “aggregation of information in groups produces better decisions than the ones that could have been made by an individual.” He explains that in order for this to work, the crowds must meet four conditions. These include, diversity of opinion (each individual having private information), independence, decentralization, and aggregation, the ability to transform private, independent judgment into a collective decision.”

So, can the idea of “wisdom of crowds” apply to religion? Religion is in and of itself a diversity of beliefs resulting in many different religions and each individual “has a private store of information from one’s own experiences.” In addition, although each individual may be influenced by the religious tones of their local areas, each individual is still “capable of maintaining due faith in that which they believe” regardless of social and familial pressure. Each individual creates and retains their own personal experiences that color decisions made on faith and religion, which ensures a decentralization of thought.

The biggest issue with “wisdom of crowds” is whether or not religions can come together and come to a collective decision. Rabinowitz says “if only superficially and with a bit of imagination, it would appear that the topic of world religion meets the four criteria of wise crowds. Even so, there is no majority consensus on religious belief.” In my opinion, it’s hard to get a collective decision on religion because faith is based on unconditional belief in a god, a truth or a value. However, we can use the “wisdom of truth” to “put religion in its proper perspective.” Why is there religion? One reason that Rabinowitz gives is that human beings use religion as an outlet to deal with their daily lives and each individual’s emotional and cultural upbringing colors their decision when choosing a faith. Each individual is influenced by their surroundings and choose their faith by looking around them and seeing how others have used religion as an outlet. Ultimately, whatever decision they make is right for them. So is wisdom of crowds true when looking at religion? I think so.


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