What is social justice and how does it compare and contrast with biblical justice? In this episode, Sean and Scott discuss the recent book by economist Thomas Sowell called Social Justice Fallacies. According to Sowell, many things thought to be true today about justice efforts do not line up with the facts. As a result, many social justice efforts have had catastrophic consequences. Join Sean and Scott for a provocative discussion.

Episode Transcript

Scott: One of the most controversial notions in the broader culture today is the idea of social justice. But what exactly is social justice and why is it so controversial? What are some of the merits and criticisms of the social justice movement in the culture more broadly? And more importantly, what might be missing from our understanding of the pursuit of justice in general? We'll address these questions and more in our discussion of a brand new book by the African-American scholar, Thomas Sowell, longtime senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. I'm your host, Scott Rae.

Sean: And I'm your co-host, Sean McDowell.

Scott: This is Think Biblically from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. So, Sean, who is Thomas Sowell? Why is he such a big deal? And why spend time on this book?

Sean: Well, first off, everybody's talking about social justice today. So, I'm reading a ton from the left to the right. And when Thomas Sowell weighs into anything, let alone social justice, it gets my attention. He's been writing as an academic for about half a century. Now, as you said, I mean, you read the bio on the back of this book, he's a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. For more than half a century, his writings have appeared in popular and scholarly publications. He's testified before Congress. When it comes to issues of economics and cultural topics, he is one of the 40s of our day. Now, you mentioned that he's African American. Normally, I wouldn't draw that out, but he writes on so many issues that intersect with race. And he pushes back on a common narrative that's certainly advanced within the university system today. And I suspect that if he had not pushed back so much about this and adopted the common narrative, given how brilliant he is, he would get a lot more press and a lot of people would be aware of who Thomas Sowell is. I think there's a lot of thinkers, amazingly, when I read people more on the left of him who just ignore him, they don't interact with him, they don't cite him, somebody as powerful and influential and frankly brilliant as Thomas Sowell, it's strategic that they choose not to engage him. But we're not going to do that here. This book is powerful—by the way, written by somebody in his 90s who has not lost a beat.

Scott: He has not slowed down at all.

Sean: He's pretty incredible.

Scott: Yeah. Now, he's an economist by training.

Sean: Yes, that's right.

Scott: And he approaches most of the issues of race from a distinctly economic viewpoint. And he shows that the economic data often is counterintuitive and contrary to the narrative that we hear in the broader culture and particularly in the university—

Sean: And by the way, before you go any further, he argues that there are certain laws in economics, just like we think about maybe physics and chemistry and the hard sciences, there are certain laws. But he says in economics, there are certain embedded truths within nature. If you do A, you get B. And so it's an objective science. He's not approaching this theologically. He's approaching it economically. And he just kind of stands back and says, let the data speak for itself. That's what I like about Sowell.

Scott: That's very helpful. So, Sean, how does he define social justice? Because this is one area where the definition counts for everything.

Sean: It does. So, I'm just going to read it. I'm going to read it directly from him. I'm going to open his book and read a lot from Sowell to let him speak for himself. And he writes this, he says, at the heart of the social justice vision is the assumption that because economic and other disparities among human beings greatly exceed any differences in their innate capabilities or capacities, these disparities are evidence or proof of the effects of such human vices as exploitation and discrimination. So, at the heart of social justice, to just rephrase this, is that there are certain disparities, economic, output, behaviorally, and they go beyond inner capacities of, say, different groups or different races. That disparity is proof that there's some evil embedded within the system that needs to be serviced and brought. Now, before we go any further, if that social justice vision is right, then we need to view all disparities as evidence of some kind of discrimination. But what Sowell argues is, yeah, we see certain kinds of differences across racial groups, across other kinds of groups, but that's not evidence of any kind of embedded evil. That's where he pushes back. Now, one other quote by him might help on page 11. He says this, the seemingly invincible fallacy at the heart of the social justice vision is that large categories of people, classes, races, nations, would tend to be either equal, or at least comparable, in their outcomes in various endeavors if it were not for some discriminatory bias that has intervened to produce the large disparities we see around us. So, the bottom line is when we see disparities, evidence of discrimination. So, we have to create policies to change that. And thus, if we made everything else equal, we'd have the same kind of outcomes.

Scott: Yeah, and he will cite lots of economic data that suggests that the outcomes are dependent on a whole host of factors as opposed to simply discrimination. Now, he admits that discrimination does play a part in some inequalities and some disparities.

Sean: Sure. Of course.

Scott: Which I think is undeniable. And historically, it was assumed that there was a difference in genetic capacities, that there were certain races that were inferior genetically to others. And that was fundamentally what explained the disparities. And now, I think what you've just pointed out is that the burden of proof has shifted from being genetically inferior, which nobody accepts any longer, to being sort of baked into the system. And the debate is over whether that's the only thing that's baked into the system that accounts for these inequalities and differences.

Sean: That's really well said. You summed it up. Good.

Scott: Often, sometimes in Christian circles, sometimes in non-Christian circles, we make a distinction between social justice and other types of biblical justice, for example.

Sean: Yeah.

Scott: What's the difference?

Sean: Well, I don't think a Christian ethic of justice would look at differences and necessarily assume there's some evil built into the system causing it. So, you even have teachings of Jesus like the talents, ya know, five, and three, and one. Well, that's a difference. That's not considered bad.

Scott: If you knew what a talent was worth, that's a big difference.

Sean: That's a huge economic difference, but that's not considered bad. So, even within the body of Christ, we have different gifts. We have different callings. You have the ear, you have the eye, you have the foot. Like, there are differences within the world, not better or worse. That's the way the world is. Now, classically, justice is giving someone their due. So, if the punishment is too great, that's unjust. If the punishment is too less, that's unjust. Really, the principle of justice is built into Exodus 21, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, that the punishment ought to fit the crime. And the scriptures are full of God ultimately bringing cosmic justice in the universe, but governments in particular, Israel, should be built on just principles, and I should treat my neighbor lovingly. In a sense, you ask, what is justice to my neighbor? Well, giving my neighbor my due, which is what? To love my neighbor. So, when people ask me my thoughts on social justice, I say, I believe in biblical justice, not social justice, if what we mean by social justice is the way Thomas Sowell defined it.

Scott: So, you sort of hinted at this already with the notion of the pursuit of justice being connected with loving your neighbor. But spell out some other reasons. Why does this issue matter? And why, I mean, on all sides of this people are incredibly passionate about this. What explains that passion? Why does this matter so much?

Sean: So, I'm going to let Saul ask a question of how he answers this one. And I think people would actually answer this question differently. He says this on page 21. He says, do we want the mixture of students who are going to be trained to do advanced medical research, and who are going to be trained to do advanced medical research, to be representative of the demographic makeup of the population as a whole? So, when it comes to doing medical research, lives are on the line, is the guiding principle that we have students represented of the demographic makeup of the population as a whole? Or, so he's drawn a contrast, and his assumption is that this is what social justice advocates want. He says, or do we want whatever students from whatever background who have track records demonstrating a mastery of medical science that gives them the highest probability of finding cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, and other devastating diseases. Now, to him, to ask the question is to answer it. He's not saying a diversity of students isn't unimportant. He's not saying some students who have been economically or racially disadvantaged isn't important. He's saying this is not the trump card over all else that should drive the policies that we do in every single endeavor. He says, take the army, for example, what the goal of the army is to create the most efficient system for defense necessary to protect us. Concerns about other kinds of disparity and differences should not trump that larger goal. So, to him, what's at stake is the defense of the country, the development of medical care, and all these other ends are the most important things that are at stake. And we kind of see this in culture today seeping in where exactly what he's talking about, the values and the goal of, say, an institution is being put secondary to a certain kind of dealing with certain kinds of discrimination, so to speak.

Scott: So, he's distinguishing between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes.

Sean: I think that's right. And he’s making the point that when given equal opportunities everybody doesn’t necessarily want the same outcomes. Men and women might want different outcomes. Old and young might want different outcomes. Maybe certain racial groups want different outcomes. That’s what he’s bringing to play. So, he thinks when we push this social justice agenda some of our large institutions for medicine and defense are going to suffer. That’s one reason Sowell argues.

The second one, this is at the end of his book, he says this, social justice advocates supposedly concerned with the fate of the poor, may seem strange, that they pay a remarkably little attention to places where the poor have risen out of poverty at a dramatic rate and on a massie skills. That at least raises the questions whether the social justice advocates' priorities are the poor themselves, or the social justice advocates’ own vision of the world and their own role in that vision. So, he’s calling certain advocates, saying, you claim this is about the poor, but you ignore certain data of means to actually help the poor—maybe something else is going on here. So, according to him, what's at stake with social justice is actually real justice; actually creating a fair society where there’s equal opportunity—that’s actually what’s at stake. And I think he’s right.

Scott: He spends a lot of time in the book, and I found this part particularly helpful, highlighting a number of factors as to why different groups might have different outcomes—we can extend this all the way to individuals, too—that are not the result of discrimination. Now, to be clear, he does admit there are some inequalities that are the result of discrimination. And I would suggest that, biblically, the types of inequalities that are worth getting exercised about are the ones that are the result of injustice. And I think there are several examples that he gives that we could point out, but what are some of the factors that he gives about why different groups might have different outcomes that don’t end the sentence with discrimination.

Sean: So, this is actually not the first time that he’s written about it, he has other books about disparity not equal to discrimination where he talks about this as well. This is on page 2, he says, climate differences are among numerous other differences that can facilitate the development of certain capabilities, particularly people and impede the development of other capabilities. How much you can go outside, how much you can transport goods. That’s not something you can control, and has nothing to do with genetics. It happens to do with where you live. Do you happen to live near rivers, near where there’s ports? This happens to make transportation easier and affects the development of the economy. That’s one example he gives.

He gives another example, he says, Germany has long been the leading producer of beer. Okay, seems like a random example. Then he says, even back in the days of the Roman Empire this goes back. He says, when a particular people have been doing a particular thing for a thousand years, is it surprising if they tend to be more successful in that particular endeavor than those who have no such history? Of course, that makes sense. Then he says, there are some things that other people do better than Germans. Just because they do better at beer doesn’t mean they’re better, we just have to do different kinds of things. Then he says, for example, the Scotts cannot match the French in producing wine because the grapes that grow in France do not thrive in Scotland's colder climate. So, he’s bringing in these kinds of cultural, geographical, historical factors that make sense they’re going to bring disparity. Another example he gives is just birth order. The number of like astronauts—[laughs]

Scott: I never thought about that.

Sean: You never?

SCott: And I’m a firstborn. [laughs]

Sean: Ahhh, you didn’t have to. You had the privilege of being a first born. But his point is that they get a certain amount of attention, arguably from mom and dad, and the less kids, mom and dad have less energy, by the time you come around the third kid, me and my wife are like are we reading with him as much? Like we ask questions.

Scott: Oh, we make jokes about it.

Sean: We naturally do. Well, that’s an advantage of mom and dad’s attention that a first born has. You see objectively those who are astronauts, professional sports, number of presidents directly tied to be firstborn. He gives other examples like sports. How many Hispanics will excel in baseball, how many whites, maybe, in hockey, blacks in basketball. And then he says, are Asians kept out of professional basketball or are Californains kept out of the National Hockey League because there’s more Canadians. He says, of course not. So, it's really important. He’s not saying that things like sex or race will never play a part in discrimination. He says we’re placing them way outside of the proportion of what causes these disequity, so to speak, and we need to balance things out and be aware of far more factors that have a role. He gives way more than this, that’s just a sample.

Scott: And I think we can extend this to individuals, too. Because some individuals have disadvantages because of the choices they’ve made. I mean, and they're not all bad choices. I mean, think about artists, musicians, actors, maybe seminary professors who have chosen our fields not because it primarily rewards us with money, but because there's some other intrinsic reward that we're getting from that. That's a choice that we've made. And other people make choices that are bad choices that are not conducive to getting ahead financially. The decision to have kids out of wedlock, the decision not to finish high school, things like that are pretty well established as being cornerstones of economic disadvantage.

Sean: And yeah, that's one example he also talks about in here. He talks about like across different racial groups, values in honesty, for example. So he compares Asian, black, white, Hispanic, very different answers that they give. Now, his point is not that one with a higher level of honesty is superior. He says these things change and adapt over time but if you have certain values embedded into a society, you're going to have different outcomes. And that has nothing to do with your genetic determinism. It has nothing to do intrinsically with race.

Scott: So, let's take this a little bit further because Sowell spends a lot of time here and it's really, I think, really insightful stuff. But he refers to what he calls racial fallacies that are often ignored in our discussion of race and economic well-being and privilege and inequality. So, what are some of those? This seems to me to be some of the things that we're just missing in the larger debate.

Sean: This is interesting. So, if you just take, say, for example, the black community and the white community, you can tell a certain narrative if you isolate those two. He says, but if you add Asians to the mix, it changes the metric very much so. So, for example, he writes, median black American family income has been lower than median white family income for generations. That's a fact. And that's something he says we need to think about, we need to ask why and get to the bottom of. But then he says, he mixed Asian groups that are Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, who also all don't have the exact same output and experience in America, by the way. He's careful to say even within the group of Asians, there's a wide range of differences. He says these Asian groups also have a higher median income per capita than the median per capita income of white Americans. So if you just compare blacks and whites, you could come up with a certain interpretation and understanding. But if you add Asians to the mix, it kind of flips this on its head. Now, that's not the only example that he gives. He gives some other examples. He says, for example, right here. Here's one that will come back to another example from Asians. He says the poverty rate among black American families as a whole has long been higher than the poverty rate among American families as a whole. Over the span of more than a quarter century since 1994, in no year has the annual poverty rate of black married couples been as high as 10%. So he says even within black couples, if you add those that are married and those that are not, that starts to change the metric a little bit. And this is a question that Sowell is asking, by the way. He says if black family poverty is caused by systemic racism, do racists make an exception for blacks who are married? Now that's a really interesting, pointed question.

So he goes on, just to give another example to make sure this is really fleshed out. He says in the 21st century, there are counties in Appalachian region of Kentucky, Clay County, Owsley County, that are more than 90% white, where the median household income is not less than half, the median household income of white Americans in the country as a whole, but also thousands of dollars less than the median household income of black Americans in the country as a whole. So he's making a distinction between whites as a whole, blacks as a whole, and looking at segments within them, asking are there things like where you live, where you grew up, married or not, that also contribute to this. And I think he's onto something. So he says, this is just worth thinking about for people. He says, if by some miracle we could get to zero racism, it is by no means certain how much effect that would actually have. People in low income American hillbilly counties already face zero racism because these people are virtually all white, yet they have lower incomes than blacks. Yet black married couples have consistently had a lower poverty rate than the national average. Here's the bottom line. And this is like bold and italics in his book. He says, some behavior patterns seem to pay off more so than the absence of racism. So again, he's not saying that racism can't and doesn't at times play a role, but he's saying, are there other more pressing types of factors and behaviors that contribute to poverty? He argues that there are. Now, when he goes on to further examples, he says, even the number of, say, mortgages and loans given to whites, differs from blacks, but you add Asians to this. And that changes the metrics because blacks are turned down and then whites and then Asians. Discipline in school, blacks more than whites, but whites more than Asians. So really he's upsetting the apple cart. He's asking certain questions that don't fit in this social justice narrative. And I think if we really care about helping people in poverty and some of the other disparities he's talking about, we have to be willing to ask these questions and lean in and see where the data points.

Scott: And some of those factors are also what seemed to be fairly insignificant ones that actually make a really big difference. For example, the number of books that a family has in their home makes a really big difference.

Sean: That's interesting.

Scott: And, you know, I remember Chuck Colson telling us about an exercise they did in the prisons when he was a prison fellowship. And they took 10 inmates and 10 CEOs who were guests of the prison fellowship for that day. And they lined them all up together, went along the line. And they said, if your family had such and such, you know, step back. So, for example, he said, if your family had two parents living under the same roof, step back. If your family had more than 50 books in your home, step back. If your family had previous generations who had gone to college, step back. And it turns out all the people who were left at the front of the line were the inmates who didn't have any of those factors. And so there are some of those things that might seem sort of insignificant, but if you view them together, like the, you know, geography and, you know, where you were raised, what kind of culture that was, all those things together make a really big difference.

Scott: So in some sense, he's not saying that there's not certain kinds of privileges. There are the number of books in your home, maybe the geography that you're raised in, having a two-parent family. So he's not saying there aren't certain kinds of privileges. He's just pushing back on the kinds of privileges that are emphasized at the expense of others and probably, disproportionately emphasized within the social justice calculus.

Scott: Yeah. And I think it's what he's pushing back against, and I think is right to push back against, is a reductive view that race is the only thing that accounts for these things.

Sean: And even in some cases, the primary thing I think he would push back on, at times. Not to say it's not the primary in some cases, but overall, he's pushing pretty firmly back on that.

Scott: So the interesting part of this is that in the past, some of these quote racial fallacies implied a genetic determinism. And that was sort of an absolute way of looking at it like the way embedded racism is today. But why wouldn't some of these racial fallacies imply a genetic determinism?

Sean: Well, he's very careful to push back on this. I remember hearing this argument. I haven't thought of this a while since high school. Somebody made an argument to me. They said, "Look at how many more white quarterbacks there are than black quarterbacks. It takes a higher degree of intelligence to be a quarterback. Therefore, genetically whites are more intelligent." I remember hearing that and I was so much younger. I didn't have a good response to it, but I remember thinking that doesn't strike me as being a good argument that I want to conclude. So that's looking at a disparity in the opposite direction and concluding, therefore, it must be genetic. He's very careful to push back on this and say, just because we're pushing back on social justice doesn't mean we swing to the opposite direction and say there's something inherently superior or inferior genetically. And he asks a couple things here. He says, "To honestly admit the reality of vast differences in specific capabilities of different peoples." And these capabilities could be capabilities on the basketball court or the hockey rink, et cetera, or in some other realm. It doesn't matter. "To admit that there's vast differences in specific capabilities at different times and at different places is no capitulation to genetic determinism."

And he gives an example. He says, "A thousand years ago, the Chinese were more advanced than Europeans in many endeavors, but several centuries later, their positions were reversed." He says, "There have been similarly large disparities within different segments of the same race." In 1991, for example, millions of overseas Chinese produced as much wealth as the billion people in China. So, he's very careful to say these disparities don't point towards genetic superiority or inferiority. And of course, that's because how that was abused to justify slavery, mistreatment of whether it was African-Americans, forced sterilization, or it was women or forced sterilizations or Native Americans, the danger, the danger of that. Now, what's interesting is as Christians, even if there were across races, some differences in genetic intelligence, this would not justify any of those atrocities because our value is grounded in being made in the image of God. But nonetheless, we don't even have to go there because that's not where the data points.

Scott: Which is not trait based to begin with.

Sean: Yes, that's exactly right.

Scott: So, he's got a really fascinating piece, and I'm interested to hear your take on this, but he calls the chess piece fallacy. I found this so interesting. What is that? And why is that important?

Sean: So the chess piece fallacy is this idea that you can just move around human beings as if they're pawns, that if you move them, you get the result that you want. So I had another, it's interesting looking at this background behind you. I had a businessman who was on the board at Biola. He said to me, sometimes people have certain political persuasions, and think that if we just create certain policies, human beings will be like chess pieces or like bricks and just moved to get the result that they want. He says, that's kind of at the heart of some of these social justice ideas. And of course he gives examples and says, this is not what actually works. This is not what human beings are like. We're not just chess pieces that can be moved like a rock or a chess. So he says, Americans, we're not just inert pieces on the great chessboard of the British empire when they were taxed, et cetera, they pushed back and didn't adopt certain policies put on them. He says, and he gives an example here, tax rates. Sometimes people assume if we want a certain outcome, if we just increase the taxes, people will pay more and we'll get the outcome that we want. And he says, a reduction in tax rates does not automatically result in reduction in tax revenues. It doesn't work that way. And he gives us an interesting example. He said in Iceland, as the corporate tax rate was gradually reduced from 45% to 18% between 1991 and 2001, tax revenues tripled. So, at the root of this social justice ideology is this idea that we can manipulate and we can control as if life and the outcomes are equal to just moving certain chess pieces, but that's not the case. That's not what humans are like. We have free will, we have desires, we have wants, we have creativity and refuse to be moved like chess pieces or moved like bricks to where the powers that be simply want us to go.

Scott: Oh, there's so much to unpack with this. And I find this so interesting. There's another fallacy that he points out that I found just as insightful that he calls the knowledge fallacy. What is it? It's sort of related. That and the chess piece fallacy are connected because they have the same, I think the same bit of, oh, maybe the cultural hubris attached to them.

Sean: So, this idea of a knowledge fallacy is the idea that somebody has all of the knowledge necessary to fix certain inequities within society. And you see this kind of a lot of social justice ideologies, of course, are moving more towards the left when it comes to political expression, of course. And you see this as certain socialist and certain Marxist ideas that we have the knowledge to arrange society, to get the outcomes that we want. And he says, no such knowledge exists. And he gives this famous example. I've heard Jay Richards talk about this in kind of a defensive of capitalism, so to speak. He talks about a pencil and he says, what does it take to produce? What does it take to make a pencil? He says, there's not a single person on the planet who actually knows all of the components and information necessary to even make a pencil. From how the lead is mined, to how it's transported, to how the piece of rubber is made, to the paint that goes in the pencil. It's actually a very complex process where different people have different pieces of knowledge and collectively it kind of comes together through the process of capitalism and results in a pencil. So the idea being that if you think you have the knowledge to just fix these inequities, he goes, nobody does. It's a fallacy that anybody could have that level of information to do so. And I've actually asked some experts recently. I've said, could artificial intelligence help us do this and fix either an economy that would be perfectly just or fix these social justice inequities? And the problem is a lot of our decisions are emotive and experiential and are not even just purely intellectual knowledge and artificial intelligence can't take that into consideration. So, this racial fallacy, this knowledge fallacy are built into this social justice way of looking at the world. He's pulling back the tape saying, wait a minute, these assumptions aren't possible, which is why your social justice efforts don't work.

Scott: Now, there's actually, I think, another knowledge fallacy. That he doesn't point out, which I found a really interesting omission because it's not uncommon in the social justice movements that are particularly animated by a renewal of Marxist thought where they see the world through the lenses of oppressor and oppressed. And the oppressed, it's pointed out, have a knowledge advantage over their oppressor and their oppressors. Because they have the knowledge of, the experiential knowledge of what it means to be marginalized and to be disadvantaged. And in some venues, the group that's considered to be the oppressor, and it's always a group thing, not an individual, but the group that's alleged to be the oppressor is basically told that they don't have, they don't have the requisite knowledge to be able to speak into any of the justice issues that the oppressed group is bringing to the surface. And it's a major, what we call an epistemological advantage that's granted to the oppressed group. And it often is used as a discussion stopper for the, quote, oppressor group to marginalize their contribution and their voice. So, I was a little surprised to see that that didn't appear here, although that doesn't really affect the outcomes per se.

Sean: Sure, sure.

Scott: But it just really tailors how the discussion goes on many of these issues. So you wanna say anything on that?

Sean: Well, the only thing I would say is what's interesting is if certain voices are to be favored, well, under that metric, black voices are favored over white voices. Thomas Sowell is black. So his voice should be heard and considered under that very way of seeing the world. And yet I actually at times see his voice marginalized and ignored, which tells me something else is going on here besides what we're told is going on here.

Scott: Yeah, I think it's simply that he doesn't see the world through those lenses.

Sean: I think that's exactly right.

Scott: So one or two more questions here.

Sean: Okay.

Scott: So, if we cut through all of the rhetoric and all of the side issues, at the core, what do you think is what motivates social justice efforts? This is such an interesting question because I teach a class at Biola in our Apologetics program on the problem of evil. Why does God allow evil? And one of the things that I point out to my students right at the beginning is the problem of evil is the problem that Christians wrestle with, and non-believers have against God. And we see it everywhere. So at the root of immigration, here's people who are suffering. How do we best help them? Gun control. Well, what's the best way to help people not be harmed? The LGBTQ issue. Every cultural issue at the root of it, someone's suffering and we want to fix it. Look at superhero movies. Why do we love the idea of a superhero coming, bring justice, defeat the bad guy? It's everywhere. Well, I've thought this about the social justice movement for a while, but on page 102, Sowell mentions this, and I wish he had a whole chapter on it or I could just get his thoughts on this. But he says, "What others call social justice might more fittingly be called cosmic justice, since this is what would be required to produce the results sought by many social justice advocates." In other words, this effort on social justice are people who look at the world and say, "Things are broken. I've been hurt." So many people who support a version of social justice that you and I would take issue with and have taken issue with here can point back to instances in their lives where they've been mistreated, they've been abused, they have experienced injustice, and they wrap their arms around this social justice movement as a way of making the world better. So what I wanna do is I wanna reach out to people and say that desire for justice, that desire for not so much equity, but equality, that is a good desire God has placed inside of you. Now, one reason we'll never see it this side of heaven are some of the other things that kind of trickle through his book a little bit is that it's rooted in a faulty view of what it means to be human. So that chess piece fallacy doesn't recognize that. It doesn't recognize that humans have a soul. We're not bricks. We have a soul. So we have creativity. We have emotions as a part of what we do. We have free will. I think certain social justice ideas don't take human depravity really seriously. So it'll never work in this life. But when I look at things like socialism, it's a desire for a utopia. It's a good desire that God has put on our hearts, and I wanna celebrate that. But because the data goes against it, as Saul points out, and it's not rooted in biblical theology and anthropology, it's not going to work. So at the root of it, to answer the question, I think it is the biggest question humans have ever asked, why is the world broken? Why do we suffer? And how do we fix it?

Scott: Yeah, I'm skeptical of any impetus toward a utopia, just because the track record historically has been so disastrous. So enough said on that.

Scott: And he says that right at the beginning too, about totalitarian governments. I don't remember what page this quote is on, but he says when we—maybe it's part of the knowledge fallacy—when we think we have the knowledge to fix all these problems, we see bloodshed and abuse and just a trail of the opposite of the justice that people want. So you're right.

Scott: Yeah, and people on the ground, this is one of the geniuses I think of our market system, is people on the ground have more knowledge about their preferences, about what they respond to, about what benefits them, than people who are divorced from their particular situation on the ground. And that's, I think, eventually what has caused the utopian type movements to run aground. So, one final thing, do you recommend this?

Sean: I would highly recommend it. Now, I don't just recommend books that I agree with. We had a discussion about Peter Singer's book and took serious issue with some of his positions, but because I think he's a good writer and I think it's fair and it's interesting. I think Christians who care about animal rights and cultural issues should read that book. I agree much more with Sowell than I do with Singer, but I would like to see people, no matter where they land on this issue, just interact with his data and talk about where they agree, where they disagree, but point to the facts to do so. Sowell, in my estimation, has one of the most important voices today and in part, because he's been doing this for half a century and he just backs up everything that he argues for. So anybody concerned with issues of justice and social justice, I'd give it a total thumbs up. And by the way, I mean, I read it three times. I underlined it. Mine's all yellow. It's all marked up. I think about it. I share stuff with my wife. There's a couple of times where I think I see stuff differently than Sowell, which if there's nothing I saw differently, I'm not reading it critically, but it's only about 130 pages. It's a somewhat quick read, well worth the investment in my humble opinion.

Scott: I'd agree. It's pretty insightful stuff. Appreciate you helping bring this out for our viewers. We hope you enjoyed this. We think this is pretty insightful stuff that you don't often hear in the mainstream conversation about social justice. So we're delighted that you've been with us. We wanna recommend "Social Justice Fallacies" by Thomas Sowell. Hope you enjoyed the conversation. If you wanna email us with a suggestion or a question about this subject or any others, email us at thinkbiblically@biola.edu. Thanks for being with us. We'll see you next time.