Pierson Castor is a junior, majoring in politics and international relations

(What is From the Field? Read this welcome post, as well as the introduction post to this current segment, to learn more!)

In Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant reminds readers of the need to prioritize truth over comfort. We all have different worldviews because of our different experiences. Nevertheless, if we hope to be informed citizens, we must be willing to consider other viewpoints and new evidence. Beliefs are incredibly difficult to unbelieve, even when presented with new evidence. We must acknowledge, however, that we live in an ever-changing political landscape. If our political beliefs allow us no room for adaptability, we will find ourselves clinging to incorrect understandings of the world around us. This reality is a particularly startling prospect as faithful Christians. Being God’s salt and light to the earth requires us to know the realities we face. Unless we see the brokenness around us, we will be unable to confront it.

Though Grant is not writing to a particularly religious audience, his message is especially relevant for Christ followers. Grant writes, “When adults have the confidence to acknowledge what they don’t know, they pay more attention to how strong the evidence is and spend more time reading the material that contradicts their opinions” (48). At first, this idea sounds contradictory to the notion of faith. Most Christians, for example, believe in the Bible as an authoritative source of truth. Must we doubt this belief? No, but as Grant explains, we must have the confidence to know what we do not know. We live in an incredibly different world than the one in which the Bible was written. Unless we acknowledge our twenty-first century American lens, we will never see the need to pursue a more accurate understanding of the biblical narrative. More broadly, unless we acknowledge the need to grow our understanding of the world, we will never learn how best we can serve it.

More often than not, I agree with Grant’s analysis of human tendencies and the problems they generate. Furthermore, I agree with his analysis in how we as individuals ought to address them. Grant explains, “We won’t have much luck changing other people’s minds if we refuse to change ours. We can demonstrate openness by acknowledging where we agree with our critics and even what we’ve learned from them” (107). We must be a people that builds bridges. Too often, do we expect others to be open-minded but withhold that same open-mindedness from them? Unless we extend a hand to those with whom we disagree, we will fail to learn, persuade, and reconcile. The irony is that Grant himself–in an effort to persuade his readers–demonstrates often an attitude of superiority. For example, Grant writes, “One of my biggest pet peeves is feigned knowledge, where people pretend to know things they don’t. It bothers me so much that at this very moment I’m writing an entire book about it” (40). In the same breath, Grant summarizes a study that discovered “the more superior participants thought their knowledge was, the more they overestimated themselves” (40). Either this is an incredible use of irony to provide emphasis, or this is the most painful example of self-unawareness. The text does not provide clarification.

Overall, Grant addresses tendencies with which all humans struggle: choosing comfort over truth and assuming a proficiency of knowledge. Using graphs, studies, stories and life experiences, he explains why these things are a problem and why we ought to address them in our own lives. He makes a compelling case as to why such behavioral adjustments will help society as a whole. Christian readers, though, may see a societal benefit that Grant does not mention, namely that a refined understanding of the world will help us further God’s kingdom here on earth. After all, if we as Christians do not see the brokenness around us, how can we hope to confront it?


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