Friday, August 13, 2010

A Chance to Play God: simulation experiments with character vs situation

Many human problems are seen as the result of bad character or bad situation. Accordingly simple “cures” – usually in the form of organizational policy -- are offered to deal with them: improve individual character or improve the individual’s circumstances.

Is a child misbehaving? Then punish him for what is objectionable or reward him for doing something different.

Is vandalism increasing in poorer neighborhoods? Then increase police presence or open recreational centers or schools.

Are some people subject to ridicule or abuse? Preach God’s common Fatherhood in the churches; or, teach brotherhood in the schools.

But what if you can’t treat things in isolation? Suppose different influences have different effects depending on how they are mixed together? (Technically put: suppose the causal factors interact.)

If you can play checkers, you can play God – at least in your imagination. You might want to play with populations whose characters and situations you can control to see how different mixes turn out. You do this through simulation.

If this thought interests you, see RANPOP Simulation Experiment #1

Cordially
EGR