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Second Thoughts: The 25 Percent

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God


A psychologist by the—awesome—name of Solomon Asch conducted a super unnerving experiment in 1951. He had a group of eight people look at four drawn lines—three “comparison” lines and one “target” line.

Each member of the group had to say, out loud, which of the comparison lines they thought matched the target one in length, and this was repeated with eighteen sets of lines. It wasn’t hard; the right answers were intended to be really obvious.

The catch—there’s always a catch with these tricky psychologists—was that most of the time, seven of those eight people purposely gave blatantly wrong answers. Asch had told them to. The unsuspecting eighth participant was the real focus of the study—would he, despite the obviously wrong answers of all his peers, conform to them, answering in the same way? Asch conducted this experiment over and over again, and found that 75 percent of these participants did, at least once, do exactly this.

Bulletproof Evidence

For his student Assembly, Mr. Ames let us watch a movie (I love it when people do that), Unlocking the Mystery of Life. It’s a documentary presenting several scientists and their reasons for embracing the theory that our mind-bogglingly complex universe had, itself, a mind behind it. It’s right here, if you want to watch it.

That the universe was intelligently designed happens to be true,

and like a lot of true things, it has a plethora of compelling pieces of evidence in its favor. Irreducible complexity, the Design Inference, the fact that proteins and DNA can’t possibly make sense without each other—you’ve heard the arguments. They’re good. Even, perhaps, better than, good—they could very well be bulletproof. Just as bulletproof as the reasons for why the Bible is definitely God’s inspired word, and for why God’s true Church is emphatically not Catholic or Protestant.

But as Solomon Asch demonstrated, something being obviously right doesn’t mean we won’t abandon it for what everyone else says is right.

The Target Line

Asch found that people tend to conform for one of two reasons. Either they know they’re wrong and are okay with that, because “At least I won’t be ridiculed,” or they honestly believe that if most people are saying something, that something must be true.

Neither of these influences make a whole lot of sense, but they are, undeniably, influences, and those who try to tear us away from the God of the Bible make great use of both. Such people have also been told to give the wrong answers, but by someone infinitely more nefarious than Solomon Asch—and they actually believe the wrong answers they’re giving.

Encouragingly, in Asch’s experiment, 25 percent of participants consistently refused to conform to the wrong answers of those in their groups. The advantage we have over them is that we know exactly what’s going on; God’s word tells us that the others in our “group” are spewing fake info, blinded by a spiritual veil and victims of a truth-deprived society. With that knowledge, we can be confident that we aren’t wrong; there is a God, He did inspire the Bible, and we are in His Church.

As for ridicule, since the Designer of reality informs us that we’re not stupid, I think we can safely ignore Richard Dawkins & Friends saying otherwise. Like the 25 percent in Asch’s experiment, we can be confident and unyielding. The line that includes God, His word, and His Church, obviously matches the target line—no matter what anyone says.