Catching up on some reading I’ve been wanting to do, I was reading Greg Koukl’s article on tolerance, and how being tolerant, according to the modern definition, is really unattainable. For example, Greg talks about showing these two statements to a group of high school students:

“All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.”

“Jesus is the Messiah and Judaism is wrong for rejecting that.”

The students rejected the second statement as being intolerant. Although is it really? As Greg says, “If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than Jews is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than Christians. But this is hopelessly contradictory. If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because “tolerance” turns out to be gibberish” (¶ 12). If, in the quest of being tolerant, we accept all views as equal, what place does right and wrong, good and bad, have in our thinking? Of course, that’s what the people screaming “you’re intolerant” really want, they don’t want to be told that their actions are wrong or bad, or that their thinking is flawed in some way.

Then I was reading Tom Davenport’s post on decision-making, and how so few managers use real data and decision-making steps to make the decisions they do. The problem? “We have lost much of the connection between the supply of information and the demand for it in decision-making. Despite the fact that companies often justify IT projects on the basis of better decisions, there is seldom a direct tie between the information a particular system produces and the decisions that are supposed to be based on it” (¶ 2).

I’m taking Tom’s discussion in a direction he didn’t intend, but when logical thought is distorted by “popular culture,” how can we expect decision-making in the business world to be clear either? We’re told not to analyze someone’s opinions or beliefs as to whether they are right or wrong, good or bad, thoughtful or flawed; yet in the business world we have to be analytical, thoughtful, and logical about the facts. Why are we surprised when the process of the one invades the other?

Back to Greg’s article, how should we react to intolerance disguised as tolerance? “Then I wrote these two principles on the board:

“Be egalitarian regarding persons.”

“Be elitist regarding ideas.”[1]

The first principle is true tolerance, what might be called “civility.” It can loosely be equated with the word “respect.” Tolerance applies to how we treat people we disagree with, not how we treat ideas we think false. Tolerance requires that every person is treated courteously, no matter what her view, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth” (¶ 13-16).

— Davenport, T. (2008, March 4). Back to Decision-Making Basics. Harvard Business.

— Koukl, Greg. (n.d.). When Tolerance is Intolerant. Stand to Reason.