The core of sociology is one simple truth: individual people can be a mess to predict, but masses of people are easy. Human behavior in aggregate is subject to simple incentives and simple outcomes. Crowds can be studied with models that verge on purely physical, scarcely requiring that even biology play a role. It is not difficult to figure out what humans will do when presented with a certain set of incentives, and one of the insights that follows is that if one wants people to take a certain action, one of the most effective ways to make that happen is to make the correct thing easy.
I had a long Facebook conversation recently with a friend-of-a-friend that I’ve been meaning to cut apart and discuss here in various topical segments. (The conversation, not the acquaintance.)
This friend-of-a-friend calls himself both libertarian and Catholic (a bizarre combination on many levels) and derives a great deal of his thinking on ethics and social issues from papal encyclicals and other Catholic writings. My conversation with him provides an opportunity, then, to examine the vital difference between religious and secular morality.
Let’s take two classic issues for “values voter” types like him: homosexuality and contraception. My acquaintance writes (emphasis mine):