Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Counter-factual.
Can It Be Applied to Religion?

One of the more useful techniques for studying history is the "counter-factual hypothesis". I was first introduced to this in one of Robert Fogel's economic history classes, where he addressed the question of how important railroads were in U.S. economic history by asking, "What would have happened had there been no railroads?"

I was reminded of this technique for studying the importance of historical events when I read the following on The Emirates Economist,

Just think of what Jesus could have achieved with tenure.
What an intriguing counter-factual.

My un-thought-out-arm-chaired hypothesis is that even if Jesus had hung around in the hills near the Qumran community or in Jerusalem or with the Essenes or with some similar sect and died of old age, or even if he hadn't ever been born, it wouldn't have mattered much. Something akin to a Christianity-type of monotheism would have continued to grow and evolve and then splinter anyway.

But it has been a long time (73 years) since I studied Church History and New Testament courses at Chicago Theological Seminary, and so I have no literary or historical evidence about which other mystic or other groups might have produced this result.

Some day maybe I'll post my "econometrics of God".
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