Podcast – Episode 0187 – Just World Theory

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 In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about Just World Theory.

In this podcast you’ll find:

    • Just world theory (fallacy) is the idea that we deserve everything that happens to us.
    • Good things happen to good people
    • Bad things happen to bad people
    • This is a dangerous way of looking at things
    • Not all the horrible things that happen are our fault.
    • We take credit for things we shouldn’t be taking credit for
    • We beat ourselves up for things we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up for
    • Cause and effect thinking
    • A childlike way of looking at things
    • This thinking usually comes from a religious belief that there is going to be a balance sheet at the end of the day governed by some unseen deity.
    • Nothing works in cause and effect in nature
    • It’s a security blanket to think in such simplistic terms. Reality contradicts this thinking all the time.
    • This worldview is insidious because most people aren’t aware that they have this belief.
    • “If I’m good, I will get good results.”
    • These kinds of fallacies are used to bring order to the chaos.
    • Success is one giant game over your lifetime.
    • Systems thinking is the concept that there is no such thing as cause and effect.
    • There are emergent properties (or results) of systems from multiple catalysts or nodes.
    • When a system runs in a certain way, there is an inevitable emergent.
    • We don’t see systems until we break them because they are beyond our perception.
    • If everything just happens in chaos how can we be creators of our lives?
    • We have more influence over aspects/nodes in our system than we realize.
    • We have less influence over the things we think we can influence.
    • On a long enough timeline, things do tend to balance energetically.
    • Time is a massive node in every system running
    • We can’t do anything about time. It just keeps going.
    • “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all.” — Ecclesiastes 9:11
    • Stop blaming yourself when things go wrong.
    • Stop blaming others when things go wrong.
    • There’s an element of chaos to the world that we can’t control, but there are some things we can control.
    • You can’t judge an emergent until you understand the system.
    • The responsibility is on us to do what we can to influence things to the positive.
    • Narratives need to serve us rather than us serving them.
    • Understand how the ego attaches to these narratives.
    • See these narratives as tools we use to create a better society.
    • As soon as we become too attached to our belief system (BS) we shut off our ability to learn.
  • Robert Anton Wilson says we need to become belief system agnostics.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Marta
    Reply

    This was a thought-provoking episode. I do belive in cause and effect, just not in a simple one. It is more like an equation with lots of variables (and some are out of our comprehension).
    I see two ways of growing in the world. One is mentioned in the podcast: influencing the ones that we identify as being able to influence. The other one (or the first actually) is to get more proficient in seeing patterns and identifying the cause and effect relations. I see sometimes there are elements in the equation that we CAN influence. We just do not see they are actually a part of the equation that is in our circle of interest, and therefore we do not take action.

  • Rob
    Reply

    I thought it was interesting that Joel seemed to cite religion as a place where just world theory is rampant. But this was right after observing that small children have an almost natural sense of just world theory built in. It seems more likely to me that no matter what our religious beliefs, thinking in simple cause and effect is just part of us, and we need to be aware of that. Trusting cause and effect often serves us well in many areas of our lives, so it’s easy to just apply it everywhere.

    I think a compounding problem is that we tend to assume other people are just like us. We assume they think like us and have the same life experience as us. For example, “If I don’t show up at work, I will get fired” is a very good cause and effect statement to follow. And for me right now, that is the surest way I can lose my job. So if I meet an unemployed person, it is tempting to assume they had a job similar to mine, and then something happened. How did they lose it? Well they must have skipped out, or stolen from the company, because how else would they wind up without a job? Understanding how people are different goes a long way to helping us to practice mercy and not leaping to judgement.

    Thanks for digging deep into topics like this. I just found the podcast and am looking forward to hearing more.

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Rob! You are totally right. We are all part of a system that is uniquely ours and influences us in different ways. Btw, welcome to the community! 🙂

  • Carl
    Reply

    Interesting. I think it was a good response to a very shallow and unsophisticated just world theory (as described in the podcast). I do no think cause and effect necessarily implies one cause to evey effect though. Also there are multiple effects on different planes. Maybe on one plane there is one cause for an effect and on another there is not. For instance the fall ccould be a spiritual cuase for all evil yet there are other cuases on other levels. Another example would be that a natural explanation does not preclude a spernatural explanation. The supernatural is on a whole differnt plane. Aristotle had different types of causes. I think there are good and bad people. Hitler was surely a major cause of the holocaust (not the only one BTW) and thus very evil. It is definitely true that good people do not necessarily recieve good in this world. It is usually the reverse but not necessarily that either. I think the Christian tradition has dealt with these types of issues rather well in theory. In practice some have used the just world theory of your podcast and created a theory to justify it. Hitler of course used Neistzche as his philosophical justification. He was not a Christian by a long shot. But people have used Christianity for racism and sexism and a lot of other evil.

  • Eric
    Reply

    Very interesting topic. some observations:

    Assigning blame makes us feel we can demand restitution from others, or the world itself. Even blaming oneself, like “what did I do wrong?” is a claim that one is being unfairly “punished“, and thus is “due” some form of “compensation”.

    This and the “give and take” demand it implies may be the “knowledge of good and evil“ (i.e.“the Fall”) the Bible speaks of, and religion has held onto it even though that was supposed to be resolved by Christ.

    If we can change things, this often becomes the basis for assigning good/bad to people (“responsible/irresponsible”, I earned, the poor didn’t earn, but could have, etc).

    Long term equilibrium is interesting, but of no use to someone (with a limited lifetime) suffering something now (I imagine, like The Roman, Nazi, or Communist empires eventually falling; but this doesn’t help all who suffered under them, and died before they fell).

    The question to ask when frustrated by situations, I see, is why our wants, expectations and comfort are often so out of line with the “systems”.

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