Evaluative Diversity in the Body of Christ

Stained glass scene
Paul Separated from Ephesus

On February 8, 2015, at Grace United Methodist Church in Belleville, WI, Chris Santos-Lang will speak about Ephesians 4:11-16 and its relationship to evaluativism.

Ephesians 4:11 (NIV) says: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers“. Chris will discuss how this passage can reflect diverse priorities:

  •  Apostles (the face of the church) – Priority on image
  •  Pastors (protectors) – Priority on the family
  •  Evangelists – Priority beyond the family
  •  Prophets – Priority on new wisdom
  •  Teachers – Priority on established wisdom

Many bible commentaries claim that the diversity described in this passage decreased as the church evolved to its modern state. For example, Matthew Henry’s Commentary says:

The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts—extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists. …And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers…how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts!

Chris will review evidence that Americans tend to segregate based on values without even realizing it, much as cells of the body segregate into organs, and that this evaluativism could explain the decrease of evaluative diversity in the church. A better understanding of this phenomenon (which spans sociology, neuroscience and genetics) may help us better judge whether it is possible, or desirable, to reduce such segregation.

If you want to know what recent science tells us about this kind of discrimination, you are invited to join Grace United Methodist Church for our regular Sunday service at 10:00 am on February 8 at 246 West Pearl Street in Belleville, WI.

Chris’ opinions do not necessary reflect the opinions of Grace UMC nor the United Methodist Church at large.

Evaluativism and the Neurodiversity Movement

The rainbow-colored infinity symbol represents the neurodiversity movement

What do you call it when someone discriminates on the basis of evaluative diversity? For a long time, I didn’t know there was a word for it, but it turns out to be “evaluativism.” In his essay defending evaluativism, Hartry Field offered the following example:

…in dealing with a follower of the Reverend Moon, we may find that too little is shared for a neutral evaluation of anything to be possible, and we may have no interest in the evaluations that the Moonie gives.

In other words, an evaluativist is someone who disregards or avoids people with whom they have disagreements grounded in evaluative differences (and Field’s example is one in which many of us would behave as evaluativists).

Yet much significant research about evaluativism seems unaware of this term. As examples:

To put it bluntly, we engage in evaluativism a lot and without realizing or naming it. Evaluativism is out of control. Where is the movement to fix it? It might have begun with the GRINfree website, or it might have begun with the neurodiversity movement.

The neurodiversity movement grew from the autism movement of the 1990s, especially from Jim Sinclairs’s essay, Don’t Mourn for Us, in which he pointed-out that autism is part of one’s identity, so a parent who wishes their child were not autistic effectively wishes that child were replaced. This sounds remarkably like evaluativism, where a mother wishes her son had not joined that church, or had not fallen in love with that girl, or become a liberal, or become a conservative, or become a materialist. To wish this is to reject the son’s identity, and the son may reciprocate. They may each disown aspects of the other by declaring topics like religion and politics “off the table” between them.

The neurodiversity movement, however, seems to be far ahead of the evaluativism movement. It has a logo (see above), a manifesto (the Holist Manifesto), a national symposium, a host of petitions (including for a neurodiverse doll, for special school districts, and for neurodiverse Disney characters), Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain, and even a course at the College of William & Mary (Interdisciplinary Studies 490: Neurodiversity).

Yet where does the scope of the neurodiversity movement end? It is called “neurodiversity” because it includes differences labeled “dyspraxia, dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, autistic spectrum, Tourette syndrome, and others.“ What are the others?  Does the neurodiversity movement even include advocating for more regard between liberals, conservatives, and highly sensitive persons (political orientations do correlate to brain features, as does emotional sensitivity)?

Drawing a line is a problem for the neurodiversity movement because a line would force people to get diagnoses and wear labels. The better solution is for society to appreciate the distinctions observed in individuals even before diagnosis. In other words, appreciate people for who they are, rather than for the labels they wear. But to advocate for that kind of appreciation would be to fight evaluativism.

For example, in an analysis of whether it makes more sense to label people with “Asperger syndrome” and “high-functioning autism” as disabled or to treat them merely as different, Simon Baron-Cohen pointed out that the observable differences that lead to labeling are merely how the person chooses to spend their time, their interests, what they think is relevant and important, what kinds of experiences they prefer, and how easily they are influenced by others. In other words, the differences are all evaluative. Until diagnoses are made, with their accompanying stigmas, there is nothing but evaluativism for the neurodiversity movement to protect these people from.

Here we must take care to avoid stereotypes. Not all women have the same values, so we must not portray sexism as a kind of evaluativism, yet women are more likely to be Naturally Relational, so women’s liberation cannot be achieved without addressing evaluativism. Not all Muslims have the same values, so we must not portray religionism as a kind of evaluativism, yet religionism cannot be resolved without resolving evaluativism. Likewise, John Elder Robinson points out that although autistic people are more likely to reject organized religion today (much less follow Reverend Moon), some church leaders may have been on the autism spectrum. The resolution of evaluativism may be a high priority for the neurodiversity movement, but we should take care not to equate neurodiverse identities with evaluative types.

The word “evaluativism” may be as new to you as it was to me, but members of the neurodiversity movement have always known that evaluativism is an obstacle they face. Armstrong’s suggestion that we recognize the strengths of the children we raise and teach isn’t just a way to respond to a diagnosis–its a strategy for addressing evaluativism in general.

Recognizing this connection is especially important for people who previously thought they had no personal stake in the neurodiversity movement. The truth is that evaluativism threatens every family, company, and nation, and the neurodiversity movement may be best positioned to rescue us. For your own family’s sake, please start following the neurodiversity movement, encourage its activists, sign their petitions, and invite them to address your organization.

Moral Ecology Approaches to Machine Ethics

picture of an ecosystemThe book Machine Medical Ethics, including the chapter Moral Ecology Approaches to Machine Ethics, was published by Springer this month. In addition to describing the GRIN model of evaluative diversity among machines and citing examples of technologies aimed to preserve evaluative ecosystems, it reviews the state of research into evaluative diversity among humans. A cached copy of the chapter can be found here.

Naturally Relational, Chapter 4 of GRIN Free-GRIN Together

Photo by Petr Novák, WikipediaA draft of “Naturally Relational,”  the fourth chapter of the proposed book, GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should), has been posted at GRINFree.com. This is the second of four chapters describing the heritage, social importance, and needs of people by GRIN-type. It is designed to foster sensitivity and appreciation for the naturally relational, and to offer practical suggestions about creating social environments which support them.

Our Responsibility to Manage Evaluative Diversity


Published in this month’s Computers & SocietyOur Responsibility to Manage Evaluative Diversity, summarizes Moral Ecology Approaches and the GRINSQ validation study. Responding to Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, it describes the responsibility of the information technology industry to protect evaluative diversity (much like the responsibilities of the energy and manufacturing industries to protect biodiversity).

We all need to be aware of the value of diversity, but certain industries have special responsibility because mass-production can have especially high impact (good, as well as bad) on ecosystems. Massive swathes of decision-making are already designed in bulk by software makers and distributors such as Samsung, Apple, Accenture, Tata, Deloitte, Foxconn, HP, IBM,  Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Dell, Oracle, PWC, Yahoo, Baidu, KPMG, Ernst & Young, SAP, Wikimedia, Symantec, eBay, Tencent, and Infosys. If  no trusted-third-party monitors specific impacts, these kinds of companies will likely take blame by default. On the other hand, the discovery of social responsibility also provides opportunity to differentiate themselves.

If you cannot access the article from the Computers & Society website, you can find a cached draft here.

Natural Gadfly, Chapter 3 of GRIN Free-GRIN Together

Natural GadflyA draft of “Natural Gadfly,”  the third chapter of the proposed book, GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should), has been posted at GRINFree.com. This is the first of four chapters describing the heritage, social importance, and needs of people by GRIN-type. It is designed to foster sensitivity and appreciation for natural gadflies, and to offer practical suggestions about creating social environments which support them.