John Engels on “The Single Cause Fallacy”

I came across this fascinating post by John Engles on The “Single Cause” Fallacy. Engels suggests leaders dig deeper, and not settle for simple cause-and-effect answers. Church leaders can be easily satisfied by these answers (partly because it keeps us from having to look at our part in the challenge at hand). What are the contributing factors to ongoing worship decline? (It might be more than simply “young people don’t want to come to church.”) Or a chronically underperforming custodian. Or persistent conflict. Take the time to read Engels’ thoughtful article, then fill in the blank on your own situation, and apply what he calls “genuine wonderment.” Go deeper than the easy answer or the quick fix. Wonder together with some other congregational leaders, and you may find some ways you all can step up to creative and responsible leadership.

2 replies on “John Engels on “The Single Cause Fallacy”

  • Israel Galindo

    Good insight. I recently shared this phenomenon with students in an education course related to learning, critical thinking, and achieving “understanding.” It’s a brain-learning function. The brain does not like lacunas and their dissonance, but it will be satisfied with ANY explanation, even a wrong one, and the first explanation is often wrong, but sufficient to remove the dissonance. Engel is correct, people’s “explanation” of things rarely is the CAUSE. This is why leaders need to be apt at using and interpreting data. Entertainer Jay Leno exploits this phenomenon to comic effect in his Jaywalking segments. He asks persons on the street a question, people don’t know the answer but will MAKE SOMETHING UP on the spot and be satisfied with the answer, “Yeah, that’s it,”—even when it is patently wrong and made up. And they know that they’ve just made it up!


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