Friday, May 13, 2011

Introduction: What is a "Slow Hunch?"

After taking a hiatus from blogging this past semester (thanks to the 18 hours of school that accompanied it), I've decided to start anew with my blogging career. I initially began blogging as a way to put down my thoughts and expand my research. At first, I approached blogging in a more journalistic fashion (an amateur's journalism, no doubt), hence the title Didn't Major in Journalism...So I Took Up Blogging. I imagine this was in part due to my immersion in political journalism at the time. (This was on the heels of President Obama's inauguration.) There is much that I am proud of on my former blog, some of which will probably be revisited on this one. However, there is also a lot of noise on my previous blog. I hope to avoid that kind of clutter here at my new location.

The Slow Hunch is my attempt at a more polished, more research-oriented project, largely exploring the history of ideas (e.g. theological, philosophical, political, economic, etc.) and their cultural impact. The name comes from science writer Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (New York: Riverhead Books, 2010). In order to fully explain this concept, I will borrow from a recent article of mine published in UNT's paper, North Texas Daily (pg. 6):

Despite traditional views, creatio ex nihilo ("creation out of nothing") is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew Bible. This was instead a development of the second century CE. The God of Genesis brought forth a habitable world out of a formless, watery deep following an incubation period. The Psalms contain scattered references to Yahweh's triumph over the dragon of chaos, thus bringing order to the cosmos. Furthermore, the Hebrew God did not act alone, but instead counseled with His divine assembly: "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). It was only after these important stages that the new creation was deemed "good."

Similarly, good ideas do not randomly burst on to the stages of our minds. They instead take the form of what science writer Steven Johnson calls the "slow hunch." These hunches steadily inch along, growing and progressing with both time and nourishment. More often than not, unions with other hunches bring about a grander, more complete idea worthy of the label "good." The modern increase in social connectivity has created a global network for ideas to conjugate in a flurry of creativity. In a world where no one person possesses even one percent of all available knowledge, the public support should be behind an interconnected, Hayekian model of society. As Johnson says, "Chance favors the connected mind."

Though there are obvious economic and political implications in embracing an innovative culture, I find the most important implication to be ethical in nature. I'm always slightly uncomfortable with the use of the adjective "open-minded." The term has become an irredeemable, self-aggrandizing cliché due to its abuse by persons unfit for its description. Too often, it is exploited by those who tend to think that disagreement is akin to close-mindedness. Even worse are those who confuse being ignorant or lacking moral commitment with being open.

Humility is the true prerequisite for an innovative mind because it makes one teachable. Innovation is about sharing: the sharing of ideas, criticisms, and experience. If our slow hunches are to move forward, we must be less worried about appearing "open-minded" on the surface and more focused on humbling ourselves.
William Hamblin, an historian of the Middle East and ancient religions, understands this well: "In the nearly forty years I have spent studying ancient history and religion, one of the most important truths I've discovered is this: I know fewer answers today than I "knew" when I started studying four decades ago...Ontologically, I believe there is absolute truth. But epistemologically, I believe that truth about the human past cannot be absolutely understood by humans…This is not because of the relative nature of truth, but because of the limited nature of the surviving evidence from the past, and the imperfect nature of human reason, knowledge, and understanding. In the tension between intellectual hubris and humility, I think most of us could use a healthy dose of the latter."

If pride comes before the fall, imagine what follows a little intellectual humility.

My goal is that this blog can be a space for innovation; an environment in which a diverse range of ideas can collaborate and perhaps breed something worthy of the label "good."


  1. Welcome back to the blogging world, my friend. Just the other day I was thinking the semester was up I should be seeing something new from you pretty soon. I look forward to reading whatever "slow hunch" comes to you.

  2. This looks great Walker. I look forward to further posts.

  3. I should have read this post before your latest one ("A moderately Intelligent Man of Business"), as it answers my question about whence the name of your blog.

    I've admired your depth, breadth, and intelligence since I first started reading your stuff. Thanks for sharing.