I like Temple law prof Tom Lin's work a lot. He's an imaginative and creative scholar. So I read with great interest his new essay National Pastime(s) (September 29, 2014). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 55, No. 1197, 2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2502950. Here's the abstract:
In his new book, Baseball as a Road to God, New York University President and Professor of Law John Sexton submits that baseball can serve as a vehicle for living a more conscious life that elevates the human experience for lawyers and non-lawyers. This Essay examines the credibility of the book’s thesis in a world where human intelligence, human deliberation, and human action is being replaced by artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and mechanical automation. It uses the preeminent national pastime of baseball, and the less eminent pastimes of law and finance as case studies for the book’s thesis. It concludes that a more conscious and meaningful life is much harder to foster, but also much more important to cultivate in light of modern advances. This Essay ultimately offers a different narrative for lawyers and non-lawyers to think anew about modern law and society in light of ongoing changes in baseball, law, finance, and beyond.
I'm not a fan of the writing style Lin uses in this essay. Consider for example, these phrases:
- "It considers Sexton’s ineffable path to hierophany in a world where human intelligence, human deliberation, and human action is being replaced by artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and mechanical automation."
- "It reveals that conflicts between the ineffable and the deducible are a recasting of two familiar dualities in law and religion: certainty and doubt, along with rules and standards."
You can prove you're smart without being impenetrable. It's one reason I have always preferred Ronald Coase--who wrote with what one critic calls "the beautiful simple prose of the accomplished English essayist--to Oliver Williamson, whose writing style is jargon-filled and difficult to penetrate. In too many places, Lin's essay is closer to Williamson than Coase in style.
Having said that, there are some very interesting insights here. The treatment of parallels--but, more important, differences--between how technology and quantitative analytical methods have influenced baseball, finance, and law is very well done. And the conclusion he draws from them makes sense (albeit that some of us may need to read it with a dictionary in hand):
As science and technology reduce more of our lives into bits and bytes of data and code, the ineffable and irreducible components of the human experience have been made much harder to sustain, but also much more important to living a meaningful, spiritual, and balanced life for lawyers and non-lawyers.
Rather than surrender our doubts, our curiosities, and our humanity in whole or in part, we should leverage modern conveniences in ways that permit us to rededicate more of ourselves to experiencing the timeless, ineffable joys and wonders of learning and living.
In sum, recommended. But I also recommend some books likely to help a searcher find God (or, at least, the God in whom I believe).