Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers tells the story of research that was done a number of years ago regarding plane crashes. The research was disturbing because it suggested that the ethnicity of the pilot was a large contributing factor. Though no one wanted to accept the research it seemed that if you were flying on a plane piloted by some nationalities you were in much greater danger. You can imagine the sort of interest there was in suppressing or even ignoring such research; for fear that racial typecasting would simply lead to more ignorance and racial bigotry.
Fortunately with air safety the greatest determination was made to examine why pilots of some ethnic backgrounds had a higher percentage of crashes. Their training after all was all the same. Standards were not the issue. It was not a question of ability or intellect or skill as all professional pilots were of the highest caliber. After more research it became clear that one issue that was linked to culture began to stand out as a major safety risk.
Co pilots are trained to follow the orders and direction of the senior pilot of a plane. It is generally the rule, the co pilot does what he or she is told. However, co pilots are also trained to take responsibility especially if they are convinced the pilot is in error. They are trained to question, challenge and if necessary override a pilot who is either in error, negligence or for whatever reason is functioning incorrectly. What the researchers discovered was for some cultures this was almost impossible as respect for authority, or respect for those older or simple cultural “ niceness” meant that the co pilot would rather obey than avert disaster.
In the end the problems were solve when pilots of certain ethnic backgrounds were re trained to insist that their flying protocols were to override culture. Everyone was taught to question when necessary, even someone culture tells us to unquestioningly respect.
In Australia 30 years ago it was an unquestioned cultural norm to have a top load washing machine. Over the years increasing numbers of us have realized that our Aussie culture was wrong and the Europeans front loaders use less water and basically wash clothes a lot better, without creating lint. Owner ship of front loaders has grown in Australia from 13% in 2005 to 31% in 2011.
Some cultures on mass embrace religion or certain religions while in other cultures the dominant reaction is to reject all faith. For some culture and religion are the same things. Tragically in many countries today to abandon a certain religion is punished by governments with floggings or even death.
Culture does matter but cultures do over time change. We should seek a world where belief is determined by truth and experience and not by the dominance of cultural belief or unbelief.
“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples. (Psa. 96:1-3, NIV)