Confirmation Bias

Hallo skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about one of the most commonly used logical fallacies out there, confirmation bias. It is used in a range of topics including alternative medicine, religion, UFOlogy, astrology, psychics, mediums, and almost all topics which skeptics keep tabs on. Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy which is often referred to as cherry-picking, however is slightly different. While similar, cherry-picking refers to picking single studies from a sea of negative papers, confirmation bias is the picking out of specific results, not specific studies.

One of the most simple and common uses of confirmation bias is praying. I recently saw one of those Facebook like-hoarding pictures which asks for likes to confirm ones religious views, which read “Like this photo and in the next 120 seconds god will do you a favour”… it had over 30 000 likes. I read that and immediately saw it as a perfect example of confirmation bias. To anybody who likes that status, I can almost guarantee that something good will happen to them in the next 120 seconds. The reason is that people want it to come true. If something slightly good happens to that person in the next 120 seconds, they will attribute that to liking the photo… your basketball team makes a buzzer-beating game winner? God did that. Mum decides to give you a little extra ice-cream for dessert? god did that. Get a new twitter follower? god did that. Whatever happens, god is the reason.

It doesn’t even have to be within 2 minutes, you will remember anything that happens for the whole rest of the day and give credit to god… because a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years, or some post hoc reasoning like that. Even if nothing good happens, that means the devil was going to do something bad to you but god saved you because you liked the photo.

This photo is a perfect example of how confirmation bias works. Another common example is in alternative medicine. Lets say somebody gets cancer, and they decide to, along with their doctor approved, scientific medicine, have a chiropractor try to fix it. Once the cancer has been removed, the patient might only remember the chiropractic treatment that cured the cancer, and forget all the scientific medicine that actually removed the cancer.

Confirmation bias is one of the most common fallacies out, and is often combined with other fallacies like post hoc ergo proctor hoc, placebo, reliance on memory and the availability heuristic to form the greatest of all fallacies, the anecdotal evidence.

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‘And God Created’ Running Theme in the Bible

Hello there, half-banana men,

Today I am going to be talking (well, writing actually, but you get what I mean) about an argument used by my chaplain at school to show that god created the universe. But first I will say how proud I am to have a RE teacher like him, because he is the sorta guy who says, “Yes, evolution happened, and it was probably natural, but god set it all up at the start with the big bang.” I like those sorts of religious people, he even reckons that bio-genesis could  have occurred naturally. I almost have to put him as a non-creationist, but he did put forth an argument a few weeks ago which I think is logically invalid.

He first showed us a video, created by some young-earth, AiG supporting, genesis-is-true video company, about Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, the story of Genesis visually. After that he proceeded to tell us, “I don’t believe that is true, I don’t think the earth is 6 000 years old, it is best to be just treated as a metaphor.” He then showed to us an outline of the story of Genesis. Here it is,
“God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
He then showed us the pattern of the story of Genesis.
God created…
God created…
God created…
God created…
etc.
He then told us this:-
The story of Genesis is a story that was passed down from generation to generation through the ages, and this means that some of the details of the story were a bit off, but the main pattern of the story still holds, “God created…” The story of Genesis is not literal, but it shows us one key thing, god created the heavens and the earth.

I am going to advance my reasons for why this argument is invalid. First of all, I agree with one of his first major premaces, that stories change  over time, but I don’t think he has taken it to its full extent. He says that the big pattern of a story will always hold, but almost all scientific studies done on memory show that the details are not all that memory malleability keeps itself too. It can change almost anything in the story, from the timing of things or the emotions or the exact way your mother’s face looked when you smashed her vase, all the way to things like who was in the room, which vase you broke, how big the vase was, whether it was intentional or accidental, whether you used a baseball bat or a golf club. Any of those things can be changed over time with a memory.

My second objection to this argument is a logical one. My question for him was, “How was the story kick-started, who got the inside scoop that ‘goddidit’? Nobody would have been around before big bang to witness god write the rules and light the match. This question, he had no answer too because the bell was 10 minutes away and he decided it was time to pack up.

I will leave you with a quote from Josh Thomas, “As an atheist, having a Christian threaten me with hell is like having a hippy threaten to punch me in my aura.” Josh Thomas, An Australian Comedian of some note.