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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Does Science Uncover What the Scriptures Predicted?

Hello there, skeptics and critical thinkers,

I have recently been listening to ‘Unbelievable?’ the podcast on Premier Christian Radio, and they have been championing a view which I have heard by quite a lot of Christians. They believe that the new discoveries of science all point towards what the bible has been saying for the last couple of thousand years. They say that the bible has been saying things about the multiverse, fine-tuning of the universe and evolution for years and years, and will point to specific verses in the bible which is said to talk about these topics. Today I will be giving my two-cents about this idea.

One of the most common verses is that the bible says that the earth is a sphere, and point to Isaiah 40:22, which states, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”. Many point to this and say, “See, the Bible thought the Earth was a sphere even before Science thought it”. Other’s will point to Hebrews 11:3 and say, “Aha! The bible also predicts atoms!”, Hebrews 11:3 actually states “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do”. A few things can be said about these verses. First of all… VAGUE!!! These are just a small snippet of the amazingly wishy-washy talk which is the bible. Most psychics could make much more specific claims than what we just read, and we all know how vague and unspecific psychics are.

The second is that these verses are open to quite a lot of interpretation. Take Isaiah 40:22, for example. This verse could be interpreted as meaning that the world is a flat disc. Seeing that it says ‘circle’ and not ‘sphere’ would probably suggest that it means ‘circle’. It’s quite a leap to go from “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth” to “the Earth is a sphere”. When people bring up this verse to suggest a circular earth, they often also say that the ‘science’ of the time and throughout the middle ages thought the earth was a disc. What they are forgetting is that they probably made that judgement based on what they read in these few passages.

Another thing to bring up is this. When people scour through their bible to find passages like this that support the science of today, they are forgetting and reading past the MOUNTAINS of biblical scripture which is in direct contradiction with science. They ignore the entire Genesis story, the rising of Lazarus and Jesus, parting of the seas, and countless miracles which are strictly in disagreement with what science thinks about the universe and nature.

There is a large scope of views on this point, from Hugh Ross, founder of ‘Reasons to Believe’, who thinks that all of modern science has been predicted by the bible, to views like mine, who think that they are all just some lucky guesses amongst a vast sea of incorrect statements, logical fallacies and falsehoods, written in a vague, wishy-washy talk which is similar to the psychic predictions we are all familiar with. But I hope that I have swayed you towards a more skeptical view of these claims.