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Faith = Confirmation Bias


Max
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I was reading (audio-reading, actually, on my iPod) a new book called "The Science of Fear" (Daniel Gardner) this morning. The book actually covers common flaws in the human thought process as we try to process the modern world using a brain designed for tribal living,

 

Anyhow, the book got to the section on confirmation bias, a common cognative bias that I've read about and observed many times before. Basically, once a person has made up their mind about what is "true", they tend to absorb only information that confirms that belief, and don't even notice informations that contractdicts it.

 

Well, today for the first time, I realized that confirmation bias and faith are basically the same thing.

From Wikipedia:

Confirmation bias ... is an irrational tendency to search for, interpret or remember information in a way that confirms preconceptions or working hypotheses

From the book of hebrews:

faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

 

How did I miss this all of this time? Faith is the polite euphanism for a well documented error of inductive reasoning.

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How did I miss this all of this time? Faith is the polite euphanism for a well documented error of inductive reasoning.

Oh, that's sweet!

 

Well done. And so true.

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lol I am trying to find how you can be wrong about this but...you aren't. It's basically the same thing.

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LOL thanks, I can now feel good about how I was never any good at "having fatih" then!

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Confirmation bias is certainly something that falls under those topics that certain segments of the religious find uncomfortable territory to visit. This is a very good reminder for me to look into the topic again as I am dealing with a lot of fundies these days -- so thank you!

 

On a less serious note, and a bit of a poke...are we confirming our own bias by participating in a forum like this or is it truly a place to explore thought outside of that restrictive, un-think paradigm we escaped? *big wink*

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On a less serious note, and a bit of a poke...are we confirming our own bias by participating in a forum like this or is it truly a place to explore thought outside of that restrictive, un-think paradigm we escaped? *big wink*

 

I for one have changed my outlook on several things, mainly because of the shear brilliance of some of the thinkers here. I have read posts here that have forced me to look at myself (mostly) and motivations in very different ways. I think we may all fall prey to confirmation bias from time to time, but those that become EX-whatever religion are usually the analytical types that may be less prone to CB. I, for one, always try to prove my opinions wrong by flipping them around, etc. Like Jedah said above, I try to find how an idea is wrong, and if I can't, then I tend to file it away in the "truth" folder...

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Very interesting - but it really makes complete sense when you look at it that way. It would go on to confirm why people who are "miraculously changed" during a moment of "faith" don't see all the horrible things that happened, but only remember the "good."

 

I'm sure we all do this to some extent, but religion just feeds right into it!

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Well, the cult-mindset already ignores modern psychology as much as possible, so I guess this will be one more piece of information they won't absorb.

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This is why doubt is a virtue. We must always be checking our biases, not reveling in them, if we want to have intellectual integrity.

 

So much of the bible is criticizing doubt and questioning because it is so dangerous to faith. In fact, I would say religion evolved to be opposed to critical thinking because any religion that promoted it probably faded over the ages.

 

When you really want something to be true, be it the Loch Ness monster, or that Betty really does love you, you will skew everything to fit your conclusion. When you see evidence that contradicts your conclusion, it is called Cognitive Dissonance. We may know this as the sinking feeling in your stomach when your faith is threatened. People generally will panic and deny the evidence, or distort it, or ignore it. Sometimes though, they crack and start reading about what objected to them in hopes it is not accurate, and in doing so start to face the facts.

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Ever since I read Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives I try think of this human characteristics from an evolutionary perspective.

 

Conformation Bias helps preserve a set of beliefs about how the world functions. Groups of people form a set of beliefs that helps them survive in what ever environment they find themselves. It doesn't really matter if many of these beliefs are not scientifically true. All the beliefs have to accomplish is an aid to survival via group cohesion. A lot of energy would be wasted if the group had to constantly reformulate the belief system, so a tendency like conformation bias helps preserve that energy. The remarkable thing about this is not that we have such a bias, but that with some pain and effort we can circumvent the bias in order set up a new belief system to adapt to changing environments.

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Yes - bias is a part of how the human brain works, along with another of other mistakes we make for the sake of efficient processing of information (so much for intelligent design!). But the goal should be to recognize and work to overcome them, not to hold them forth as virtues.

 

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer is another good book on the subject.

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But the goal should be to recognize and work to overcome them, not to hold them forth as virtues.

 

 

Or, at least to recognize and acknowledge that's what we are doing...overcoming it to some extent, yes, but most human morals and values could relate to this in one way or another.

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You're right of course, End. There's always going to be bias.

 

 

I think a valuable thing sometimes is to make a game of trying to argue both sides of an issue. Or theory, especially if it's subjective. It's interesting to orient the mind to favor a certain outcome, and then change polarity.

 

Then again, sometimes it just becomes abundantly clear that...the...sky...is...blue.

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You're right of course, End. There's always going to be bias.

 

 

I think a valuable thing sometimes is to make a game of trying to argue both sides of an issue. Or theory, especially if it's subjective. It's interesting to orient the mind to favor a certain outcome, and then change polarity.

 

Then again, sometimes it just becomes abundantly clear that...the...sky...is...blue.

Isn't that kind of argument where one argues both sides of an issue called dialectic?

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While not a religious person, I practice a method that a former teacher borrowed from a couple of different systems (including Gurdjieff's teaching, if memory serves). It is, of course, self-adapted at this point (the teacher died over 10 years ago and who among us remains the same person we were 10 years ago) but in my mind I call it enhanced self-awareness. In short, one starts simple by observing actions that normally are done automatically, such as brushing your teeth, and pay attention to when the consciousness sort of blips in and out. If you can hold onto conscious awareness while doing simple automatic things, the next step is to bridge awareness into other areas of your activities, thought processes, etc.

 

My sense is that this awareness practice would decrease and perhaps nullify some aspects of confirmation bias, along with a number of the mechanisms described in this discussion. Has anyone uncovered similar practices, or employed anything like this in their day-to-day?

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Very interesting - but it really makes complete sense when you look at it that way. It would go on to confirm why people who are "miraculously changed" during a moment of "faith" don't see all the horrible things that happened, but only remember the "good."

 

I'm sure we all do this to some extent, but religion just feeds right into it!

 

Crisis conversions are a frequent bone of contention I pick with Xians, mainly because they are trained to seek people in vulnerable situations (like funerals) to try and convert them. Nothing done in that heightened state can be sustained over time, so it is most certainly not a "real" change. But Confirmation Bias does serve to reinforce, and explains why some Xians can't tolerate true debate or even mild questioning. Pull a thread and the whole loosely sewn tapestry unravels.

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While not a religious person, I practice a method that a former teacher borrowed from a couple of different systems (including Gurdjieff's teaching, if memory serves). It is, of course, self-adapted at this point (the teacher died over 10 years ago and who among us remains the same person we were 10 years ago) but in my mind I call it enhanced self-awareness. In short, one starts simple by observing actions that normally are done automatically, such as brushing your teeth, and pay attention to when the consciousness sort of blips in and out. If you can hold onto conscious awareness while doing simple automatic things, the next step is to bridge awareness into other areas of your activities, thought processes, etc.

 

My sense is that this awareness practice would decrease and perhaps nullify some aspects of confirmation bias, along with a number of the mechanisms described in this discussion. Has anyone uncovered similar practices, or employed anything like this in their day-to-day?

 

Yes, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

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Lol, I have never made such a direct comparison to faith and confirmation bias. Wow, how funny is that?? I love how the bible basically implies that faith is difficult... but in actuality it is the easy part!

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While not a religious person, I practice a method that a former teacher borrowed from a couple of different systems (including Gurdjieff's teaching, if memory serves). It is, of course, self-adapted at this point (the teacher died over 10 years ago and who among us remains the same person we were 10 years ago) but in my mind I call it enhanced self-awareness. In short, one starts simple by observing actions that normally are done automatically, such as brushing your teeth, and pay attention to when the consciousness sort of blips in and out. If you can hold onto conscious awareness while doing simple automatic things, the next step is to bridge awareness into other areas of your activities, thought processes, etc.

 

My sense is that this awareness practice would decrease and perhaps nullify some aspects of confirmation bias, along with a number of the mechanisms described in this discussion. Has anyone uncovered similar practices, or employed anything like this in their day-to-day?

 

Yes, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

 

Thanks for the heads up, Chef. Ron had his own way of teaching, and his own methodologies. I'm sure this is along those same lines. I like to imagine what the world would be like where everyone experiences a cancellation of confirmation bias...

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