We All Suffer From Bias

Bury_your_head_in_the_sand

You probably know those people. The ones who believe that the planet is only a few thousand years old. Or worse.

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I recommend that you watch a television show called “Brain Games.” Similar shows have aired before, but “Brain Games” presents the same barrage of cognitive bias and observational issues in a non-confrontational way. While not presented with a religious agenda, it should open your eyes to the myriad ways we all have blind spots. It reiterates time after time that we all suffer from cognitive biases that we aren’t even aware of. I know I do. I’m constantly telling people: “We are all wrong and stupid, just at different times. If we were all dumb and wrong at the same time, the world would probably stop on its axis.” Our overconfidence in what we “know” to be true is one of our biggest enemies. I try to remind myself that my opinions should change with new information – and to be open to reasoned, logical evidence.

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It’s not a question of intelligence. It really isn’t. Attempting to convince them of data is futile. Until they see the connection between flipping a light switch and electricity reaching the bulb, they won’t get it. If they are climate change deniers or believe in homeopathy, you aren’t going to convince them with direct evidence. Their refusal to see is a shield and testament of their faith. Instead of wasting your time futilely attempting to get the illogical ones to change their outlooks, focus on people of faith whose belief systems encourage critical thinking and a stewardship of our planet and each other.

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Working to get some people to see the light of the real, practical world will only anger them and cause a backlash. You have to let them believe all sorts of things – even things that seem patently absurd to you. Many of them erroneously think that all theories are equal and that the scientific method is no better than creationism. No amount of evidence is ever going to open their eyes. Stop fighting them. They will always be present. It’s whack-a-mole. You are only angering them, even if they don’t directly confront you about it. Many people hold angry grudges toward those who are confident in their beliefs, whether scientific or religious.

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We all have our peculiar ideas, cognitive biases, and stubbornness to adhere to ideas that simply aren’t true. Some of them rise to the level of idiocy, it is true, but remember that all of us are born ignorant and through a series of educational opportunities, we learn that our planet revolves around the sun, racing across vast expanses of space, and that DNA is our genetic blueprint.

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Let other people be stupid. Even if it hurts. Perhaps they can show you the same courtesy. I know that you’re thinking that you don’t have any ideas that are stupid. But others think you do and they are judging you based on their conviction that some of your ideas are ridiculous too…

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You’ll turn on the television today and see people saying all sorts of stupid, unscientific things, arguing against basic human decency, proposing that we fight another war, or use our resources toward profit instead of improving our human potential. Your social media will be stuffed with crazy talk.

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Resist the urge to argue or lash out about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias

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