I've been thinking a bit recently about the confirmation bias and the basis (basises? bases?) for irrational thinking. You see, a friend of ours is spruiking a 9/11 Conspiracy DVD and the Extremely Startling InfoTM within. I've been there, done that - after 9/11 I did quite a lot of reading, and a lot of the ground I covered was of the 'batshit mental conspiracy freak' variety. I won't gratuitously link to the sites, they're adequately linked elsewhere, but the common feature most of them share is a rather unhealthy dose of confirmation bias.
What is the confirmation bias? Well, in simple terms, it's the unconscious cherry-picking of evidence that suits your preconceived hypothesis and the discarding of evidence which contradicts. We humans, it seems, have a natural tendency towards this bias, remembering positive results and forgetting negative, which naturally skews our judgement towards conclusions we like.
Take this asshole for instance:
Note how well the banana conforms to his philosophy. God exists, because God clearly made the banana. God clearly made the banana. because factors 'x', 'y' and 'z' clearly support the idea.
Forgot about the fucking pineapple, though, didn't he? And the grapefruit. You know, the bastard fruit that squirts acid in your eye when trying to peel it? And what about all the stuff that's nice to eat but hell on earth to get hold of? And all that stuff that kills you if it's not prepared just right (even the common potato can give you a very unpleasant day if prepared carelessly). And what about the millions of pieces of other contradictory evidence that shows that a) the precursor to the domesticated banana evolved and b) humans took this precursor and bred the fruit we currently know as the banana from it. And fucking brazil nuts for fuck's sake! Have you tried opening one of those bastards? Not even to mention fucking coconuts.
*Ahem*. Sorry about that.
Here's Nick on the subject
Ever notice how chihuahuas are perfectly suited to living in Paris Hilton's handbag? Clearly god designed them to be that way and we should be thankful.
So anyway, the confirmation bias, our tendency to grasp at evidence which supports our hypotheses, is clearly a very powerful force. Which brings us back to the 9/11 conspiracy DVD. We're going to humour our anonymous friend and watch the DVD. Then we're going to look at it in the light, and proceed to tear it to tiny fucking shreds right here on this very blog. Just for kicks.
To the friend in question: You know who you are. You know what's coming. Don't say I didn't warn you.
posted @ Tuesday, May 08, 2007 2:11 PM