Sunday, August 5, 2012

Know Your Biases

We all have biases. There are certain things that we think are true and other things that we think are false. It is natural to look for things that provide confirmation either way. If I see an article that agrees with a conclusion I have already drawn (say for example, that homeopathy is nonsense), it is easy to look at it and say "one more piece of evidence" without even reading the article. On the other hand, if I see someone that goes against my previous conclusion (say an article that claims vaccines cause autism) I might say "that person has no idea what they are talking about" potentially without even reading the article.

So we all have biases, it is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a fact of life. But I think it is important for people to be very aware of their own biases. I am biased against religion...a lot. I hate religion actually, I wish it would go away. I think the world would be a better place without religion. I have a number of very well thought out, rational reasons for disliking religion. I also have a number of irrational reasons for hating religion, and I can't always tell the difference. It is important to be aware of my bias and try to take a step back every now and then and make sure I'm not just in some kind of a feedback loop.

The got onto this topic this week while thinking about my weekday bible posts. I was thinking about why I started doing them and why I do them now. One reason is simple, I find it interesting (boring at times, but interesting overall). Another reason is one that I have stated a few times, I hear theists talk about how much good stuff is in the bible and atheists talk about how much crap is in there, and I was curious how much of each is there. Here's where I started thinking about my bias, if I'm being honest with myself, I have to admit that I want to find more bad than good in the bible. I want to find things that are negative and I'm not particularly interested in finding things that are positive. It would serve my bias well if I discovered that the bible is garbage through and through, and therefore it is easy for me to highlight every negative thing that I come across and pass by any positive thing. This is of course, not reality, there is plenty of good stuff in there. The fact that I know my bias plays into how I perceive what I read, I have been trying to be more strict about what goes into the "bad" section and be more generous for what goes into the "good" section. I'd like to think I have succeeded in making it somewhat fair, but what I can say for certain is it is much better now than if I had just gone with my gut instinct every time.

In thinking about the overview posts, I was thinking that something that would be really awesome is if commenters could argue with me over what goes into the overview pages. It would be great if people could point out that I am skipping certain verses that should go on the good side and perhaps being too harsh on the bad side. Or if I have poorly summed things up here or there. This is unfortunately impossible given the way I have been doing it up to now. So I have decided to make a small change (and we will see if it sticks or not), at the end of each post, I will put what will go into the overview post. It seems like that could invite discussion, which is really the reason for the blog in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. That's why the scientific method is great. It removes the biases that every scientist has.


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