Logic 101 — Avoiding DoubleThink

Thinking clearly isn’t always trivial. Even so-called experts, teachers, and professors easily make errors in critical thinking. One common error is the refusal to abandon ideas conflicting with reality, as George Orwell in his book “1984” described the problem DoubleThink.

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. … To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient… (Orwell, George “Nineteen Eighty-Four” page 35, 176–177)

An article appearing in Scientific American titled A Science Teacher Draws the Line at Creation illustrates some severe (and fatal to the author’s attempted conclusion) logical and critical thinking errors. Orwell called it DoubleThink, but the logical error is called Confirmation Bias.

Let’s see what the author says, and examine it to see if it holds up under critical thinking and logic.

The Scientific Method

Creationists begin with answers and work to prove that those answers are right. This is antithetical to the scientific process.

The scientific method is

  1. Make a guess
  2. Experiment or verify with actual data / results.
  3. Modify guess based on #2

If data and/or experiments agree, it might mean the guess is correct. However, if they don’t agree, it means the guess is wrong in some way.

You don’t begin with answers, but an idea (a guess, or what you think the answer is). Then check with experiments and actual data to see if your guess is correct.

Scientists who formed the idea of human evolution did not invent the idea and go looking for fossils.

That’s exactly what Darwin did, and is the scientific method, and exactly what he should have done.

Darwin made a guess (evolution), and then made predictions (transitional fossils) which—if his idea was correct—should appear. Perhaps the author hasn’t read Darwin’s work:

… the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed [must] truly be enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious objection which can be urged against my theory. (Charles Darwin “The Origin of Species” June 1999, page 230)

But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? (ibid, page 144)

Darwin expected to find millions of transitional forms, if his theory was correct. He expected later discoveries to find innumerable (i.e. many) transitional fossils, providing evidence his idea was correct. Since Darwin’s guess, that hasn’t happened.

Why hasn’t the guess been discarded, since it violates the basic principle of science? It’s a logical error called Confirmation Bias.

Logical Error — Confirmation Bias

The error sees anything as proving your idea, even if, as Orwell noted, it actually contradicts it — holding conflicting ideas, yet believing both at the same time.

Evolution

Why haven’t millions of transitional fossils been found? They tell us evolution occurs so slowly we can’t see it. Yet if so (as Darwin suggested), that means millions of transitional fossils should exist. But they don’t.

The scientific theory says the guess (evolution) should be modified and/or rejected. Yet they cling to it more than ever.

What’s the answer? Something called punctuated equilibrium. Normally, evolution happens so slow we can’t observe it. But for a brief period of time, it went so fast no fossils could be formed (and then mysteriously slowed down again so we can’t see it), and that’s when we came more or less to our current state from the goo.

Does that make sense? Of course not. The only reason to suggest it comes from a refusal to follow the scientific method and admit the mistake of the theory.

Confirmation bias makes its victims gullible to hoaxes. Like Piltdown Man.

They so want to believe evolution they’ll abandon the scientific method to follow it.

Global Warming

Global warming follows the same confirmation bias problem. They so want to believe in man-caused global warming.

Here’s the scientific theory in action. Make a guess — man caused global warming. Make predictions based on that (temperature will increase by x degrees in y years) and wait and see if your guess works. Global warming uses computer models, which predict what should be seen, if their guess is correct.

The problem? The models are wrong.

So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break. We’re facing a puzzle. Recent CO2 emissions have actually risen even more steeply than we feared. As a result, according to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 10 years. That hasn’t happened …

At my institute, we analyzed how often such a 15-year stagnation in global warming occurred in the simulations. The answer was: in under 2 percent of all the times we ran the simulation. In other words, over 98 percent of forecasts show CO2 emissions as high as we have had in recent years leading to more of a temperature increase.

If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models. A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. But even today, we are finding it very difficult to reconcile actual temperature trends with our expectations.

When 98% of forecasts fail, and people still cling to a theory conflicting with reality, it’s not only not scientific, it’s a textbook example of confirmation bias. Accepted methods of science require the guess be modified to fit the actual data.

Anything else (like holding to a theory is spite of evidence it’s wrong) is not science.

Don’t be a Victim of Confirmation Bias

Think for yourself. Do research. Don’t believe something just because a “teacher” or authority said it. Use the scientific method and ask to see the experimental data and proof for scientific ideas.

God gave you a brain — use it. Don’t follow the herd, because they’re usually stampeding in the wrong direction.

… unless you want to fall for Piltdown Man II, the sequel.

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