Errors in logic must be avoided if you wish to have an open mind and use critical thinking. This of course means you must be open to all possibilities, forming opinions based on logic and analysis instead of preconceived ideas; confirmation bias can arise during analysis by making assumptions based on what you want to see, instead of evidence and logical deduction.
Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs. For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month.
So what does that mean? An example from a recent study asking the question “how did religion evolve?” provides an example of confirmation bias. Try and notice the error(s) while reading.
Religion evolved as a byproduct of preexisting mental capacities, and not because it fulfilled a specific function of its own-though it can facilitate cooperation in society, a study concludes.
Why religion emerged among early humans remains a source of contention among scholars. Many scientists believe religion is ultimately based in the brain, but that still leaves unclear how and why these behaviors originated and how they may have been shaped during evolution. Some archaeologists think religion came about partly as a strategy by some people to grab power, simply by claiming some sort of secret knowledge.
Notice the error? They made (at least) two assumptions, and the data in their study “confirmed” their bias that religion somehow evolved from natural man — not God — because they failed to consider (or look for) what contradicted their beliefs:
- Evolution is true.
- No God exists.
Evolution remains an unscientifically proved assumption; it can’t explain how we got here scientifically (that is, with verifiable, repeatable scientific experiments). The study looked where it wanted to — to an unscientific method. A classic case of confirmation bias.
Second, if God exits, the bias in the study renders it not only useless, but dangerously misleading. We’ve written much on atheism already, but in brief atheism is by definition illogical as it’s impossible to state as fact God doesn’t exist unless you posses all knowledge in the cosmos. Atheists (by definition) lack critical thinking skills and fail to employ logic in their reasoning.
It’s neither scientific nor free-thinking to exclude vast areas for consideration, and it this case it’s an example of confirmation bias — so much so the study becomes worthless.