Can Philosophy Reduce Confirmation Bias?

An interesting article - and I admit to only skimming it so far - but possibly of interest to members here. I willingly admit my bias towards thinking this could be correct. :wink:

If one were to attempt to identify a single problematic aspect of human reasoning that deserves attention above all others, the confirmation bias would have to be among the candidates for consideration … it appears to be sufficiently strong and pervasive that one is led to wonder whether the bias, by itself, might account for a significant fraction of the disputes, altercations, and misunderstandings that occur among individuals, groups, and nations.

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My counter example is ID, where philosophers run the show and confirmation bias rules.


I figured it was good for a argument discussion. :slight_smile:

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I bam skeptical there is a confirmation bias or any of these pshycl concepts that are used to explain disagreement among people and why errors persist.
I think its simple results of people being intelligent, and so drawing conclusions based on their intellectual investigation of the issue.
I mean WHY people draw conclusions is based on smart reasoning.
So when error has slipped in, and won’t leave, the other guy says THEY HAVE BIAS CONFIRMATION.
It just all shows our conclusions do come from complex asessment of data. The few things, truly we got wrong, shouldn’t chane your conclusion.
Only great points should change your conclusions. YES there are trivial points but one rightly ignores them.
I think people are fantastic thinking beings. WE are so smart we only keep up[ with each other because we also are so smart.
We don’t make trivial errors or bias confirmation. We are not that dumb.
WHAT would be bias confirmation for a YEC?!

You should be careful handing out straight-lines like that. Someone might think you are serious! :wink:

edit: someone like T_aquaticus!

Here is a good example:


Okay. i say this is confirmation bias in no way. Even by their standards.
Its a part of science to work from existing previous work. they call it CITING. the bible is rightly cited. its a claimed witness. So a start to investigation or a start to defeat its claims.
The witness was God.
Now the word is valid. So that means investigation will show any contradiction to the bible as not valid.
not that there is no investigation or ignoring of criticisms. Creationism is all about defeating cases and making cases.
If a evolutionist etc etc presumes the bible is not gods word and so its conclusions are rejected out of hand. Then their investigations would have a confirmation bias i think.
however i see it all as just conclusions based on evidence. In all life.
YEC rejects conclusions as opponents do. Yet one can say there is no interfering bias.
Are you saying evolutionists can’t reject creationist presumptions without it being this bias.?

When and how do you correct your fallible human interpretation of God’s Infallible Word?

Over the years i have been frustrated by how even Christians are divided over their interpretations of Scripture…one says tongues have ceased and other not. One follows calvin, the other Arminian. One a creationist who says God created kinds, the other God created by evolving creatures from simpler ones. A wise counselor said in response to all of this is for the person to recognize their stance or bias and find all Scriptures that counter that stance and prayerfully calculate if your bias was unfounded. I have changed my positions in following such wisdom.

Then of course the Bible itself deals with philosophical bias directly. A lot in proverbs. It however does not do so necessarily citing itself as the judge, but rather God Himself. We are given a snapshot about God in the Bible. And I believe that there is an evidence trail a hundred miles long that point to this text truly being of the real Creator God. According to this text, God is not a fuzzy concept but a volitional being who truely transcendents the natural world and whose ways will not even be fully understandable to the human brain this side of heaven. We are encouraged in Scripture to take the evidence about this Good God and then trust it and the God described therein by FAITH. This is where the smart scientist that has an inbuilt bias within himself that all truth must be proven scientifically or its not true may struggle bc they have been taught the opposite. The Bible has a response to the smart scientist who not only disbelieve in the miracle of creation but also disbelieve the miracle of recreation in Christ…(.they sort of go hand in hand in principle and i am not suggesting that a person who leans evolution cannot be a Christian- Im speaking principles about how to deal w bias.) Read what Paul, a highly intelligent man himself wrote in 1Cor 1:18-31. And read about how God values a childlike faith…not because He encourages us to remain uneducated, but because compared to Him and all the infinite forms of knowledge He knows, He also knows we only have a fraction and are probably capable of apprehending a fraction therefore put on a mentality that matches this reality.

So in the bought between the:

  1. worldview of trusting Scripture that cast calls into question the fallability of man’s feable attempts in scientific inquiry used to defeat pretty plainly written scriptural references


  1. The worldview from a smart scientist who says they are a Christian but who place a lot of weight in their endeavors in science to where the tendency is to conform Scripture around their science.

I am more willing to place my and my family’s welfare upon number 1 all day long before willingness to touch number 2.

That’s just it. According to some YEC’s you aren’t allowed to defeat its claims. Any evidence that may disprove YEC is automatically ignored.


A post was split to a new topic: Breaking the Vicious Cycle

There is evidence for everything except the debate being done to meet the requirements of a single donor, but there is reasonable speculation.

We have the body (the Ark Park). Conspiracy to commit donation is a reasonable suspicion.

@Greg and @Robert_Byers, this comment was intended for you, but got split out to a different post. I’m linking it here so you can find it, and respond (or not) as you wish:

last line: “Now, how do we stop it?”

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If on this thread before the split. . Its not saying one is not allowed to defeat claims. its saying they can’t be defeated intellectually. Its not ignoring evidence its saying, with faith, the evidence is wrongly interpretated.
organized creationism is a intellectual movement to demonstrate all evidences of nature support, or do not hurt, biblical conclusions.
if some claimed "fact’ is said to be established then its not if its against the bible. this is a intellectual assertion. nothing to do with investigation.
We will just keep investigating until it works. its a confidence in results.
maybe they could put it better eh.
nobody is/would admit they ignore evidence for some contrary conclusion.
We mean Sherlock holmes, us, wants to have a look before Scotland Yard makes arrests.

There certainly are ID leaders with philosophy training – Richards, Nelson, Meyer, Dembski, and, if you count non-ID but friendly associates, Berlinski. But since ID leaders make up about .0001% of the philosophers in the world, I don’t think that proves that philosophy generally can’t help deal with confirmation bias. Indeed, such epistemological questions are the sort of thing that philosophers like to sink their teeth into. How do know when we truly know something to be true, and aren’t just favoring it because its suits our desires or ambitions?

Certainly confirmation bias runs rampant at BioLogos, where there aren’t many philosophers running the show. I think that confirmation bias is an intellectual vice endemic to human beings generally, and not particular to one discipline, such as philosophy.

A single philosopher does run the show at BioLogos. You didn’t know this?

Who are you speaking of? Jim Stump? He’s head of the moderation team and maybe of some other activities, not the head of BioLogos. BioLogos on the whole has never been a very philosophical place.

Yet confirmation bias has run rampant there. They would quote the same two passages of of Augustine and Calvin endlessly, to show that the Bible was compatible with modern science, while ignoring other passages of Augustine and Calvin which decidedly did not fit into the modern scientific way of looking at origins. They would cite one passage from Augustine and unspecified passages of Origen and generalize that to “the Fathers interpreted Genesis non-literally”, when in fact most of the Fathers, even Augustine most of the time and even Origen on a number of points, actually interpreted Genesis quite literally. They wanted to believe that all or most of the Fathers read Genesis non-literally, so they closed their eyes to passages that said the opposite, and in most cases didn’t even do any research to find out what the various Fathers wrote about Genesis.

Yet we were told over and over again by the scientists posting comments on BioLogos that the scientist’s duty is to try to falsify his own hypothesis. There certainly wasn’t any effort by BioLogos columnists or management to falsify the hypothesis: “Most Church Fathers read Genesis non-literally” – because the falsification of the hypothesis would make the apologetics of BioLogos harder.

The point is that confirmation bias comes whenever someone is so eager to hold onto a view that they don’t examine the evidence on all sides. And that’s not caused by philosophy. Indeed, of all the subjects studied in university, philosophy is the one most likely to uncover confirmation bias – when philosophy is taught in the classical Socratic way.

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Jim Stump is head of all content at BioLogos and has been for a long time. He is the key gatekeeper, unless that has changed since I left.

And this describes him really well.

It also describes most ID philosophers I’ve seen. This is what happens in advocacy movements. They start with the conclusions, and try and fill in the arguments after. It is hard to understand when ones job depends on not understanding.

Our best bet is to move away from an advocacy based model on origins.

You’re talking about the website, not the organization. He is not the head of the organization – Deb Haarsma is. He does not chart the direction of the organization (though he is doubtless part of the inner circle that does).

In any case, it’s clear that philosophy-trained people in BioLogos are not many in number. And that was my point, that confirmation bias there doesn’t come primarily from philosophers. It comes mostly from evangelical scientists who want to believe that contemporary evolutionary thought is compatible with traditional, orthodox Christian theology, and read the Bible and Christian tradition in the light of that strong desire.

Sure, advocacy organizations aren’t scientific bodies; I agree with that. And they have agendas. I agree with that. But it’s not as if even scientists and scholars working at universities, not belonging to advocacy groups in that sense, never have agendas. Departments of Women’s Studies, for example, are not formally advocacy groups as opposed to groups of scholars with a common research area, but it would be pretty hard to deny that the research of most Women’s Studies professors is heavily guided by social agendas. It would be hard to find more confirmation bias (regarding the machinations of evil patriarchy) anywhere on campus. And I have seen a professor of psychology (and a female one) complain that even saying out loud that there are developmental differences between the male and female human brain – though in her view an empirically established fact – generates strong academic rebuke from one’s psychologist colleagues, because biological differences between men and women are not what they want their science to find (lest such differences be misused to oppress women). There are agendas all over the place, even in the universities. Confirmation bias is not limited to advocacy groups.

This just is not quite right @eddie. There are very few scientists engaged with BioLogos. It is primarily theologians, historians, and non-scientists. Biologists are the minority at BioLogos, and are not the dominant voice. To be clear, there are A Few Great Biologists at BioLogos, but not many.