Most of us have had conversations with someone when, after making a statement based on fact, their response has been either “But I feel like____” or “But I don’t think____” or “But I believe____”. The least reliable path to truth is through ones feelings. If you’re a relativist and ‘believe’ your truth is your truth and my truth is only true for me, you’re attempting to live outside the laws of the universe and nothing I, or anyone else can say will deconstruct this delusion. For those of us who live in the real world, we know facts are facts, and if new facts come along we adjust accordingly. One may say they choose to believe the world is only 6,000 years old due to “historical” literature but we know this is false and is a subjective belief.
When forming any belief it is important to attempt to look at the evidence as objectively as possible. I say attempt because it is important to realise that we all use subjectivity bias to some degree. The ability to think critically and attempt objectivity is the most important thing one can do for themselves, their children, their friends, and their family. For example when I was working in a retail store I got to see which companies have the highest/lowest failure rate of their products and what gets returned the most. Customers often ask me for my opinion when choosing computers: “I want a computer that is very reliable, what’s better Mac or PC?”. I always proceed to give them the facts. Macs have the lowest failure rate and rate of return then any other computer by a large margin. Half of the time this information is returned in statements similar to “My friend had a Mac and it kept having problems can you show me some PCs?” or “I had a Mac and it broke. Can you show me some PCs?”. I will then show the customers the PCs and tell them what brands have the lowest failure rate and which have the highest. Some brands fail 30% of the time, and some fail only 12%. Can you guess their response after being educated on these percentages? As you probably guessed half the time it goes something like this “My friend has a 12% brand and it kept having problems all the time, what options do you have in the 30% brand?”. This is a self-sabotaging way of thinking. We don’t always know what is best for ourselves. This same process of thinking is what gets people into damaging relationships, dangerous confrontations, and religious cults. When dealing with subjectivity, bias facts mean nothing (although I will be using many here to highlight points). All the facts in the world cannot change a closed belief. That is why it is important to focus on improving the process one uses to form beliefs and opinions.
-Is it possible that some intelligent and sane people actually pervert reality?
-And if so, do these same intelligent and sane people act on this perversion?
If you said yes to these last two questions then we have an excellent starting point for how to combat this subjectivity bias in order to have a healthy view on reality.
Three very large contributors to forming unreasonable ideas are confirmation bias, selection bias, and faith belief as a default.
One way we can aggressively attack these unreliable ways of thinking is to attack our own confirmation bias first. For example, you want to find out if there is proof that aliens landed on earth, you jump onto Google and you search “Proof that aliens landed”. You then jump onto YouTube and watch countless conspiracy videos supporting the narrative that aliens actually landed here. You then go to ‘Aliens Really Landed’ forums and read claims by half delusional people seeking a speck of importance in their lives by telling others of their “abduction”. Now you’ve surrounded yourself with opinions that support only one narrative. You then tell yourself that no one really knows anything 100% and that anything is possible, therefor aliens must have landed.
The first issue here is the presumption that aliens actually exist in the first place. The second is aggressively trying to prove this claim as right rather than just searching for the non-biased evidence. There are ways to stop this right at the beginning. Search for both arguments. Search for proof that aliens landed and proof that they have not. Search more objective terms like “Is there proof of aliens”. Now you are exposed to more evidence to help you make a reasonable decision.
-How can you possibly make rational and reasonable decisions about aliens landing on earth by only receiving your evidence from those in favour of that idea?
-Are you trying to prove aliens landed here or are you looking for objective evidence for and against?
Keep in mind that due to customised search engines it is now harder than ever to escape confirmation bias. If you’ve been searching all about aliens being real for days and then search “Proof that aliens are not real” your customised search engine is more likely to show you all the alien supporting websites rather than the websites disproving aliens. Furthermore, search results will change per location. If you live in an area with a higher density of alien believers, as you’d assume, you will get more results based on that.
We can now proceed to attacking our selection bias. Although under the umbrella of confirmation bias, selection bias is more tied up in actively selecting minority examples to support a belief even when the majority of examples don’t support it.
Selection bias plays its most active role when showing others proof that our claims are true. Someone might want to convince their friend that drinking melted animal fat right after a workout will help them build muscle faster. They are desperate to see results so they will try anything and want their friend to support this idea. They read through 40 studies showing no improvement in muscle development and finally find one that supports their claim. This is the one they bring to the table. This is their reference any time someone asks why the hell they are drinking pure animal fat straight after a workout. Sometimes we are so desperate to improve in a certain area of our lives that we put our blinders up for things we don’t want to see and narrow our vision to only see that which supports our current views, then we present these views to other people. This is not only a disservice to us but to others also.
Attacking our selection bias is also not easy as it is based on a deep level of unconscious thinking. This is why once we start attacking our confirmation bias we have tipped the dominos of critical thinking and awareness. With constant attention your selection bias will become obvious and irrational.
Belief by default is the deepest, most irrational, unreliable, and least logical way of confirming your belief to be true, and it is my favourite because its fault is the easiest to explain. It can be summed up in one statement: “You can’t prove the Big Bang Theory as fact, therefor God is real”. This kind of statement is incredibly intellectually dishonest. It relies on presumption and places God as the only alternative. I have heard people say that every moon in the universe orbits a certain direction except for a few and since we can’t explain it by science (yet) that must mean that God is real. Another example “I have never seen evolution with my own eyes, therefor God is real”. As mentioned it relies on ones own ignorance and lack of understanding on a certain topic and also implies that you can only choose from one other possible explanation. It uses the limitations of current technology to reinforce an unreasonable belief, and it is also a last resort tactic when the facts are hard to come by and someone is refusing to loosen their grasp on ideas that have been proven to be irrational. Why is it that less than 0.15% of 480,000 biologists and earth scientists polled have doubts about evolution? Yet 77% of evangelical christians surveyed doubt evolution. This is not because the scientists are using subjectivity bias, this is because they understand how biology works. They understand reality.
“Evolution is almost universally accepted among those who understand it, almost universally rejected by those who don’t.” –Richard Dawkings
-If the process we use to form beliefs is unreliable then can the conclusion we come to be relied upon?
-If we don’t understand how something works or came to be, is it intellectually honest of us to credit a God because that is what we want to be true?
-Is it more honest of us to admit that we do not know, and use that wonder and desire to know as motivation to find out?
If you have doubts about evolution then you should study it and come to your own conclusions after receiving all the evidence and not before.
When it comes to matters that we don’t understand it is ok to say I don’t know. In fact, any reasonable person does this. When someone says they do not believe in God, they are not necessarily saying that God does not exist. They are saying that they do not see enough evidence to support a claim that a God does exist. People who have a healthy view of reality are open to changing their beliefs if new evidence comes along. People with perverted views act on this by maintaining absolute views about reality. Even when these were created by an unreliable processes in the first place and have no evidence to support them.
-What do we do to stop these unreasonable ways of forming beliefs?
-Are we seeking truth or are we trying to make the ideas we like true?
-Just because we feel like something is true does that make it true?
-Do we actually know or are we just pretending to know things we don’t know?