Confirmation Bias

Note: herein I choose to reference a different compilation of the scriptures so that nothing Joseph Smith included is left out.

Of course we’ve heard a lot of science in the last two decades about confirmation bias and not just how susceptible we are to this, but how those of us who attempt to be less susceptible are perhaps most susceptible. It is interesting how the media has exploited this in the time of Covid. (see: https://www.allsides.com/blog/left-and-right-media-hype-death-push-biased-narrative-vaccines)

But, my real question here goes back to the source of intelligence. Is this kind of bias a uniquely “human” (i.e., natural man) problem, or is it sourced in the spiritual realm, or both? Was the war in heaven grounded in bias? Have we always been susceptible to being driven to extremes? When we consider the tension between good and evil, how many actually choose evil? Said differently, do those who “choose evil” actually believe that they are choosing the good? Is this one of the reasons we are not to judge[condemn] others? Because the most irrational thing we believe is that we are rational (and vice-versa)? Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20–21)

I’ve been reading “Black Flags, The Rise Of ISIS.” In this, it is absolutely astounding how Zarqawi was able through the simple, bloodless destruction of a mosque to finally create a Sunni V Shiite civil war (yes, he’d been attempting to inflame tensions for years, but if the author is correct, this is what kicked it over the edge). ” ‘We didn’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites until Zarqawi came. Now every day, there is a killing.’ “

Was Zarqawi a type of Satan, taking an mostly peaceful and law abiding people and driving a wedge into their society until…. What people won’t do when they are sure they are on the side of good/God. If Satan had won — yes, this is purely a thought exercise — would our good/evil barometer be inverted? Would this still apply: “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God. (Deuteronomy 12:28)”???

In the end, is the one who is right/good merely the one on the winning side (political science 101?)? Or, due to our perceptions and biases, win or lose, is it always us?

Do I think I am right because that is generally what people do regardless of the choice (holocausts, genocide,… elections, vaccines,… red meat, Foo Fighters, makeup, mindfullness….)? Is it good to have a bias so long as it is a good bias?  :- )

That brings us back to the spirit. Is our spirit susceptible to biases? Clearly, we are impressionable by “false spirits.” (https://scriptures.info/scriptures/tc/section/36.1-6). But, is my spirit or the spirits I lean into pure and undefiled, is my interpretation of scripture and ultimately my understanding of and belief in God a reflection of my biases? Said more brutally, is my God anything more than a my personal idol [given the fact that my comprehension and idea of God has changed so dramatically in the last few years, it would seem that the probability must be in the affirmative]? Is this at least part of what prevents me from “knowing God.” In saying these things, I do not pretend that this is all binary. In Romans 1, Paul discusses these things in binary terms, but this might just be rhetoric. His letter to Titus seems the same. It seems to make more sense in the context of degrees or accumulations. While John also leans towards the binary, his use of “purify” implies something more (see: https://scriptures.info/scriptures/nt/1john/1.13-19. From this we have some pretty unrelenting scripture:

  • Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits — whether they are of God — because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
  • He that continues in sin is of the Devil, for the Devil sins from the beginning.
  • Whoever is born of God does not continue in sin, for the spirit of God remains in him, and he cannot continue in sin because he is born of God, having received that Holy Spirit of Promise.
  • Hereby know we that we dwell in him and he in us: because he has given us of his spirit.

Mormon seems to talk to this theme in Moroni 7. Again, this is pretty binary. Well worth the read. It seems simple. If only.

During most of my life, certitude ruled. RIP Certitude. What replaces false confidence and flawed convictions is doubt and confusion. Of that I am certain. :- ) That can’t be good. If only I could know for certainty that which is good (i.e., of God; and implicitly what is evil). That would necessarily be external/universal/eternal. Is that a bias I could comfortably live with? Wait, what?

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