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Confirmation Bias

by Jake Rhodes ~

While expending precious time and brain cells on the digital cocaine my generation has contributed to society (aka Facebook), I have recently found myself becoming nearly exasperated by the status updates of some of my friends and relatives. I live in southern Mississippi, so Jesus’ ubiquitous magical influence is credited with everything from purported medical healings to the merciful brevity of Vanilla Ice’s music career. Due to such beliefs, my news feed is often littered with fatuous celebrations of what one could label “mini miracles”. Most of you will know precisely what I am talking about. Who has not heard such nonsense as “Couldn’t find my keys… I prayed and then they suddenly turned up in a spot I had already checked 10 times. I swear they weren’t there before!! Thank you, Jesus!” or something resembling “Just got the call I have been waiting on! God is always on time!”? If you happen to be unfamiliar with such mentalities, do not laugh; I am not being comical. I have had a pastor’s wife look me directly in the eyes and in complete seriousness recount a scenario involving a lost debit card. After “rebuking the devil”, the card inexplicably appeared on the floor (Although a believer at the time, I still found this naïve and silly). Such blatant credulity fueled examples of confirmation bias irritate me. Allow me to explain why.

On Tuesday, April 20th, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School. When silence overtook the echo of the last shot fired, 13 innocent victims had been slaughtered; 21 others were injured. Spring forward to April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho armed himself as if planning to invade North Korea. However, his enemies were the unarmed non-combatant students of Virginia Tech. In the aftermath of Cho’s cowardly and sickening act of reprehensible brutality, 32 victims lay slain, another 25 were injured. Ostensibly, the same magic that teleports debit cards and car keys could have also been sufficient to cause the weapons of any of the mentioned assailants to misfire or jam. Such intervention may have been all that was necessary to give some potential hero the chance to subdue one of these terrorists before they were able to extinguish so many irreplaceable flames of human life. But, curiously enough, such intervention from divine mercy was withheld when it was most desperately needed.

On Sunday, December 26, 2004, an undersea megathrust earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean. The resulting tsunami inflicted catastrophic damage along the coasts of the bordering countries. The world watched in sober silence as the death toll soared into the six figure range; approximately 230,000 perished. In an eerie case of déjà vu, Japan would suffer a similar disaster in 2011. On March 11th, another undersea megathrust earthquake registering a magnitude of 9.0 shook the Pacific coast of Japan. More than 15,000 lives were lost. One must concede that the existence of miracles would allow for the natural order to be superseded. If such is the case, then it would have been entirely possible for Jesus to have altered the movement of the tectonic plates that caused these mentioned natural disasters. Regrettably, he did no such thing.

Here I have only presented a couple of examples of both the violence born from human malice and the tragedy spawned by uncontrollable natural disasters. Any of you could easily produce countless similar examples of such calamity. Simple study of statistics on the number of annual childhood deaths is heartbreaking. Though I am convinced that constant obsessive deliberation and focus on such matters will inevitably lead to depression, an occasional dose of reality’s cold indifference and cruelty is necessary to preclude susceptibility to fanciful delusion. While the rest of their fellow men and women endure such pain, what arrogance and narcissism must possess the faithful to claim miraculous intervention to their benefit in such trivial matters? Such perceptions of reality are only possible when one examines the data with a confirmation bias. “God is always on time!” Right, except for when he isn’t. Why is it not clear that this conclusion can only be reached by selective consideration of the evidence?

This world may be full of suffering and evil, but take heart, dear one! Jesus will find your car keys for you.