Confirmation Bias; April 4, 2021


Luke 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

What a very human, common thing! We fail to receive valid information because it fails to meet our preconceptions. The flip side of that is called confirmation bias, when we accept things that agree with what we already thought, even if they aren’t actually true. That is going on at a huge rate right now, with polarized “news” sources spouting opposite views of the same events. At least we know from this story that the problem isn’t new! However, it really is a problem when it keeps us from taking in what God wants us to know, as in this verse. We aren’t to be gullible, swallowing things because we want them to be true or rejecting them because we want them not to be true, but we are to seek God on these things, allowing Him to show us what is true. Occasionally that flies in the face of observed circumstances, but that is rare. Miracles are called miracles for a reason! “Trusted sources,” even, are to be confirmed, since they too may be deceived. The point is to be so familiar with the Bible that we recognize its tone, and so intimate with the Holy Spirit that we can hear Him under any circumstances. None of us are there 100%, but that is the goal. In line with that, we aren’t to despise any messenger. In the culture of the day it was automatic that the word of women was discounted, which probably contributed to the apostles’ response, and there are many such unconscious biases that blind our eyes and stop our ears. I think it was very deliberate on God’s part to give the news of Jesus’ resurrection first to women, to combat this very thing. God keeps working in every generation, every individual, to transmit His truth so that we may be set free. (John 8:32)

I need to be as careful of this as anyone. I am grateful to have been given a high IQ, but I have encountered a lot of “intelligent fools.” Just because I think something “sounds right” doesn’t mean it necessarily is. As Solomon so wisely recorded, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) I am grateful to have been taught about news bias as early as Middle School, with a class in college specifically on Persuasion, which taught me how to recognize various tricks that are used constantly. I recognize that I am wired for confirmation bias, choosing sources that agree with me. That doesn’t mean that I’m to subject myself constantly to fabricated “news,” but it does mean that I am to be humble before God and seek to let Him show me what is true and what is not. As in what the women told the apostles, somethings something that seems absurd may turn out to be the absolute truth!

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s one I need to keep in my mind constantly these days. Thank You that this is Easter Sunday, and that we’ll be going to a Sunrise Service shortly. Thank You for all that You have planned for today, whether it agrees with our plans or not. I pray that the weather would be as You desire, whatever has been forecast. I pray that each person You want to participate in the church activities would do so, and that we would all be touched by Your Holy Spirit in the process. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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