You Believe It, So It Must Be True
Do you believe in miracles?
In the United States, as of 2010, "80% [of the population] believe in miracles." The Oxford Dictionary reveals that most Americans believe in:
a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
Matt Stopera of Buzzfeed revealed the statistic in his shocking collection of data on what Americans believe.
I am dumbfounded that 80% of Americans today believe that a divine being or force defies natural and scientific laws to mess around here on earth.
Another stumper: "41% believe in ESP."
Yes, almost 1/2 of Americans believe that certain individuals possess the extra-mental and sensory ability to receive information through a form of magic or telepathy.
Why do people believe absurd ideas that have no rational or objective evidence for support?
For bloggers, the answer is important. Many of us intend to report the truth. It frightens me to think that most of us are inclined to believe whatever the hell we want.
How does the human mind construct and perpetuate absurdities in the face of contradictory or nonexistent evidence?
Evolution Programmed Us To Solve Mysteries Creatively
Mysteries often presented dangers to our ancestors, and the powerfully creative homo sapiens brain, always highly conscious of danger, hated the unknown. These same ancestors knew nothing about science or the experimental method.
They detested the unknown so much that the human brain evolved to develop explanations that resolved uncertainties, oftentimes without any sort of proof.
Once the belief was formed evidence was fabricated or misconstrued to support it. Without the tools to discover a correct answer, the brain invented explanations, and many of their explanations linger today.
Cognitive Science Explains the Confirmation Bias in Humans
Cognitive scientists call this the confirmation bias because once we believe an explanation to be true, we are prone to hunt for evidence that proves we are correct and discard information that indicates otherwise.
A study out of Princeton details this behavior that reinforces distorted and unfounded beliefs:
A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased towards confirming their existing beliefs. Later work explained these results in terms of a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In combination with other effects, this strategy can bias the conclusions that are reached. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another proposal is that people show confirmation bias because they are pragmatically assessing the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.
Makes perfect sense, but it creates problems for scientists and bloggers who attempt to persuade audiences of tested explanations. The audience is predisposed to reject your evidence that threatens their beliefs.
The Impact of the Confirmation Bias on Journalist Bloggers
The confirmation bias affects bloggers in various ways. You have to bear in mind that you are prone to this same bias, while remembering that your audience may harbor even more illusory beliefs.
Some precautions and diligence will help you do your job well as a blogger, advocating truth and education rather than myth and legend. Consider these ideas as you write to your audience in order to protect yourself and be persuasive:
Remind yourself that you are among people like Galileo who in the 1500s faced legal/religious accusations of heresy for contending that the solar system is heliocentric (sun centered).
Great minds are always met with opposition, but the best minds are skillful in persuading the opposition.
Have you ever had an experience where you supported truth in the face of opposition? What did you learn from it?
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By Darin L. Hammond
Hire Darin for awesome freelance blogging and guest posting. Darin works for BlogCatalog and owns ZipMinis.com and ZipMinis Freelance Writing. He publishes across the web on sites like Technorati, BC Blog, Blog Critics, Broowaha, Business2Community, SteamFeed, LifeHack, and Social Media Today. Add Darin to your circles on Google+.