Cognitive Dissonance: Confirmation Bias Rears its Ugly Head, Once Again.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance: a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming and denying.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confirmation Bias Rears its Ugly Head, Once Again.

Mark Driscoll, the pastor of the Seattle mega-church called "Mars Hill" posted the following on Facebook.

- "A deacon at Mars Hill Church Everett was diagnosed with kidney cancer eight months ago and was given six months to live. He approached the elders for prayer after his diagnosis. They prayed for healing and for Jesus to be glorified. Recently, the man had a scan of his entire body and the results came back with no trace of cancer in his kidneys or lymph nodes."

I responded by pointing out the fact that he failed to mention the months of radiation, chemotherapy, proton therapy, etc that this person underwent, and suggested that those things MIGHT have had something to do with his recovery. I got the following response to my statement from someone I know quite well that saw my comment on Mark Driscoll's page.

- " ... the basis of faith tells us that knowledge doctors etc all came from The Lord. Many good doctors will acknowledge miracles, where they come from we also know."


This blog post is a word for word response to that person's comment:

The basis of faith (when considered objectively) is to purposefully ignore any and all possibly explanations to the contrary of what a person believes (or wants to believe). In this case, the fact is science and medicine are responsible for the remission of this person's cancer.

The statement/claim in this case was that prayer healed this person, not doctors/medicine, nor was there any mention that those doctors and/or the medicine/therapy he received were "gifts from god". I am challenging the notion that the reason this person has survived beyond the estimation of their doctor(s) is not because of prayer, but because of science, medicine and human beings that have devoted their lives to helping other people. While it is true that some doctors do acknowledge that things occur that they cannot comprehensively explain, and some doctors may label those occurrences as "miracles". It does not necessarily mean that the ONLY other explanation for those happenings is that "god did it". In my experience and estimation, far more doctors are offended by the notion that their 10-12 years of schooling, extensive knowledge, comprehensive expertise, long hours and hard work have nothing to do with the outcome of their treatments/patients. That instead the results are determined by the whim of an invisible man in the sky and entirely out of their hands.

I heard someone say during a lecture once that about 150,000 people die each day on planet earth. If the rest of us, all 6+ billion people prayed for those 150,000 that were about to die, 150,000 would still die that day. Nothing fails like prayer. However we tragically see parents and caretakers that persist in this belief, refusing their children (or the person they care for) medical care for conditions that could EASILY be cured by antibiotics or minor surgery. And the reason they do this is because they are convinced that prayer alone can heal them. In every single one of those cases when medical attention is withheld, the child (person) dies, 100% of the time.

People like James Randi (as one example among many others) have devoted a great deal of time and energy to either proving or debunking claims of miraculous healing and faith healers. Again, 100% of the time these people are shown to be frauds. They're using actors, they have people fill out slips of paper that someone reads to the person on stage through a listening device, some use "mentalist" type manipulations and the list of predatory, fraudulent tactics like that goes on and on. Not once, literally not even a single time have any of these people that claim to be able to heal through prayer and/or the power of god proven to be able to effect any kind of supernatural changes on people/the natural world. For myself and people outside the "bubble" (religious belief/faith) this is obvious evidence that the foundational claims behind these beliefs are flawed. However, for people who do believe, there is always some excuse or explanation that they can use to justify the failure of their beliefs and these kinds of claims. This lessens the often painful Cognitive Dissonance that occurs when religious belief/faith collides with reality and allows the person to continue on without having to question their beliefs or the foundation(s) of those beliefs.

One other thing comes to mind regarding prayer/faith and healing. There have been multiple (10-12) major university studies done on prayer and its effect on and ability to heal or help people heal. In every case the results were the same, prayer had no effect whatsoever on the outcome, people being prayed for did not recover faster or to a higher degree than the people in the control group. And most interestingly, people that knew they were being prayed for did worse than the other 2 groups, this finding was confirmed by multiple studies.

The bottom line is this, the reason this person's cancer is in remission and he/she has beat the odds of surviving beyond 6 months is (solely) because they received highly advanced medical care. You can call it a gift from god, but that just begs the question.... (several questions actually, but let's focus on this one). If god intended for us to have a cure to diseases like cancer, why didn't he just provide them in the bible or through some other means? Why allow such painful suffering, death and loss to continue for thousands of years while we as human beings slowly made the progress necessary in science and medicine to be able to cure them?

The bible says we are god's children and that he loves us like a father loves a child. Would you withhold information from your child/children if they were suffering the way people dying of bone cancer, lung cancer or pancreatic cancer suffer if that information would certainly ease that suffering? Would you call it loving or benevolent if someone withheld information that would relieve their children from such horrific pain and a wretched death? Not a chance! So why let god off the hook? Because the bible says his ways are higher than ours and we shouldn't question his authority? Because it says that we should "just believe", regardless of how much contradictory, conflicting facts/truth/evidence we come across? That is NOT love, that is sociopathic, narcissistic, cruel, indifferent and depraved!

Epicurus said it best, thousands of years ago, when he said:
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"

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