Stop Cherry Picking Science

As is stated in the video, we really need to stop cherry picking data. We hold onto what we want to believe instead of what we should believe. “When science doesn’t fit someone’s world view, they deny it.” – Bill Nye. I’m also a big believer that we see a lot of what’s called the backfire effect.

The backfire effect occurs when, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger. The effect has been demonstrated experimentally in psychological tests, where subjects are given data that either reinforces or goes against their existing biases — and in most cases people can be shown to increase their confidence in their prior position regardless of the evidence they were faced with.

My favorite is also from Bill Nye:

Well, any time you’re burning fossil fuels, you authorize more pipelines, you’re headed for trouble in the big picture. But in the bigger picture is this thing, you know, this word we love, ‘cognitive dissonance,’ this phrase. You have a worldview that disagrees with what you observe. So you might expect, if you were as open-minded as a scientist, as a scientifically-literate voter or taxpayer, you might expect that data would change your mind — but that’s not how people are.

People on either side, the other side and this side, you double down when you find conflict, it’s called the ‘Backfire Effect,’ it backfires, and you get more entrenched in your worldview. For example, if somebody believes in astrology, it takes them about two years to get over it. You have to show them over and over there’s no such thing as astrology, it doesn’t really work, and then they let go. But everybody’s expectation that you’ll let go in a week is not going to be met.

So our problem, everybody, is this doubling down, this backfire effect. So we have to work, I think, diligently in the science community to fight back. Of course there are the facts, we start with those. But there’s this human nature thing on both sides to fight back. We have our bubble over here, they have their bubble over there.


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