Episode 23: Our Cognitive Biases, and How They Keep Us from Understanding the Bible Correctly

DESCRIPTION: Jack reads from and discusses an article about his observations of various cognitive biases that were in play at the time of the controversial Freddie Gray death in 2015. He details a list of 46 biases he observed in various people of different social, racial, and political backgrounds, and then discusses how biases of that type keep us from understanding the Bible correctly.

General Links

Jack’s Novel

Introduction to Reality-Based Thinking:  This is Jack’s video podcast, which only has three episodes, which together comprise a thorough introduction to the concept of Reality-Based Thinking.

The Extraordinary Visit of Benjamin True: The State of the Union as No One Else Would Tell It. This is Jack’s novel that introduces the basics of Reality-Based Thinking as it explores what an angel might say (from his heavenly perspective) about the American government and the political thinking of the American citizen.

The Article Read and Discussed in this Episode

This Week in Baltimore: A Showcase of Cognitive Biases

May 15, 2015

This past week has provided an excellent opportunity to observe people’s cognitive biases. The situation in Baltimore has prompted many to show those corrupted mini-programs of thinking that run automatically through their minds.

We have seen many various biases at work, such as the following 46 examples:

  1. All blacks are thugs. (With the possible exception of those who entertain us by playing sports.)
  2. All whites are racist..
  3. All police are thugs.
  4. All arrests of blacks by white police are racist acts.
  5. All arrests of blacks by white police are completely justified and proper.
  6. All people who get arrested had it coming.
  7. All protesting is wrong.
  8. I deserve to be violent and destructive and to steal because I am offended.
  9. If the police say it, it must be true.
  10. If it’s an attack against “us”, then it must be unwarranted.
  11. All criticisms against police are unwarranted.
  12. The “other side” can’t possibly have a good point to make.
  13. Even if the “other side” makes a good point, it cannot possibly weaken my position.
  14. I am right because of all these facts, and even if it turns out that these aren’t the facts at all, I’m still right.
  15. This is my opinion and I will not change it.
  16. All negative issues should be ignored.
  17. My side’s sins are less serious than your side’s sins.
  18. You are responsible for what your ancestors did—if it was bad.
  19. You are responsible for what people of your same skin color are doing now—-if it is bad.
  20. Because your skin color is different from mine, you are responsible for what is happening to people of my skin color.
  21. I am not responsible for what the government does during my watch as a citizen-overseer/voter.
  22. If people have been charged, they must be guilty.
  23. If people have been charged by someone who has an interest in the case, they must not be guilty.
  24. Any wrongdoing against a person of my skin color is the result of racism.
  25. The black cops who were charged in Freddie Gray’s death were exercising racism, too.
  26. Whatever the government does will be the right thing.
  27. Whatever the government does will be the wrong thing.
  28. Everything the media says is wrong.
  29. Everything the media says it right.
  30. Everything that my favorite news channel says is right, and everything that yours says is wrong.
  31. If it deeply offends me, it must be more important than issues that do not deeply offend me.
  32. Law and order is more important when it comes to keeping the public in line than it is when it comes to keeping government and law enforcement in line.
  33. Law and order is more important when it comes to keeping government and law enforcement in line than when it comes to keeping the public in line.
  34. I’m entitled to have one or more of these biases because I’ve been wronged.
  35. I’m more entitled to have one or more of these biases than you are.
  36. Those people should overcome all their biases, but it is not necessary for my people to overcome all our biases.
  37. I pretty much understand how all my people think.
  38. I pretty much understand how all your people think.
  39. It is wrong for you to rush to judgment where I do not agree with that judgment, but it is not wrong for me to rush to judgment on other issues.
  40. No matter how much they say, my opponents have but one point, and it’s necessarily wrong.
  41. If I were wrong about any of this, I would know it.
  42. If I’m wrong about any of this, I’m less wrong than you are, so I deserve to maintain my position.
  43. If I admit on the record that any of these biases are wrong, then I show my fair-mindedness and I earn the right to continue to operate as if I believed in them anyway.
  44. Whatever I thought before, this whole Baltimore mess just confirms it.
  45. People of differing skin color will necessarily have differing characters.  The two are genetically linked.
  46. Racism is the fundamental problem in this whole mess.

The fundamental problem in this whole mess is that the American public stinks at thinking.  It is poor at logic and probability, it is loaded with biases such as the ones listed above, and even worse, it does not like to think, so it avoids reflecting on these things—cutting off nearly any chance to learn something.

This is the sad state that leads to all kinds of inhumanity and injustice, including, but not limited to, racism.  This is what leads churches to continue in practices that violate the facts of the very Bible they laud as the truth.  This is what leads people to support political parties that do not keep the promises they make.  This is what leads people to put off problems, rather than to solve them.

Right now, lots of people are mad at other people because of the “racism” being exercised by those other people.  This is not the foundation, however—not the core of the issue.  As it turns out, people of all skin color are vulnerable to this sort of cognitive laziness and error, and skin color is just one of many topics in which this lousy thinking raises its ugly head.  Meanwhile, however, many are pounding away at “racism” as a fundamental evil that needs to be solved—and they’re doing it without having solved in themselves the cognitive bias and error that we all must guard against if we want to be completely rational and honest people.

We are all prone to cognitive error, and yet we do not have to make any particular error.  We can learn to do better.  We do not have to be biased and stubborn people.  No, that’s not something we’re doomed to be; that’s something we choose to be.

To solve or to correct a problem is better than to persist in it.  But he who hacks at the branches rather than at the root is wasting his time.

Episode 22: Jesus’ Resurrection Day Was a Bigger Deal than You May Realize!

The mass resurrection of “many holy people” just after Jesus himself was raised.

DESCRIPTION: In something of a follow-up to Episode 19 (Hebrews 11), Jack reads and comments on a blog article of his (pasted below from his blog, concerning how the “cloud of witnesses” from Hebrews 12:1 were the “many holy people” who were resurrected in Matthew 27:51-52.

Continue reading Episode 22: Jesus’ Resurrection Day Was a Bigger Deal than You May Realize!

Episode 21: What All Has Changed in the Experience of Believers from the First Century Until Now?

DESCRIPTION: Continuing on the theme of “abandoned trails”, Jack opens many cans of worms that it’s difficult to get Christians to discuss today. He talks about changes that have occurred in the experience of believers from the First Century to now–and most of these are changes that most Christians would agree have happened (though some are controversial). The point, then, is that these facts have not been examined to their natural ends and to the discovery of their natural, logical consequences. In other words, even though many know that these things have changed, they still generally carry on as if they have not—because they simply aren’t processing the information.

Continue reading Episode 21: What All Has Changed in the Experience of Believers from the First Century Until Now?

Episode 20: How God Values People

DESCRIPTION: Jack discusses the ideas that “God loves everybody” and how they stack up with the actual words in scripture. Much is made of the “gold and silver” passages, as well as passages about worthiness, usefulness, and so forth.

Continue reading Episode 20: How God Values People

Episode 19: Hebrews 11, Faith, and What In The World Is Going On In America? Part B

DESCRIPTION: Jack continues with the discussion of the text of Hebrews 11, pointing out that these people “embraced the promises” of God regarding the afterlife for the faithful/righteous, and thus, lived a different life from those in the world around them who did not embrace those promises. He also discusses the concept of “when faith was rational”. All this is set against the backdrop of current political events in the USA.

Continue reading Episode 19: Hebrews 11, Faith, and What In The World Is Going On In America? Part B

Episode 18: Hebrews 11, Faith, and What In the World Is Going On in America? Part A

DESCRIPTION: Jack discusses the text of Hebrews 11, pointing out that these people “embraced the promises” of God regarding the afterlife for the faithful/righteous, and thus, lived a different life from those in the world around them who did not embrace those promises. He also discusses the concept of “when faith was rational”. All this is set against the backdrop of current political events in the USA.

Continue reading Episode 18: Hebrews 11, Faith, and What In the World Is Going On in America? Part A

Episode 17: Understanding “Blessed Are The Meek” (Matthew 5:5)

DESCRIPTION: Jack talks about “Blessed are the meek…” from Matthew 5:5, demonstrating that the original idea behind the Greek here is a virtue that is sadly rare among Christians today.

Continue reading Episode 17: Understanding “Blessed Are The Meek” (Matthew 5:5)

Episode 16: Understanding Our Emotions. Part B

DESCRIPTION: Jack continues this 2-part discussion by explaining more of the cognitive science and how it fits in with the way we tend to manage our Bible learning. It ends with a discussion of the “core doctrine” concept, and how that so frequently is used as a “thought stopper” for discussions Christians should naturally be having.

Continue reading Episode 16: Understanding Our Emotions. Part B

Episode 15: Understanding Our Emotions. Part A

DESCRIPTION: Jack explores what human emotions are and how they work–as well as why not knowing how to manage our emotions well can cause us to “shut down” in conversations about the Bible. He gives a basic description of the standard 2-part theory of the mind, as well as the newer 3-part version, and explains how the human “spirit” mentioned in the Bible may just be that 3rd part that some cognitive scientists have recognized. This is the first of a 2-part discussion.

SHOW NOTES

Links mentioned in this episode:

Introduction to Reality-Based Thinking:  https://youtu.be/v3qkk2jA1Jw This is Jack’s video podcast, which only has three episodes, which together comprise a thorough introduction to the concept of Reality-Based Thinking.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.  https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374533555 If you’d like to do some extended thinking on how the human mind works, this book is a great place to start. It’s written for a general audience, but even so, you might have to put on your academic “thinking cap” and read it just a bit at a time. Note that Kahneman give’s a 2-part model of the mind, where Stanovich (below) offers a 3-part model.

What Intelligence Tests Miss, by Keith Stanovich. https://www.amazon.com/What-Intelligence-Tests-Miss-Psychology/dp/0300164629 Stanovich demonstrates that IQ Tests do not measure ALL the cognitive skills necessary for Reality-Based Thinking. And he posits a 3-part model of the mind that includes the “Reflective Mind”. This book seems to be a dialog within the cognitive science community, so the nomenclature may slow down the lay person a bit. But if you find this topic interesting, I’d definitely buy the book, whether you’re an academic or not.

Rationality & the Reflective Mind, by Keith Stanovich. https://www.amazon.com/Rationality-Reflective-Mind-Keith-Stanovich/dp/0195341147 This is Stanovich’s formal treatise on his tripartite model of the mind. It’s written to an academic audience, even moreso, it seems than is the other book above, so don’t expect to speed through it if you’re not already familiar with the language of cognitive science.

VIDEO: TedX talk on dealing with unpleasant feelings, by Dr. Joan Rosenberg:  (I’ve embedded the video just below for your convenience.)“….what I found is that what holds people back is their inability, or their challenges with, dealing with unpleasant feelings.  Yet nobody really teaches us what to do or how to handle them.” …. “Make the choice to stay present in the moment”

Continue reading Episode 15: Understanding Our Emotions. Part A