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An anecdotal examination of confirmation bias

#1ThuggernautzPosted 4/24/2013 6:16:41 PM(edited)
So, I maintain that I am an agnostic atheist in terms of belief in spirituality or deism/theism, and genuinely feel that were I given sufficient evidence or experience that I would change my beliefs. At the same time, I recognize that the human mind is very susceptible to misinterpretation, and can easily attribute meaning to patterns or events which may not have any objective truth to it.

As such, I was enjoying a quiet evening on my balcony looking over the skyline and pondering such thoughts, and so decided to try again to look for a sign or a signal from God or any other spiritual being out there. I projected my wishes and my searching feelings out there to see if I got a response. And in the distance, from a lone cloud, a bolt of lightning flashed out. Now at first I found it interesting, the clouds did not look like storm clouds and there was empty skies for miles around my present location. I 'asked' for a repeat to cement my observation. Another bolt of lightning struck out.

Now here, for many people, that would be enough for them. Two seemingly highly improbable events occurring in succession and seemingly contemporaneous for my desire to see such an event.

So I reached out again, asking for the lightning to stop. But another bolt struck.

I then realized that lightning from a cloud, even one that didn't look like a storm cloud, is not all that uncommon. Nor was two strikes in succession, or three, or fifty. My perception of such events is uncommon, but on average there are over 1,728,000 strikes per day. It was merely the fact that I was looking for any sign to latch onto, so that when a coincidence or pattern did emerge, I immediately attributed it to some 'action' or thought of mine even though it was not the case. I often wonder how many people take these anecdotal 'signs' as their wishes being answered for these events, instead of continuing to try and test the negative at the same time. I could have stopped at the two strikes, thrown my hands in the air and yelled "I believe!", but with a little further examination and experimentation I could overcome my impulse to apply motive or meaning to natural probabilistic events.

One final thought I had before coming inside to nerd it up was how people can invest so heavily in these ethereal spiritual 'signs' or answers to their prayers, when the Bible says God hates to be tested. Why would God answer prayers to reveal himself, is that not a test in itself, or is that verse somehow waived in the case of proving his existence?

Anyway, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
#2FlashOfLightPosted 4/24/2013 7:45:11 PM
When you consider who God is, as the Creator of everything, when people ask for things, as you mentioned, of asking God to do certain cool stuff like make lightning bolts appear, or a river to run through a desert, or snow to fall in summer time, or a hot babe to come knock at your door at 2am in the morning, etc...

All of those things, are quite frankly insulting, because in the Scriptures, it plainly says that the Creation itself IS the evidence for God that everyone has open access to look into at any time they wish, one of the things he gave for all of humanity to wonder at, is the night sky, the enormous amounts of stars, and their particular beauty, and the amazing synchronization they have.

Now, instead of considering, and contemplating all that, here comes an arrogant conceited human being, and essentially asks God to reduce himself, by making a mere lightning bolt take place in the sky. It may sound good at first try, but it'd be like telling a beautiful woman that gee that's a pretty darned beautiful nail she has, instead of her complete beauty.

The woman, no doubt would feel offended by the guy ignoring the rest of her features that are blatant and obvious. Much more so, God has a right to be disgusted when the human mind tries to make such petty limitations on the vast creation God has made.

To this, someone usually argues, BUT... if he is God, why would even showing the simplest thing like a lightning bolt be a problem? Which again, may sound good at first thought, except that God is omnipotent, and if he has to play by man's rules, instead of his own, and if the almighty God has to answer to a human being, or feel intimidated that he won't be proven as real because he doesn't do some parlour trick for the human to be convinced, then God wouldn't have much more sense than the human if he allows a human to dictate his own behavior or reaction in such a way.

I can't understand how people always separate God's nature and dealings with human beings, as what is known and seen in the nature and dealing of parents toward children. If children dictate every time what their parents should do, any time a child asks for a $1,000 Mattel car, or an 8-foot teddy bear, then those parents have poor skills in raising a child.

The parents don't have to come to their knees at the mercy of their toddler's silly pleas and petitions, nor should the parents get dramatically upset over the toddler's silly petitions, instead the parents understand that they are just children, and don't have much sense yet, and either let it pass or laugh it off.

So, much more so God, lets things pass, and doesn't take them to heart, but if a grown adult doesn't ultimately figure out the majesty of God by seeing the complexity of nature, then they will be held accountable for not using their reasoning that they were given, and instead chose to ignore it.
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Montreal was an inside job.
#3hamsandwich3141Posted 4/24/2013 7:49:18 PM
FlashOfLight posted...

So, much more so God, lets things pass, and doesn't take them to heart, but if a grown adult doesn't ultimately figure out the majesty of God by seeing the complexity of nature, then they will be held accountable for not using their reasoning that they were given, and instead chose to ignore it.


Not arriving at the same conclusion as you != not using one's reasoning
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She went after her kids with super love, they turned into drugs. - LastManStanding
#4FlashOfLightPosted 4/24/2013 8:05:30 PM
hamsandwich3141 posted...

Not arriving at the same conclusion as you != not using one's reasoning


You can not separate using intelligence in one context to affirm something, and then to dismiss it in another context when the obvious truth is in conflict to personal taboos.
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Montreal was an inside job.
#5C_MatPosted 4/24/2013 8:20:30 PM
(Answering from a Christian perspective)

I think you're assuming that God's plan is to make you believe in Him. What He actually wants to do is bring you into a saving relationship with Him. Other than that, I doubt whether God really cares if you believe in Him or not.

For example, if those lightning strikes actually did convince you that a supernatural deity exists, is there any indication that this new knowledge would have made you a want to become a Christian, or given you a love and appreciation for Jesus/the Cross?

Most likely, you would stop being a naturalist but come no closer to being a Christian. Remember that from Christianity's perspective, atheism is just one false belief among Mormonism, Bhuddism, Islam and countless other religions. To me, there's a small chance you would jump to the correct religion just because you've ruled out atheism.
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#6hamsandwich3141Posted 4/24/2013 8:32:48 PM
FlashOfLight posted...
hamsandwich3141 posted...

Not arriving at the same conclusion as you != not using one's reasoning


You can not separate using intelligence in one context to affirm something, and then to dismiss it in another context when the obvious truth is in conflict to personal taboos.


I don't understand what you're trying to say here, at least not as it pertains to me.
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She went after her kids with super love, they turned into drugs. - LastManStanding
#7FingerpuppetPosted 4/24/2013 9:31:24 PM
I usually say, "God, please let that bolt strike me."

Works every time.
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The problem starts when we are having a discussion just fine and you come along and derail the topic because you can't stand us all having the same definition.
#8JonWood007Posted 4/24/2013 9:41:58 PM
@ Flash of Light. I'm just gonna leave Judges 6:36-40 there for ya.

As for signs. Of course God doesn't HAVE to show me a sign, but if he doesn't ever show a reliable sign ANYWHERE, then how can I be expected to believe? Where I have issues with this is Christianity demands belief without providing sufficient evidence to warrant such a belief. Please stop with the Romans 1:20 stuff, I know you didn't cite it directly, but it couldn't be more obvious what is meant there (similar message at the very least). You know, a very solid rational look really diminishes my perceptions of God. At first glance, yes, it makes sense to be like, whoa man, someone had to have made this, but looking at it now, it's more like, maybe this was created, maybe not. If it was created, it's not very obvious. Too much ambiguity involved. The more I learn about reality the more I realize it's not as black and white as I once thought.
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#9FlashOfLightPosted 4/25/2013 3:19:13 AM
JonWood007 posted...
@ Flash of Light. I'm just gonna leave Judges 6:36-40 there for ya.


And Gideon first believed God, and this was before Christ's resurrection, and the majority of the prophets that would come, including Elijah and Elisha which in their day showed more signs and wonders before the people than would be necessary, but all pointed to Christ that would come.

Truth can not be isolated into its own corner and ignored, those who deny God's miracles in the past, are those who deny history, as those who go so far as to say that either Jesus Christ did not exist, or that he wasn't crucified, or that he did no miracle, etc...

Once again, people are held accountable before God, because the same mind they use to believe something else in history when it suits them and is convenient for them, is the same mind they use to reject the Gospel, so they are making God a liar, and forcing him to come down to man's standards, instead of man accepting God's testimonies.

This is what Christ insisted on towards the Jews in his generation.

John 5:46-47

"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"
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Montreal was an inside job.
#10FlashOfLightPosted 4/25/2013 4:29:44 AM
There is often a great debate about what faith is, and people go on to somehow attribute it to something mystical or something that is not concrete, but this is not what the Bible affirms, in simple terms faith is believing in God's testimony, that his account, his record, is true.

This is one of the things the Bible says about faith -

1Corinthians 15:12-15

"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not."

That's what faith is, believing in God's testimony of the things that have passed previously, and believing that the same God who declared the things that were before, will be the same who will do other things in the future to come.

2Thes. 1:10-11

"When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:"

As I said, God will hold people accountable for what they believe, if they, through historians, for example, believe certain accounts of history as undisputed, and yet those same people reject the testimonies of the prophets as false, and it is that same picking and choosing concerning history that makes them guilty before God because they have dismissed his account as false -

1John 5:9-10

"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."

That is what the Bible is, God's record to all mankind.
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Montreal was an inside job.