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Friday, June 12, 2015

Confirmation Bias and the Limits of Human Knowledge

By Peter Wehner
Commentary Magazine
Originally published May 27, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Confirmation bias is something we can easily identify in others but find very difficult to detect in ourselves. (If you finish this piece thinking only of the blindness of those who disagree with you, you are proving my point.) And while some people are far more prone to it than others, it’s something none of us is fully free of. We all hold certain philosophical assumptions, whether we’re fully aware of them or not, and they create a prism through which we interpret events. Often those assumptions are not arrived at through empiricism; they are grounded in moral intuitions. And moral intuitions, while not sub-rational, are shaped by things other than facts and figures. “The heart has its reasons which reason itself does not know,” Pascal wrote. And often the heart is right.

Without such core intuitions, we could not hope to make sense of the world. But these intuitions do not stay broad and implicit: we use them to make concrete judgments in life. The consequences of those judgments offer real-world tests of our assumptions, and if we refuse to learn from the results then we have no hope of improving our judgments in the future.

The entire article is here.