Today I am going to highlight the single greatest problem plaguing us in the United States and give the solution that will save us all.
The problem is, because of the problem, no one that needs to hear the message will hear it. Drat.
Also, I DEFINITELY am not guilty of this AT ALL!
<late warning: this post may contain sarcasm>
The issue at hand: confirmation bias.
Definition: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
If this isn’t the greatest problem plaguing us right now, it’s definitely towards the top. The idea is this: we have certain set beliefs and ideas, and instead of open-mindedly examining new evidence in order to reach new and better conclusions, we only seek out and accept information that backs up what we already believe, or we interpret new information in a way that backs up what we already want to think.
Lets look at the current COVID-19 crisis. By a vast and dramatic margin, polls are showing that the public’s perception of how dangerous the coronavirus is and how our leaders are responding to the crisis is split by political party. Just to clarify: political ideology has nothing to do with virology, but for some reason it often defines our views on the virus. If you are a Democrat you almost certainly hate how President Trump has led the national response, you are very likely to have a great deal of concern about infection, and you will tend to believe the stay-at-home orders should continue for significantly longer. If you are a Republican you likely view the President’s response very positively, you likely have little concern about infection, and you thought the stay-at-home orders should have been lifted about 20 minutes after they were ordered.
Social media is a particularly rank petri dish for confirmation bias, and the ‘rona is again highlighting our confirmation bias. Those who are conservative and are highly skeptical of media and government in general are posting conspiracy theories about how the government is creating the crisis, beliefs that the media is inflaming a non-situation, and other “proof” posts like the video of a scientist claiming Dr. Fauci led a cabal that ran her out for blowing the whistle on their black-magic science, despite the fact that 5 minutes with Google can show that her claims have more holes in them than my daughters sweatshirt after it was left by the dog’s kennel for a day. On the other hand, my liberal friends are filling their feeds with posts say “AHHHH WEAR UR MASKS EVRYWHR OR WUR ALL GUNNA DIEYYYYYYYY!!!!!”
Listen, we’re all free to believe what we think is best, and we are all called to be loving and considerate of others (a rule that applies to social media as much as the rest of life). We are free to encourage others and try to get others to see our views and beliefs in a way that is respectful. And others are free to continue to disagree and act on their beliefs. We can discuss and disagree in a respectful and even loving way if we are simply willing to have a little humility and listen to one another.
The key to confirmation bias is this: if we are going to live our lives in an echo chamber, only surrounding ourselves with people and information that will validate what we already want to think, we’re aren’t going to know the truth, and the truth is what we are called to as believers. Throughout scriptures truth and light are tied together, and falsehoods and lies are tied with the darkness. And, as much as we may want to believe it, no political party or single group has the market cornered on truth, so a personal evaluation for you might be whether or not you find yourself in agreement at- or near-100% of the time with any one group or person (except me; its good to always agree with me).
Conservatives-look at news from someone besides Fox News and One America News occasionally. Liberals, take a peak at the Drudge Report from time to time (I won’t turn you in). Listen to some alternate viewpoints, vet your sources, and find reliable sources for information (SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE!!!).
Have a healthy level of skepticism on everything. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into an “all or nothing” belief system-just because you disagree on some things doesn’t mean you are rejecting everything (example: you can be a Republican and dislike Trump, and you can be a Democrat and support his COVID-19 response or other policies and actions). Learn to think critically and examine issues from multiple angles.
And, above all, don’t allow fear to drive you. The world is driven by power and control, and there is little that allows us to be controlled quite as well as fear. But we who are in Christ have nothing to fear, because our hope is in eternity, and there is nothing that this world can throw at us that can change that.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.-2 Timothy 1:8