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Status Quo & Confirmation Bias vs Scientific Hypothesis Testing

About a week ago I became keenly aware of the way the term “confirm” is regularly used in society today … and I do believe it is used quite differently today than it was used many centuries or perhaps even millennia ago. To speak of millennia, of course, draws attention to the way this term has obviously been handed down to us from Roman times.

The word “confirm” is built from two parts: the prefix “con-” and the root (or basic notion) “firm”. The prefix usually means something like “together“, yet some dictionaries claim that in this particular case it is supposed to mean something like “intense“. The basic concept “firm” means what it has apparently always meant — something like strong or stable (and please also note that the concept of a firm is a very social concept … basically a company or some similar social institution). From these considerations, it also becomes clear how the notion of “confirmation” became so particularly meaningful in the context of christian churches — namely as a ritual in which a person stated (or “confirmed”, together and along with other believers) their own belief in the validity (and their own trust in) the entire belief system. Over time, this “bandwagon” aspect of a strength in numbers (or, more precisely, a strength via numbers) apparently became less and less significant. Hence, today we use “confirm” as rather matter-of-fact, and not at all as a matter of groupthink or even group psychosis. Some people even go so far as to say things like “confirm a hypothesis” — and do so completely nonchalantly, as if there were nothing as normal in science as to confirm a hypothesis. In fact, nothing could be further from the true scientific method.

Indeed: Today science is quite often put on a stretcher and distorted to make results fit the mainstream propaganda agenda — and to call it mainstream ought to ring true to the populist confirmation bias it employs. “Confirmed cases” are not scientific, because there is nothing scientific about confirmation. Hypotheses are tested. The results of hypothesis testing are either to reject or to not reject. Hypotheses are never accepted, let alone confirmed.

Yet most people already appear quite challenged with even the most basic expectations of literacy, let alone the scientific method. In many modern societies today, science has been replaced with Google.

About a decade ago, I asked a question on a popular website focused on questions — essentially: what is the difference between believing in Google versus believing in the Pope? I was very amused by some of the answers.

Confirmation bias is very much alive and well today, and some of the greatest “con artists” (who employ “confidence tricks” to sucker gullible fools into buying whatever they are selling) — and especially Google (see also Chapter 9The Social Construction of Publishing“) — reap great profits from the huge masses of their innocent herd-behavior followers … who are completely mesmerized and behaving with complete blind faith (for an excellent introduction into to the crucial factors at play in such psychological manipulation games, see also Maria Konnikova’s fine presentation at Davos, covered in “Con artists thrive where trust meets self-deception” [ ] ).

Con artists thrive where trust meets self-deception [ ]

A few days ago, I made a suggestion — no, an invitation — to hack around a bit (see “Shortlisted Hacks in Topical Search for WCEU 2022” [ ] ). So far, the reponse has been little (or maybe even nothing) more than crickets. Maybe “good things come to he who waits” (as one of my middle school teachers was fond of saying as he handed out his graded results, hardly ever actually fulfilling my very practiced patience) … I guess I will just have to (once again) wait and see.


By New Media Works

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