The Dangerous Obstacle of Cognitive Bias.
A tiny parasite lancet fluke enters the brain of an ant changing the ant’s behaviour. Instead of the ant gathering food and returning to its colony, it begins climbing blades of grass to reach the top, then falls, then climbs again, relentlessly repeating this cycle until it dies either from expending its life energy climbing, or by getting into the digestive tract of a grazing animal, to the success of the fluke completing its reproductive cycle. It is not a conscious effort by Dicrocelium dendriticum (the fluke) to use the ant. It exists because it does. Unlike the fluke which has no plan just good fortune, dark agendas often succeed by plans to hijack a human brain with an idea, and in the same way, cause the host to carry out missions and rituals with no benefit to the host. It’s an easy way to recruit an army to relentlessly fight for a cause they will not benefit from, or, like the ant, may even be to their detriment.
So, by whom and how are these ‘idea flukes’ planted into human brains? To explain, let’s first look at how we adopt information and from where our biases come.
The human brain holds only about one gigabyte of information; unimpressive when compared to a modern smart phone. But, what makes our brain so awesome is its power of logic and reason, enabling us to develop answers outside of our limitations for memory. Therefore, a healthy brain can actually teach itself from information already stored, by using its ability for deduction. The type of information we store in our gigabyte determines how useful our tools of logic and reasoning are for deducing more knowledge independent of external sources. Bias plays the role in what information we choose, affecting the efficiency of reasoning. The question is, would you rather have the ability to acquire more knowledge than your gigabyte can store, or, have a gigabyte of data incapable of logic and reason.
We are all biased. Bias can be as beneficial as it can be harmful. It determines what we know, and causes the biggest problems our world face today, with impassioned differences on such issues as global warming, religion, education, health (like the pandemic and vaccines), and politics. Bias unites us in groups and divides us as society, instead of uniting us all in our most important endeavours. Bias causing division on important issues can be dangerous to all of us. Therefore, certain improper biases held by some is everyone’s business. Improper? I will return to this.
The reason bias is essential is because we cannot all have hands on personal experience with everything we know. That is why we go to school. We did not all have to invent the heart transplant, or antibiotics, or a myriad of other important things in order to embrace or trust them. We must trust the knowledge of others. Much of what we learn in school was figured out by someone else. A proper education includes learning tools to figure things out using reason. What we trust as information is governed by our bias.
Because our ancestors succeeded the odds against survival, we are hard wired to err on the side of caution. A falling branch could provoke a response of fear to run or fight, because the majority of our ancestors were those who most avoided a predator attack while likely often spooking unnecessarily. Is he friend or foe, can we trust him. All critical decisions. Sharing a bias with someone can also make us comfortable. The bias for caution is still in us.
In order to save space, our minds carry packets of information, like mental memes, as a substitute to understanding more on a subject. What mental memes we chose is determined by our bias. Search engines in your computer will confirm your bias. With the internet at everyone’s fingertips, more than ever before we can research for answers to practically anything. You would think people would be more wise than ever in history. But there is one problem that makes that not so. It is systemic belief. Predisposition for belief. Bias for belief itself.
Why would the most essential information pertinent to not only individual survival, but the survival of our planet to host life, become the most affected by misinformation? The answer is, because anything vitally important can be weaponized, sometimes by hostile foreign powers.
The easiest way for an enemy to gain the upper hand is to fool citizens on the other side to turn against their own government and themselves. A perfect example is the stolen USA election propaganda, resulting in the January 6 attack on democracy. This disgusting display of worship and blind trust of Donald Trump by Americans to attack the cradle of their own democracy, was like the ant climbing blades of grass. They supported an agenda that wasn’t theirs, that being to destroy the very democracy they were fooled into thinking they were defending. It was Trump’s agenda to satisfy his greed for power, to use his followers and please Vladimir Putin. Russia’s proven efforts to infiltrate American social media paid off, with the 2016 election of Trump. This was accomplished easily by planting ‘fluke like’ ideas of misinformation, like bait appealing to the prejudice of those who do not require any proof from their object of worship.
It’s not only foreign powers that use this bait tactic for swallowing an idea. Big industry has figured out how to get support for their cause, which is not, repeat NOT about looking after the future of our planet when most CEOs and board members want their lifetime profits while they are alive, so care nothing about the planet after they die. Many are like locust who pillage a company while building their portfolios, managing in out of balance favour of production to preventative maintenance ratio, hiking profits then exiting before the company pays for its negligent neglect. This is often industry leaders’ self centred modus operandi, and they are the ones looking for ants to push their agenda, an agenda that does not include the costly burden of responsible environmental stewardship. They view the planet as they view their previous companies they used as stepping stones; profit now while the time is theirs and to hell with the mess they leave.
It’s easy to find people to support these selfish agendas. Just spread mistrust in global warming to those who already avoid science. Even develop bogus science ads against the honest science, targeting the ants who can’t tell the difference and would rather hear something happier than truth. They will take care of the rest by climbing blades of grass.
Who are these human ants? They are often referred to as sheep by scripture. They easily believe, easily follow, worship, and often by default mistrust or do not care to understand science in order to preserve faith. It is one thing to be ignorant of evidence and fact, it is another to hold beliefs that go against evidence and fact. There is no better ally of unsupported claims than the faithful who avoid facts and evidence by default to hold fast to systemic belief.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental for democracy, at the same time its weakest link. We do not consider the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 about truth in advertising an infringement on our freedom of speech, yet oddly, bold and easily disproved lies on public forums that endanger lives and democracy, even by a president, by taking advantage of non-critical thinkers, seem to be a lawless freedom. Enough so that millions have been programmed to climb blades of grass against their own best interests, to the cheers of those who gain from our loss. The hijacked brain of the ant becomes food for a grazing animal. The hijacked thinking of the people turns a victory for our enemy by our fervid division on lifesaving vaccines, the truths about Covid 19, electing a president who disabled global warming research, and reduced restrictions on environmental pollution. This in exchange for financial support and shared wealth among their club, a club the ants aren’t in. The ants give life to Trump’s lies against political opponents, and support his undoing the earlier provisions for what now the ants believe (because Trump told them), is useless; the early warning pandemic response system. Our enemies gain in many ways, aside from the obvious of weakening their enemy, dictators have used America’s fall into chaos as a lesson for their subjects who may be yearning for the greener pastures of democracy they’ve seen on the internet. America’s problems now can be used to thwart the potential for uprising like in Libya and China, to show their subjects that democracies are far less stable than structured dictatorships.
Simply put, an improper bias is one that goes against fact and evidence. Opinions can differ on how to deal with facts, but facts are not opinions. If you hold an ideology that keeps you from embracing the truth science reveals, the very least you can do is separate your personal church belief from the state of current affairs, and follow the science to help us all out of this collision path with disaster that can still be avoided. For this, you must love yourself as well as respect all humankind and our planet with all its wonders, and be morally sound.
I’m an atheist. I have that love, respect, and moral responsibility. Do you?
—— Andrew James McQuinn (author of the World’s Biggest Lie: a Trial for Truth.