Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 3/10

January 28, 2012

In the video embedded in Part 2, Associate Professor of Philosophy Kevin deLaplante, talked about Confirmation Bias and the Evolution of Reason.

From a discussion at the James Randi Educational Foundation, we learn there isn’t much of a difference between cherry picking and confirmation bias. In fact, cherry picking, is also known as suppressing evidence and the fallacy of incomplete evidence.

Professor deLaplante says, “Confirmation bias is a tendency we have to filter and interpret evidence in ways that reinforce our beliefs and expectations. To deal with this bias we must force ourselves to seek out and weigh even the evidence that might count against our beliefs and expectations.”

Cognitive bias research conducted over the past forty years on this topic revealed that confirmation bias leads to making bad decisions. Confirmation biases lead us to proportionately accept arguments that support our beliefs and reject arguments that challenge our beliefs and this leads to errors in judgment.

An example of cherry picking and/or confirmation bias appears in Part 3 of our debate when Sid said, “Locating a valid academic source concluding Mao’s reign was more beneficial than not is impossible.”

I replied,”Proving China prospered [on average] under Mao at the same time that Chinese people suffered due to Mao’s Anti-Rightist Campaigns was easy. Professor Stephen Thomas [University of Colorado at Denver] wrote for the World Bank’s Forum on Public Policy, ‘In 1949, the newly established People’s Republic of China designed and carried out economic development policies that led to an annual average economic growth rate of about 4 percent from 1953 to 1978, among the highest in the developing world…‘”

The Ad Hominem Fallacy. Source: The Critical Thinking Academy

Another example may be found in Part 4 of our debate where Sid says, “China’s achievements have occurred despite Confucian values. Overwhelmingly, Confucianism works only to stifle creativity, stymie critical thinking, and nullify questioning. It is a form of authoritarianism, tyranny of the mind and soul… I don’t deny China’s scientific achievements… Chinese innovations should not be disregarded. However, it must be asked why so few have appeared in modern history.”

Sid’s flawed logic follows the pattern Professor deLaplante revealed in Part 2 of this series of posts.

1. Confucianism is a form of authoritarianism, a tyranny of the mind and soul that stifles creativity and stymies critical thinking, which nullifies questioning.

2. The Chinese are influenced by Confucianism

Therefore, all [1.3 billion] Chinese are incapable of being creative, thinking critically, etc.

If Sid had not been cherry picking or fallen victim to his own confirmation bias to prove his theory that Confucian values stifle creativity, he would have realized that this theory is not realistic. In fact, he dismissed China’s innovations over the centuries by claiming they happened in spite of Confucianism inferring that those innovations were accidents.

However, the facts say otherwise.

Over more than a thousand years, mostly during the Han (206 BC – 219 AD), T’ang (618 – 906 AD) and Sung (960 – 1276 AD) Dynasties, in spite of being ruled by authoritarian governments with an emperor that was considered a god, the Chinese, probably because of the Confucian emphasis on education, developed paper, the printing press, the compass, a method to measure earthquakes, multi-stage rockets, holistic/herbal medicine, a cure for scurvy centuries before the West, the stirrup, the crossbow, gunpowder, the cannon, the Pound Lock used on the Grand Canal and much more—all during extended periods of stability and prosperity.

In fact, forms of authoritarianism do not stifle innovation. If this were so, Hitler’s Nazi Germany would not have developed the solid fuel rocket, the first freeway system [the autobahn], jet engines and stealth technology. Instead, the evidence says that most innovation takes place in times of economic stability and prosperity regardless of the type of government, political or cultural philosophy.

If you doubt this, I suggest visiting Idea and spend time studying the incomplete Innovation Timeline, which covers about 500,000 years of innovation or read Ancient Chinese Inventions that Changed the World.

Continued on January 29, 2012 in Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 4 or return to Part 2


Meet the real Sid and learn about him from his own words and the opinions of others



Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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