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Confirmation Bias

I watched a documentary on television recently called ‘Air Crash Investigation’. This series of documentaries look at aeroplane crashes of different airlines. It tells the stories of how the accidents came about, as well as the detailed investigations that follow an air crash to find the cause of the disaster.

This particular episode that I watched, dealt with the account of an aeroplane that crashed because of pilot error. It was determined that the captain misread the coordinates for the destination on his flight plan, and therefore set the instrumentation of the airplane to fly in a westerly direction, instead of a southerly direction. The co-pilot was less experienced than the captain. Consequently, instead of verifying that the captain had correctly set the coordinates of the aircraft, which was part of his duty as co-pilot, he simply accepted the experienced captain’s actions as being accurate. The result of this pilot error was that the aircraft flew completely off course, and by the time it became clear that they were nowhere near their destination or any airstrip, they had run low on fuel, and needed to do an emergency landing in a forest.

Both pilots were so sure they were following the correct route and procedures that they failed to notice some key indicators that they were off course. For example, the aircraft took off from the airport, and continued flying into the setting sun. The pilots failed to notice that this would be an indication that something was wrong, as the sun sets in the west, and they needed to be heading south! According to their calculations, all was in order.

Even when they were unable to find the runway that was supposed to be within sight at a particular point in their journey, they were certain that they recognised a river below them as one that runs close to their intended destination. This was in actual fact a river many miles from there. The air crash investigators called this ‘confirmation bias’, which is defined as ‘The tendency to favour information that confirms what we already believe’.

As I watched this programme, it struck me that I needed to guard my heart against confirmation bias when it comes to the things of God. I know from experience that it is possible to be so sure of my own understanding of something I believe to be true, or something I had been taught as a child, that I could find scripture to support what I already believed. There may even be a ‘co-pilot’ in my life, less mature in the things of the Lord, who will back me up in my arguments and go along with what I proclaim to be true.

If persisting in this erroneous belief system, the result may be disastrous for me as well as those looking to me for direction in the things of the Lord. No wonder the Bible warns that not many of us should become teachers, because teachers will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity! (See James 3:1 – amplified).

The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is the One of whom Jesus said, ‘But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will guide you into all Truth (the whole, full Truth)’ (John 16:13 – amplified). When we study the Word, we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His full truth to our spirits. It is always a good idea to measure our own beliefs and opinions carefully against the truth of God’s Word, and to make sure that, what we proclaim as truth, is the complete truth, and not ‘truth’ tainted by our own experiences, biases or erroneous teaching. God has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit. It is our responsibility to make sure we hear accurately from God and that we are ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15) .

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank You so much for being the One who guides me into all truth, and for reminding me of the things Jesus taught. Please help me to discern Your truth and Your voice in the times when the evidence around me, the lies of the enemy, and my own beliefs seems to confirm that which doesn’t line up with Your Word. I trust You as the pilot of my life! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 

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Scripture

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15

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Today's Writer

Christel Baxter joined the Associate prayer ministry team at Shere House, S.Africa in 2008 after attending the 20 day school. She is married to Gary, who serves with her on the associate team. Their children, Liezl and Wesley, are both married and they adore their son-in-law and daughter-in-law! Christel is passionate about seeing broken lives restored and especially loves ministering God`s love and healing to women of all ages.

Christel Baxter


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