Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cognitive bias....

I have recently reading from a blog named   It is an attempt to answer questions about the Mormon church.  It's author claims to be not trying to prove the LDS church true but to prove it is not false...?  The author has been involved in many lively debates about various topics.  The blog addresses many sensitive issues involving the history of Joseph Smith Jr and the LDS church.  While reading the banter, I have come to the realization that it is impossible to prove or disprove the validity of the LDS church to members.  Those that are true believing members (TBM), are so bias in their thinking that any rational attempt to have an honest discussion about the church and the foundation of the church causes them to perform a mental gymnastic routine to maintain their belief pattern.

This example of bias thinking is what members of the church hold on to.  They are so conditioned in their lives, that any attack on their religion is an attack on them personally.  When members hear a controversial statement from the history of the church such as Joseph Smith marrying another man's wife, they claim that "there must be a reason for it".  Listen if there is smoke there is fire.  I don't care who you are, that is unacceptable.

If there is a controversial doctrine taught such as the Adam-God theory, one that preached as doctrine by Brigham Young,  only to be discarded as false by later prophets, members will claim, " we will find it all out in the next life".  I call BS on that one. If God is never changing and this the the True Gospel than those claims need to be addressed. 

The members bias thinking causes them to only see the church through rose colored glasses.  The author of the blog must be wearing two pairs. The leaders of the church are men, and act as men.  They screw up and have led the church down some "wide paths".  Blood Atonement, Adam-God theory, Blacks and the priesthood, etc.  Polygamy, in my opinion, has nothing to do with God, but it was about sex.  Sure they took care the families, although even  Brother Brigham had his favorites.  Polygamy created a second class status for the women in the church while elevating the men to positions of power. But that topic is for another blog.

An example of how cognitive bias can manipulate people seeking the truth can be seen in the Book of Mormon promise in Moroni 10:3-5.  Here is where one must go all in, to find out if the church is actually true.  Millions of faithful members have claimed to have a "spiritual witness" of the truth of that book.  The Mormon church's claim of the only restored gospel lives and dies with that claim.  Either Joseph Smith was a prophet or not.  As Joseph Smith claimed it is the "keystone" of the religion and if the keystone falls than the arch follows.

The writer of the mentioned blog was asked why some people have received a witness while others have tried the experiment and have had no experience with the spirit.  The author answered with the typical answer of not being sincere or having faith to receive an answer.   There lies the problem with faith, whether in the Mormon church or any other religion.  We are told that we must want the answer and be humble to receive it.  This is cognitive bias at its best.  Just by wanting an answer we are tainting the experiment.  We are biased in our attempt to find out.  We skew the results just by wanting to receive an answer.  It is a placebo effect at its core.

One needs to ask if their testimony is truly from the Spirit or from the consciousness of their own mind?  Is it our emotions from wanting it to be true or truly an answer from God.  The same could be true during fast and testimony meetings.  When someone is sharing their feelings and the audience reacts in the same way is it really a witness of the spirit or are we reacting to their emotions. 

The one saving point in the Moroni promise is the disclaimer mentioned in verse 4.  We are told to ask, "..if these things are not true;".  Notice the word NOT.  It is there for a reason.  If one wants to find out the things of God, then one must stop the bias that creates faith.  If the gospel is true it must stand up to scrutiny and the scientific method.   We must not taint the results with our own opinions and wants.  That isn't a testimony.  A testimony or faith comes from the Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. 


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