Beware of the bias
Everyone is biased
If you change the bias in lawn bowling, the ball curves in the opposite direction and finishes in a different position. Similarly, if you change the bias (assumptions) in a scientific investigation you may obtain a different outcome.
In this post we look at the occurrence of bias in scientific investigations.
The “art” in science
The use of the scientific method to investigate our world isn’t always objective. Many subjective decisions need to be made in the planning, implementation, and data assessment phases of most scientific investigations. And these subjective decisions can have a major impact on the findings, particularly in forensic science and historical science.
When Dr Robert Carter analyzed genetic data he stated, “there is an art to the science, and we have to be careful when … a pronouncement (is) based on art and assumption and it’s not the raw data”.
Examples of bias
The following examples of bias in science have come to my attention recently.
The laboratory results for radiometric dating are usually widely scattered. But how are they used in practice? Save-Soderberg and Olsson said, “If a carbon 14 age supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it’s completely ‘out of date’, we just drop it”.
So, the radiometric dating results used depend on your bias. They will be based on what you already believe. You filter them according to your bias.
The molecular clock is a time calculation based on assuming that mutations accumulate at a constant rate. But how do we determine which mutation rate to use? Evolutionary scientists assume that humans evolved from a chimp-like ancestor about 6 million years ago in order to calibrate their molecular clock. But directly measuring mutation rates in the present, comparing parents and offspring – known as the Pedigree Method, gives mutation rates that are typically 10-20 times higher than those inferred based on assumptions of ape to mankind evolution.
So, the results you get using a molecular clock depend on your bias.
When Dr Robert Carter prepared a phylogenetic tree based on the Y-chromosome of all men, he said, “This tree was drawn after I filtered a lot of data because the raw genetic data is full of errors. So, there is an art to the science, and we have to be careful when an evolutionist makes a pronouncement based on art and assumption and it’s not the raw data.”
So, the results you get when preparing a phylogenetic tree depend on your bias. Which data will you use, and which data will you discard?
When evolutionary scientists compared the chimpanzee genome with the human genome, they assumed common ancestry without ever testing it. I wonder what the result would be without this assumption.
So, the results you get when comparing genomes will depend on your bias.
Uniformitarian dates come from naturalistic mathematical models of the earth, solar system and the universe. The universe was dated at about 13.8 billion years based on the big bang model, which is turn was based on the size of the universe and the expansion rate of the universe. The solar system was dated at about 4.6 billion years based on the nebular hypothesis (that the solar system formed from a collapsing dust/gas cloud) and measurements of meteorites.
Your interpretation of past events will depend on your bias. A naturalistic bias in astronomy results in deep time.
The geologic time scale is a theoretical scale based on the hypothetical geologic column. These are both based on the assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism. Index fossils played an important role in the development of the geologic column. And they still play an important role when dating geological strata. The dating of the rocks depends on the evolutionary sequence of the fossils, but the evolutionary interpretation of the fossils depends on the dating of the rocks. So, the theory of biological evolution is used to establish the geologic time scale, and the geologic time scale is used to support the theory of biological evolution. This is an example of circular reasoning.
Your interpretation of past events will depend on your bias. A naturalistic bias in earth history results in geologic time.
The bible claims to be a God-given account of historical events. It describes the creation of the universe and the creation of people and their history since that time. This bias has the advantage of including God’s eyewitness account of creation. This insight is not available from any other source or from any observations made in the present.
Your interpretation of past events will depend on your bias. A biblical bias in history results in biblical time and the biblical account of events in the earth’s early history.
Steve McIntyre has shown that the paleoclimate science used to infer atmospheric temperatures over the past 2,000 years is not robust. He says, “It’s hard for readers unfamiliar with the topic to fully appreciate the extreme inconsistency of underlying ‘proxy’ data”. And he accuses researchers of cherry-picking the raw data in order to produce a ‘hockey stick’ shape in the temperature trend. The graph used by the IPCC includes this reconstructed data with little evidence of the well-known medieval warming period (AD 900-1300) and little ice age (1400-1850).
Your interpretation of past proxy atmospheric temperature data will depend on your bias. A climate alarmist bias results in the hockey stick temperature graph. I wonder what the graph would look like without this bias. Another example of how one’s bias affects their view on climate change is given in the Appendix.
Confirmation bias is an inclination to prefer information that supports our beliefs and biases. We can have a biased search for information, a biased interpretation of information and a biased memory. There is a tendency to cherry-pick information that favors our belief and bias, and to be skeptical of information that contradicts our belief and bias.
Our bias is driven by our worldview, which includes presuppositions that are held by faith. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which research design and methodology as well as the
interpretation of the data includes the finding. For example, testing a hypothesis with the data used to construct the hypothesis is circular reasoning. To some degree all biases and all worldviews are guilty of circular reasoning.
Bias comes onto play in science whenever there is a choice to be made. If the choice influences the outcome, then your bias also influences the outcome. In this case, a different bias could lead to a different outcome. So, people with different biases can use the scientific method to produce different findings.
By the way, circular reasoning does not preclude something being true—it just means that it cannot be used to establish something outside of itself without other supporting links in the chain of reasoning.
Testing the bias
All examples of bias include presuppositions. One way to test these is to ask the following. Are they self-consistent? Are they consistent with the real world?
When I tested it, I found that deep time was not consistent with the real world. For example, it breaches the law of conservation of mass-energy at the beginning of the big bang model when something comes from nothing. And it breaches the laws of physics when cosmic inflation is invoked soon after the beginning to solve the horizon problem. The big bang model is also inconsistent because it claims to be based on naturalism, but it requires these miracles!
When I tested it, I found that geologic time was not consistent with the real world. For example, the biblical time scale gives a more realistic explanation of the following phenomena than the uniformitarian (geologic) time scale:
– Orally-transmitted Aboriginal stories,
– Coastal geomorphology,
– Fossilization of large animals,
– Soft tissue in dinosaur bones, and
– Living fossils.
And the assumption of geologic time gives mutation rates that are much lower than those observed in the human genome. This should flag that there is something wrong with the assumption of geologic time.
When I tested it, I found that the theory of biological evolution was not consistent with the real world. For example, it breaches the law of biogenesis (which says that all life comes from life) when it assumes that life originated from non-living chemicals via chemical evolution.
So the biases of deep time, geologic time and biological evolution fail the tests of consistency with the real world.
Furthermore, the supernatural explanation of the universe is superior to the naturalistic explanation. The eternal creator God is the best explanation of the following attributes of the universe:
– The universe had a beginning,
– The universe appears to be fine-tuned for conscious life,
– Life on earth emerged from non-life,
– Biological organisms appear to be designed,
– Non-material consciousness emerged from unconscious matter,
– Humans are “free agents” in an otherwise “cause and effect” world,
– Universal, objective moral truths exist, and
– Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts.
God also explains the origin of the laws that govern the universe and the origin of information.
Christianity based on the Bible makes more sense of reality than any other worldview. The Bible provided the basis for modern science – it arose in Christian Europe. The universe is orderly because it was made by a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33). It also provides a foundation for voluntary will, logic and morality.
When a paper is submitted to the scientific journal Nature it must include a competing interests statement like, “Dr X’s work has been funded by A. He has received compensation as a member of the scientific advisory board of B and owns stock in the company. He also has consulted for C and received compensation. Dr Y and Dr Z declare no potential conflict of interest.”
We have seen that there will be a degree of bias in every scientific investigation. And sometimes this will have a significant impact on the findings, particularly in forensic science and historical science. Unfortunately, the authors of academic papers don’t declare their worldview bias. For example, atheistic naturalism is a major bias today. But you should be able to determine their bias from the contents of the paper. Then see if the findings would be different if they had a biblical bias.
In order to assess a scientific statement take note of the bias of the author. Then ask questions like, how is it influenced by the bias (presupposition and prejudice) of the scientist?
Some say that Christians have a difficult relationship with science. That is not true. But they don’t necessarily accept findings that are based on biases that they disagree with. In this sense there is more than one kind of scientific finding – there can be different findings based on different biases.
Epidemiological models are mathematical simulations of the spread of a disease through a population. They have been used to guide authorities in responding to the spread of COVID-19. These models make assumptions about all aspects of the spread of COVID-19. They are sensitive to the data they use and the assumptions they’re built on. The biggest source of uncertainty in COVID-19 models is not how the virus behaves, but how people do. So, the assumptions about human behavior can have a big impact on the model’s predictions. For example, one model’s predictions were wrong because students broke the law by attending parties after testing positive and being told to quarantine. This behavior had not been included in the model. The models depend on the assumptions you make. If you change the assumptions made in the model, the findings will change. This is like changing the bias in a scientific investigation.
Everyone is biased and there is a degree of bias in every scientific investigation. And this bias can affect the outcome of the investigation, particularly in forensic science and historical science.
The biases of deep time, geologic time, and biological evolution that are so prevalent today are not consistent with the real world. This makes it difficult to interpret the findings of some scientific investigations today. Is your bias consistent with the real world?
The bias that is most consistent with the real world is Christianity based on the Bible. This also has the advantage of there being a reliable eyewitness for historical science.
Appendix: Application to climate change
Those with a climate alarmist bias believe that the earth’s climate is unstable because there have been a series of ice ages caused by small variations in the earth’s orbit (Milankovitch Cycles). This is also an assumption about geologic time. Consequently, they are alarmed about increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it could lead to run-away global warming.
However, those with a biblical bias believe that the earth’s climate is robust because it was designed that way by God, and because in the past it recovered from the greatest climatic change ever: the global flood and the subsequent ice age. Consequently, they are not as concerned about increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it will not lead to run-away global warming.
Written, August 2021