Science, Literature and Confirmation Bias

Science is in a bit of a crisis right now, according to Michael Suk-Young Che and it's because of  the selective use of data. Psychologists call this "confirmation bias" – we cherry pick data that conforms to our wishes and our world view. We seek out information that confirms what we already believe. And I believe confirmation bias may be a cousin of rationalizations, anyway... An example of this was reported in Nature, where Glenn Begley and Lee M Ellis reported  being able to replicate results in only six out of 53 landmark cancer studies.

The solution: apply some of the rigorous standards of literary criticism.  Quote from critic E. D. Hirsch: “every interpreter labors under the handicap of an inevitable circularity: All his internal evidence tends to support his hypothesis because much of it was constituted by his hypothesis.

And Che finds that an apt analogy for the state of research today.


Research, ScienceDavid Lesondak