One of the best examples of this “€œput the conclusion first, and then let confirmation bias “€˜prove”€™ it”€ methodology is the fact that three separate SJWs apparently decided to connect pumpkin spice lattes to sexism, and they came up with two completely contradictory, diametrically opposed interpretations. Min Cheng, a student at Swarthmore, published an op-ed in the school newspaper in which she argued that disliking pumpkin spice lattes is misogynistic. At the other end of the continent, Lisa Jordan Powell, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, published an academic paper (along with coauthor Professor Elizabeth Engelhardt of UNC Chapel Hill) in which she argued that liking pumpkin spice lattes is misogynistic. These SJWs made completely opposite “€œdiscoveries”€: Liking pumpkin spice lattes “€œproves”€ misogyny; not liking pumpkin spice lattes “€œproves”€ misogyny. And how can that be? Because it ain”€™t the lattes, girls, it’s you. All Cheng’s op-ed and Powell and Engelhardt’s paper prove is that if you set your mind to it, you can interpret anything as sexist, racist, homophobic, etc., because the human mind, if it’s good for anything, is good for constructing and telling a story, taking fragments and fashioning a complete tale by filling in the gray areas with fiction.

This is a problem caused by a lack of critical thinking, which is why so much of it seems to originate on college campuses, where critical thinking is strongly dissuaded these days. Leftist professors encourage their students to seek new reasons to feel victimized and to “€œdiscover”€ new injustices that may be blind to the human eye but look great in a Salon.com essay. Last week, this collegiate embrace of confirmation bias might have contributed to a terror attack. Abdul Artan, the “€œself-radicalized”€ Muslim nutcase who went on a car-and-knife attack spree at Ohio State University, had been taking a “€œdiversity”€ class in which he”€™d been instructed to find new examples of racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic “€œmicroaggressions.”€ As described by Reason.com:

In fact, he had a group project on “microaggressions” due later this week. The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus.

In other words, the students were instructed to find examples of people doing things that are not on the surface racist, sexist, et al, interpret those things in a way that they become racist, sexist, et al, and then present those “€œfindings”€ as though they”€™d uncovered something concrete and objective, with the bias of the observer playing no role. It’s startling the extent to which that’s the opposite of a critical-thinking exercise. Encouraging students to actively employ confirmation bias, to embrace it, and to use it in order to suss out hidden “€œenemies”€ is appalling. To insist on this behavior in order to receive a passing grade is educational malpractice. Artan’s confirmation bias, encouraged by his professors, most likely contributed to his attack on his fellow students. Wouldn”€™t it have been great if he”€™d had teachers who”€™d actually encouraged him to question his assumptions, rather than ordering him to indulge them?

Mr. Manboobs Matt Cornell is a grotesque and comical example of the pitfalls of confirmation bias; Abdul Artan was a far more malevolent illustration. Both are symptoms of a disease facing the West”€”the rejection of critical thinking in the name of social justice identity politics. And with the left so entrenched in academia, I”€™m not holding out much hope for a cure. It’s a very depressing thought; I think I”€™ll try to cheer myself up by taking a nice relaxing walk in this beautiful end-of-autumn weather, perhaps stopping off at my local Starbucks, where I can take heart in the knowledge that whether I buy the pumpkin spice latte or pass it up, thanks to confirmation bias, it’s been “€œproven”€ that my decision demonstrates how much I hate women.



Columnists

Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!

SIGN UP

Daily updates with TM’s latest