Monday, May 30, 2011

Another look at Bias and Prayer

I ran across this story today which I hadn't heard about before so I did some investigation and thought I would share my findings because it shows how Confirmation Bias leads to false conclusions.

Back in November 2007 Georgia (the whole southeast) had been experiencing a severe drought for some 18 months. So Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced he would hold a public prayer to ask god for relief from the drought because, as we all know, "The only solution is rain, and the only place we get that is from a higher power," said Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley.

So the first question here (which apparently didn't occur to many in the media), is how many people, how many farmers prayed during that year for rain already over that year?  Keep in mind that those thousands upon thousands of prayers went unanswered.

Now read the very last line of this report about the upcoming event:
Now in Georgia, there is a little rain predicted, but not enough to end a drought.
"There is a little rain predicted," well now, isn't that convenient. Let's schedule a public prayer right around the time SCIENCE is already predicting precipitation. And if it so much as sprinkles on that day? Thank GOD we prayed.  I'm disgusted by this kind of duplicity honestly.  They wait 18 months to make a big deal out of a prayer meeting when meteorologists just happen to be predicting precipitation.  I'm also a little ashamed that people fall prey to such simplistic manipulation.

And then people (see this YouTube video) take ONE instance out of what could be tens of thousands and count that as a rousing success DESPITE the fact that the drought continued to worsen and lingered on through 2008, it got much WORSE in many locations after Nov 2007 and it was relieved only in late 2008 and 2009 for some regions.  This is a perfect example of Confirmation Bias
Drought conditions persisted and actually continued to worsen during December. This was especially true during the first half of the month when unseasonably warm, dry weather prevailed across the region
Lake Lanier in northeast Georgia and the main water supply for the Atlanta metropolitan area, dropped to its lowest level in history on December 28, 2007
Tell ya what, next time there is a drought, wait 6 years before praying and see if it corrects itself without the prayer and only then pray when meteorologists are predicting the weather to be the absolute worst, not when they are finally predicting some rain.

A detailed analysis of the 2006-2008 Drought:

See also:

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