Sunday, January 19, 2014


Why are some people so sure there is a God and others so sure there isn't? How can a particular interpretation of the Bible seem so obvious and logical to one person but so obviously wrong to another?

Seeing Patterns in Noise:
The Virgin Mary on grilled cheese
Humans have an amazing ability to recognize patterns in data. We have an equally amazing ability to recognize patterns in meaningless, random noise. We also are very good at making generalizations from insufficient data, jumping to facile "black or white" conclusions, and filtering out data that conflicts with what we already believe or want to believe. These represent only a few of the many cognitive biases that impair our ability to interpret data.

We are especially bad at interpreting data in the context of theology. If you need proof, look carefully at both sides of almost any “Atheism vs. Christianity” debate on the Internet. The problem is not lack of data. Quite the opposite! There is so much relevant data that it's impossible for anyone to adequately grasp it. Thus, we tend to focus on a narrow subset of data and let our cognitive biases take care of the rest.

I am no less prone to these errors than anyone else. But I do know some tools from my line of work that are helpful in minimizing our biases and extracting useful information from large, complex datasets. This blog will apply data mining concepts (along with some psychology, meteorology, and personal opinion) to challenge people of all faiths (or lack thereof) to look at theological “data” in a new way.

Thanks for reading!