Perhaps a more honest and more naïve bias is what I’ll call Magic Bias: The belief that supernatural forces intervene in our natural world. In his wonderful book, “The Demon-Haunted World,” Carl Sagan argues for critical and skeptical thinking about such beliefs, while promoting science as a candle in the dark. Magic bias includes belief in gods, demons, horoscopes, psychics, tarot cards, miracles, and lots of other superstitions. People who accept some of these beliefs usually consider other magic beliefs ridiculous. I’m with “ridiculous.”
Miracle believers can find “evidence” for miracles, disregarding coincidence or luck or medical skill; psychic believers have their faith strengthened when a psychic predicts something that can be interpreted as accurate, forgetting predicted inaccuracies. While many may truly believe in magic, some just pretend to believe the unbelievable either because they are expected to play “make believe” or because they profit from believers. (Just picture your favorite charlatan.)
Even when a magic belief is incontrovertibly proven wrong, some cite the cliché, “That’s the exception that proves the rule.” No mathematician would ever say, “That’s the counterexample that proves the theorem.” In fact, counterexamples disprove hypothesized theorems. And so it should be with magic.
A third kind of honest bias occurs among people who are ignorant of essential facts. For instance, some believe that our founders intended America to be a Christian nation under a Constitution that favors Christianity over other religions, and guarantees freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. They believe that all constitutionally based judicial decisions must, of necessity, be biblically based. They are honestly wrong.