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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Archive for tag: confirmation bias

Rival theories for a global cooling

Did a cosmic impact cause the Younger Dryas cooling?

My latest Mind and Matter column for the Wall Street Journal:

Scientists, it's said, behave more like lawyers than philosophers. They do not so much test their theories as prosecute their cases, seeking supportive evidence and ignoring data that do not fit-a failing known as confirmation bias. They then accuse their opponents of doing the same thing. This is what makes debates over nature and nurture, dietary fat and climate change so polarized.

But just because the prosecutor is biased in favor of his case does not mean the defendant is innocent. Sometimes biased advocates are right. An example of this phenomenon is now being played out in geology over the controversial idea that a meteorite or comet hit the earth 12,900 years ago and cooled the climate.