Friday, 16 October 2015

Dale Allison: "We all see what we expect to see and want to see"

我一向都很欣賞Dale Allison的坦誠, 佢會更正自己之前寫過的嘢, 亦會對自己本來信奉的嘢提出疑問. 最近喺佢一篇文入面, 見到呢段文字, 是很真實的情況:
Imagine with me a young graduate student in a department of religion. She becomes convinced, let us say, that Albert Schweitzer’s reconstruction of Jesus was close to the truth—or, as the case may be, not close to the truth—because a revered professor, whose arguments she has not the means to rebut, persuades her of this. Once her paradigm about Jesus is in place, a cognitive bias will also be in place. We all see what we expect to see and want to see—like highly prejudicial football fans who always spot more infractions committed by the team they are jeering against than by the team they are cheering for. If we hold a belief, we will notice confirming evidence, especially if we are aware that not everyone agrees with us. Disconfirming evidence, to the contrary, makes us uncomfortable, and so we are more likely to miss, neglect, or critically evaluate it. We do not see things as they are but as we construe them to be. After a period of time, then, one might anticipate that our graduate student will have collected her own evidence for her professor’s belief and become all the more persuaded of its correctness. As soon, moreover, as she communicates her views in public fashion, say by tutoring undergraduates or publishing a paper, she may be set for life—especially as one’s self-perception as an expert, the psychologists tell us, typically enlarges self-confidence. The prospect of embarrassment from publicly admitting error can make it hard to admit error to oneself, to undertake the difficult cognitive task of rearranging data into a new pattern after one has long been looking at an old pattern.
In my own case, my picture of Jesus was developed long before I much worried about the details of method, and long before I went on record as espousing this or that view of the criteria of authenticity. Moreover, and as one would cynically expect, the method that I developed later led straight to a Jesus congenial to the judgments of my youth. This I find disturbing, and my history cannot be atypical. Surely no one started with method. The implication seems to be that developing and deploying our criteria serve less to help us make truly new discoveries than to help us to confirm inclinations already held in advance.
 Dale C. Allison, Jr., "How to Marginalize the Traditional Criteria of Authenticity," in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus (eds. T. Holmen and S.E. Porter; Leiden: Brill, 2011) 3-30.