Cherry picking

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Cherry picking, when used figuratively, refers to selective extraction of points in an argument in order to refute or affirm them while ignoring others which will not support the point(s) being made. It derives from the obvious reluctance to harvest unripe, or overripe, fruit and to select only those which will make profit (or pie).

Often, cherry-picked factoids or references will be over-extrapolated and oversold to give the impression that they are representative, when they are not.

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[edit] Examples

[edit] Religion

It often occurs that religious fanatics are not altogether in agreement with the holy books and teachings to which they claim to adhere; thus, they are often found cherry-picking points from these holy books, harping on the ones with which they agree and hand-waving away those with which they disagree. Examples:

  • Creationists comb the Bible for quotes that appear to have anticipated scientific truths, such as Hebrews 1:11 (claimed to anticipate the Second Law of Thermodynamics) and Isaiah 40:22 (claimed to anticipate knowledge of the ellipsoidal shape of the earth), while ignoring those that blatantly clash with science.
  • The Protestant and Catholic views of the Bible and the Eucharist:
    • Reformed Protestants were essentially the inventors of Biblical literalism; but when it comes to verses such as Luke 22:19-20, they insist upon a symbolic interpretation, denying that the blood and body of Jesus is literally present in the Eucharist.
    • On the other hand, the Catholic Church prefers broad allegorical interpretations of Bible stories, and generally downplays the significance of the Bible so as to assert a role for its own "Magisterium;" but when it comes to the Eucharist, they insist upon the literal interpretation, making cannibals and vampires out of partakers in the sacrament.

[edit] Pharmaceutical industry

In the pharmaeutical industry, a "cherry picking protocol" can be part of the drug discovery process. Say you're looking for a drug that'll neutralize Protein XYZ. You take several thousand chemicals whose effects are unknown, and dose a small number of cells in a culture medium with each chemical individually, putting each chemical/cell culture combo in its own separate miniature test tube. You then pass them under a detector that can tell if the cells were affected or not, which records which tubes had a response you're looking for and which didn't. The act of separating out the tubes that had a response, for further testing, is called "hit picking" or "cherry picking."

[edit] Automotive industry

A mechanic who chooses to work on newer units in relatively pristine condition, leaving the more intractable and less convenient jobs for others to swear at, could be said to be cherry picking.

[edit] Related concepts

  • Quote mining is a form of cherry picking, and the genuine points used in construction of straw man arguments are typically cherry-picked.
  • Selective reporting is a form of cherry picking that serves to play up the significance of certain rare kinds of events (e.g., school shootings).
  • Confirmation bias is the tendency of people to seek out only facts that fit their pre-existing views, which can lead to cherry picking.

[edit] External links

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