Today, news of Arkansas' dead red-wing blackbirds and dead fish prompted an Internet firestorm of people doing massive searches relating the dead birds and dead fish to the apocalypse and/or the end times. The article on GodDiscussion received more than 15, 817 views in 18 hours on this topic, with search terms including "dead birds Bible," "dead birds dead fish revelation," among other similar apocalyptic search terms, and the apocalyptic search terms for this article is still going strong at this hour.
There were many comments about "biblical prophecy" coming true with dead birds falling from the sky, the dead birds being related to the seventh seal of Revelation (one suggested the sixth seal), and upon looking, neither the sixth or seventh seals mention anything about dead birds or dead fish. In fact, upon consulting Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, research using "birds" "fish," "dead birds," and "dead fish" turned up zero Biblical references. Hosea 4:3 was the closest the research turned up, and was brought up by one commenter. However, this verse talks about the whoring of Israel and the unfaithfulness of the priests of Israel and the people of Israel. It is not talking about end times, or anything having to do with the apocalypse.
Today's massive reaction to the dead birds and dead fish article reminds us of the Pew Research Forum study where 41% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return by the year 2050:
By the year 2050, 41% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ definitely (23%) or probably (18%) will have returned to earth. However, a 46%-plurality of the public does not believe Christ will return during the next 40 years. Fully 58% of white evangelical Christians say Christ will return to earth in this period, by far the highest percentage in any religious group. Only about a third of Catholics (32%) and even fewer white mainline Protestants (27%) predict Christ's return to earth by 2050. One-in-five religiously unaffiliated Americans also see Christ returning during the next four decades. Americans with no college experience (59%) are much more likely than those with some college experience (35%) or college graduates (19%) to expect Jesus Christ's return. By region, those in the South (52%) are the most likely to predict a Second Coming by 2050.
Because Christ's Second Coming coincides with apocalyptic events, today was proof positive that confirmation bias exists. This morning search terms consisted mainly of "dead birds" looking for the news report, but by early afternoon to late evening the search terms changed into "dead birds in the bible," "apocalypse," "dead birds in the book of Revelation," "birds falling on New Year's biblical," "birds dropping from the sky bible," "birds fish die bible" "the book of revelation dead birds dead fish." See screen shot:
Confirmation bias is the phenomenon where people tend to favor information that seems to "confirm" their preconceptions. As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased manner. The biases appear in particular for emotionally significant issues and for established beliefs. Clearly religion is a platform for confirmation biases.