Reasonable Bias   Leave a comment

All of us have biases. We want to believe we don’t. “I’m enlightened and I don’t base my decisions on subconscious or unconscious cues!” We say that, yet we do just that every day, all day long.

Discrimination is a survival skill, so it is biologically impossible not to be biased. It’s written into our DNA. I’m personally not a big believer in evolution, but neuroscientists say bias is how we survived as a species. Our ancestors saw something that looked scary and either ran away or killed it. Those who didn’t gradually died off, leaving behind the ones who fled or fought.

Some people would say that we in the 21st century no longer need that fight or flight response, so should overcome those inner demons in order to make “rational” decisions. There’s no reason to distrust our fellow man or protect ourselves from him. All will be well if we just let go of our bias … bigotry … racism … violence … guns … religion … nationalism … etc., etc., etc.

I’m unconvinced. I grew up in Alaska, where the civil rights debate was already long over before the United States got around to discussing it, but a product of being raised during the Civil Rights movement is that I try always to admit to myself that I have biases. As a human, I am flawed, damaged by the Fall. But then so are my fellow humans. I hit pause when my instincts might say to distrust someone of a different race or nationality or religion. I’ve met some lovely people by doing that. Yet ….

I’ve been in situations where my gut reaction was to not trust someone and mostly I’ve been proven right by that person’s behavior. I can’t always explain those hunches. Discernment of spirits is a gift of the Spirit, but it might also sometimes boil down to bias — hundreds of pieces of evidence that alert my gut to not trust this person regardless of skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender or whatever. Sometimes you just know somebody is a risk to you.

So while I stand against bigotry, I don’t stand against bias because I think it’s a useful tool for self-protection. Joyce Brothers suggested that the gut knows what the head hasn’t get processed.

There are some biases that we should set aside though and for good reason. I try never to hide from those whose opinions are different from my own. In fact, I’ll invite an argument with them just to hear what they have to say. Why? Diversity of opinion is a far better methodology for solving complex problems than the utilization of similar-minded folks. Far too many people live in a bubble these days, refusing to even entertain arguments they disagree with.

That, by the way, is a more dangerous discrimination than choosing to live in an all-white (or all-black) neighborhood, because you can commute out of that neighborhood to interact with other races, but when you segregate your information and opinion, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to see realities that you may one day wish you’d seen earlier.

It’s why I’m listening to all the presidential debates. I know that in the end, I’m not going to agree with certain candidates. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both statists intent upon taking away my freedoms to enrich themselves or their own special interests and I opposed dynastic rule on principle, so Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will not be getting my vote. Regardless of that, I will listen and take notes and then read the transcripts later, because for me, it’s important to be fully informed on as many sides of the issue as I can manage. That doesn’t mean I have to agree, but it does mean that at times I might change my mind … if the evidence is strong enough to warrant it.

But know that if you come at me arguing for (example) gun control and you haven’t bothered to look for solutions favored outside of your own bubble, that you’re not going to convince me because I have already looked at your argument and found it to be lacking. Until you take the blinders off and look at the other side (or several angles), you are showing your bias rather than your reason.

Posted October 14, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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