THE DIFFICULTY IN DISCUSSING BIAS
Most (people) when they are thinking are merely rearranging their prejudices
- William James - Psychologist and philosopher
Bias is related to narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and unfairness. However, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to discuss the topic as “unfairness” and “intolerance” can be loaded with secondary issues. Here are a few examples:
People can be easily upset when they believe Bias affects them personally. So when they discuss bias they will automatically want to talk about details of their sensitive subject. They then miss the broader issue of bias itself.
Those who are easily offended can feel they are the target of a bias when they really aren't. In an identical circumstance others understand that anything and everything can offend someone; so it’s best to adjust their own perception of what constitutes bias.
Also, “fairness” can be decided by a person, a social group, or the broader culture. So as both the narrow and broader views change, ideas about bias will also change. For topics like Race one would expect recognizing bias would be obvious to all. Unfortunately views about high profile topics have become associated with many peripheral issues, such as cultural differences, which are often open to interpretation.
One way to look at the changes in ideas is to look at the viewpoints of recent generations. In broad strokes the pre-boomer generation was taught that the concepts of free-speech, skepticism, and honesty were prime goals towards good citizenship. The baby-boomers were nonconformists, believed in being independent, and that truth was relative to circumstances. The current millennial generation are devout advocates of open-mindedness, have a desire to solve the world’s problems by the use of science, and enjoy being team-players towards their common goals.
Certainly each generation has an impressive list of beliefs but each will see biases differently. Also, the Bias currently uppermost in the news media’s world will invariably be the one that takes priority in many people’s minds.
So here is the complexity: the priority that is placed on these essentially positive characteristics will modify one’s idea about what is considered to be a bias, and also one’s degree of bias. The only way that Bias can be resolved is for the topic itself to be unbiased. Otherwise it will fall into the trap called the fallacy of circular reasoning.
It is hoped this website, and our soon to be released book, will show ways around these problems. It will be difficult: it has been said that to master a skill like playing the piano can take from 2,000 to 10,000 hours of practice. Hopefully mastering the issue of bias can be achieved in slightly less time.