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Author Topic: Is everyone biased?  (Read 24294 times)

Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Is everyone biased?
« on: April 05, 2014, 07:31:11 AM »

It is standard practice in scholarship to peer review papers, in part because we all are biased.

If "we are all biased," that includes you.

If the proposition "we all are biased" means that individuals cannot be objective, that means that your remark is not objective.

If your remark is biased--if it is objectively true that it is not objective--then it is not a biased remark.

If it is not a biased remark, then it shows that biased people can be objective.

If it is true that biased people can be objective, that means that peer review is not required to achieve objectivity.

Therefore, there is no need for peer review.   8)


If it is true that "we all are biased," then the peer reviewers are biased.

If "biased" means "incapable of being objective," then the peer reviewers are incapable of being objective.

If the peer reviewers cannot be objective, they cannot correct the biases of the authors.

Therefore, peer review is impossible.  :-X


Please do not quote the authority of large numbers of journals that require peer-reviewed papers in your reply.

The argument from authority is the weakest form of argument.

The argument from "what everyone does nowadays" is one of the weakest forms of the weakest form of argument.   ::)


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Steve Lee

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 01:22:03 PM »

It is standard practice in scholarship to peer review papers, in part because we all are biased.

I have replied to this hasty generalization in a different part of the Forum.

Those interested in thinking about bias in a non-trivial way may wish to read about confirmation bias.

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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 01:48:21 PM »

Those interested in thinking about bias in a non-trivial way may wish to read about confirmation bias.

Well, clearly, since you have already said that all humans are biased, and since you are a human being, it stands to reason that you would select an article that confirms your bias.  That is what is to be expected as the logical conclusion from your principles.

Of course, if you mean recommend the article as something that is not biased and that is objectively true, then, of course, it ruins your thesis that all humans are so biased that they cannot be objective.
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Steve Lee

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2014, 02:21:20 PM »

Those interested in thinking about bias in a non-trivial way may wish to read about confirmation bias.

Well, clearly, since you have already said that all humans are biased, and since you are a human being, it stands to reason that you would select an article that confirms your bias.  That is what is to be expected as the logical conclusion from your principles.

Of course, if you mean recommend the article as something that is not biased and that is objectively true, then, of course, it ruins your thesis that all humans are so biased that they cannot be objective.

I think none of us are free of biases.  Perhaps you think otherwise.  I think you should be displaying your logical powers on that other thread you set to discuss the topic--good luck with that discussion. ;)
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2014, 02:34:18 PM »

I think none of us are free of biases.

Yes, that is exactly what you've said before.

Different words, same thought.

"None of us" means you, too--if you mean by "none" and "us" what most people do.

It is so refreshing to hear a man plainly admit that he does not know how to be objective.   

And quite amazing that he is certain that it is an objective fact that no one else knows how to be objective, either.
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Diego Vásquez

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2014, 04:25:16 PM »

OK, I'll bite and provide some hasty generalizations of my own for you to attack, although I'm not sure why.

If the proposition "we all are biased" means that individuals cannot be objective,

This seems to be true only if you assume that bias and objectivity are absolutes.  I think the terms are more commonly used to suggest some degree of the trait, not an either/or on/off proposition.  We all have some degree of bias, some probably more than others, and some ability to set aside some bias and be more objective (although admittedly each of us is stuck with the mind he/she has).  So I don't think Steve's means that people can't be objective to some degree, just that our biases tend to make it hard to do that.

If your remark is biased--if it is objectively true that it is not objective--then it is not a biased remark.
I think you've got a non-sequitur here, no?  Seems you're saying if your remark is biased then it is not a biased remark.  Maybe I'm missing something?


If it is true that biased people can be objective, that means that peer review is not required to achieve objectivity.
Well, technically your conclusion follows from the proposition in that peer review may not be required to achieve objectivity, at least to the extent humanly possible, but again, you're ignoring matters of degree.  I think the point that Steve makes is that it may be easier or more likely to achieve a greater degree of objectivity if one has his or her work reviewed by other people with  different points of view, not that it is absolutely impossible to achieve a good degree of objectivity without that review.

. Therefore, there is no need for peer review. 
Again, maybe technically true that there is no absolute need to use peer review to achieve objectivity (or at least as close as humanly possible to achieve), but having input from a variety of viewpoints usually helps.


If it is true that "we all are biased," then the peer reviewers are biased.
If "biased" means "incapable of being objective," then the peer reviewers are incapable of being objective.
If the peer reviewers cannot be objective, they cannot correct the biases of the authors.
Therefore, peer review is impossible.  :-X

See above re absolute vs degree.  Not sure that bias means incapable of being objective, just less likely to be objective, hard to set aside your biases, etc. 

Please do not quote the authority of large numbers of journals that require peer-reviewed papers in your reply.
OK boss.  He who sets the parameters of the debate usually wins it.

The argument from authority is the weakest form of argument.
Says who?

In short, I don’t quite see what your point is or how it relates to Steve’s post.  Steve made a sincere suggestion to have someone who has no dog in the fight look at the report before publishing it.  I always appreciate someone doing this for me.  I wrote this reply hastily.  If someone would have looked at it for me before I posted it, they may have noticed all of its flws and helped me make it better, thereby saving me your upcoming wrath.

My point is that although it may be philosophically impossible for any human to achieve absolute cosmic objectivity, not so better writing.  That can frequently be achieved by a fresh set of eyes, just as Steve suggested.
I want to believe.

Diego V.
 
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Steve Lee

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2014, 05:05:57 PM »

I think none of us are free of biases.

Yes, that is exactly what you've said before.

Different words, same thought.

"None of us" means you, too--if you mean by "none" and "us" what most people do.

It is so refreshing to hear a man plainly admit that he does not know how to be objective.   

And quite amazing that he is certain that it is an objective fact that no one else knows how to be objective, either.

Thanks for moving the posts over Marty—to try to give this thread the solid three-digit view count it deserves, I’ll bite (once) too.

Of course my belief that people are biased applies to me, too.  Are you free of biases, Marty? I would love to meet a person who is free of biases, so if you’re that person, please let me know. :)

It doesn’t follow from my belief that all people have biases that ‘all humans are so biased that they cannot be objective’.  You’ll have to find someone who actually believes that to argue with.

Another interesting phenomenon besides confirmation bias, that I in my undoubtedly biased way think groups working together to reach conclusions should be aware of is Groupthink:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the "outgroup"). Furthermore groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the “outgroup"
."

Dehumanizing actions against the "outgroup". Food for thought there, for sure, I think.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2014, 05:10:42 PM by Steve Lee »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2014, 06:29:00 PM »

So I don't think Steve means that people can't be objective to some degree, just that our biases tend to make it hard to do that.

If that's what he meant, he should have used some words along those lines.

His claim, in his own words, was unqualified.

If your remark is biased--if it is objectively true that it is not objective--then it is not a biased remark.
I think you've got a non-sequitur here, no?  Seems you're saying if your remark is biased then it is not a biased remark.  Maybe I'm missing something?


If the person is, in fact, biased, and if, in fact, the remark they make that "all remarks are biased" is objectively true, then their action of making an objective statement of truth demonstrates that being biased does not stand in the way of finding objective truth.

This is a variation of "The Liar's Paradox," of course.  And that, in turn, is a sample of the kind of self-referential statement that Gödel used to prove his Incompleteness Theorem.


If it is true that biased people can be objective, that means that peer review is not required to achieve objectivity.

Well, technically your conclusion follows from the proposition in that peer review may not be required to achieve objectivity, at least to the extent humanly possible, but again, you're ignoring matters of degree.


So did the original poster.  He spoke in absolutes.  I responded to him in absolutes.

Quote
I think the point that Steve makes is that it may be easier or more likely to achieve a greater degree of objectivity if one has his or her work reviewed by other people with  different points of view, not that it is absolutely impossible to achieve a good degree of objectivity without that review.

If achieving objectivity requires review absolutely, then the reviewers would require reviewers, who would require reviewers, who would require reviewers ...  If the reviewers need not be reviewed, one wonders how it is that they, though biased (the original poster's absolute hypothesis) achieve objectivity and bestow objectivity on the work of others.  What is it about naming them "reviewers" that bestows this super-power on them?

. Therefore, there is no need for peer review. 
Again, maybe technically true that there is no absolute need to use peer review to achieve objectivity (or at least as close as humanly possible to achieve), but having input from a variety of viewpoints usually helps.


I am offering a different viewpoint from the original poster here.  I'm surprised that you haven't thanked me for reviewing his work and pointing out flaws in his thinking.  If he had said something as gentle and well-qualified as what you have just said, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

Quote
The argument from authority is the weakest form of argument.
Says who?

That's the spirit!   ;D

Quote
In short, I don’t quite see what your point is or how it relates to Steve’s post.  Steve made a sincere suggestion to have someone who has no dog in the fight look at the report before publishing it.

The reason he gave for making the recommendation differs in words and in meaning from your words and meaning. 

Quote
My point is that although it may be philosophically impossible for any human to achieve absolute cosmic objectivity, not so better writing.  That can frequently be achieved by a fresh set of eyes, just as Steve suggested.

I'm delighted that you've noticed this is a philosophical argument.  The statement that "all humans are biased" is not self-evident, it is not a finding of logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology.  It is a generalization based on the supposition that the speaker knows human nature.  It applies to all human beings, past, present, and to come.  I don't mind philosophers making and defending generalizations about human nature.  This particular generalization--as stated in the absolute language of the original poster, not as qualified by you in your post--seems to me to be self-referentially inconsistent, which, as I understand it, is a sign of an untenable position in philosophy.
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Diego Vásquez

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2014, 08:08:23 PM »

Marty – Thank you for the kind tone of your response.  I understand your point better now.  Just a couple of observations, although no substantive quarrels with anything you’ve said.

This is a variation of "The Liar's Paradox," of course.  And that, in turn, is a sample of the kind of self-referential statement that Gödel used to prove his Incompleteness Theorem.

Ah yes, silly me.  The liar's paradox was even rolling around in my head when I first looked at what you said.  Well Captain Kirk's Star Trek version of it anyway, the one that caused a super controlling android that had taken over the Enterprise to melt down. Somehow I just didn't make the connection.  As for Gödel, I never much liked him anyway.


The argument from authority is the weakest form of argument.
Says who?
That's the spirit!   ;D

Touché! ;)



The statement that "all humans are biased" is not self-evident, it is not a finding of logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology.  It is a generalization based on the supposition that the speaker knows human nature.  It applies to all human beings, past, present, and to come.  I don't mind philosophers making and defending generalizations about human nature.  This particular generalization--as stated in the absolute language of the original poster, not as qualified by you in your post--seems to me to be self-referentially inconsistent, which, as I understand it, is a sign of an untenable position in philosophy.

Your philosophical and logical arguments are flawless, as far as I can tell, but then again I am biased.  That was a joke.  OK, maybe not a good one, but a joke nonetheless.  And I'm serious about my agreement with your philosophical argument.


So did the original poster.  He spoke in absolutes.  I responded to him in absolutes.

This is the only point on which we differ.  I think he spoke in non-technical generalities, the same as the vast majority of the posters on this forum, about the value of peer review in generally helping to overcome bias issues and making one's writing stronger.  I can see your philosophical objections to his comments if one were to view them as absolutes, I'm just not sure why one would, which is why I am not a philosopher.


I want to believe.

Diego V.
 
« Last Edit: April 05, 2014, 09:41:43 PM by Diego Vásquez »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2014, 04:44:31 AM »

I think he spoke in non-technical generalities, the same as the vast majority of the posters on this forum, about the value of peer review in generally helping to overcome bias issues and making one's writing stronger.  I can see your philosophical objections to his comments if one were to view them as absolutes, I'm just not sure why one would, which is why I am not a philosopher.

The original poster seems to me to have a bizarre idea about peer review.

All of my academic articles and books have been reviewed by my peers.

I have reviewed articles and books for others.

I know how the process works.

I have benefited from it, and I hope that I have benefited others.

"Peer review" does not mean that creationists get to veto the publications of atheist biologists nor that global warmers get to block the publication of those who question their argument. 

Astrophysicists predicted that they would find polarization of light in the cosmic background radiation as a consequence of gravitational waves generated by inflation in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of time.  They couldn't have gone looking for the polarization if they didn't have a theory of what to look for.  They had to build special detectors to conduct the search.  They found what they were looking for.  The people whose judgment I respect do not treat them "finding what they were looking for" as "confirmation bias."  It's called "confirmation of a theory." 
LTM,

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Kent Beuchert

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2014, 08:17:24 PM »

It is standard practice in scholarship to peer review papers, in part because we all are biased.

Sorry, but you can't prove that.
Learn not to make categorical statements about humans, of all people.
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Steve Lee

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2014, 08:04:30 AM »

It is standard practice in scholarship to peer review papers, in part because we all are biased.

Sorry, but you can't prove that.
Learn not to make categorical statements about humans, of all people.

I guess I'm just not an 'up with people' kind of person, Kent.

You can prove me of all people wrong by naming someone who is free of all biases. In the meanwhile, here is another interesting article about humans and their tendency to have biases:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2014, 10:32:47 AM »

You can prove me of all people wrong by naming someone who is free of all biases.

I have no problem with you confessing your biases.

I find your view of judgment badly skewed.

Such a confession would be most welcome.

But you seem to be generalizing about all human beings--and insisting on the truth of your absolute generalization--with no suspicion of your own bias.  That seems self-referentially inconsistent to me.
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Steve Lee

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2014, 11:16:34 AM »

You can prove me of all people wrong by naming someone who is free of all biases.

I have no problem with you confessing your biases.

I find your view of judgment badly skewed.

Such a confession would be most welcome.

But you seem to be generalizing about all human beings--and insisting on the truth of your absolute generalization--with no suspicion of your own bias.  That seems self-referentially inconsistent to me.

Yes, I am generalizing about other human beings. I think most reasonable people would agree with me that most people are biased, and the article I linked to indicates that I am not alone.

I find your judgement badly skewed, so I guess we're even.

What am I supposed to confess to--having biases? I've already done so on this thread.

I'm mystified as to why this is such a touchy subject for you, Marty.  I think somewhere on this site is a set of rules/suggestions about good web etiquette in which you suggest that posters to the Forum try to avoid endless back-and-forth bickering, so in that spirit I think we should both just agree to disagree.  If you must have the last word, please go ahead.  But if you do so, please answer a question I asked upthread--whether you yourself are free of biases and then answer the question whether your answer is 'self-referentially inconsistent'



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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Is everyone biased?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2014, 01:59:57 PM »

I think most reasonable people would agree with me that most people are biased, and the article I linked to indicates that I am not alone.

I understand that you think you are acting reasonably. 

Quote
What am I supposed to confess to--having biases? I've already done so on this thread.

You are not recognizing your bias about biases.

You have not been peer-reviewed in this thread.

You are claiming objectivity despite your indictment of our ability to be objective.

You advance your view as a universal truth that all should accept.

You are using a double standard.  The freedom you give yourself to act as the paragon of reason is withheld from others.

Quote
I'm mystified as to why this is such a touchy subject for you, Marty.

My Ph.D. dissertation dealt with epistemology.  I am convinced by Michael Polanyi that absurd standards of certitude poison our society. 

Quote
I think somewhere on this site is a set of rules/suggestions about good web etiquette in which you suggest that posters to the Forum try to avoid endless back-and-forth bickering, so in that spirit I think we should both just agree to disagree.

Yes, there is a thread about etiquette.

Quote
If you must have the last word, please go ahead.  But if you do so, please answer a question I asked upthread--whether you yourself are free of biases and then answer the question whether your answer is 'self-referentially inconsistent'

It is self-referentially consistent for me to say that I think 1) that I can think objectively and 2) that I think invocation of a principal of "universal bias" is absurd. 
LTM,

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