Friday, March 19, 2010
I keep on hearing people say that bias is something bad, bias is something that needs to be avoided. Furthermore, some people say that people cannot really have an objective viewpoint because they are biased on everything. My question is why is bias bad? What is the problem with bias? No one really tells us why bias is a bad thing, we are just told it needs to be avoided, especially in places like college. Why do we have bias towards bias? Let us first understand what bias is, to answer a question like that. Bias is an established point of view for a person. An example is religious bias. A religious person would be biased towards different points of view. Because a religious person already has an established way of looking at the world and when some new idea which interrupts his religious beliefs he would very likely reject this idea. That is to say, he leans towards his religious point of view more than to other points of view. This is a standard example of bias. Obviously this kind of bias is bad. But bias does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. I am biased against the supernatural. I do not believe in things like ESP, or telekinesis, or mind reading, so forth. I do not believe in these things because I am a skeptic. My skepticism prevents me from believing in these supernatural beliefs. Therefore, I am biased against the supernatural. If some "psychic" was to tell me, "I have ESP abilities" I would not believe her. I would immediately be biased towards what she has to say. But is this a bad kind of bias? No, not at all. The reason being is that my bias is justified, it is based on rationality and skepticism. If, however, my bias was simply something that I developed as a kid or if it was something that I just preferred without a reasonable defense of my view then my bias would not be justified. My point here is very simple and short. There is nothing wrong with bias whatsoever. It only depends on the kind of bias that we have, bias which is thought through in a rational or empirical manner is fine to have. In fact, bias in such a case is good because what such bias serves is an intellectual filter to throw away all the wrong ideas before you even seriously consider them in your head. So it is serves like a mental garbage can. Thus, the next time something say "everyone has a bias" do not think of that as a bad thing. Such as statement is the same as saying "everyone has thoughts". Yes, everyone has thoughts, what is that good or bad? Nothing wrong with having thoughts. It is just that some people have retarded thoughts and some people have smart thoughts. It is the thoughts themselves that determine if having thoughts is good or bad. Likewise, it is the manner in which a bias is developed which determines whether it is okay to be biased or not.