Equality Bias

“Equality Bias”

 

Here’s an interesting article that suggests why people tend to give equal weight to two sides of an argument that have very different levels of quality, different levels of expertise:

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/10/the-science-of-protecting-peoples-feelings-why-we-pretend-all-opinions-are-equal/?tid=sm_tw

 

          The upshot, it appears, is that social concerns can often trump real world concerns, that if our social group has one belief and some few academics, experts, or professionals have another, that we have evolved in such a way that the social group has been more important – meaning, I imagine, that for much of our history and pre-history, being on the outs with our social group has had the more immediate and dire consequences. Opting to be ‘sheeple’ has been a matter of survival.

         

          This - what would you call it, principle? Function, tendency? – this useful-for-a-social-animal adaptation would appear to have the negative effect that, when the whole group is wrong about something, then wrong the group shall be, and for a long time. It takes something big to effect a change in a group mindset, like perhaps when some smallish, tribal group is absorbed into a larger group like a modern nation and now the smaller group’s erroneous belief is rendered an outlying one in the new, larger group – of course, this only if they really do join the new nation, if the culture is absorbed, either by choice or by force. This doesn’t change their minds if they remain obstinate and insular, which, then the conversation goes to motivation. Many and varied are the reasons for a group to close ranks and remain as a distinct group, perhaps the maintenance of such beliefs being a big one. Or, maybe the group’s erroneous belief gets proved false in a catastrophic way, a way that is undeniable and the group must face the reality to survive. Perhaps the volcano erupts and burns our whole island down despite all the virgins we sacrificed to it, something like that.

          Some might think that this is what is required to change the mind of the groups mentioned in the article, the global warming deniers and the anti-vaccination people. Let’s hope not, of course. Sometimes we’d rather have been wrong.

          Something the article only grazes with its mention of global warming, would be a slightly larger issue, that of the economy VS the environment. I would think that one definition of the expression, ‘the economy’ could be simply and expansively, ‘the human system of living.’ Perhaps this adaptation of group thinking applies here, and that may explain why protecting the environment and the Earth’s resources is somehow so often viewed as beside the point, like it’s only a concern after the primary concern that we all have jobs, and that the economy continues to roll on. David Suzuki is fond of pointing out that indigenous peoples find our separation of these two things to be impossible for them to understand. ‘What is the economy if the world cannot support the people in it,’ is their question. How can the living Earth somehow not be relevant?

          I think what is missing from the aboriginal person’s understanding of the modern, industrialized person’s POV is this: that urbanism, industry and agriculture have allowed people to become the dominant environment. The physical world and nature are a few steps away. For modern, industrialized people, people are the environment, the only things we have to interact with to survive, and the only things that we will not survive if we choose to disdain them. Tigers and lightning are not the modern person’s biggest threats – Republicans are.

          (That’s a joke, sort of.)

          That from the geo-political side of things, to be sure, but for those few who’ve read anything from me before, you know I see the world as a fractal sort of thing, the macro matching the microcosm, with the family as the model for society and the world. So, a sharp turn here. For all of us, when we are young, at our most vulnerable and impressionable, the environment that we need to survive most immediately is the family. This is where this useful-for-a-social-animal adaptation happens. It is in the home, in our nuclear families where we must make this adaptation first, and so we do. This is where we learn all the things that become the larger conversations later in life: we must work, everyone needs a job, thou shalt and thou shalt not, we are here to do God’s Will, which is this and this . . . while the real world consequences of so many of these sorts of concepts are still far beyond our grasp, we learn that what our parents and caregivers tell us we had better learn, or else. The real world consequences of these things may be far away, but the immediate social consequences of not learning what our parents teach are right there in front of us (or behind us, as the case may be, on our backsides).

 

          To bring this very interesting article in the link above home, and to put it in a less academic, more brutal context, let’s view it this way. We don’t listen to the experts, not because we’ve weighed their theses and found them lacking – but because the experts aren’t likely to hurt us if we don’t. Which gives their views a whole lot less weight than our internalized parents who are the real leaders of our social groups.

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Comments (10)

  1. Munkyman

    The fact is the world is a finite resource & no matter what we do it eventually will fail to support us.
    If it costs us the world to colonize space then I have to say that it’s worth the cost. If we don’t make it to the point that we can survive in space, we’re doomed to extinction. If we lay waste to the planet before we make it off, we’re doomed to extinction. My big issue with the climate change debate is that those who are devout GW believers won’t discuss anything but, human causes & they won’t accept things like maybe solar isn’t that great for grid energy. If I shot a bird in the desert with my gun they’d want to lynch me but, Ivanpah can roast a dozen birds a day & get more energy from natural gas than the Sun & it’s the future.
    .
    Orthodoxy comes in many forms.

    March 15, 2015
    1. Neighsayer

      kinda misses the point of the post, but WTF, I’ll answer.

      - sounds a little like you’re opting for the small conspiracy instead of the big one, that is research money and carbon taxes instead of the government running on petroleum taxes? - and if we are not causing GW, why not? We’re trying so hard. How can the causes we work so hard to make have no effect?

      March 15, 2015
      1. Munkyman

        I’m not saying we have no impact, I’m saying that the GW folk don’t want to discuss the impact volcanic activity may be having on the Greenland ice shelf, they ignore solar activity, it’s like they’re intent on doing calculus with less than 1/2 the variables they need to be accurate. What if the methodology is flawed, they won’t share their equations claiming they’re proprietary. If you can’t reproduce their research then it’s not science. When last I looked hard at the issue regarding the assessment the thing I noticed was how many measures were taken at airports. I thought doesn’t that skew the results warm? If you take more measures near cities won’t that skew things warm? & the issue is without reviewing their equations there’s no knowing what weight was given to what.
        .
        The hockey stick curve really made a mess for the GW argument & there’s just not enough transparency in the IPCC to encourage trust.

        March 15, 2015
      2. Munkyman

        Now I really wasn’t missing the point, the GW folk are willing to ignore science that disputes/mitigates/confuses their claims in order to ally with their group & the “deniers” do the same all in the name of orthodoxy. “Get in line like a good little duck.”

        March 15, 2015
        1. Neighsayer

          fair enough, almost. But I ain’t reading the science much, for me the argument doesn’t require details. We produce a lot of pollution, we put a lot of effort into it. Why is it so hard to believe there could be negative effects, is my question.

          March 15, 2015
          1. Munkyman

            I have no issue believing in the negative effects, I see many more in the heavy metals dumped in our seas than I do in co2 production. I see a lot more issue in the garbage boats dumping raw waste into the oceans around major cities that just don’t want to burn their waste for energy because it’s yucky (even though it’s not).
            .
            The argument is all details if it’s science, if it’s about some general human guilt then that’s something else far more psychological.

            March 15, 2015
            1. Neighsayer

              maybe you have the time and the science to read it all and judge for yourself, but most folks certainly do not. I certainly do not, so I’m putting my faith in the scientists. Humans have had to have some division of duties. The shit we do is way too complicated for any one person to know it all; this is how we work.

              March 15, 2015
            2. Munkyman

              The question is which scientists & why do they merit your faith over another who says we don’t have enough information to make accurate predictions? Why choose to put your faith in the most negative predictions?

              March 15, 2015
            3. Munkyman

              I run in to the same question with nuclear power, why do so many people on the left choose to believe the worst about it when the majority of scientists say it’s safe? Check out the documentary Pandoras Promise. It’s a bunch of greenies who finally converted to believing in nuclear & have made it their work to convert more greenies.

              March 15, 2015
  2. alexanderakeroyd

    We should have to get rid from bias in the situations with that we can get tough decision also. As you also share your new experience about australian writings here it’s showing the interesting things. Thanks for new post.

    December 30, 2016