A&O – BIAS – congenital and acquired

ART & ORGANISM

NOTES on BIAS — Congenital and Acquired

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A significant issue in ART and in ETHOLOGY is the effect of BIAS–explicit or implicit–on the quality of representing the real or perceived world. 

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We are born biased (by our evolutionary history) and become further biased (by our experiences as we develop)

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AS WE SEEK TO TELL “THE BEST STORY WE CAN” WE NEED “THE BEST FACTS AVAILABLE

(“BEST” ? that means free of distortion or bias, the most valid representation of the world outside our minds)

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Bias is manifest in the selectivity of perception, conception, ways of thinking, and actions.  It reflects the constitutional inability of our organs of sensation and perception to detect vast amounts of information.  We appear to be responsive only to information that has been of ecological and this evolutionary significance in our ancestral past and individual development.

Thus, biases are of congenital and acquired origin and even the best of intentions for equity and justice–even honor, love, truth, or beauty–are affected by selectivity of our organs of sensation and thought (perceptions and conceptions), intentional or not.

Elements of our nature evolved over countless generations because of their contributions to biological fitness are intertwined with those acquired throughout our development since conception.

We can compensate for inborn inadequacies–the limitations of our sense organs–with technology.  Indeed, we can now “see” atoms and the edge of our cosmos … sort of.

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THE ESHEWAL OF BIAS IS AT THE HEART OF THE ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE

 

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BIAS–as PREJUDICE — is amongst the principle obstacles to understanding how to solve problems:   We need a “theory of the situation” and then reliable facts to understand how best to solve challenging problems, from personal through societal. Arguably this is the most important social task hacing humanity as in the course of socialization, family, tribal, community, and national influences prevail in differing proportions to influence our perceptions, ways of thinking, and actions.   

BIASES–as manifest in medicine, its structure may be seen more clearly. As often, we are best served by beginning our inquiry about the causes and consequences of our actions by starting at our position in the hierarchy of levels of organization [LINK] (we are organisms).  Then we could consider who and where we are (so much easier said than done).   Tempering our undertaking with the hierarchy of motivations (see: NEEDS) we often find ourselves most absorbed in issues of effective functioning–our health and the competence of our organs. Medicine is ultimately anchored in the ultimate existential phenomenon: life and death.  The belief that these are important creates an atmosphere of urgency and integrity.   So, for example, thinking in terms familiar to medicine–and the manner in which information is organized to assure the best possible validity–in our efforts to cure or cope with, mitigate, or overcome challenges to meeting our basic biological needs:  Familiar in recent decades is the historical bias that make man the measure of humanity, to the sometimes tragic neglect of woman.  Current Medical textbooks rarely make that mistake.   But a current issue challanging the central mission of medicine is that of “Addressing racial inequities in medicine.”  Malika A Fair & Sherese B Johnson (Fair & Johnson 2021), work to address the particularly pernicious form of bias (structural racism) that plagues medicine as well as culture at large and brought more to the foreground because of the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The manner in which researchers organize their data and problem-soving stratagies forces the greatest possible clarity to the language we use, defining the variables and their intersections in a particularly effective way that can clarify similar issues for all of us.   But even at best, science is largely description organized in ways the enable more-or-less accurate inferences about the connections between–paryicularly rue of temporal connections that suggest cause and effect.  But don’t forget one of the most pernicioius logical errors:  Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc (‘after this, therefore because of this’) 

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Read: A Critic at Large column in The New Yorker September 21, 2020 Issue pp 69-73 ( https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/09/21/black-scholars-confront-white-supremacy-in-classical-music )

 

EVEN IF the problem being solved has no obvious implications for living a moral life, enhancing your welfare and that of those around you, the untieably tangled knot of biases affects the actions your problem-solving might lead to.  Sometimes maladaptive or dysfunctional biases may color the outcome no matter how satisfying

ESHEWAL of BIAS in ETHOLOGY is a tenet of its optimal implementation.  Avoiding or correcting errors of fact is the basis of scientific representation of the natural world and its processes. (“tell the best story possible with the best facts available”)