Everyone is biased

15 mins read

I’m a biased person, and part of my set of biases is this: “everyone is biased, including you and me”.[1] If you say that you are not biased, but neutral, then that is already proof that you are biased because you already stated your disagreement with me (and with many others who believe that everyone is biased). :grin:

On some issues, I think my set of biases on that issue is the best, so I hold on to them tightly. But I’m still learning. I might change my mind on some issues later if I will be convinced that my biases on that issue are wrong.

This blog post contains quotes about this “everyone is biased” thing.

I believe that this “everyone is biased” idea is very valuable. I think that when we understand that everyone is biased, it helps us be more empathetic towards other people… because it will give us hope… that if we will just dig deep into learning about the biases of other people, we can be able to understand them more deeply, and might be able to find techniques in changing their minds (if we want to) in a peaceful and rational kind of way.

Here are the quotes:

Since everyone has a worldview, everyone has a bias. All of us are naturally biased toward our own worldviews, and all of us tend to interpret and evaluate the world in accordance with our worldviews. So do I have a bias? Yes of course — but so do you!

The real issue isn’t whether we have biases — we all do — but whether we’re aware of them and able to think critically about them.

— from the Introduction of “What’s Your Worldview: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions” by James N. Anderson

Each of us tend to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are — or, as we are conditioned to see it

This does not mean that there are no facts. [There are] facts. But each person’s interpretation of these facts represents prior experiences and the facts have no meaning whatsoever apart from the interpretation.

The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions,… the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.

— from the “Inside-Out” chapter of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

It is not a matter of whether one is biased or not. It is really a question of which bias is the best bias with which to be biased.

Occasionally people are upset when dogmatic statements are made. They say, “You cannot be dogmatic like that.” This in itself is a dogmatic statement. Many think that some people are dogmatic and others are not. It is not a matter of whether you are dogmatic or not, but of which dogma is the best dogma with which to be dogmatized!

— Ken Ham (from “The Lie: Evolution”)

Most people today have not given much thought to their own worldview. In fact, many people do not even realize they have a worldview. Many people tend to think that all knowledge is acquired by unbiased observation of the evidence around us. This view is called “empiricism” and is itself a kind of worldview. We cannot help but have some beliefs about how the world works, how we attain knowledge, and how we should live. Even if we believe that we have no such beliefs — this is itself a belief. So there’s no escaping it. A worldview is inevitable. A rational worldview is not.

— Jason Lisle (from “The Ultimate Proof of Creation”)

When it comes to the political and cultural left and right in this country, it’s not that on one side there are those who want to control information and those on the other side who do not; it’s all a matter of what kind of information which side wants to control. When it comes to this kind of question judgmentalism is found everywhere; it’s just a question of who’s making the judgment and what kind of judgment one is making.

— Albert Mohler (from “The Briefing 09-29-17”)

“If you don’t know something about apples to begin with, you can’t devise a method for separating them. And in the same way, if you don’t know something about the universe to begin with, if you don’t know something about reality to begin with, if you don’t know something about the difference between truth and error about the universe to begin with, you cannot devise a method that separates the true conclusions from the false conclusions about reality.”

You can’t even devise an epistemology — an apple sorting machine — unless you already know something about reality; unless you already know something about the apples to begin with.

Everyone begins with a worldview. Everyone begins with a certain view about reality. And in terms of that perception, that conception of reality, you devise your epistemology — your theory of knowledge — and so neutrality is indeed impossible.”

— Greg Bahnsen (from his lecture on “The Myth of Neutrality”)

Part 1 of Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s video lecture series, Basic Training For Defending the Faith, is titled “The Myth of Neutrality.” The title sums up the lesson succintly: neutrality is a myth. In this lecture, Dr. Bahnsen teaches that the idea of neutrality — be it intellectual, philosophical, emotional, scientific, or in any other area — is a myth. You see and read several passages of Scripture that prove this. Jesus spoke definitively about this (Matthew 6:24, Matthew 12:30).

— from a commentary on Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s lecture on “The Myth of Neutrality”

The myth of neutrality applies to all levels of reasoning, even in matters that one would consider trivial or surface level.

— from a comment by someone named Josef in here

… I can’t see how you can interpret the world of facts without an a priori interpretive structure.

— Jordan Peterson in about 00:54:30 of the 1st part of his discussion with Sam Harris (moderated by Bret Weinstein)”

You cannot view the world without any a priori structure and that a priori structure has a dogmatic element and so you can’t just say we’ll just get rid of the dogma because you cannot perceive the world without a structure.

— Jordan Peterson in about 00:53:50 of the 2nd part of his discussion with Sam Harris (moderated by Bret Weinstein)

… In the modern world, data is considered more important than theory. Our theories are supposed to play a supplementary role to the data we analyze. However, this is backward. Theory is inescapably prior to any interpretation of data. Data, by itself, is meaningless. It requires a theory in order to be understood. There is a popular notion that “data speaks for itself.” It doesn’t.

— Steve Patterson (from “Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge”)

From my perspective, sound apriorist claims are rarely about states of the world. They are about our concepts. A careful rationalist will correctly point out that everybody brings pre-empirical concepts to the table before analyzing any data. These concepts are themselves not the subject of empirical inquiry; they are the lens through which we make sense of empirical data.

Every discipline has these presuppositions – including physics, mathematics, biology, etc. – though most people simply aren’t aware of them because they tend to be very abstract and philosophic rather than concrete and scientific.

— Steve Patterson (from “The Abuse of Apriorism in Economics”)

“I believe that we need to have our theories prior to our interpretation of the facts.”

“Theories are eyeglasses and we put that for us to be able to read.”

“Without theory there is a bunch of data but I can’t make any sense out of it. Theory allow me to then interpret that data and make sense of it.”

— Dr. Peter Boettke (from Steve Patterson’s “Ep. 13 – Austrian Economics: Deduction, Logic, and Theory”)

I call this ubiquitous cause of failure at attempts at political persuasion the “fallacy of the assumed paradigm” because it rests on an unconscious assumption that our opponent’s paradigm (unstated beliefs, meanings of words, facts and their relevance to each other) is the same as ours — except in the few places where he explicitly tells us it isn’t.

To quote John Rogers, “You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”

The key is in the phrase “his own version of the world”.

Until you understand that, you can’t have a meeting of minds — and you’ll never change a mind you’ve not met.

“The Mistake You Make in Every Political Argument” by Robin Koerner

… I think that I am biased. I think this is unavoidable and people should take that for granted when they read my work and then when they read other scientists’ work. We all have some priors, and sometimes it is possible to track these priors based on what we have published.

I don’t think it is wrong to have opinions or hypotheses. I don’t think it is wrong even to have beliefs. To be honest, when I launch a new project, I try to be as open as possible to all types of outcomes… Sometimes, I have found errors in the process, hopefully early enough before publishing.

What makes a scientist is an acknowledgement that he or she can be biased. We have to watch out for that possibility in whatever we do.

— John Ioannidis (from “Ioannidis: Most Research Is Flawed; Let’s Fix It”)


I found this news on my facebook feed (on June 29, 2019) which might interest you: “Secular researchers agree: worldviews control science!”

This post will be one of those “evolving publications”, as Martin Fowler calls them.

But I will call them “evolving notes” here in my blog, because most of my posts are not really publications but are just my personal notes on what others have published.

[1] My thought process is heavily influenced by Christian evengelicalism and the quotes in this page are mostly coming from Christian evangelicals.

Of course, I’m not saying that I agree with the people I quote on everything. What I am saying is that today, I agree with them on this one thing.

Today, year 2020, I am still convinced that everyone is biased. That might change in the future, of course. I don’t know…

If you disagree with this “everyone is biased” thing, I would like to hear your arguments. Please tell me about it in the comments section of this page. :+1: :+1: