Bias, or just fact?

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Bias, or just fact?

Postby TheVat on November 1st, 2020, 2:59 pm 

November 1st, 2020, 11:49 am

Dave_C » November 1st, 2020, 8:03 am wrote:

(....)
I read this article that looks at common characteristics in trump supporters and I think as long as I read it with an eye to removing the bias that's been written into the article, it does provide some insight. For example, calling respect for authority a "syndrome" seems disrespectful to people who genuinely see law/order as an important part of our society....



Dave C -- this comment drew my attention to a topic that's been fermenting in my head a while, namely that of bias. I want to start a thread to address some of the issues around labeling bias, properly defining what it is, and also looking at the term when it's used to glibly criticize an opinion (i. e. simply calling an opposition statement "biased" without providing any factual rebuttal or basis for using the term)

I will make this an OP post on that new thread-to-be, and get the ball rolling with a couple comments...

Some descriptions are seen as biased, especially by those who disagree with the description, but only facts and agreed-upon criteria can resolve if the bias is real. Take the statement, "Trump is a chronic liar. "

Now, if all parties agree that chronic lying is a serious harm when it's found in a public official (the sort of office from which we expect transparency and fealty to facts), then all parties agree that sentence must be backed with solid evidence, because the stakes are pretty high. And we must state some criteria for calling someone a liar.

So, we look at professional factcheck organizations (I selected nonpartisan organizations) that range from a tally of 15,000 to 25000 falsehoods coming from the POTUS. That would be something like a minimum of ten lies a day. That would seem to fit a fairly universal definition of the term liar, and would fit also with clinical definitions of pathological liar, in terms of numbers, of how often the behavior manifests, and of how often they slander or libel others or falsely characterize science, the law, history, etc.

So far, then, my example sentence seems to be congruent with an objective reality, and therefore calling the writer of said sentence biased would not be warranted. But, and this is my opening question, what happens when the reader of that sentence goes ahead and ascribes bias to it?

I think the issue will remain important long after 2020, as social media continue to grapple with partisan organizations that post misinformation about opposition candidates, etc. How do they fact-check competently and fend off accusations of having bias themselves?

I do agree that "syndrome" in Dave"s example would seem prejudicial in any discussion about people who respect a social institution and its authority. (I find more problems like this in interview formats than in straight reporting) If there were undue respect, however, that grew out of a cult of personality for one person, that might be a different matter, and we would need facts and well defined terms to address such a situation.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 1st, 2020, 4:05 pm 

Fact-checking is never going to become a popular activity associated with the public expression of opinions.
But there are other issues that feed bias besides factual inaccuracy.

To stick with the above example,
For example, calling respect for authority a "syndrome" seems disrespectful to people who genuinely see law/order as an important part of our society....

Was it, in strict fact, 'respect for authority' that was being called a syndrome, or is 'respect' a substitute for something different in the original context? Was the author, perhaps, really talking about uncritical acceptance of the power structure, regardless of its injustices? Or did he mean a demand for expanded powers, more militarization and even less accountability for enforcement agencies?
Interpretation not only matters, but can be become grossly misleading. Does categorizing the lock-step fans of all things police as 'dysfunctional' really disrespect anyone else? Is it really inevitable or necessary to apply that categorization to everyone who 'genuinely sees law/order as an important part of society'? Don't most people, including those who want to reform the police, think law and order are important in society? Is law/order really a single, indivisible concept? Is it possible to respect 'the law' and still object to unequal application of it? Is it possible to respect law and fear certain applications of 'order'?
There is potential bias in every word of every sentence, no matter who writes it.
But it is important to read what's actually there, rather than make an skewed interpretation and pronounce the author biased on that basis.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 1st, 2020, 6:44 pm 

that sentence must be backed with solid evidence


That's all. That's the bottom line. Anyone can spout opinion. In fact, anyone can spout false information as though it were fact. If people are going to make contentious statements they must demonstrate their veracity or can it :-)

respect for authority


'Respect for authority' usually means one is expected to comply with the person or institution's requests, like obeying the police. Respect in the sense of admiration is different.

There's also respect in the sense of polite and considerate behaviour.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 1st, 2020, 7:31 pm 

charon » November 1st, 2020, 5:44 pm wrote:'Respect for authority' usually means one is expected to comply with the person or institution's requests, like obeying the police. Respect in the sense of admiration is different.

There's also respect in the sense of polite and considerate behaviour.

What it usually means, or might mean in various contexts is immaterial to what was being criticized in the context under scrutiny. If you're going to accuse someone of bias, you must first be accurate and truthful about what was said by that person, in that statement.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 1st, 2020, 9:09 pm 

If you're going to accuse someone of bias, you must first be accurate and truthful about what was said by that person, in that statement


Obviously.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 1st, 2020, 11:04 pm 

Obviously. So why drag dead fish across the trail? I'm guessing pure mischief, but these days, even innocent obfuscation can have unforeseen consequences.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 2nd, 2020, 7:24 am 

It's quite obvious that one can't justly accuse someone of bias if the evidence one brings forward to justify the claim is itself faulty.

That is not a mischievous statement, it's quite obviously true. One may, of course, honestly believe that such evidence is true but be mistaken. That's a different issue.

I would think it's one of the hardest things to be free of bias since most of our lives are based on personal like and dislike. Every time one decides what to eat or wear it demonstrates bias. Or with one's choice of music, TV shows, books, anything you like.

If we're talking about the public arena then, again, there's this fuzzy area where what would seem mere common sense and objectivity might be seen as bias by some. Trump is famously not good on detail. He might not be 'lying', he might simply not have assimilated all his facts correctly.

To establish that he was actually lying one would have to prove beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that he knew what the facts were and deliberately and consciously misrepresented them. Motive is virtually impossible to prove.

I don't quite see the connection between bias and respect for authority. As I said, there's no reason to actually respect those in authority although one has to comply with their demands. If those demands are unreasonable then there's every reason to question them. Questioning them does not imply a lack of respect for authority.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby TheVat on November 2nd, 2020, 10:47 am 

I'm tagging Dave_C, since his post in the other thread inspired this thread.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 2nd, 2020, 11:04 am 

charon » November 2nd, 2020, 6:24 am wrote: Trump is famously not good on detail.

He is even more famously a liar - and has been proven so, thousands of times, on subjects of personal involvement, where he not only knew the details but decided and acted the events.
He might not be 'lying', he might simply not have assimilated all his facts correctly.

That won't fly. He is given reports and summaries of reports; he is daily, even hourly, briefed by the heads of government departments, experts and advisers. It's his job to assimilate the facts about executive business before making any pronouncements.

To establish that he was actually lying one would have to prove beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that he knew what the facts were and deliberately and consciously misrepresented them.

That's been done a few thousand times, as well. See BIV's OP.

Motive is virtually impossible to prove.

The onus is not on the fact-checker to prove motive - only the veracity or falsehood of a statement.

I don't quite see the connection between bias and respect for authority.

That's because you haven't followed the path of that example. Maybe it's time to put it in the stable and get a fresh one. Try this:
example only The following scene didn't take place among fictitious characters. Just to illustrate how the original context and meaning of the subject can get lost in a discussion.

A Poster on a forum might link, as a point of information, to this newspaper article, in which this excerpt appears in the middle of a paragraph. "Democrats are more likely to vote by mail this year, so in states where those will be the first type of ballots released, like Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, initial results could skew in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr."https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/27/upshot/election-results-timing.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab
Whereupon another poster, Contra, responds: "See how biased the New York Times is? Ms Parlapiano says Arizona is skewing the results in favour of Biden."
Aposter argues, "No, that's not what she said! She just explained how the different states report ballot counting."
Contra retorts, "Yeah, but how they report the counting doesn't affect the result, so why does she say Arizona favours Biden?"
A third poster, Bowow, jumps in at this point, "Well, what's wrong with saying Florida favours Biden? If it's true. But how do you know it's true?"
Contra: "I said Arizona, not Florida and the point is not whether it's true, but that she shouldn't print that without evidence."
Bowow: "Arizona, North Carolina and Florida."
Aposter: "But she didn't say that!"
Bowow: "So what if she did? She's entitled to her opinion!"
Caboose: "You shouldn't print anything in a newspaper without checking all the facts."
Aposter: *sob*
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 2nd, 2020, 1:03 pm 

Serpent -

Trump was just an example. You're demonstrating bias. It may be true that what he says doesn't always correlate with the facts but that doesn't mean he misspoke consciously, deliberately and knowingly with the motive to mislead or deceive. Saying it's his job to get everything right is not evidence of anything.

Unless you claim to be psychic, that is. And that wouldn't be evidence either.

That's because you haven't followed the path of that example. Maybe it's time to put it in the stable and get a fresh one.


I don't want a new one, I want the old one I didn't follow. There's no logical relation between bias and respect for authority. Of course, a person might simply have a loathing of all authority and authority figures, a well-known syndrome, but that's abnormal.

If a policeman says 'Move your car, you can't leave it there' bias doesn't come into it. Either you move it or face the consequences.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 2nd, 2020, 1:22 pm 

charon » November 2nd, 2020, 12:03 pm wrote:Serpent -

Trump was just an example.

Yes.

You're demonstrating bias.

Not there. My response to the example was on topic, on point and factual.

It may be true that what he says doesn't always correlate with the facts but that doesn't mean he misspoke consciously, deliberately and knowingly.

Both of those questions have been amply answered elsewhere; an overwhelming preponderance of evidence has been presented on these boards, as well as in publicly accessible fact-checking sources, that he has done exactly that, on a many and verifiable, filmed, taped and recorded occasions.

Saying it's his job to get everything right is not evidence of anything.

Okay, this is a new example of what I've been trying to demonstrate.
In fact, what I said said was
It's his job to assimilate the facts about executive business before making any pronouncements.


Unless you claim to be psychic, that is.

It wasn't necessary. He swore it on a stack of bibles in front of a crowd of which he lied about the size.

I don't want a new one, I want the old one I didn't follow.

I'm not going to reproduce the whole sequence for your convenience: it's all there to read.

There's no logical relation between bias and respect for authority.

That's irrelevant. The example was of some whole other topic, in which the author of an article is accused of bias for making a certain statement. What I posed in response was a series of questions regarding the origin of the statement, the central issue being :
Did the author of that article actually say what he's accused of saying?

Which is very similar to the above exchange, where I said
to assimilate the facts about executive business before making any pronouncements.
and you paraphrased it as
to get everything right
They don't mean the same thing at all - any more than armed police groupies in camo are anything like a driver contesting a parking violation.

This kind of conceptual drift is very common in all kinds of discourse, public and private. While anonymous individuals on forums cannot be held accountable for either inattention or deliberate misrepresentation, journalists and government official should be.
Last edited by Serpent on November 2nd, 2020, 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 2nd, 2020, 1:35 pm 

an overwhelming preponderance of evidence has been presented on these boards, as well as in publicly accessible fact-checking sources, that he has done exactly that, on a many and verifiable, filmed, taped and recorded occasions.


Sorry, you're not proving that he knew he was lying however much it looks that way.

PS. You forgot the bias/authority/policeman bit.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 2nd, 2020, 1:57 pm 

charon » November 2nd, 2020, 12:35 pm wrote:
an overwhelming preponderance of evidence has been presented on these boards, as well as in publicly accessible fact-checking sources, that he has done exactly that, on a many and verifiable, filmed, taped and recorded occasions.


Sorry, you're not proving that he knew he was lying however much it looks that way.

It shouldn't be up to me to prove. Nor do I feel duty bound to prove that the Earth is round.

PS. You forgot the bias/authority/policeman bit.

There you go. sssssgggghhhhhh
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 2nd, 2020, 2:15 pm 

That's your trouble, you're never wrong.

Fact is, you'd need a direct confession from him that he lied and knew he was doing so. Apart from that it's more or less presumption, whatever you think.

There you go. sssssgggghhhhhh


= no logical answer, presumably. Or you just choked on your tea and biscuits :-)
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 2nd, 2020, 3:16 pm 

charon » November 2nd, 2020, 1:15 pm wrote:Fact is, you'd need a direct confession from him that he lied and knew he was doing so. Apart from that it's more or less presumption, whatever you think.

If you believe that the confession of a chronic liar is the only way to prove that he's lying, no evidence will persuade you otherwise.


[There you go. sssssgggghhhhhh]

= no logical answer, presumably.

I don't know what would constitute a logical answer in your cosmology.
Mine was:

[There's no logical relation between bias and respect for authority. ]


That's irrelevant. The example was of some whole other topic, in which the author of an article is accused of bias for making a certain statement. What I posed in response was a series of questions regarding the origin of the statement, the central issue being :
Did the author of that article actually say what he's accused of saying?

Seemed to me a logical answer to
PS. You forgot the bias/authority/policeman bit.


And now, I wish to offer my apologies to any other participants who slogged through the foregoing exchanges and pledge to stop adding to the pile.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 3rd, 2020, 2:29 am 

You're not fooling me, old bean. You edited that post at 6.52. The bit you quote wasn't there when I posted at 6.35.

Anyway, I'm not a bully so good luck to you.

Like I said, there's no way to prove lying except by admission. We can't see inside the head of a person making statements that don't tally with the facts. We can say he said inaccurate or contradictory things but lying is a big word. It's the motive that counts.

Sometimes it's better to hide the blunt truth from others. Is that lying? Technically, maybe, but it's not malicious. Stating something briefly about a big subject inevitably won't contain all possible facts. Is that deliberate deception? And so on.

If you believe that the confession of a chronic liar is the only way to prove that he's lying, no evidence will persuade you otherwise.


Of course there are other ways other than confession. The police or others in authority could probably point out deliberate liars because it's their job but they'd still have to get an admission if there's no other physical evidence.

Assumption isn't evidence. If a person says 'I was never there' and there's a nice clear CCTV picture of him breaking into the house, etc, then he was lying. But without that sort of evidence they're stumped.

People like Trump don't break into houses, that's the problem. It's all words with them.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 3rd, 2020, 9:47 am 

You edited that post at 6.52. The bit you quote wasn't there when I posted at 6.35.

I know. I realized belatedly that leaving the irrelevant part of your post unanswered might prompt yet another accusation of bias, so I came back and added the bit about its irrelevance. I posted the revised version before I saw your response. Just the same, it's still irrelevant.

PS If Trump were to confess that he was lying, I'd run it by the polygraph. Can't be too careful!
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 3rd, 2020, 10:38 am 

I like you, Serpent, you don't back down. Are you glued to the election TV? Just tell me when it's over! I've got cousins in Canada, big families. Never met them :-)

I've seen Trump lie myself apart from any media commentary. No question, but the point with the media is it may not have been the sort of thing one admits to. Yes, it's lying. On the other hand, it may have been wiser not to say anything, so he didn't. Who can tell what was in his mind? Very foolish in front of the media, of course.

So the point I'm making is sound, which is really about belief and bias. Humans love their beliefs. All beliefs are bias and all bias is a form of belief.

I went into a shop the other day for some medication for someone else. There was some confusion about the branding. Eventually the young girl assistant brought something out and said it was what I wanted. I asked her if she was quite sure the formula was the same even though it had a different name. She said 'Do you think I'm lying to you?'. Which was strange but she was young, you know.

So I said 'Whoa! Not lying, of course not. But I need the right thing, that's all, so I need to be sure I'm getting it'. So she said she was quite sure, they'd checked.

So lying is an inflammatory word. I wouldn't use it unless I was 101% sure it was the right word to use.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 3rd, 2020, 2:35 pm 

So lying is an inflammatory word. I wouldn't use it unless I was 101% sure it was the right word to use.

That's a considerably higher threshold of probability than is applied in a court of law. One might even construe it as bias in favour of the false witness, and pretty much a get-out-of-jail-free card for criminals.
Be that horse as dead as repeated beatings can render an equine zombie, are you ready to address the the OP?
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 3rd, 2020, 8:41 pm 

are you ready to address the the OP?


The OP is addressed to Dave_C and I'm not sure what the question is. If it's this:

I want to start a thread to address some of the issues around labelling bias, properly defining what it is, and also looking at the term when it's used to glibly criticize an opinion (i. e. simply calling an opposition statement "biased" without providing any factual rebuttal or basis for using the term)


Then there's not a lot to say. We know what bias is and the answer to the rest is self-evident.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 3rd, 2020, 9:00 pm 

How depressing!
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Dave_C on November 3rd, 2020, 10:51 pm 

Is there any such thing as bias any more, or just "alternate facts"?

Friend of mine, very intelligent guy believe it or not, told me climate change was nonsense. All I should do is "follow the money" and I'd see:
...one reason so many hundreds of scientists are persuaded that the sky is falling is that they are paid handsomely to do so.

Apparently, climate scientists were creating fictitious studies about climate change, and apparently covering each other's a$$ so as to perpetuate the lie, only to glean money from government coffers.

This doesn’t mean that the planet isn’t warming. But the tidal wave of funding does reveal a powerful financial motive for scientists to conclude that the apocalypse is upon us. No one hires a fireman if there are no fires. No one hires a climate scientist (there are thousands of them now) if there is no catastrophic change in the weather. Why doesn’t anyone in the media ever mention this?

See? Not bias, just alternative facts. Different facts that highlight a perspective that lurks in the dark. Or so I was told. For a really shocking read, like driving past a car accident with dead bodies strewn across the road, read the insanity here:
https://www.heritage.org/environment/co ... ange-money

Facts, alternate facts, and bias. Trump's alternate facts are not bias. I think we'd all agree with that.

One thing trump said that's inciteful (yes, he's said such things) was that he could walk down 5th Ave, shoot someone, and not lose any supporters. I do think that was inciteful. He's confident about that and from what I've seen, he seems to be correct. So what is it about such a very large percentage of our population that might support someone like that? Or support any dictator for that matter, hitler, mussolini, whoever? Trying to figure out what characteristic about a group of people's personality that results in them becoming followers who disregard any wrong doing of the person they're following is a valid pursuit. Labelling that characteristic a disease or syndrome requires far more than just a simple observation by a single researcher.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Serpent on November 3rd, 2020, 11:32 pm 

Certainty.
The right is Right. They have a canon, a creed, a messiah or a logo which assures them of what's right, and that everything else is wrong. Thus, they can find supporting evidence for any statement and its exact opposite within their scriptures and commentaries - since that is the only authority they consult. If it's obscure, confusing or contradictory, there is an anointed guru or his acolytes to explain it in terms they can chant. That, too, is why they never hesitate to accuse their opposition of the most heinous crimes with little or no indication of their having done any wrong or condemn entire classes , races or nationalities that don't fit into their world-view. It's not am alternate reality to them : it is the only one that can be allowed to exist.

Meanwhile, liberal types are disunited, various, indecisive, wishy-washy. They tend to be reluctant to accuse their rivals and opponents of even such wrongdoing as those persons perpetrate in full public view. When they finally do bring a charge, it can't even stand up - it needs piles and piles of credible, factual evidence to support it - evidence from outside the canon, which, of course, the conservatives dismiss.
Liberals are just not sure...
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby BadgerJelly on November 3rd, 2020, 11:37 pm 

These may help develop the discussion more:

Frankfurt on ‘Bullshit’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit

Interesting thoughts here but nothing other than a means of making a distinction between a ‘lie’ and ‘bullshitting’. There is a podcast by Sean Carroll where he chats to Harry Frankfurt about this (kind of interesting).

Also, perhaps Habermas’ view of the decline of the ‘Public Sphere’ is relevant too - in terms of ‘bullshit,’ misinformation and band-wagoning (something that seems to have more force with current communications).

Note: For a rather controversial position regarding BJ and feeding children. I find it a little peculiar that people are interviewed on TV about not being able to plan there week because of money issues and not receiving free meals for their children from the government (for 5 days now and 10 during the winter hols) when they have teapots on display in their cabinet behind them ... I think the real issue here is that those that most need the help are literally having food taken from their plates by middle class people who feel the government ‘owes them’ even though they are nowhere near in a position of severe poverty - their just getting a brief taste of normal life for the poor.

I mention the above because ‘bias’ is very much not personal bias anymore - refer to Habermas - as the amount of outrage and band-wagoning on every subject is blown up into a serious issue before anyone (if they ever) check the facts and think carefully about the position the people who make the decisions are in.

Anyway, sorry if this seems a little off topic, but the OP appears more of a political issue than a scientific one (I guess social science fits though).
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 4th, 2020, 1:21 am 



Oh, no, it's fun!

What's wrong with bias? Life would be rather dull without some sort of preference, wouldn't it? I couldn't have the cheesecake you don't like. Imagine that.

Or we could actually examine things like bias without bias. That would be real fun, not the idiot kind.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby mtbturtle on November 8th, 2020, 6:18 pm 

are we on the SCF or PCF side here?
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby TheVat on November 8th, 2020, 7:01 pm 

Looks like it's veering more PCF, doesn't it? I thought at the outset there might be some scientific approaches to measuring bias, but looks like the chat moved in a more philosophic direction. That's fine. Lacking time atm to really respond, but will move it to PCF.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby charon on November 8th, 2020, 7:33 pm 

Correcting measurement bias in scientific procedure is one thing but I think if we 're discussing human bias then it probably comes under the philosophy side.

I think a lot of people would not see anything wrong with bias. I mean, the Biden supporters would quite happily admit to bias in view of the alternative. Likewise with the (unmentionable) supporters. They'd be biased too but in a different way.

This could get quite complicated. There's not realising you're biased, knowing it but believing it to be fully justified, and not being biased about anything one way or the other. Which I'd have thought probably doesn't exist.

But bias isn't really about preferring oranges to lemons or pink to blue, it's usually negative and involves prejudice. How much that takes a person over would depend on their character. So it's a larger subject than merely favoring one thing over another.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby mtbturtle on November 8th, 2020, 8:18 pm 

TheVat » Sun Nov 08, 2020 6:01 pm wrote:Looks like it's veering more PCF, doesn't it? I thought at the outset there might be some scientific approaches to measuring bias, but looks like the chat moved in a more philosophic direction. That's fine. Lacking time atm to really respond, but will move it to PCF.


I don't know a scientific definition bias in the sense of this thread, let a lone a way to measure it. You'll find plenty of stuff on the Sociological side.
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Re: Bias, or just fact?

Postby Forest_Dump on November 9th, 2020, 11:00 am 

I spent a bit of time thinking about this and I can't think of a context when bias doesn't play a role. The challenge is really trying to recognize biases and, at times, trying to adjust for those biases IF some claim to objectivity is being made. However I think it is actually very rare, even in science, that a claim for real objectivity can hold up and some level of bias will always be present so it is more important that that bias is simply acknowledged.
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