Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Logic Versus Prejudice


·      Why do sincere, intelligent people sometimes strongly disagree?
·      Why are some willing to fight and die for what they believe?
·      Why do racial and religious conflicts persist?
·      How do bias and prejudice develop?

It’s generally believed that the quintessential quality of the human mind is to think logically. But, the patterns that are embedded in our thinking warp our logic and it is almost impossible for anyone to be immune to bias.

Intelligent, rational, patriotic, reasonable people can disagree strongly, sometimes even violently, each insisting that the other side is unreasonable, unpatriotic, misguided – and even stupid.

On television, we witness sincere, intelligent, elected US Representatives and Senators openly abusing each other with rhetoric that pushes the limits of decency and decor. How is this possible? Are they sincere, or is it just a part of the role they are supposed to be playing?

Many people typically cannot give rational reasons for their convictions or biases other than,  “I believe this”. In trying to try to explain bias and beliefs, one must recognize that the reasons are often innate human constructs.

Individual & Group Reality

Human Constructs are the psychosocial construction of reality, the inherited knowledge, the teachings and the experience that establish our conscious and subconscious organization of the world. It includes meaning, motivation, education, media, emotion and thought processes.

Understanding, significance, and meaning are developed individually, but in coordination with others in our society. The elements most important are: (a) human beings rationalize their experience by creating a model of the social world and how it functions and, (b) language is the most essential system through which humans construct reality. (1)

People clearly have different views of the truth because every individual thinks using their own unique perspective. Primary constructs are embedded in the human brain from infancy – religion, culture, love (family and country). These are all linked to our place of birth and surroundings, where we grew up and how we are taught. It becomes part of who we are. These can, of course, be over-ridden and even eliminated through later education and experiences.

Morality is a human construct. It evolved as humans developed increasingly more complex social interaction. It is a tool that serves to help humans survive in a social environment.

Religion & Cultural Conflicts

Perhaps chief among human constructs is religion. It has been the most influential and also perhaps the most abusive, and it broadly continues to control and influence human relations. Religious beliefs are faith-based, not subject to any logical justification.

Organized religion is the attempt of humans to codify a particular interpretation of the communication with us of a presumed almighty being.  The way organized religion reacts to threats to its existence is just like any other human institution or human being. What organized religion needs to understand is their doctrines are just the feeble attempts of humans to understand the infinite. (2)

Somehow, religious constructs seem to have allowed and motivated humans to exercise total control and abuse over other humans over many centuries. And even today, war is declared over religious differences. And horrifying slaughter is committed in the name of religion.

Genetic Predisposition

Humans have always considered it important to develop and maintain a cultural identity that aggressively defends against influences that can change or replace them.  Some think that the best explanation for these behaviors and constructs is genetic factors – genetic hard-wired patterns in the brain.

History demonstrates clear patterns for this behavior. The victor typically enforces cultural and religious changes on the vanquished. And the conquered typically emulate the customs and beliefs of presumed superiors.

Closed societies demonstrate prejudice, bias and ethnocentrism as means to safeguard the conformity of their cultures. Interbreeding with different cultures leads to genetic dilution and loss of cultural traits. (3)

Racial Prejudice

In a multicultural, multi-racial, multi-religious society, bias (example “racial profiling”) comes from an individual’s family (perhaps several generations), and upbringing (school, church, community, country).

In America today, many dissimilar cultures and races have co-mingled and it is not acceptable to be openly prejudiced. Politicians and others in the public eye cannot simply stop being prejudiced; they merely pretend that they’re not. It’s been estimated that some 48% of Americans are still prejudiced against blacks. (4)

Many Americans deny that racism still exists in this country. It is incomprehensible to some white Americans that their president would openly identify with black people, despite the fact that he himself is black.  Consider this: How much of anti-Obama rhetoric is fueled by prejudice, as opposed to genuine objections? How much is real patriotism versus illogical bias? (5)

One intelligent and sincere friend from the Deep South told me, "I was born and brought up to believe that Blacks were the next best thing to vermin. Now I have to over-ride my own embedded thinking."

Clearly good, thoughtful people can be motivated to over-ride culturally developed bigotry. It’s very difficult, but prejudice can indeed be overridden. It needs great objectivity, intelligence and determination to overcome one’s own embedded constructs.(6)

It’s interesting to note that perhaps the last remaining overt prejudice in America is against obesity; grossly overweight people are often openly ridiculed.

Repetition Manipulates Truth

Any action that is repeated regularly becomes a habit. And habits can become bias and prejudice.  This is why advertising is repeated over and over and over, so that the viewer accepts that the message as true and it eventually becomes a construct, perhaps even a prejudice.

Political advertising generates biased viewpoints. People can begin to believe grossly partisan “facts” that may be significantly against their own interests. Wealthy individuals and organizations spend enormous amounts to promote their messages, giving credibility to even outrageously prejudiced opinions. This is why spending on advertising for US presidential elections keeps increasing. It has become a TV bonanza.(7)

Conclusion

Modern societies run on the premise that everything must be logical. But that’s not a valid presumption. This article has brought up many examples of widespread, illogical behaviors. Hopefully, this provided some understanding, though it offered no solutions for human constructs that are often prejudiced.

Over the millennia, theories of human behaviors and constructs have belonged more in the realms of metaphysics and philosophical discussions. (8)

References:

  1. Wikipedia – Social Constructionism: http://goo.gl/suWuVw
  2. Religion Is a Human Construct: http://goo.gl/p6K95n
  3. Genetic Determinism & Prejudice: http://goo.gl/WbQNpP
  4. AP poll: U.S. majority have prejudice against blacks: http://goo.gl/ulNY1g
  5. Race & Prejudice in America Today: http://goo.gl/5Zxz7O
  6. Studies Find Rational Part of Brain Can Override Prejudice: http://goo.gl/aHGTdf
  7. Wikipedia – Media Manipulation: http://goo.gl/E0ByOF
  8. Logic – Its Laws, Premises and Limitations: http://goo.gl/A7OZzN

Jim Pinto
16 September 2014

15 comments:

  1. I suspected that a writer as prolific as you wouldn't stay silent for long. I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jake.

      I'll welcome your comments and nitpicks.

      Delete
  2. “The way organized religion reacts to threats to its existence is just like any other human institution or human being. What organized religion needs to understand is their doctrines are just the feeble attempts of humans to understand the infinite.” I think this statement is true.
    Interesting that the person upon whom the Christian religion is supposed to be based made no attempt whatsoever to react to the threat to His existence. Rather, He embraced the fact that He was going to be killed. “My Kingdom is not of this world” He said. Organised religion acts in just the opposite way because its proponents believe they have to stand up for their beliefs. Compare that to their founder (so called ) who said that unless they were prepared to take up their own cross then they could not be His follower. He even rebuked one of His original followers for cutting off the ear of His enemy as they tried to arrest Him. Organised religion would have gone to battle!

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    Replies
    1. Peter:

      You make a good point - organized religion seems to fight (and kill) to support beliefs. Christianity and Islam are both peaceful. Yet, over the centuries they keep engaging in wars.

      Perhaps the human genetic hard-wiring cannot be over-ridden?

      Delete
  3. 'Modern societies run on the premise that everything must be logical'
    i would say western societies run on that premise. here in india, we have many truths and many realities and life is about balancing them. everyday. modern indians now get a western education and we have begun to look for logic and that is when the conflicts and biases set in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was born in India, lived in England for about 10 years, and then the rest of my life in the US. So, I have 3 different "constructs" embedded in my subconscious.

      Jenny is right: India is multi-cultural and multi-religious. Everyone co-exists without applying their own "logic" to everyone else.

      Applying "logic" is a Western trait. This is what causes conflicts and generates bias and prejudice.

      I found this good saying that is placed at the start of this blog, "Logic is an instrument for justifying a prejudice."

      Delete
  4. I hadI had one email response: "I didn’t know you were prejudiced till I saw the link in your article to a "far-left-leaning” publication”.

    My response: "I am NOT biased! You are NOT biased. Everyone insists that they are NOT biased.” From everyone's own point of view, they themselves are NOT biased; everyone who disagrees is biased.

    That’s the whole point of my article on Logic vs Prejudice! Think about it!

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  5. The point about genetic hard-wiring for survival has struck a chord with me.

    I remember talking with native Hawaiians: They were naturally very hospitable and shared all they had with visitors. Less than a century later, the Japanese, Americans and Filipinos had taken over their islands. They now have to pay high taxes on their own property!

    The Hawaiian I talked with was working as a waiter in a big American hotel - primarily to pay taxes on the property he still "owned". If he did not pay, it would be confiscated! I guess the Hawaiians were not genetically adapted for self-protection.

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  6. Some of us happen to be in the fantastic profession of automation, traveling around the world training our users. One product, Wonderware, has nearly a billion users, with applications from prisons to supermarkets. So, you meet an incredible kaleidoscope of people, some speaking half a dozen languages and some just a plain ol' variation of English. I do a lot of listening in my training classes and learn something every week.

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  7. I'd like to imagine a time when the world's great religions were led by female deities.....before the fellas came in......what a wonderful world it would be :)

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    Replies
    1. In Christianity, God is Male - a narrow Judeo-Christian construct. In many other religions, God is an intangible spirit and therefore has no gender. Indeed, in some religions a female god created the universe.

      Delete
  8. Congratulations on the interesting blog "Logic versus prejudice" and your assessment of the influence of religion.

    I know that you research your subjects carefully and I would like to recommend this site: JW.org. Here is a sample of the type of information that you can get there, I hope you will find it useful.

    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1203237#p133 This is on Religion
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200274746 This is on Prejudice

    I wish you the best!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the links, Jumana. I'll read.

      Delete
  9. Laughing. Your blogs are great, "hit the blogspot", mesh & cause us a good stir. You're brilliant.

    Thinking John Lennon's song ~ IMAGINE
    Could use some new ideas on imagining in this Holodek we live in.
    What we imagine..image..we create.
    Love Feels Better Than Hate..but maybe we get bored with one emotion.

    Thanks always.

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  10. I enjoyed reading it. My interest is with your sentence:

    “In any event, perhaps human objectivity is itself a construct that should be relegated to the realms of metaphysics and philosophy.”

    If by human objectivity, you mean the ability of a person to view reality as it is, that is, without prejudices and preconceptions, using logic as a tool to check the evidence and avoid contradictions, and to be able to form an objective view. By objective view, I mean a view that is true.

    I should probably discuss the meaning of the word “true” but that may be a real long essay. Basically, truth is knowledge that corresponds to reality. This same definition applies when you are referring to a chair or to quark color. The conceptualization process in the former is simple, in the latter, the process is very long and complex, but the “chain of reasoning” ends at the same place.

    So objectivity is a necessary requirement for being a human being. It is metaphysics and epistemology that explain this. Both are branches of philosophy.

    Why does it appear that objectivity is so little used today? I think the answer is obvious. We live in a society where post-modernism holds sway, where government schools teach how to get along, not how to think, and to be politically correct is the standard of behavior. We find ourselves in the worst nihilistic political environment you can imagine, an environment where correctness comes from power, not from rationality.

    Stan Lieberman: http://www.stanswebdesign.com

    ReplyDelete