Gretchen and I have been discussing what being a skeptic is and what it means. Her latest response to me is here. In the post she responded to, there is a discussion about confirmation bias and how I believe that everyone exhibits this bias at one time or another. But bias, I believe, goes beyond that. We may certainly read or hear something that confirms a belief we have held, but where does that come from? I have no background in any of the neuro-sciences, but I think that, from life experience, just knowing other people, that there is an explanation.
Most atheists I know will tell you that we are born, basically as a blank slate and the belief in any god, is taught to us by our parents. I think that may be true , but then, what else about us, as we grow into adulthood is the same? Well, I think it is more than it’s credited for because we are all, even as small children, being indoctrinated. Children are smart. No parent has to sit down with their child to turn them into a racist by speaking to them directly about how bad some others are. Children learn from the vicarious conversation they witness. That doesn’t mean that every child growing up in a racist household will become racist, but it does have an affect on their view of other races.
Sure we may deny it, but that alone is more proof of bias than any study may determine. Admitting bias calls for introspection of ourselves to root out that which may, rightfully or not, define who we are. Calling oneself a skeptic, does not abrogate that responsibility. Anyone that’s read this blog long enough could probably point out my bias in every essay. In some, my bias, is readily identifiable. In others? Not so much so, but those with an opinion (that’s what it comes down to) opposite of mine may easily point out not only mine, but theirs as well.
Many tend to believe they are true skeptics, someone that’s completely objective, and although they may recognize they in fact have biases, don’t allow whatever that bias may be to interfere in their skepticism. It may seem that way, but there’s no way to know one way or another. Just recognizing there may be another influence is a start, but all skeptics need to be aware how bias may inform what they believe they know to be true.