Monday, October 17, 2016

Comments on Implicit Biases and the 2016 Election

315 days until the start of classes.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Atheistically Speaking on my views regarding the 2016 election as expressed in A Moral Philosopher's View of the 2016 Presidential Election

I am a very harsh critic of myself and I seldom give an interview, or even write a post, that I find less than cringeworthy. This us a large reason why I do a fantastically poor job of self-promotion. I need to be more like Donald Trump and become so convinced of my absolute brilliance that I can more easily step out and enlighten the world.

Anyway, as s always the case in things like this, when it is done, I think of things I should have said, should not have said, should have said differently, and could not have said because of limitations in time.

Clinton's Honesty

At the top of the list, I wish I could have said more in defense of my claim that a belief in Clinton's dishonesty and corruption is so contrary to reason that we must look for something other than "the available evidence" to explain the source of this belief.

I suspect that there will be many who hold that this is such an absurd claim so as to eliminate all credibility. I can also imagine some acting in anger in being accused of having beliefs that they did not draw from evidence.

I did not give enough attention to "fallible but fast" sources of belief. There is the fact that a lot of people claim that Clinton is dishonest and corrupt - and "what a lot of people believe" is one of those fallible but quick heuristics that we draw upon. Yet, one should not give a lot of weight to the results of "fallible but fast" heuristics - because there is that "fallible" part.

As I mentioned, Clinton comes out as one of the ten most honest politicians according to Politifact (reference). One does not get a score like that by accident.

Her Foundation has a AAAA rating and gives no money to the Clintons.

We have her tax records over the past 30 plus years and we know where her money comes from. Most of it comes from books and speaking engagements.

As far as the speaking fees go, to understand that business it is useful to think of acting. You want to become an actor. You get an agent. The agent tries to book you at the highest possible fee. (They live off of a percentage.) if you can get a following, your agent can get more money. A few top actors can get $20 million per movie and the actor STILL has a choice as to which scripts to accept.

In the same way that some top actors can get $20 million or more per movie, some top in-demand speakers can get $250,000 or more per appearance.

To think that this money had bribe potential one has to think that the speaker needs the money and has no other way to get it. In the case of Clinton, these assumptions are false. Even at this rate, she can only accept a percentage of the speaking opportunities available to her.

In addition, we now have a huge number of emails - collected by Russia (see Why Experts Are Sure Russia Hacked the DNC Emails. in an attempt to disrupt the American election and manipulate its voters (according to US Intelligence sources - who express confidence in this result). These emails were not filtered by lawyers before being released. Yet, still, we are not seeing evidence of anything other than an uncorrupted political candidate working to win an election.

So, yes, I think that one can well substantiate the claim that the belief that Clinton is dishonest or corrupt cannot be built on available evidence. It has to have its foundation in "something else".

The Ethics of Implicit Bias

I stated that implicit biases are common and gave a recent story that exposed my own recent bias.

I am worried that my comments may be taken as excusing such behavior, as saying, "It's okay. Everybody does it."

The fact is, these biases hurt people. It causes them to be treated unjustly and, in the cases of some unarmed black men mentioned in recent news reports, implicit biases get innocent people killed.

It is NOT okay.

Implicit biases are learned. In fact, some people have not learned them and show no signs of implicit bias when tested.

Given the injustices that spring from implicit biases, there is a moral obligation to try to unlearn them. As "mental habits" one cannot simply turn them off. However, as with any habit, we can put effort into unlearning a bad habit (training oneself to notice when the bad habit is manifesting oneself and forcing oneself to stop) and replacing them with better habits.

In the mean time, insofar as one has implicit biases and insofar as they result in unjust action, a person with implicit biases should avoid putting oneself in a position where those implicit biases pose a threat to others. As an extreme example, cops should be tested for implicit biases and, where they fail those tests, be removed from positions where those biases may bring harm to innocent people - until, through training, they can show that they have removed those implicit biases or they no longer but other people at risk.

The same argument applies to people in a position where they hire and fire or otherwise evaluate others.

How we are going to handle implicit biases among those in charge of voting is certainly a difficult challenge.

Since biases are learned, then, one of the ways in which we can deal with implicit biases is to take steps to make sure that we do not teach them to the next generation. That does not solve the current problem, but it does help to reduce the amount of future injustice.

Third Parties

I argued that - in our political system - voting or supporting a third party in a close election counts as giving a political advantage to the major party that least represents one's views.

This situation was contrasted with voting for a third party in a race that is not close - where one's vote is not going to determine the outcome anyway.

I did not think to mention at the time that I have discussed this situation in my blog. What I argue for is that, where one party has a lock on the current offices, that the right to representation implies a right to join that party and to exercise one's power in influencing who that party selects for its candidate. The only other option is to, effectively, decide to have no voice in selecting the winning candidate and to render oneself politically impotent.

In other words, even in a district where one party will clearly win the election, in our electoral system, one should not support a third party candidate. One should not even support a second party candidate if that party is too small to win an election in that district. One should join the only governing party in that district and help in the selection of the person who will actually be representing that district in government.


I will link to the podcast when it is delivered. I am hoping that I can append these remarks as the first comment to that podcast episode when it is posted.

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