Divers Weights

Being biased is not the same has having a strong opinion; favoring one position above another doesn’t mean we’re biased. If that were true, then the more facts we understood the more biased and unfair we’d be.

Bias indicates a pre-disposition to hold a point of view regardless of the facts, to fail to be objective and fair, and to apply rules and principles consistently; it’s deciding to manage a conflict with a pre-determined outcome in mind, and to only accept facts or arguments which support a particular agenda.

For example, to engage in a flat-earth debate we need not be neutral on the topic to be unbiased, or even dispassionate; we simply need to remain objective, and consider all available facts in a consistent and rigorous manner. Even if we’ve already proven the earth is a sphere using mathematics and undisputed scientific facts, we can still be fair as long as we carefully consider the opposing view and evaluate it with logic and reason.

But bias is dishonesty incarnate; it’s like having two different sets of weights depending on whether we’re buying or selling, and choosing the set which favors us in each commercial exchange. This is an abomination to God (Pr 20:10); He explicitly forbids this (De 25:13-14) because it strikes at the very root of common civility. As society degenerates into this kind of dishonesty and selfishness the integrity of both personal and professional relationships deteriorates. Democracies can’t function this way, only dictatorships: we must either control ourselves, or be controlled by others.

Bias can be hard to see in ourselves; we might not be aware of some of our biases (we call them unconscious). We can be biased even when we’re right, even when we are very well informed, if we’re threatened by opposing points of view and refuse to give them a fair hearing. But we can easily perceive bias in others when they’re unwilling to treat our own position fairly; as it is in most matters of moral judgement, we recognize moral failure in others much more easily than we can see it in ourselves. (Mt 7:3)

So, if we wish to become consistently unbiased and objective, and to heal our own unconscious biases, we must be willing to let others challenge us, and to carefully consider counter positions in their strongest possible form. We can be wrong and not know it, and we can be holding the right position for the wrong reason, or with weak or insufficient evidence. Those who disagree with us are generally able to see our bias more easily than we can, and they can point it out.

Even when we’re fully convinced, we need to love the truth enough to be willing to change our minds, to try our best to see things from a different perspective, and to adjust and improve our position if it turns out we’re the least bit misinformed. We shouldn’t be afraid to listen intently, and to course correct when any aspect of our understanding is shown to be weak or amiss. It’s how we learn and grow, and it’s why opposing views are so incredibly valuable; we can learn something from anyone, even when they’re wrong.

Bias is particularly damaging in news media, which provide a vital service in keeping a civil society informed, providing access to new information and differing points of view. Media bias is evident when a news source consistently applies a double standard: dismissing evidence and/or cherry picking facts to align with a particular agenda. When stories are consistently spun to align with a pre-determined narrative, it’s no longer journalism … it’s propaganda, undermining objectivity and promoting dishonesty and bias in the culture.

Bias in politics is similarly destructive; when one side of the isle becomes biased, they tempt their opponents to do the same for self-preservation: we naturally feel vulnerable when the other side never admits to being wrong and only we do. Yet when both parties become entrenched in bias they enflame each other in dishonesty and destroy meaningful discourse, leading to incivility, and ultimately violence or divorce — the breakdown of civilization itself.

So, regardless what the world does, we’re called to be objective: to fairly consider all the evidence available to us, to hear both sides of any conflict completely and thoroughly (Pr 18:13), and to make our determination of right and wrong independently of who the plaintiffs or defendants happen to be, even when it costs us personally. We should look at each matter as well as we can from all sides, listening carefully to our opponents as if they might know something we don’t.

And as we’re making moral judgements we must have an objective moral standard, or measure, by which to discern good from evil, and we must look to it consistently. The only other option is to make up our own morality as we go, but that’s a false way, self-deception (Ja 1:22): we don’t want anyone else doing this.

A reliable moral standard cannot be grounded in public sentiment or personal opinion, for this moves in and out like the tide and changes with the wind; we must be founded on a rock that’s immoveable (Mt 7:24): on the moral law of God Himself. (Ps 119:89)

And we must trust, as we make ourselves vulnerable by retaining our objectivity and conceding when we’re wrong, even when others won’t, that God both just and faithful: He will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13) and reconcile all things to Himself (Col 1:20), according to His perfect timing, pleasure and will. (Da 4:35) We commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1Pe 4:19)

articles    posts