Dealing with Bias: It struck me, as I was trying to ignore my work today, that this community could do with some rules of engagement concerning 'bias', how it is identified and how it may be dealt with.
Dealing with Bias
It struck me, as I was trying to ignore my work today, that this community could do with some rules of engagement concerning 'bias', how it is identified and how it may be dealt with.
The problem is that even a group of people like this forum is remarkably heterogeneous, with widely differing opinions as to what the facts on any particular issue are.
When people challenge each other's command of the facts, they are often working from such different background assumptions that accusations of 'bias' are inevitable.
Typically the accusation of bias is used to reject sources that are posted to 'prove' a poster's claim. In the gay rights forum, the conflict between the 'Being gay is a choice' position and the 'Being gay is not a choice' position is sustained by the fact there seems to be no agreeably neutral third parties hosting a set of facts that is position-neutral.
This is bad because disinterested third parties are hard to find, leaving people to cite possibly biased resources, and posters then reject each other's citations purely on the basis of association.
But bias does not render something false unless that bias is un-accounted for. If you have a good idea of how bias alters the information being cited then you have a clearer picture of the facts, and an explanation for how the information should be interpreted in the context of that bias.
More to the point, when bias is accounted for, then a set of facts may be evaluated according to objective considerations technical merit, such as sample size, peer review, consistency, parsimony, number and severity of entailed antinomies.
So here's what I suggest: When a poster cites some website for facts, particularly empirical facts, that poster must provide a summary discussing the methodology by which those facts are determined, so that other posters can review. This summary provides an account of bias, and in an objective and reviewable format.
If people don't think a poster is posting an accurate summary of a website's information, they can always post a counter-proposal, so that other posters can compare summaries with counter-proposals, and determine which is the more accurate summary.
i agree with an analysis of methodology.
but in religion and politics that can be hard to obtain.
I think that this is fair, but only if the original post can be challenged. Basically, if there is a plethora of info for one position and none for the other, then we don't need to study the details too much. But if one side doesn't provide any info (as is currently the case with VOR in gay rights), it seems pointless, especially as someone unwilling to support their case will also be unwilling to pay attention to a valid argument.
Disregarding a source because of alleged bias is clearly the fallacy of posioing the wells. It is a tactic used by the intellectually weak to avoid dealing with a potentially damaging source. Those who do regularly resort to the fraudulent behavior are often those who cannot make their point. If you are going to attack the source, pick apart the article paragraph by paragraph, line by line. But that of course takes effort and fraud is time saving.
Even worse are those who disregard sources yet completely fail to provide a single one of their own. Quite pathetic to say the least.
Some people love their country because of what it is, because of the principles it is built on, because of its prosperity and freedom. Then others love their country because it is their country, and will destroy all that is actually good about it to silence those who disagree. Which do you think you are? - Symbiote
If the rigorous standards of debating procedure and source verification which you suggest were applied here, many posters would be virtually excluded from participating in these discussions.
I cannot fault your rationale - but it's far too academic and demanding for a public discussion forum.
Alan Ryan: I'm not sure how these procedures would be exclusionary, especially as they're intended to put a stop to the stonewalling and flame-baiting that these forums are plagued with. They give people a common ground on which to work.
The only people I can think of being excluded by these measures would be trolls, and other people uninterested in productive engagement.
Originally Posted by Nurglitch
I agree that "trolling" should be discouraged - though it can be simply ignored. The others are pests that can be controlled by wit, scorn, irony, etc.
If we consider standards of discussion generally, what does bother me a little is the tendency of some capable contributors to attack with contempt and mockery the posters who get clearly "out of their depth" in a particular topic. Many people are superficially articulate and think what they have to say makes sense, but when pushed into an examination of fundamentals or asked to justify the implications of their view, they stumble and bluster. It does no credit to the "expert" or a person of superior intellect to ridicule these people. In my view, the superciliousness involved is itself contemptible.
In discussions where the contributors are evenly matched, the case is different; then I see no reason why the full rhetorical armoury should not be employed.
Because rhetoric is a waste of time and bandwidth. Rhetorical appeals do nothing to enhance the effectiveness of an argument, and simply cloud the argument with jingoism. The fact is that no two discrete arguments are equal, and that comprehensive analysis of such arguments is an effective of scoring which argument is better. A lack of rhetoric promotes the clarity needed for objective scoring.
If you want to judge which argument has the greater intuitive, or rhetorical, appeal then you need to post an opinion poll about the arguments in question.
Rhetoric is not merely the vulgar device of clouding an argument with "jingoism". I should describe jingoism as belligerent unthinking chauvinism. This, to any educated mind, is a very primitive form of rhetoric that is only likely to be used in discussions where national pride is at issue.
What I meant by using the "armoury of rhetoric" was the practice of eloquence and the whole art of using language to persuade others.
I do not see this as a waste of bandwidth. Anything that's said in a forum like this could be described as such.
There is no such thing as "objective scoring" in respect of any argument's effectiveness, relevance, etc. All judgements about performance will be entirely subjective matters of opinion. Some opinions will be better informed than others, but that is all.
Nurglitch, this isn't Portent. They don't play as nice here.
actually, they don't know how to play here.
Originally Posted by Iuris
Hmm, hard to say. You may be right.
Yeah, and I meant to say that the practice of eloquence is alright for poetry and rabble-rousing, but pretty poor for technical discussion. Personally I'm not interested in persuading people of my position so much as I am interested in explaining and justifying my positions, and learning more about other positions and their justifications.
Originally Posted by Alan Ryan
And I'd just like to point out that the history of logic and argumentation theory suggests that we can indeed evaluate arguments according to objective technical merit.
I see you quote from Aristotle in your "tag line". Perhaps you should have taken a look at his treatise on Rhetoric before making snide remarks about eloquence, poetry, "rabble-rousing", and "jingoism".
Originally Posted by Nurglitch
Your interests in "technical discussion" and evaluating arguments are hardly going to be satisfied here. The people who contribute to this forum are not members of a school taking a class in Reason and Logic.
And it seems obvious that many viewed both as declined electives while in school as emotional nationalism, versus pride, dominates many opinions.
Originally Posted by Alan Ryan
These are my principles. If you don't like them I have others. ~Groucho Marx~