Belenen (belenen) wrote,

conversation with Sam -- bias in science, how best to respect people, arguments

Yesterday my partner and I picked up zir sibling Sam from the airport, and along the way to drop zir off we began talking about global warming -- my partner was asking questions of Sam, who is studying environmental science. They did most of the talking on that, and I listened. That was an interesting conversation in itself, but it got more interesting when it diverged into a discussion of bias in science (which was mainly Sam and I talking).

I expressed my view that since scientific studies are done by humans, they are affected by the dominant culture of the scientists. Sam pointed out that there is a peer review system in place to remove bias, and that there are scientists who live to debunk others, so scientists have to be cautious in writing up their studies. I responded that the system might be great, but it was still built of humans and still susceptible to human subjectivity. After all, the system of government in America is a fantastic system, built to minimize the damage of those who seek only to serve themselves -- however, no system can truly eliminate bias / selfishness / prejudice. (that's something that has to be dealt with on an individual level) And a person of one culture is not going to notice the bias inherent in their own culture. The only way to really combat bias would be to have a group of scientists of equal proportions of every race, culture, sex, sexual preference, age, economic status, size, ableness, health, class, etc. And since that isn't really feasible, one has to look at scientific studies with a careful eye and not take them for gospel as most seem to do. People can and often do agree on ideas that are completely erroneous, especially when the idea keeps them in a position of power or maintains the status quo.

This led to a discussion of sexism/equalism/anti-exclusionism -- what an explosive topic. We must have discussed it for at least an hour. I believe that the only way to truly respect people is to treat everyone the same (until you get to know them, then obviously tailor your behavior to who they are). Sam feels that it is not necessary to treat everyone the same in order to respect them; ze feels that it is okay to have different default treatments for different people, such as opening the door only for women. I feel that it is best to examine one's motives. If I open the door only for one sex, why am I doing this? is it because I am blindly following a path laid out for me by my culture? is it perhaps a habit which enforces beliefs that society holds about the relationships between the sexes? is it because I have carefully thought it over and found a good reason to give this respect only to one sex? I think the latter is theoretically possible but I cannot think of a good reason to behave more (or less) kindly to a person because of their body shape. Especially considering that I may be mistaken as to what their body shape is -- not everyone fits neatly into one category or another.

Then we branched off into exclusionism as it relates to race. Sam believes it is only wrong to assume negatives about a person -- to assume positives is okay. I think that assumptions about a person based on outward appearance lead to setting up boundaries between people. For instance, if I assume that all people who are elderly are enlightened because they have seen so much, this is a flattering assumption but it creates a boundary. To assume is to create a generic picture of someone; when you see that generic picture, you have a much harder time seeing them as they truly are than you would if you left the canvas blank and allowed them to paint from scratch rather than editing what you have made. I believe that in order to respect a person, one has to see them as they truly are. Love needs respect which needs understanding -- assumptions hinder understanding.

At the very end I made sure to explain that I spoke forcefully because I believed in what I had to say, not out of trying to force agreement. Sam admitted that ze was trying to change MY mind which I found hilarious. :D (my partner told zir that I do change my mind, but only when given new ideas/information/interpretations. Ze described how I react to that, and imitated my facial expressions, heh.) And I realized that I used to try to change people's minds when arguing opinion, and now that is hardly ever my goal (I would say never but I don't check my arguing-motives often enough to say). Instead, I want to explain my point of view in such a way that the other person can understand why I believe the way I do, and then they can agree or disagree. I think that a person never gains truth by having it forced on them, so all I do is share my truth and invite a person to explore for themselves. I don't see truth as some objective thing that can be found -- I think that in order to have the whole truth one would have to fully understand every person and every creature and every thing at once (I believe that after we die we will know fully, even as we are fully known). All we can do is find a facet of the truth that resonates with us, and then share it to inspire others to find their own.

It was SUCH a fun conversation! I love speaking to someone who respectfully disagrees because it gives me the opportunity to hone my own views to a shining point. Few things annoy me more than feeling that the other person isn't listening when arguing with me, but I felt that Sam listened and responded in a curious way, attempting to understand, and never summarily dismissed anything I said. (unlike M, who I argued with the other day, heh -- when I made a really good point ze dropped the topic and said "well we just disagree." PAH. fuck that shit.) I think eventually and slowly Sam and I might become good friends.
Tags: b - ex-partner, ex-in-laws, gender, race, rants, social justice / feminism

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