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Biology and Bias

by Eric Henderson 4 years ago in humanity

Squeezing Through the Bottleneck

I just read an eloquent article in Nature (a premiere science journal) in which the author discusses our need to become aware of our own biases in order to overcome them. Of course, this is true and critical. That said, there is truth in the premise that bias in built into our biology. Some of the evidence is overtly obvious, if you are five feet tall the chances of being a top tier professional basketball player are small to none hence coaches in college will exclude you because their goal is to win, not to make you feel good about yourself. Then there are much more subtle biases, many impacted (profoundly) by nurture (environment) but, as always, nurture acts upon, and responds to, the code that defines a living system, namely, nature (your DNA).

To state that one’s sex (or gender, or race) is globally inferior or superior compared to another is naive and can be used as a lever for heinous injustice. Keeping that in mind, it is equally naive to turn a blind, if inconvenient, eye to inherent sexual bias that is the foundation of our biology and, indeed, our existence. Our species requires identification of the alternative sex. We exist because evolution has resulted in the manifestation in our species of the most powerful of drives to mate to produce the next generation of DNA carriers to move that information (the DNA code) through time. There is overwhelming evidence that this is the case, from the billions of dollars spent in the vanity industry (ask what is the metric for “feeling good about ones’ self” and the answer is how you perceive that you are perceived by others) to what picture you choose for your Facebook profile. In fact, even the author of the article referenced earlier included a profile picture that I am certain is more flattering than not. After all, physical attractiveness will inspire male and female readers to halt at that page long enough to least explore the nature of the content within. Our initial evaluation of people is often based on how they appear (thus the sexual bias in science revealed by blind or double blind tests described by the author of the article). Bias is built into us and to pretend otherwise is folly, but to fall prey to it and remain unenlightened with respect to one’s motivations is even bigger folly and the recipe for social disaster. The best one can do in many cases is to recognize and dismiss. As with all things facing the human species on the planet, the solution to our problems is inside out, and only self-realization and emancipation from one’s irrational beliefs and actions, be they biologically driven or not, will get us through the evolutionary bottleneck that humans now face.

Test your inherent bias with these experiments.

Experiment 1: The Dark Alley

How do you feel when approached by people of various types in a dark alley or abandoned street? Is your response the same for all types or different as a function of the type? (Examples: fat old lady, skinny six-year old girl, pretty woman, huge white man, huge black man, preacher, gun-toting man wearing a confederate flag do-rag, buxom woman wearing a confederate flag do-rag).

Experiment 2: The Pretty Person

You are on a bench and two people of the opposite (or preferred) sex sit on either side of you. One person you consider attractive (very) and the other not (at all). They both start conversations. With which person are you most likely to respond and continue the conversation?

Make up your own experiments and ferret out your personal biases and then, assuming you want humans to perpetuate, overcome them.


Eric Henderson

Writer, Musician, Scientist, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Madman, and proud of it : ). It's all here:

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