• Kimberly

Sports Cars and Bias

My son is obsessed with fast cars.

He can recognize different models even at night by the shape of their headlights. He has a growing HotWheels collection, but he's only interested in the toys if they are modeled after real cars--and fast cars at that. Driving anywhere is a constant game of "Mom, look at that Camaro!" "Mom, mom, look it's a mustang!".

Those are my only examples because I, personally, think fast cars are an utter waste of time. I haven't bothered to learn anything about them because I think it's stupid. I grow weary of constantly responding, "Wow!" and "That's so cool!" about any car that catches his attention.

And the exhaust pipes. He counts exhaust pipes and gets really excited when there are four of them. Whereas until this little obsession started, I didn't even know cars could have more than one.

And here's the thing. My husband completely supports this cars obsession. Although I personally believe that fast cars are a rich man's immoral indulgence, my own husband joins this little boy in counting exhaust pipes.

Now, my opinion about this is fairly strong. And the human tendency with a strong opinion is to think that other people, if they don't agree, must be stupid or evil--otherwise they would surely have come to the same conclusions I did! I'm pretty convinced I'm right, but at the same time--

Everybody has faults, and everybody has a bias. Yes, everybody. College students, doctors, doctors, detectives, stockbrokers, even the political scientists who study these things show predictable unconscious biases. And being more thoughtful or more educated does not actually make us less biased than others. It makes us worse (probably because it makes us more arrogant).

There is nothing about me so unique and so wonderful that I can be sure that even my most strongly-held opinions are correct just because I believe them. I have grown and learned in a social context, in the limitations of a particular language, and with experiences and desires that bias me. There is no reason to think that I, alone of all the world, am the one person whose opinions are always correct.

In fact, none of us is. There is not a soul on earth so smart, so insightful, that their opinions are guaranteed to be true.

Not even you.

And that means we need to be very cautious about how we treat others who disagree. Because if we're wrong, but we're contemptuous of others for disagreeing, then we're not just wrong but also JERKS.

So let's ask ourselves:

Is this opinion worth showing scorn to other human beings?

Is it worth being dismissive of a unique soul whose own opinions come from a real, meaty, experience of her own?

Do I have the right to treat others as if they were mere stupid objects when they, with their own fears and desires and longings, come to different opinions than I do?

The answer will always be No, no, and No.

The right answer is to listen, to learn, and to take a deep breath and find out why some cars have more exhaust pipes. Because even if it doesn't matter to me, it matters to him.

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