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Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

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posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 01:10 AM
reply to post by nine-eyed-eel

To me a baby is pure ego, pure evil what some would would destroy the universe to get another taste of sugar in its mouth, if it could only figure out how...

St. Augustine, probably the greatest Christian philosopher ever, agreed with you.

In Thy sight none is "clean from sin," not even the infant whose life on earth is but a day... Or was it then good, even [as an infant], to cry for what, if given, would hurt? bitterly to resent, that persons free, and its own elders, yea its own parents, served it not? that many besides, wiser than it, obeyed not the nod of its pleasure? to strive to strike and hurt with all its might, because its biddings were not obeyed, which had been obeyed to its peril? In the weakness then of baby limbs, not in its will, lies its innocence.

- St. Augustine, Confessions 1.7: 11

It was Augustine, you know, who formulated the doctrine of Original Sin in order to explain the problem of evil. It is a pernicious doctrine - making excuses for God - but he had a point about babies, and so do you.

However, this is all a bit off topic. The bigot in the brain has little to do with infant selfishness; it is an instinct relating to social relations and it kicks in later in life. Weedwhacker explained it right: we're programmed to be nice or nasty to people depending on how closely or distantly they are related to us genetically. And we can tell; many animal species are able to distinguish kin from non-kin instinctively (though not infallibly). Tooby and Cosmides have done some studies on this; I've no time to go looking right now but I'll search for and post you a link if you u2u me.

Since members of the same species compete for the same resources and the whole point of life seems to be genetic replication, it makes sense for people - and animals - to attack 'outsiders' and share with relatives. This has been observed among primitive tribes in New Guinea and elsewhere - see Jared Diamond, Collapse for a popular account of this phenomenon. There's even a mathematical relationship - Hamilton's Rule - that calculates whether a given act of altruism is profitable or not to an organism. As you might expect, the variables in the equation are the amount of energy expended in the act of altruism and the degree of genetic relatedness of the actor and the beneficiary.

So what is the point? It is that we are as we have evolved to be. Bigotry of the kind referred to in the OP cited article worked very well for our primitive ancestors because they lived in small, competing groups. But we don't; we live in huge, complex, diverse societies amidst people who are mostly not our kin. If we all gave in to instinctive bigotry, that society would collapse, and we'd find ourselves again living in (at best) small, isolated, mutually hostile agricultural communities.

Which is just what most career bigots would like, I think.

Edit to add:

I also agree with weedwhacker regarding children. They are like sponges. They absorb everything you tell them without questioning it.

This is not true. We are born with lots of software pre-loaded into our brains. Aggression, pleasure-seeking, sexuality, language ability, affection for kin and altruism - we're born with all of that. Environment is critical, though, because it provides the input - the variables you plug into the programmed instincts to get output.

[edit on 28-6-2008 by Astyanax]

posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 02:18 AM
reply to post by Astyanax

This is not true. We are born with lots of software pre-loaded into our brains. Aggression, pleasure-seeking, sexuality, language ability, affection for kin and altruism - we're born with all of that. Environment is critical, though, because it provides the input - the variables you plug into the programmed instincts to get output.

Of course. I never said that we aren't born with many inherent qualities and abilities or instincts. I was referring to the nature of children to easily accept things; the faith they show to other people.


posted on Jun, 28 2008 @ 01:42 PM

Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.

Such developments are providing some of the first tangible benefits of the genetic revolution. Yet some social critics fear they may also be giving long-discredited racial prejudices a new potency. The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal.

posted on Jul, 1 2008 @ 04:03 PM
A Cherokee teachings of Life story

posted on Jul, 1 2008 @ 04:44 PM
Interesting thread, I would argue that it is inherent in all of us to be judgmental and to have a predisposition towards those who are more like us than those who are radically different.

However, I feel as though it is a flawed theory in the sense that it seems to refer to these predispositions as a negative thought process as opposed to what it is, simple opinion and preference. I think the article assumes that there is a moral right and wrong and that they are concrete and not relative to the socio-political surroundings of the person.

There have been many times when bigotry was lauded by the government and seen as a positive attribute. There have been times when the advocacy of the extermination of an entire race has been approved by the society.

Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with feeling a certain way about a person or thing. You can't help your inherent opinion about something and I almost think this article is contributing to politically correct doublethink. We have our opinions for a reason.

For example, you may make no qualms about your hatred for peas but how would it be beneficial if you kept you hatred of peas a secret and proceeded to eat peas everyday? You would be miserable I'm sure. The same goes for racism, if you truly are racist and really do hate, say, black people, then it would be beneficial to no one to keep your opinion a secret lest you find yourself in a situation which causes you to lose control.

I believe the real key here is not feeling guilty for what we think or feel. We should be honest with ourselves and others about what we think and not try to deny it out of guilt. The real solution comes in how we act upon these ideas.

I won't lie and say I'm not judgmental or sometimes bigoted in my head, I'm honest with myself about it and therefore am better able to treat people equally regardless of my opinions. It's all about how we treat eachother, we should stop worrying about what everyone is thinking and just teach people to treat eachother humanely regardless of how they feel.

This whole culture of feeling guilty for thinking negatively about a person or thing is completely ridiculous and needs to stop. Sometimes it is what it is and people are bigoted. Everyone is, doesn't matter who you are, even the Tibetan monks probably hate the Chinese.

posted on Jul, 1 2008 @ 06:42 PM
To the baby as pure ego suggestion...

It appears that quite young toddlers are capable of altruistic/helping behaviour:

WASHINGTON - Oops, the scientist dropped his clothespin. Not to worry — a wobbly toddler raced to help, eagerly handing it back. The simple experiment shows the capacity for altruism emerges as early as 18 months of age.

Toddlers’ endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.

Psychology researcher Felix Warneken performed a series of ordinary tasks in front of toddlers, such as hanging towels with clothespins or stacking books. Sometimes he “struggled” with the tasks; sometimes he deliberately messed up.


Which suggests they are able to go beyond pure egoism to perceive 'distress'* and act for the benefit of others. They are even capable of determining 'moral' behaviour in agents by preferring to interact with 'good' agents**.

*not the best word, but it'll do for now.

**teddy bears or other agentic avatars.

posted on Jul, 1 2008 @ 07:34 PM
There is a great review on a new book on this subject in the New Scientist

Review: Strange Fruit: Why both sides are wrong in the race debate by Kenan Malik
18 June 2008 news service
Ian Hacking

WHAT are we to make of the race debate? One side denies that the concept of race makes scientific sense. The other declares it a legitimate scientific category, grounded in genetics and geography. Kenan Malik - a prominent author and senior visiting fellow at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK - thinks the arguments on both sides are wrong.

Take, for instance, this one: "The human race is too young for it to have evolved into distinct species-like units." No, it isn't, and Malik provides good, if not overwhelming, reasons why not. Or this one: "Distinctions between races are arbitrary." No, they aren't. In a famous experiment in 2002, a computer program was able to "blindly" sort genetic data from individuals around the world into five populations that were nearly identical to the traditional races.

Some scoff: the program was not truly blind; it used genes known to correlate with race.Perhaps, but the result does show that the distinctions are not arbitrary. Malik is a keen logician; he takes assertions literally, weighs the evidence and usually finds it wanting. This aspect of Strange Fruit would be terrific for a college course on critical thinking.

One fixed point in the debate is Richard Lewontin's classic 1972 Journal of Evolutionary Biology paper which showed that most genetic differences between individuals occur within traditional racial groups, not across racial divides. Most people are too shy to say, "I hear that we share more than 94 per cent of our genes with chimpanzees. Couldn't a few differences categorise us into races?"

Malik, thankfully, is never shy, though uncharacteristically he omits A.W.F. Edwards's claim, in the journal BioEssays in 2003, that Lewontin's argument is flawed because it treats genetic markers as if they were statistically independent. They are not, a fact that was essential to Luca Cavalli-Sforza's path-breaking genetic anthropology charting human migrations out of Africa, for which Edwards devised the statistical tools. Nevertheless, Lewontin had it right. No one has shown that any characteristic important to being human aligns better with the traditional racial groupings than with any other large, indiscriminate sorting of peoples.

Some aspects of physiology, however, are differentially distributed. In 2005 the US Food and Drug Administration caused a furore when it approved the drug BiDil, intended for African Americans with heart disease. Many feared this would legitimise race as a category. Malik insists that race can be a temporary but valid screen for deciding who would probably be helped by the drug and who would not. That's just "evidence-based medicine", even if the available evidence is weak. It would be unethical not to use the screen, and equally unethical not to find out why the drug works selectively. A racially targeted drug is a heck of a lot better than western medicine's usual assumption that the human body is that of a white male.

The danger, though, is that meaningless differences can be used to reinstate stereotypes. The BiDil case is more to do with patents and drug companies than race, but it could spur race-based research. In April, the discovery of a gene associated with the production of beta blockers was announced. The gene appears to be common among African Americans, and this might affect the way beta blockers are prescribed for blacks. That's useful, but why was the gene's distribution analysed this way, if not out of implicit racialism?

The middle section of Malik's book recaps his cultural history of the European concept of race, covered in his book The Meaning of Race (Macmillan, 1996). In my view, this history is much less benign than Malik suggests - just read Louis XIV's 1685 Code Noir, which set out the rules for slaves and masters in the French West Indies. Still, Malik loves Enlightenment thinkers and their faith in universal reason, and he fears that western civilisation is increasingly mired in anti-reason. Maybe, maybe not, but three cheers for Malik's rationalism.

The final part of the book takes up the cudgels against identity politics and multiculturalism. Malik condemns uncritical respect for everybody, and thinks that our enthusiasm for diversity is a refashioned racism. A more generous and constant theme of his work is that we need a purified 18th-century universalism, one that is sensitive to the realities of history and of peoples. And lots of logic and scientific method.

posted on Oct, 5 2008 @ 12:44 AM
I've been noticing a lot of lets say "interesting" threads the last couple of days so I thought I'd breathe a little life into this old thread of mine. I thought it would be appropriate for those who might wish to find some explanation as to others prejudiced attitude.

posted on May, 22 2010 @ 02:10 AM
Perhaps relevant in light of the Arizona legislation...though it doesn't cover the economic aspects of the issue.

Just a thought that I think this thread is relevant in that it highlights the present reactionary thought inherent in the issue rather than an indepth look at the issue...and a relevant research into the effect of illegal immigration on the economy and the economy is a major issue...

posted on May, 22 2010 @ 02:28 AM
theres nothing wrong with hate.
second line.

posted on May, 22 2010 @ 03:04 AM
reply to post by schrodingers dog

Over the last few weeks I have observed what seems to me to be an increased number of prejudiced and hate filled posts. These usually revolve around the issue of race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or presidential politics. The mods are amazing at removing the truly offensive ones, but a lot of them are masked within a thinly veiled attempt of pretense to a valid opinion. This of course has nothing to do with ATS, it is but a microcosm of society at large.

I was reading your OP and, as is my want, nodding sagely. Each point in the above quote is salient. I wondered why you'd neglected to point out the recent hate posts about immigration and illegal immigration? It seemed a pretty big oversight, then I noticed the date of the OP! The more things change, the more things stay the same. That quote is utterly applicable to recent threads and posts.

Regarding our inner 'bigot', I've long tried to remain as free of negative prejudice as possible. Naturally, this involves many 'course adjustments,' as prejudice can evolve slowly without noticing.

In the past two years, I've surprised myself with an episode of racism and homophobia. The racism was a reaction to something happening to a girl I have a lot of love for....given the opportunity, I would cheerfully break the guy's legs. I want to. The homophobia came from having gay colleagues who fall short of professional standards. Plus they are very hard to get along with. I have to keep reminding myself that I wouldn't like them if they were straight either.

So I'm admitting to an emotional response that my intellect can't support. Ironically, the emotional response to my emotional response was dissonance and guilt. It's sometimes easier fighting the prejudice of others than our inner prejudices that can creep up behind us without warning. I'm not a racist or homophobe, but clearly have some latent/dormant aspects of each...just another human.

posted on May, 22 2010 @ 12:44 PM
reply to post by Joe Montana
Native American wisdom is often held up as being deeper or more meaningful than modern equivalents. Often, they are cited as being 'more in touch,' maybe more 'spiritual?' I'm fairly cynical about that and don't hold any culture as being more spiritually aware than others ('political culture' excepted!).

That said, the message in your post has stayed in my thoughts all day. It appeals to my perspective on life. It's as profound as some of Shakespeare's words. Now and then, a single post can make an impression on someone. I'd be an asshole if I didn't acknowledge it. Thanks for posting it

posted on May, 23 2010 @ 07:21 AM
reply to post by schrodingers dog

Schrodingers Dog hey? A post like this could only come from a stupid dog loving idiot. Only stupid idiots don't see that cats are way way better.

Haven't you heard of Pavlov's Cat?

Undeniable proof that cats are way better.

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