Validation and bias – two words that don’t get nearly enough discussion these days, but two words that need to be brought to the fore if we are ever to get out of mire that is social discourse today.
The tendency today is to validate a person’s experience. We see it on display daily:
- A woman comes forward and claims to have been sexually assaulted; she must be believed, because men are pigs.
- A black race car driver says there is a noose hanging in his garage; he must be believed, because we’re all racists.
- A man takes hormones and puts on a dress and now claims he is a woman; he must be believed, because he feels he is now a woman.
- A person walks into a psychiatrist’s office claiming to have been abducted by aliens….
Wait. What? Aliens?
It was 1994, University of Harvard Professor John Mack made headlines with his book Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens.
It caused quite the stir as I recall. Mack’s fellow psychiatrists were alarmed that he would be indulging his patients’ fantasies about alien abductions and doing them even more harm.
Mack, however, would have none of it. Mack argued that not only was his validation of his patients’ beliefs therapeutic, but that we participate in a universe that is filled with intelligences from which we have cut ourselves off.
Hello slippery slope.
Twenty six years later and we’re pretty much all the way down the metaphorical slide.
Today, the urge to validate is overwhelming.
Black Lives Matter claim a black man was killed because of the color of his skin and the West is thrown into a fit of rebellion. Thousands take to the streets to proclaim racism is systemic, that white supremacy is everywhere, that all traces of a colonial past must be wiped off the face of the earth.
Politicians are falling over themselves in a rush to validate the worldview of the protesters, their emotions. Yes, they say, we are all racists. You want to burn down that police precinct? By all means, go ahead; it’s just property.
A few people stand up to point out that the data does not really support the claim that every institution is suffering from systemic racism and they are shouted down.
More, if they like a Tweet that challenges the new orthodoxy, they can lose their jobs.
If they are married to someone who has a contrary view, they can lose their job.
Commentators in the press amplify it all and indulge their biases. Objective reality? What’s that? Objectivity is the tool of oppression. Only our view is correct. Allowing incorrect views is just plain WRONG, damn it. Aren’t you listening?
At this point, I am tempted to write this is why science was invented. It was, but even science has fallen prey to bias and validation error.
The majority of medical papers published in journals today contain data and experiments that cannot be replicated.
Recently, for example, the prestigious Lancet was fooled into running a study on hydroxycholoroquine that was riddled with errors. The thrust of the study? It purported to undercut President Trump’s HCQ claims.
We are at a tipping point. Bullying is now at an extreme. The social impulse to conform is a strong one and left unchecked it leads to totalitarianism.
There are a few brave souls out there. Fox’s Tucker Carlson is one. Novelist J.K. Rowling is another. But they are few and far between.
We need to remember that thinking and feeling are two entirely different things. Just because I feel that I am oppressed, does not make me oppressed. Just because I regret having sex with some singer, doesn’t mean I was sexually assaulted. And just because I have a dream about being abducted by aliens, does not mean I was abducted by aliens.
There are poor, demented souls out there, after all, who believe that they should be amputees and want the right to demand doctors cut off an arm or a leg. Should we indulge them?
There are even people who believe they are animals – the otherkin, they’re called. Well, I suppose we could get them spayed or neutered.
Getting people to actually think and question their experiences is going to be painful. But I think we’d all prefer to live in a world of objective reality and not some subjective Hell hole.
Or maybe that’s just my bias.