Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Are we hard-wired for bigotry?

Wikipedia defines bigotry thus:   "Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot, defined by Merriam-Webster as 'a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance'. Bigotry may be based on real or perceived characteristics, including age, disability, dissension from popular opinions, economic status, ethnicity, gender identity, language, nationality, political alignment, race, region, religious or spiritual belief, sex or sexual orientation. Bigotry is sometimes developed into an ideology or world view."

What prompted this?  Andrew did, in a comment on the previous post, when he said that agreeing with something he reads improves the perception of it. In my own case, this explains why it took me twenty-odd years to break the conditioning ("education", training, propaganda) I recieved from my familial environment and the societies in which I lived during my maturation period. It especially includes my time in the Australian Army.

So, dear reader, is it possible to transcend bigotry, or do we merely trade one form of bigotry for another when we 'transcend'?



Blogger Vest said...

It would seem very few people would escape being a bigot. There is a smigin of bigotry in all of us.ivolical 349

January 07, 2013 11:12 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

There was a long-ish article about this in New Scientist in the not too distant past. If I remember the article correctly, the idea was that intolerance of The Other (defined however you like for the moment) conferred advantage in terms of competition for food, mates and all the other things that humans fight over, and that it was selected for over and over again as humans evolved.

So to answer just the title of your post: yes, bigotry is hard-wired in the sense that a propensity to be bigoted is part of being human. But is it so hard-wired that we are unable to rise above it?

I'm going to reserve my comments on the rest of your post for a subsequent reply.

January 08, 2013 4:47 PM  
Blogger Davoh said...

I still do not understand what "bigotry" actually means - in a modern day Australian society.

While yes, can comprehend 'xenophobia' - the disquiet when one discrete tribe encounters another - which may well be 'indocrinated' into each any every 'tribal' grouping since Australopithecus began to expand imagination into walls and weapons ..

Doubt whether "bigotry" is 'hard wired'.

You have to be 'taught' to hate.

6784 npeside

January 09, 2013 9:25 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

OK, to clarify: The meaning of bigotry which I most wish to play with in this blogpost is as follows: "To reject or have no interest in any compelling evidence or rational argument which seriously challenges one's significant beliefs (including the belief that a particular significant belief is not significant.)

January 10, 2013 6:20 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

In my previous comment I made the case that intolerance of The Other has been selected for in humans over thousands, perhaps millions of years of evolution. However, that intolerance is neither complete nor blind. Here's the evidence.

We know of 3 great migrations of humans out of Africa in the current era: the Denisovians maybe 100,000 years ago, the Neanderthal maybe 50,000 years ago, and us, Homo sapiens sapiens, maybe 20,000 years ago. There may have been many others; these are all we know about. And it's worth pointing out that in each case the reason these people left is because they were pushed out; the winners in the competition for food and other resources stayed behind in Africa.

But here's a peculiar thing: all modern peoples of East Asian and Melanesian descent have traces of both Denisovian and Neanderthal genetic tissue. All modern peoples of Indian and European descent have traces of Neanderthal genetic tissue. All modern peoples of African descent do not have any traces of either Neanderthal or Denisovian.

Both the Neanderthal and the Denisovians are now extinct, but while they were around there must have been some females, impregnated by Neanderthals or Denisovians, who gave birth to viable young who were nurtured by their tribe.

How can we know this? Because if such offspring had been killed at birth or subsequently ostracised, their genetic tissue would not be showing in modern humans.

From which it is possible to conclude that although Neanderthals or Denisovians were clearly The Other (to the extent that we made them extinct), they could be tolerated in certain circumstances. Which means hard-wired bigotry in HSS (us) is neither entirely blind nor always complete. If our pre-literate pre-agricultural ancestors could overcome it, we can too.

January 10, 2013 8:37 AM  
Blogger Davoh said...

Luv ya Andrew - you write it better than me. To put it simply: "I" am a product of my ancestors. Their quest for survival on an apparently hostile planet. It's a long story.

And while am at it - am fascinated by the behaviour of bacteria and viruses.

January 10, 2013 12:43 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@AndrewM: Scientists may have proved that HSS bonked Neanderthals who carried traces of Denisovian genes, but that does not prove that HSS were not racist towards Neanderthals. e.g. Racists have no qualms about treating other races as slaves or inferior people.

Having sex (and creating offspring) with one's racial "inferiors" has been happening right throughout history. This does not mean that the "superiors" were not bigots however. Nor does the fact that the offspring were not exterminated indicate that bigotry had been eliminated.

The Denisovian/Neanderthal/HSS evolutionary genetic history cannot be used as evidence for the transension of bigotry.

In any case, my question asks something rather more profound: If we think we that we have transended one form of bigotry, i.e. no longer obstinately or intolerantly clinging to some particular opinions and prejudices, what's to say that we have not become bigots with regard to our "new and improved" opinons or prejudices. e.g. "political correctness" ?

January 24, 2013 2:13 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@AndrewM: You said: "...the reason these people left is because they were pushed out; the winners in the competition for food and other resources stayed behind in Africa."

How do they know that? Might it not be that the ones who stayed behind were the most stodgy, the most bigoted, the least adventurous, i.e. a bunch of "losers"?

Data is one thing. The interpretation of it is quite another. e.g. Piltdown Man

January 28, 2013 5:42 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

@Gerry: your 24 Jan post. It's 'transcension' and 'transcended', BTW. Always glad to help. :-)

More seriously, my argument about half HSS:half Neanderthal offspring was only that the sort of bigotry I was talking about could be, and demonstrably was, transcended, at least on occasion and in limited circumstances. Ergo, such bigotry as we may have can too.

Your question about whether we have shed one form of bigotry (hatred of albinos, say) for another (intolerance of people who don't toe the line on PC) requires a long answer which unfortunately this comment box is too small to contain.

January 29, 2013 4:27 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

@Gerry: humans are animals, and many people forget that. Animals don't go exploring; they stay on their range unless they are pushed, by environmental pressures or by competition.

However, I was simply trying to be provocative. Far too many people dislike Negroes, and treat them as lesser humans. I was just making a point, valid from an ethnological viewpoint, that the ones who stayed at home were the more successful competitors. Can I prove it? Of course not, but it is worth contemplating.

January 29, 2013 4:35 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

OK, here's my take on your question about transcending bigotry (which a more careful reading of your post reveals was actually your original question). :-(

The kind of cognitive dissonance we experience when confronted with The Other is a conflict between processing in visual cortex and the frontal lobes. While we can consciously decide to tolerate The Other we can do nothing about the reaction in the first place.

Being PC or non-PC, however, all happens in the conscious brain. It is biochemically different, even if what emerges appears to be bigotry.

So my view is that transcending native bigotry is not a trade.

February 05, 2013 8:44 AM  

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