The Importance of Domains: Seeing the Forest AND the Trees

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by alexdlrg, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. alexdlrg

    alexdlrg Brown Belt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    2,548
    Likes Received:
    61
    In political discussions we often find ourselves discussing people in groups. This seems to be even more popular in the days of identity politics and SJWs. The problem with doing this is that the world is a complicated place, and most groups will have outliers. On this board, I see a lot of people with different world views due to their different experiences and education. I also see a lot of arguing between people who both cling to their own truths, and fail to realize that the complete truth encompasses their truth, and the seemingly incompatible truth of their political adversary.

    The first issue that made this clear to me is the comparison of the intelligence of men and women. There are people who are thoroughly convinced that men are smarter than women, there are people thoroughly convinced that women are smarter than men, and there are those who are convinced men and women are of equal intelligence. The interesting thing is that they are all correct, and sometimes for different reasons. For example, some people are convinced that men and women are of equal intelligence because their experiences support this (they saw it in the trees). Others hold the same opinion because an expert stated this after conducting a large scale investigation (based on the whole forest). Others have varying experiences (with the trees) that create the impression of one sex being smarter than the other.

    So how can everyone be right? It's because people operate in different domains (among different groups of trees). If you work in special education you'll probably care for a lot more males than females, giving the impression that men aren't as smart as women. If you teach or grew up taking classes on the slower track, you probably noticed that the girls consistently seemed to be smarter than the boys. In the middle track, things will appear to be pretty even. In the fast track, you'll notice the females reaching out to use every resource available to them just to keep pace with males who understand things much quicker on an individual level. Standardized tests and intelligence tests show over an over again that men are over represented at both ends of the intelligence spectrum (high and low). Thus depending on what part of the spectrum you associate with or concern yourself with, we find that any of the 3 answers (men smarter, women smarter, same intelligence) may be true.

    But that's not to say that any answer is equally valid. In fact, if you take a truth from one part of the spectrum and try to apply it to another part of the spectrum you will be quite wrong. For example, if you take the statement from an expert based on the forest (that men and women are equally intelligent on average) and try to apply it to either end of the spectrum, you will be wrong. If you expect to see equal performance and test results in the top 10%, 5%, or 1% based on your belief that men and women are equally intelligent, your expectation isn't likely to be realized. But since your opinion was informed by an expert (and applied incorrectly by you) you are likely to look for outside causes, and focus your efforts on closing the gender gap in the domain you concern yourself with (while ignoring an opposite gender gap at the other end). On the other hand, it's possible to miss discrimination because you understand that the results shouldn't be equal; but perhaps they are more unequal than they ought to be.

    There's been a lot of discussion lately about white privilege, with a lot of whites saying they haven't experienced it and that they would likely be better off if they were a member of some minority group, while some members of minority groups simultaneously find that idea laughable. Are they both right? Perhaps. Individuals with these beliefs may just be operating in different domains.

    If you and your associates went to college in the last 30 years, or if you're planning to go to college and start a career related to your field of study, and you aren't a legacy, then there probably exists a minority privilege in that domain. White (and Asian) students in this group who are well prepared for college with high GPAs and good test scores would likely find acceptance easier if they maintained those attributes, but somehow joined a different minority group. Similarly, employers of high achieving college students are seeking diversity more often than not. This is one of the main issues raised with affirmative action: it gives greater privilege to the already privileged. Most of the well prepared minority students with high GPAs and good test scores are privileged outliers among their minority group, growing up with many advantages (compared even to most of the majority group their applications are compared against). In this domain, there is minority privilege; there is black privilege; there is hispanic privilege, there can be female privilege (particularly in STEM).

    But not everyone goes to college. On the other end of the spectrum we have people looking for service and manufacturing jobs, and they aren't usually looking to relocate too far from home. In this domain there is white (or majority) privilege. We've seen the results of the resume studies, which have their flaws, but support this conclusion. We see differences in sentencing, and question whether police are fair in their dealings with the different races. If a minority in this domain could maintain their core attributes but change their appearance and name to belong to the white (majority) group, their lives would probably be easier. (There is probably a large geographic dependency to this.)

    These truths are not at odds with each other. They are part of a larger, more complicated truth. You can fail to appreciate this, and still be right some of the time. If you want to be right all the time, you're going to have to see the forest AND all the trees. That's a tall order. At least we can appreciate that different truths can reside in different parts of the forest, and begin to educate ourselves about them. I think it will lead to fewer discussion with people talking past each other.

    What I'd like to see is people post more examples of truths that differ based on the domain. I find these to be very interesting and informative.

    Another obvious example is to compare the intelligence or level of education of liberals with conservatives. I've seen people in both groups completely convinced that their group is the smart one, and the other group is full of dummies. In reality, the liberals are over-represented at both ends of the spectrum (similar to males compared to females).

    What I expect is people to try and pick apart my examples, which really is not the point here. We have had threads and will continue to have threads about specific political issues. This thread is supposed to be about how a tree (or even a group of trees) doesn't necessarily represent the forest, AND that the forest taken as a whole doesn't necessarily represent individual trees (or groups of trees).
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2016
    panamaican, Malvo and Lee978 like this.
  2. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Messages:
    26,895
    Likes Received:
    20,781
    This caught my eye. I think it's an error to believe that one has to be white to argue against white privilege, and a minority to argue for it.

    As for the rest of your post, there is an objective truth that can be reached if you lay down your terms properly. Sometimes it's impossible to know, but it doesn't mean that everyone is right.
     
  3. alexdlrg

    alexdlrg Brown Belt

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Messages:
    2,548
    Likes Received:
    61
    I agree, that would be an error, and one that I never meant to imply. That has little to do with the main point of my post, which relates to the fact that white privilege and minority privilege both exist simultaneously in different domains. Acknowledging one doesn't discount the other.

    I edited my post to try and make my meaning a little more clear, but I'm not aiming for perfection here. I simply don't have the spare time for perfect sherdog posting.

    When one applies conditional truths universally, they will often be wrong. However, when someone familiar with the forest hears stories about the trees, they shouldn't be too quick to call the stories fiction.
     
  4. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Messages:
    26,895
    Likes Received:
    20,781
    I know it didn't have anything to do with your theme, but I noticed it, and that sentiment irks me a bit.

    I understand what you're getting at, but you have to be careful to not suggest that there is no objective truth. Things vary in a vacuum, but that doesn't mean that there is no greater picture.

    Aside from that, I agree with you. Two people can be right without breaking the law of non-contradiction, just not objectively so.
     
  5. Lee978

    Lee978 Seeking Alpha

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Messages:
    6,983
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    On the cusp of GREATNESS
    Great post Alex, it's unfortunate that threads like this don't garner the attention they deserve.

    As someone who considers himself to have been very closed minded on a host of different issues (economics in particular), I know exactly what you're saying. It wasn't until I went to university that I really started to comprehend the complexities of the world and really appreciate the "other" sides views on different issues. I think it can be rather easy to get caught up in confirmation bias and as you pointed out in your post, sometimes it is not even on purpose because in our "domain" it can be easy to experience things which confirm our preconceived notions about how the world works. Unfortunately it's not easy to break away from this sort of thinking and it doesn't help much either when you're on message boards all day picking fights with individuals who seem to attack your world view. To me this just leads to more confirmation bias and not seeing the forest from the trees. I think to break out of that mindset people have to get humbled in way (like I did going through university) and have their world views seriously challenged and even upended before we take that step back and re-evaluate our models.
     
  6. kpt018

    kpt018 Gold Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    21,411
    Likes Received:
    12,931
    Meh. If we are tying this into politics, there is a right and wrong answer as to whether climate change is a problem, whether austerity or keynesian economics work, what the effects of health care reform have done, etc.. I agree with the OP in matters of values and social issues, but we run into problems when folks with poor educations, living in an information bubble simply believe things that are not true.
     
    Jack V Savage and hitcher like this.
  7. Lee978

    Lee978 Seeking Alpha

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Messages:
    6,983
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    On the cusp of GREATNESS
    Whether or not global warming is an issue may not be debatable due to the data but when it comes down to how much humans are to blame I'm not sure the data is that obvious. Same can be said about economics, in particular, macroeconomics which is rife with uncertainty and contradicting studies. It is so bad in economics that i dont even consider economics a science anymore it's awful.

    So while agree with you that there are some things we may be able to know for certain, in general, the world is more complex than we think and we would all be better off if we acknowledge this fact.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2016
  8. kpt018

    kpt018 Gold Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    21,411
    Likes Received:
    12,931
    We actually do know that climate change is man caused. There is consensus.

    And we do know that austerity does not promote economic growth (and deepens recessions). We can measure these, study them and analyze the data. Differences of opinion are not a matter of values or perspectives but whether you disagree with the data or models. If the question is "is climate change man caused and hazardous to our existence on earth" the reasons may be complicated but the answer is not a matter of values. Which is why it infuriates me to see issues like this politicized.
     
  9. Awesomesauce

    Awesomesauce Brown Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Messages:
    3,153
    Likes Received:
    644
    But we don't "know" that it is. We think that it is, the consensus is that it is overwhelmingly likely that it is. The only rational response that we have is to treat it like we know that it is, but saying we know is factually inaccurate.

    Not being able to accept that the actual truth may be more complex then we realize and that our own conception of the truth may be a truth only by virtue of limiting certain variables is to a large extent the point the TS is making (I think).
     
  10. Awesomesauce

    Awesomesauce Brown Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Messages:
    3,153
    Likes Received:
    644
    But we don't "know" that it is. We think that it is, the consensus is that it is overwhelmingly likely that it is. The only rational response that we have is to treat it like we know that it is, but saying we know is factually inaccurate.

    Not being able to accept that the actual truth may be more complex then we realize and that our own conception of the truth may be a truth only by virtue of limiting certain
    variables is to a large extent the point the TS is making (I think).

    Economics isn't a science and has never been a science. It is a sociological pursuit. It is as corrupted by far right economic "social theology", as the rest of sociology is corrupted by far left "social theology".
     
  11. Lee978

    Lee978 Seeking Alpha

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Messages:
    6,983
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    On the cusp of GREATNESS
    As someone who regularly reads economic blogs from a variety schools of thought, i can tell you that the austerity question is hardly settled in economic circles and the reason for that is due to the complex nature of the world we live in. Only economists claiming that i know of that claim austerity deepens recessions are Krguman and other keynesians. Yet other reputable economists with less of a political ax to grind disagree and argue that the effects of austerity will differ depending on the nation and its unique circumstances.

    Again i think you're falling victim to what alex points out in the OP.
     
  12. Awesomesauce

    Awesomesauce Brown Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Messages:
    3,153
    Likes Received:
    644
    But we don't "know" that it is. We think that it is, the consensus is that it is overwhelmingly likely that it is. The only rational response that we have is to treat it like we know that it is, but saying we know is factually inaccurate.

    Not being able to accept that the actual truth may be more complex then we realize and that our own conception of the truth may be a truth only by virtue of limiting certain
    variables is to a large extent the point the TS is making (I think).

    Economics isn't a science and has never been a science. It is a sociological pursuit. It is as corrupted by far right economic "social theology", as the rest of sociology is corrupted by far left "social theology".
     
    Lee978 likes this.
  13. kpt018

    kpt018 Gold Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    21,411
    Likes Received:
    12,931
    It's pretty obvious to me (and supported by data) that cutting spending on programs, which is inherent in austerity, will never boost the economy, yes? So the other question is whether cutting taxes on investment and high incomes boost the economy. Of course there is a level of tax increase that would be harmful be we know for sure that cutting taxes from already low levels will provide little to no return in terms of economic boosts.

    Who are the reputable economists that offer austerity as a way to boost the economy? And are they ever right?
     
  14. kpt018

    kpt018 Gold Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    21,411
    Likes Received:
    12,931
    Whether climate change is man caused and is threatening our future isn't a matter of perspective. It's not one of those things where both sides can be right, and that was the point of the OP. That opposing view points can be correct based on perspective or experience or values. In this case if we follow the right's view we are doomed because they believe climate change is a hoax.
     
  15. Awesomesauce

    Awesomesauce Brown Belt

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Messages:
    3,153
    Likes Received:
    644
    I think you misunderstand me. I know that climate change is real. I know it is being caused by man. That isn't the point. By stating that you are 100% sure that is the case (an impossibility), you setup a standard that is easy to pick apart. You make any evidence that suggests it isn't some kind of monumental thing. Simply stating that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence suggests that it is real, it is man made and it is potentially catastrophic is the reasoned position. Admit that the system is incredibly complex and that there are times that events will appear to contradict the theory but that they are tiny issues when weighed against he evidence for.
     
  16. kpt018

    kpt018 Gold Belt

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    21,411
    Likes Received:
    12,931
    Whew, I'm sure glad I didn't claim I am 100% sure.
     
  17. Jack V Savage

    Jack V Savage Secretary of Keepin' It Real/Nicest Guy on Sherdog

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2004
    Messages:
    64,121
    Likes Received:
    29,517
    I'd be interested to see the answer to that, too. There isn't any plausible mechanism for austerity in a recession to boost growth, and the evidence is pretty clear even if you don't accept logic.
     
    kpt018 likes this.
  18. Lee978

    Lee978 Seeking Alpha

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Messages:
    6,983
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    On the cusp of GREATNESS
    Wrong. Look at Iceland, Spain, Ireland, and even the US as some examples of fiscal austerity actually boosting GDP.

    There are more I'm sure of it but the most notable that I know of are Robert Mundell, Reinhard Selten, Myron Scholes, and Scott Sumner.

    So as you can see, things aren't as black in white as you would like them to be. Economists can barely agree upon the definition of "austerity" let alone the effects of austerity. Each side will swear up and down that they have the correct models but of course neither side would be 100% correct because the world is too complex to be able to modeled 100% successfully and accurately all the time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2016
  19. Lee978

    Lee978 Seeking Alpha

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Messages:
    6,983
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    On the cusp of GREATNESS
    Again this is just wrong. If you look objectively, you will find that the results are mixed when it comes to austerity.
     
  20. Jack V Savage

    Jack V Savage Secretary of Keepin' It Real/Nicest Guy on Sherdog

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2004
    Messages:
    64,121
    Likes Received:
    29,517
    Can you elaborate? I'm guessing you're just talking about austerity causing declines, and then austerity ending leading to growth.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.