Tim Wise: The Extended Interview
Scientific naturalists recognize that our bias always threatens to keep us from accurately interpreting what we see. Indeed, the degree to which our efforts to study the world around us will generate the accurate information we desire, is limited by how effective we are at offsetting the bias that would otherwise mislead us.
While most naturalists are aware of the need to defeat bias in order to accurately perceive the world around us, when it comes to understanding what drives our fellow humans, naturalists are often far less committed to applying the standards of scientific evidence to attain an unbiased view. In America perhaps the most blaring examples of such unchecked bias obstructing our ability to perceive accurately has to due with the issue of race.
Of all immigrants to this continent African Americans have one of the longest histories- starting with our nation’s very first settlements. Having provided centuries of uncompensated or minimally compensated sweat equity leading to the establishment of our nation and the accumulation of national wealth, the contributions of African Americans is unsurpassed by any group.
From having survived the infamous “middle passage” to surviving through generations under slavery, through surviving years of institutionalized terror, and countless obstacles to partaking in the fruits of their labor- there is no doubt that the challenges that African Americans have endured in America demonstrate a level of strength, tenaciousness, determination, and motivation, unsurpassed by any other group.
Despite this, African Americans are frequently seen by other Americans as unmotivated, addicted to sex, drugs, and alcohol, and preoccupied with extorting preferential treatment that is undeserved.
For this reason the work of Tim Wise is crucial for any one who values the importance of healthy skepticism. Rather than relying on ancient ways of explaining why we behave as we do Tim Wise seems to begin with the immensely reasonable and humanistic presumption that humans start out inclined to health, inclined to be highly social, cooperative and have a strong desire to contribute to the world around them. He demonstrates how the history of African Americans is consistent with this understanding of human behavior and how institutionalized racism has impacted all Americans in damaging ways that have undercut our desires to be a land of freedom and opportunity for all.
Armed with voluminous data obtained with evidentiary rigor, Wise blows apart and forces us to confront the various ways that our bias can blind us to the truth. If we are truly committed to an evidence-based understanding of our world than the work of Tim Wise is essential.