Bias as Interest

In writing, the word bias invariably denotes prejudice, unfairness, partiality and carries a negative connotation. Bias, when associated with fabric refers to a diagonal, usually a 45⁰ angle. The two meanings are related in that they both refer to the slant or direction. Etymologically bias comes from early sixteenth century French and meant oblique. So bias refers to one’s leaning. I think that in academic writing “one’s leanings” are usually associated with the negative valuation of “bias” and become the subject of what must be eliminated from writing. Of course, it is inappropriate to academic writing to prejudge the outcome, to place one’s own views as a determinant of the outcome, to grind one’s ax, so to speak. But wait … isn’t the statement of a theory a prejudgment of the examination of the subject, that is, to look at that subject in terms of its applicability of the stated thesis? Don’t all academic writings have to have some author who has an interest that precedes the study of the subject and drives the continuing interest throughout the investigation of the subject? Do not all academics have perspectives, beliefs, disciplines, trainings that are presented as of major, if not definitive, value to the consideration of a subject?
There is then something altogether crazy about the precept of eliminating all bias, for it is the elimination of the incentive, motivation, and energy to do the study and the writing as well as the elimination of anything that might be understood as value in the results.
Perhaps we would be far better off simply recognizing that bias is interest since we have less bias toward this term. Who would suggest that one should eliminate all “interest” that informs a study or a writing. To find a study or a writing interesting is a compliment if not an absolute glory.
I submit that the issue we have identified by the word bias is not actually the issue. The issue is responsibility and method in scholarship and writing, not the presence of the interests of the author. And it seems to me that the less present the author is to the research and writing the easier it is to simply ignore responsibility, since there is the illusion of objectivity and truth. Furthermore, the only way to eliminate the leanings of the author/researcher is to carefully disguise or hide them and this is a deceptive act in itself. The other issue is that academic disciplines should have a clear understanding of accepted methods by which to interconnect scholarly interests with scholarly results. Most of these are actually pretty common sense like don’t make up stuff, don’t take things out of context, don’t ignore contradictory evidence … simple things like this.

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