Okay --I’m sorry (partially) about last night’s whine-fest above --and hate to potentially poison this productive thread on such a sour note. As penance, I’ll raise this hopefully more productive (but still critical --in the spirit of the site, right?) question for further discussion possibilities.
Under the ‘just-world hypothesis’ bias the following description is given:
A world in which people don’t always get what they deserve, hard work doesn’t always pay off, and injustice happens is an uncomfortable one that threatens our preferred narrative. However, it is also the reality. This bias is often manifest in ideas such as ‘what goes around comes around’ or an expectation of ‘karmic balance’, and can also lead to blaming victims of crime and circumstance.
I think it may be a bit unfair or a failure of skepticism to label a so-called ‘just’ world as a non-reality, but then in the same breath bestow the label of ‘unjust’ world as a blanket reality that must be accepted. None of us (believers or nonbelievers alike) likes injustice as is acknowledged by the necessity of pointing out this bias. Where we will disagree is over whether justice exists objectively apart from humanity or whether is only a creation of ours. But I think we can set aside that disagreement to agree that no matter who created the concept … it does exist, is applied (even if only with dismally partial success), and is critically important.
“What goes around, comes around” does not always have to be meant as some final descriptive word about all reality (though the believer can certainly see and include such a meaning in it); but it can also be valued as an ethical instruction or warning. Much like recognizing that when we speak lies, those lies often come back to haunt us. Are we irrational to inculcate such preferences and warnings toward justice in our children and those around us? I strongly suggest not. So I would nominate this particular bias, as it is proposed as being a very dangerously close to an endorsement of nihilism of the very sort that the creators of the site would not want to promote.
Perhaps an example of the flip side of this ‘just-world’ bias could be how people in the era of Grimm’s fairy tales thought of the world. They probably could not be accused of thinking the world to be a rosy place. Hence children are treated to tales of cannibalistic witches haunting the woods or other monsters lurking behind every rock. The stories were not entirely irrational as we can easily imagine the intent to inculcate a healthy, and self-preserving fear of dangers in young listeners. But I do think that we could / should match the ‘just-world hypothesis’ bias with an ‘un-just world’ bias to which we are at least as susceptible. E.g. whenever fear-manipulated people scurry away to stock up on more weapons and ammo, they are not in any way thinking the world to be a just place. They are investing not in any good or enlightened future for their children but instead in a perversely hoped-for apocalypse and personal survival at the expense of their neighbors. I propose that the ‘unjust’ or perhaps ‘nihilistic’ world hypothesis should be one of the biases that ought to heavily concern us all today if we care about our children.