Statistical Justification: Is racial profiling based on accurate statistics justified?
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My thesis is about whether we are justified to apply accurate information about a group onto an individual in the group. More specifically, it’s motivated by our different intuitions towards the following two cases. I have a justified belief that, statistically, slopes covered with ice are more likely to be slippery than flat ground covered with ice. All else equal, am I justified in believing that a particular icy slope is more likely to be slippery than a particular icy flat ground? The answer seems to be yes here. Now consider a very similar case. I have a justified belief that, statistically, black people are more likely to commit some crimes than white people are. All else equal, am I justified in believing that a particular black man is more likely to commit such a crime than a white man is? The answer seems to be no. Even though the two cases seem structurally similar, we have very different intuitions towards the two cases. In my thesis, I attempt to give a reasonable account for our different intuitions by considering two types of solution: moral encroachment, solutions that are compatible with strong evidentialism, and finally, my own solution, which is also compatible with strong evidentialism. I argue that the projected beliefs in both cases are both justified and morally ok. What our intuition identifies is in fact a moral wrong, and it’s not the moral wrong of the projected belief itself. Instead, the moral wrong resides in the downstream acts or speech that may be licenced by the projected belief. These acts and speech are morally problematic because they reinforce the current social injustice in the world by delivering false implications. Since there is no discrimination against sloped ground, there is no social injustice to be worried about in Slippery Slope, and therefore the actions are not morally wrong in that case.