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The Open-Mindedness Dilemma

Posted on 2012.01.01 at 18:30
Current Location: 67114
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Recently fellow-blogger/philosopher & aunt-in-law asked in her post:

It is so difficult for me to abide those groups/individuals that try to justify their views without facts or make them up to fit their belief. The "That's just the way I feel" type of thinking. Now, I don't care if they just do this to themselves, but when they try to impact me with their voodoo logic, I often see red...So am I truly open-minded? ~ suzanne1945

In this same post she embedded a wonderful video 1 discussing the traits of the open-minded and how their nemesis the close-minded attempt to prey upon them using gross misrepresentation prior to following up with accusations of close-mindedness. Sadly, I am wearily familiar with this "tactic" (if you can call it that). As I have stated before,

"Your counterpoint of, Nuh-uh where considering others' opinions which differ from your own is complex and thought-provoking. I'm going to need a little time to digest it all. Your ability to dismiss multifaceted complexity and break things down into simplistic elements is a refreshing gift." *

But with her question also comes the answer:

  1. Being open-minded simply means being willing to consider new ideas.

  2. When I say I don’t believe something, I’ve not said that it can’t be true.

  3. Open-mindedness isn’t about believing things.

  4. A willingness to consider new ideas doesn’t commit you to accepting them unconditionally.

  5. Critical thinking is not incompatible with open-mindedness, rather it empowers an open mind.

After careful consideration, and based on the information provided in the video, she is open-minded. She'd been given a view, correctly applied critical thinking to it, and rejected it. The fact that she even considered another point of view proves it.

Thanks for the exercise!

1 - Transcript Here


suzanne1945 at 2012-01-02 00:38 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the wonderful expose concerning my question of open-mindedness. The 5 points you made in the answer covered the question admirably.
ehowton at 2012-01-02 01:08 (UTC) (Link)
I've asked myself the same question for the same reason. Nice to finally have an answer!
michelle1963 at 2012-01-03 17:11 (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed the way the video / transcript emphasized that open-mindedness and critical thinking are two facets of the same thing.

People who won't consider ideas that seem antagonistic to their beliefs are not utilizing critical thinking skills. The sad thing is, if they bothered to think critically about new ideas, they might find that in fact they could better support whatever idea they are holding so sacrosanct. But because they are afraid their belief won't stand the light of day, they just close their mind to new information.

Edited at 2012-01-03 05:11 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2012-01-03 18:51 (UTC) (Link)
Don't forget the trap that people such as ourselves often fall into - that being, non-critical thinkers don't give a shit about new information.

Its easy to lose sight of that knowledge!
michelle1963 at 2012-01-03 21:08 (UTC) (Link)
Very true. It's hard to fathom. To me not giving a shit about new information is kind of like not giving a shit about breathing. And yet, I see it time and again.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2012-01-04 15:56 (UTC) (Link)
It's like those videos on YouTube put up by fundamentalists to "debunk" accepted scientific theories that don't jibe with their existing belief system. They come up with what they consider some "unanswerable zinger" and put it up as a challenge. The only problem is that these people have never actually studied cosmology or evolution because they consider it blasphemy, so their "zingers" never make any sense.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-04 16:21 (UTC) (Link)
It can be a bit scary. My mother was a teacher who had a co-worker that was a preacher's wife. This woman attended a seminar on how to better teach science. When she returned to share the information with her fellow teachers, she gave all the information, and ended with, "but I don't believe in dinosaurs." I shit you not!

For me this was "a does not compute moment."
ehowton at 2012-01-04 17:22 (UTC) (Link)
I found myself recently in the unenviable presence of someone for whom it was wholly inappropriate for them to have said so, yet they forced upon me that because certain named constellations and stars were quoted in the Old Testament "the astonishing facts cannot be refuted. Scientists only discovered these startling facts in the Twentieth Century, yet they were recorded in the book of Job nearly 3000 years ago. What an awesome confirmation of the Bible! Who can doubt the Bible is the inspired word of God? Yes, the book of Job has a powerful, exclusive lesson for modern man. Twentieth Century science has proven God’s Word, the Bible, is true."

As far as I have been able to determine, those names were given something like 300 years prior to the authoring of the Book of Job. Fortunately, I was aware of its presence in the bible, but had dismissed it as an action item because it would've been extremely unprofessional. I'll never make that mistake again!

It was frightening.

And not much frightens me these days.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-04 18:00 (UTC) (Link)
If I'm not mistaken the many of the names of the constellations are Arabic, are they not? From back when Persia was the seat of civilization?
ehowton at 2012-01-04 18:10 (UTC) (Link)
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2012-01-03 22:40 (UTC) (Link)
I recently had an argument with somebody about religion. He was rehashing the old Dawkins saw that as a social force it's "done more harm than good." I countered that recent archaeological finds support the notion that the rising of organized religion, along with the domestication of the dog, were key elements of moving human beings from hunter/gatherer tribes to larger gatherings. Despite its obvious problems, religion clearly had a large role to play in the formation of civilization, without which it would have been impossible to develop the scientific method. So the Dawkins "more harm than good" argument is a hypothesis as impossible to test as a deity.

Now, one would think that since the person I was discussing this with was favoring reason over dogma that they might see my point, particularly as I am a radical atheist discussing the topic from a purely anthropological perspective. Unfortunately, all I got in response was a series of platitudes about various different obscenities performed by different religious groups. That wasn't my point at all (there's no religious, ethnic or social group of any kind that doesn't have some sort of atrocity in its past), and it fit perfectly into the diagram that you've posted.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-03 23:17 (UTC) (Link)
Perfect example!

I'm an atheist as well, and I find the hypothesis about religion helping to propel humanity beyond the hunter-gatherer stage fascinating!

But for the people who are unable to get beyond black and white thinking, those shades of gray are just too COMPLICATED. Actually, I don't know if it's that they are too lazy to note the more complex picture, or if they fear that letting in evidence that at times religion has been a boon is the slippery slope to becoming God-fearing (to use your example).

Awesome avatar, btw!
ehowton at 2012-01-04 14:15 (UTC) (Link)
I've only recently been introduced this past year to the concept that some people tie their belief system so inexorably to their self-identity, that if you question that belief, well...you're questioning them as a person.

Its no wonder some people act/react so vehemently to certain arguments of logic.

I think I'm going to get a lot of mileage from that graphic this year :)
michelle1963 at 2012-01-04 15:29 (UTC) (Link)

While I have noticed the phenomena of having a belief (whether religious or political) tied to self-identity, it occurs to me that I have wondered if the same can occur with loyalty to a sports team. Not those who watch the game and root for their team in good fun, but in those that act dissed and want to fight when their team loses.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-04 16:16 (UTC) (Link)
Swashbuckler232's anecdote is especially interesting to me because it demonstrated something you have often said ~ that atheists can be just as dogmatic as those adhering to a religion.

While I could logically understand your point, it always seemed to me that once someone has done the work to remove themselves from religious thinking, it's ridiculous to supplant it with another form of a dogma. And yet, his anecdote showed this perfectly.
ehowton at 2012-01-04 16:44 (UTC) (Link)
People are far more diverse than the labels they used to identify themselves.
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2012-01-04 17:48 (UTC) (Link)
It's a function of tribalism. Once a self-identification is made, any opposing viewpoint codes the proponent as "other." I think that people sometimes embrace "reason" over "religion" because they have had such a negative reaction to religiosity. It's not really reason that they're accepting so much as an opposing position.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-04 18:35 (UTC) (Link)
Right. In the end they're still close-minded.

Edited at 2012-01-04 06:36 pm (UTC)
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2012-01-04 19:09 (UTC) (Link)
All they've done is replace one dogma for another. It doesn't matter so much that the viewpoint they're supposedly embracing isn't supposed to be dogmatic.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-05 01:45 (UTC) (Link)
People can be tricky that way. The obviously dogmatic ones are easy to spot, but I'm always a bit chagrined when someone I thought was logical and reasonable have hidden pockets of dogma.

I had an uncle ~ a college science professor. We were discussing the potential life in the universe. He gave all the arguments about why there would have to be life elsewhere given the size of the universe, etc. And then finished up with, "But I don't believe that."

I'm like, "WTF?" To this day, I'm not sure whether he didn't believe it for religious reasons (although he wasn't particularly religious) or for some other reason. I was a teenager at the time and didn't press him as I would have now.

Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2012-01-05 12:03 (UTC) (Link)
It depends. I just finished a book in which the author states a pretty reasonable case that, while there is no doubt life elsewhere in the galaxy, the odds against another civilization developing at the same time as ours did is very slim. His point was that just as there is a "Goldilocks Zone" in a solar system, so there is one in a galaxy (too close to the center and there's too much stuff and gravitational influences, too far away and there's not enough material to make a solar system), but also that life on Earth was protected by its magnetic field, which was caused by a massive cataclysm four billion years ago when Theia smashed into Earth, creating the moon, and sinking to become the planet's current nickel/iron core. We have also been protected by both the gravity and the copious magnetic field of Jupiter as well. Then it took three billion years for multicellular life to develop, much less a civilization. So if his point was just that intelligent life in the universe must be rare, I would say that's not too unusual a position.

That said, we can see 46 billion light years into the universe and it is filled with galaxies, so it is pretty much impossible to imagine that we are the only civilization. Unfortunately, a civilization that developed in, say, NGC 4414, is at 55,000 light years, too far away for us to be aware of and vice-versa.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-05 14:17 (UTC) (Link)
Totally agree that life is probably rare due to all the reasons that you stated, but that, unfortunately, was not his position.

Another factor that would make a civilization like ours rare is our large moon. While I don't remember the physics behind it, apparently it prevents the tilt of the Earth's axis from changing dramatically. As it is, the axis tilt varies from from @ 21 -24 degrees, but without the moon the tilts could be much more dramatic making the development of life if not impossible, then much more difficult.
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