Saturday, 31 March 2012


I'm often old that I should be more open minded. I disagree, and I've been ruminating about it for a little while now.

It comes most often from the new-age crowd - those that I upset in my crusade against non-science-based alternative medicine. I tell them I don't believe homeopathy works, or reiki, or acupuncture - it's hard to believe the amount of pushback I get over acupuncture - and I explain why, and I'm told that I need to be more open minded. It does come from the religious as well, though less often.

I disagree. I think I'm being utterly open minded, and sometimes wonder what definition of open-minded these people are using. I contend that I'm being open minded because I'm willing to give their viewpoints a chance, I'm willing to hear their arguments, listen to whatever evidence they may have accrued, do my research, and come to my conclusion.

What would closed-mindedness be like? I'd be unwilling to listen. Unwilling to consider. I would have preemptively come to my conclusion, without giving the other party the benefit of the doubt, and I would display an unwillingness to change my mind. That's closed-minded.

There are those who will point out that I have, in fact, already reached a conclusion on their pet topic. And that's fair enough; in many cases, I have. But this does not stop me from being willing to reconsider. To admit the possibility that I'm wrong. To listen to what one has to say - even if it's the hundredth time I've heard those exact same arguments and could refute them in my sleep.

The fact that I've done my research and reached my conclusion before you, personally, arrived on the scene does not make me closed-minded; it makes you late to the party.

And even then, if you're able to provide new arguments, new evidence, some sort of proof to your claims, that overbalances the weight of evidence against you, I'll happily change my mind. I'll stand up and proclaim that I was wrong, and you were right. I'm not saying I'll do this immediately - I am, after all, a skeptic. But I'll look into your claims, view your evidence, and if the evidence winds up being in your favour - well, heck. That's what evidence is for.

I fail to see where in this I can justly be accused of closed-mindedness. In fact, it seems to me that the majority of the time I'm told I need to be more open-minded, it's for one reason, and one reason alone; I have disagreed with what someone has to say. Because I'm unwilling to uncritically accept what this person believes, I must be closed-minded. I say again: I disagree. As far as I'm concerned, there's a better word than closed-minded for someone who accepts claims at face value without looking at the evidence.