Open-Mindedness

Most people have quite the wrong idea about what open-mindedness is.  I’ve been told by people who believe in things that are not well supported by evidence, that I am closed-minded for not believing in them.  Ghosts, for example, or the existence of a soul.  Am I closed-minded because I hold back on accepting things until I have seen sufficient evidence?  I don’t think so.  I am definitely open-minded, but that does not mean I accept anything without judgement or consideration.  A better word for that is gullible.  I often find too, that people who tend to believe in supernatural kinds of things are immediately dismissive of scientific kinds of things.  Which, to me, suggests that either they are (a) accepting towards things they want to believe, and closed-minded against things they don’t, or (b) have their own standards for determining what they will accept and what they won’t, which are different from my  own (in which case, by their own reasoning, they are closed-minded too).

Unfortunately, people aren’t taught how to think, how to evaluate claims and evidence.  Which is a shame, since it seems to me that people adopt their opinions and beliefs from newspapers and other media, which are the places where critical thinking is most needed!

Below is an excellent video on open-mindedness I found on YouTube.  Give it a watch, it really explains things well.

18 thoughts on “Open-Mindedness”

  • I never knew that the discussion about open mindedness would be as complicated as this. But I have the same definition with the video. It is indeed the willingness to consider new ideas in relation to a unproven thought. There’s always a line that will separate my own beliefs between the newly considered thought. I think it’s just similar of not being biased.

  • Human beings tend to seek answers that give a meaning and context to their life experiences. Often, these may not fit into what is commonly considered logical.

    The video is well placed, as it makes a good explanation. When people find something that does SEEM to fit what they experienced, their mind resists looking for alternative reasons (ex. the neighbour who failed to look for alternative explanations, or the use of personal anecdotes as proof). All mental interpretations from that point on lead to the same conclusion, even if clearly flawed… and when something is obvious to the person but not to others, a quick and socially instituted (even if illogical) defense is the best choice: the “close-minded” remark. It quickly closes the topic before any deeper explanation needs to be given.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Wes – Nicely put! Yep, we hang on to our existing beliefs for dear life. And we all do it too. I see what you mean about the social instituded remark. Protecting the ego in a way, similar to what Robert said about ego-triggers.

  • I agree that many (possibly even most) people get their opinions from the media, which makes taking the time to research your issues even more important.

    Another interesting fact is that people have what I call ‘Ego triggers’. An ego trigger is an automatic response to any stimulus.

    If you are in a room of people and say the words ‘gun control’, ‘birth control’, or ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ you’ll see an interesting range of reactions from people who have no idea why they react the way they do.
    .-= Robert Morgen´s last blog ..Prosperity Mantra Mudra Meditation Technique =-.

  • Thank you for sharing this post, Warren. I agree with you that open-mindedness does not necessarily mean accepting to the opinion of a majority. I think open-mindedness means that one can accept differences of other opinions whether or not they are similar to his or not. Open-mindedness entails humility because without it, a person cannot accept opinions which differ from his.
    .-= JM @ Calgary Psychology´s last blog ..The Art of Becoming Human =-.

  • “Unfortunately, people aren’t taught how to think, how to evaluate claims and evidence. ”

    Wow, thats a great statement! I totally agree, and going through university, this was one of the greatest skills I acquired. And I believe it is valuable to others as well, but the unfortunate part is that not all my classmates developed this skill. It can be learned, nonetheless.
    .-= Inspired Robin´s last blog ..Les Brown Quotes Page =-.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Yes same here. They force critical thinking on you pretty hard in psych, but it’s all for a good cause. Like seeing the matrix once you get comfortable with critical reasoning, stats etc.

  • Sometimes a person who is too open-minded will appear to be lacking in judgement. Don’t get me wrong, i am definitely open to other’s opinion. But many times, we have to exercise our own judgement based on our values and sound reasonings. Many things are debatable. We simply cannot force our views on another person. I would like to define open-minded as being open and show respect to what others think. Not neccessary accepting a notion without any sound evaluation.
    .-= Tim@Anger Management´s last blog ..Anger Management Techniques =-.

  • I’ve often thought that people who believe in evolution are usually not open minded. After all their idea is a theory and no human saw the beginning of life so how can one be so dogmatic. Especially when you are suppose to be a scientific thinker.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Car Auctions person who didn’t leave their actual name but I’ll let it slide because you made an interesting comment,

      I can understand why you’d come to that position. People who believe in evolution are often very passionate because they believe strongly that belief should be based on appropriate evidence. However, I disagree with you, because:

      1) People who believe in evolution are typically skeptical, not closed minded. There’s a difference, which is that a skeptic will change their mind if the evidence points in a different direction. Since the evidence overwhelmingly points to evolution being the most likely explanation for the development of life, that’s what they believe.
      2) “Their idea is a theory.” Yes it is a theory, and also so is gravity, but you don’t jump out of your window to get downstairs, do you. ‘Theory’ does not equal ‘unsupported’, as you seem to imply. Theories can be based on flimsy evidence or on vast amounts of evidence – but they are still called theories either way. Don’t get caught up on the word ‘theory’.
      3) No human saw the beginning of life: true. By your logic then, any thought about life on this planet would be considered dogmatic. You could say “I don’t know”, but scientists are the only ones willing to say that. Any scientist worth his salt will say that science can’t give you 100% proof of anything – they always accept that there’s a certain probability that the theory is wrong. Know any other field of belief that can do that? I don’t. Everyone else deals in certainty before evidence; science is comfortable with uncertainty even after evidence. Complete opposite of dogmatism in my opinion.
      4) You are right that some people are dogmatic in their belief in evolution, only that I struggle to think of any I’ve met personally. I’m sure they exist, but I’d say they were in the minority.

      Just my thoughts on the matter, take from it what you wish and thanks for the comment!

  • Just responding to Warren’s comment on “gravity being a theory”. Gravity has been observed, it is a force that exists and not a theory. The actual process of evolution has never been observed. What we have are findings that scientist bend to say supports evolution. The fact of the matter is anyone could bend findings to any type of theory.

    Evolutionist can not explain the many missing links of evolution, instead when you bring up the subject you usually get an emotional response. Missing links in my opinion, and many other thinkers, is evidence that evolutionist do not consider and weigh in their beliefs.

    • Warren Davies says:

      Responding to car auction person who still hasn’t given a name,

      The process of evolutions has been observed. How else do you explain those most interesting looking creatures, the Chihuahuas? They aren’t native to this planet, they’ve been created through selective breeding. Somewhere along the line, the noble wolf ended up in Paris Hilton’s handbag, and lo, the wolf did weep.

      In terms of missing links, it’s kind of a misconception. Firstly, the theory of evolution has such a vast amount of evidence that fossil records are simply a nice bonus. Secondly, we should not expect to find a fossil for every variety of creature that ever lived. So fossil record lineages don’t dispute the theory by having gaps, but rather, if a fossil of a creature was found in an era in which it does not belong (i.e., that evolution would not predict). A gap in the fossil record, then, is not sufficient evidence to dispute the theory – the theory works perfectly well even taking gaps into account.

      To use an analogy, say I read Perez Hilton’s awful blog and don’t want anyone to know. But someone looks over my shoulder and sees it! I quickly clear most of my history, but forget to delete a page talking about who’s shagging who in hollywood from two weeks ago. There are missing links in my web history, sure, but the smoking gun is still there for all to see. The available evidence is consistent with the idea that I read Perez hilton. By the way, this has never actually happened to me, and definitely not last Saturday afternoon.

      Back to open-mindedness, if scientists had a load of evidence for evolution, but then the fossils showed Chihuahuas 3 million years ago, homo sapiens 3.5 million years ago etc., then there’d be some serious rethinking of the theory. Which is what I mean by open-mindedness generally; it’s fine to ask for a high standard of evidence before you change your belief – that’s not closed-minded. Closed-minded is not changing your mind when you are confronted with that evidence.

  • The mind is powerful but yet fragile at times. Our thoughts and ideas can be influenced to great lengths if we let them. Being broad or open-minded does not necessarily mean being assertive towards different concepts or phenomena. We all have created a mind of our own and have the right to voice our perspectives. People have this wrong notion that open-mindedness does not require logic.

    Society’s views and approaches may have broadened, but that does not mean rationality and practicality be shown the door. Debatable topics are inevitably natural. By sharing and exchanging perspectives and opinions we open expand our rationale scale. Discussions should be nourishing to the mind. Everyone is entitled to their own point of view; however, the application of reason is essential.

  • I think the concept of open and closed-minded behaviour is too subjective. I would also suggest that your generalization of people who believe in the supernatural don’t believe in the scientific is false. However, I agree that anyone who holds any prejudice about any point of view would be “closed-minded” on that subject.

    • Warren Davies says:

      True, I am probably polarising here and there may well be several shades of grey. Just speaking from my personal experiences though, people tend to either be ‘in’ or ‘out’ when it comes to pseudoscience. I haven’t come across someone who say “Crystal healing? What a load of old crock! How is that supposed to work? Now, Reiki, on the other hand, THAT definitely works!” However, maybe I’m wrong; perhaps there are loads of people like this, and I just haven’t met them yet!

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