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YouTube video brings open-mindedness concepts to mainstream

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Apr 4, 2009 in World
When people discuss an issue, and disagree, they sometimes accuse the other party of not being open-minded, a concept not everyone understands. A video on YouTube explains what open-mindedness is, and what it is not.
A popular saying is that people should be open-minded, but not so open-minded as to have their brains fall out. But what is open-mindedness, and what is close-mindedness?
The start of the video is graphically set up as a discussion between two people of which the one with a blue shirt is open-minded, while the one with a green shirt is close-minded, even though he is convinced that he is open-minded.
Blue doesn't believe in pseudo-scientific and supernatural concepts. Green does and tells Blue he should be more open-minded, demonstrating a highly flawed way of thinking.
What is open-mindedness anyway? It is a willingness to consider new ideas. Science promotes and thrives on open-mindedness, because we would not be able to increase our understanding of reality without considering new ideas.
Belief in non-scientific concepts does not make us open-minded. On the contrary, it can often make us completely close-minded. The maker of the video gives an example.
Purple and Green are looking at a wiggling lampshade. What makes it wiggle? A ghost, thinks Green. The evidence is all there, thinks Green. Until Purple removes the fan that actually makes it wiggle. Green's belief in the supernatural has prevented him from seeing reality as it is.
The point is that when someone accepts that an event is supernatural because it is unexplained, that person is actually closing her/his mind and will eliminate alternative explanations before it is clear which explanation(s) may be appropriate.
The video maker makes the point that the statement that something which cannot be explained, is therefore supernatural" leads to a paradoxical situation: "I cannot explain what happened. Therefore, I can explain it." The wrong approach. When something is unexplained, it is merely unexplained, and is no evidence for the supernatural.
It is often claimed that scientists who ask for evidence before accepting claims are close-minded. This is a fallacy. Being open-minded about an idea does not mean to accept it unconditionally.
Also, when a person does not believe in something, that does not mean that this person believes it cannot be true. Claiming that it does, is a classic debating trick, and a misrepresentation of the position of that person.
The author says that he has been told to be more open-minded by people who believe in reincarnation and not in Gods, and by people who believe in God, but not in reincarnation. These people seem to think that open-mindedness means "agreeing with me".
These people are often fiercely sceptical of science, which leads to the conclusion that they are sceptical of scepticism.
"Open-mindedness is not about believing things," says the maker, but "it can be a sign that you are more gullible." He goes on to say that it is not a virtue to be easily persuaded by people. He then gives one of my personal favourite examples: "is it close-minded to require evidence of someone's guilt before locking them up," he asks.
If you believe in pseudo-scientific and supernatural concepts, that is your right. If you want to put forward your reasons for believing in these ideas, while accepting that others might find flaws in your arguments, that is fine as well. However, if you target people you have never met, and claim that they are deficient in some way because they don't believe in these concepts, and if you reject their arguments without consideration and then demand that they accept your arguments without critical consideration, you are not only being close-minded, but also controlling, arrogant and presumptuous.
If your claim requires suspension of critical thinking, it is not the person asking for evidence who must demand less evidence, but you who should demand more.
"An open mind that demands no evidence will let in an awful lot of rubbish," finishes the maker.
More about Atheism scientist skeptic, Open-mindedness, God close-minded religion