Saturday, January 3, 2009

Who is Closed Minded?

I am often accused of being closed minded because I'm skeptical. It's true. I do close my mind to ridiculous claims based on unsubstantiated and unverifiable evidence. I also close my mind to arguments that I've already evaluated and researched. This is often difficult for people I know to understand because they are at a different stage in their own evaluation process or they are apathetic and are not interested in exploring or evaluating the evidence. Unfortunately for me, I often come off as condescending or indignant.

Brian Dunning does a great job in this podcast of addressing closed mindedness of the skeptic and the true believer. It's a little more complicated than you might think.
The real difference between skeptics and believers is that skeptics have a useful foundation of scientific knowledge and an aptitude for following the scientific method. These tools allow us to distinguish poor quality evidence from good quality evidence. And, importantly, they help restrain us from drawing poorly supported conclusions from the evidence that we do accept, no matter how strongly we want those conclusions to be justified.
You can either read Brian's post or listen to his podcast. Once done with this podcast, I suggest you browse though his collection. He has many interesting podcasts that may help you think through and evaluate extraordinary claims.

I'm going to try to do better at being less condescending and less indignant because it pisses me off when people are that way to me. However, by doing this, I'm going to strongly avoid becoming credulous and agreeable for the sake of avoiding conflict.

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