Changing My Mind

Here is something I’ve changed my mind about, recently, based on the evidence.

I used to think you could appeal to the rationality in any person, present evidence and establish a chain of reasoning, and cause a person to change their mind about something. This apparently is not true. (I’ve posted a couple other items on this theme recently.)

Salon: From creationism to ESP: Why believers ignore science.

This is a review of a book by Will Storr called The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, in which the author, as he interviews various adherents of creationism, homeopathy, Holocaust denial, and so on, finding them immune to evidence and reason, increasingly finds himself doubting his own convictions; despite feeling firm in his intellectual convictions, he also knows that he is bound to be wrong about some of them. How to resolve this? Interesting essay.

(My answer: By not taking positions on topics one has not studied. [See passage from Sam Harris (scroll down) that I linked this past week.] And in areas one does have familiarity with the subject matter, by being aware of the brain’s psychological biases, and applying scientific reasoning. And being prepared to change one’s mind.)

The same theme is invoked by Peter Boghossian in his new book. He says the first thing to do in trying to persuade someone out of their rote faith is to forget about presenting evidence. It’s more about challenging a believer to question the basis for their faith. More on this when I finish reading his book.

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