When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.
I ran into a couple neat web sites recently when I was looking into why people change their minds.
Kirstyevidence has a thoughtful list of reasons why scientists change their minds: http://bit.ly/NkfVAn Edge.org asked this very question of scientists and technologists a few years ago. The quote at the top of this post comes from their site. The answers are still interesting: http://bit.ly/N2E5yD
When scientists change their minds, they are applauded. As Carl Sagan said,
In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
Maybe in politics or religion, people won’t publicly admit to changing their minds for fear of being called hypocrites. Politicians especially are eviscerated for changing their minds: they’re called traitors or accused of cynically following public opinion polls. While skepticism in politics is warranted, I hope we don’t all turn into cynics. Sometimes people learn and grow.
Why do people become so defensive about positions they pick up from others? After all, you didn’t say the world was going to end in 2012, or Mars would appear the size of the full moon, or tapping the side of a soda can prevents it from foaming over when opened. (BTW, Snopes.com is a great site to check out such stories http://bit.ly/b4d7BS) A group of my friends once assembled to test a statement made by someone on the local web forum that you can pop popcorn with cell phones. We reported back that the phones failed to pop the corn and the lady who had posted the item left the forum in a huff. Why was that?
Knowledge is better than ignorance and fact is better than error. I try not to get too emotionally invested in any one position. That way I can be happy when I’m proved wrong because it gets me closer to the truth.
PS: Here’s a bonus. How to Not Be a Jerk