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Collective Responsibility

Changing minds

Another article, this one in Scientific American, on how people reject facts that conflict with their worldview.  Nothing really new here (I think of William James' 19th century discussions of how people do and don't change their minds).  There are some good pointers on how to discourse with people you disagree with (rules I'm good at following when I'm at my best, though I'm not always at my best).

Again, what puzzles me about all this scientific research on the difficulty of changing ones mind, especially one's worldview, is that I've done precisely that many times.  Why am I, and plenty of other people I know, different?

Here are some examples:

I abandoned biblical inerrancy for historical-critical methods and ultimately even postmodern biblical hermeneutics based upon what I learned in classes and the scholars I read who convinced me to take every step along the way.  I distinctly remember the classroom lecture on the various forms of inerrancy which compelled me to cast aside that position.

I went from being a creationist to an evolutionist as a young adult when I was convinced of the evidence and that I could maintain my religious faith despite the change, which also resulted from becoming acquainted with more liberal forms of Christianity.

During a two week summer course in philosophy of language in a matter of days I went from disagreeing with Noam Chomsky's views to adopting them, based upon the persuasiveness of his arguments.

I distinctly remember the moment, driving in my car and listening to a report on NPR, when I decided that I needed to change my position on capital punishment.  And I had even written a paper giving a defense of it not that many years before.

In 2003-4 I went through a divorce with the Republican Party because of the War in Iraq.  The move wasn't instantaneous, but months of intellectual and emotional wrestling.

That said, I've also always maintained that my core values, ideals, and religious faith have remained steadfast while I have changed theological, philosophical, and political positions.


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