Monday, July 1, 2013

Open Minded

"By all means let's be open minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Richard Dawkins

Ever notice that when someone asks you to have an open mind it's because they want to ram something into it unimpeded by logic or experience?

That comment over on my personal Facebook page is rapidly becoming a well-liked, well-commented-on post.  Funny how that happens; apparently I hit a nerve.

It makes sense, though.  Open-mindedness can be a good thing.  It's defined by Merriam-Webster merely as "receptive to arguments and ideas."  There are a bunch of quotations out there extolling the importance of being open minded, as well as the positive results many famous people have seen from its application.

Why the negative commentary, then?

I suspect it's because of people's expectations in regard to what it means when they're asked to be open-minded versus when they're asking someone else to be the same.  I, personally, feel like I'm quite receptive to many arguments and ideas.  Others, I admit, I dismiss immediately.  For example, if you were to argue that the Earth is actually flat, or that the moon is made of cheese, well, I'd not seem very open-minded to you.  Sorry, but I've already seen evidence that I trust to the contrary.

It doesn't help, of course, that "Can I ask you to be open-minded for a moment" is often followed by "while I share with you the words of (insert religious leader here)."

Oh, sure, I figure I'm expected to say.  Let me go get a Phillips screwdriver so I can open up the portal past logic and experience straight into the belief system I've constructed over the past 45 years.

On second thought--no, I don't think I can be open-minded for a moment. Sorry.
Fact is, we're all open-minded, and we're all not.  Each of us is the product of our own experiences, like it or not. We're receptive to some ideas, and not to others, and where that line falls is entirely dependent upon the ideas that have come before.  Sometimes we're readily receptive, and other times we're hesitant.

Part of the hesitation, really, rests in the fact that the flip side of being open-minded is being gullible.  You know what I mean, right?  I see it all the time: people who are so "open-minded" on a particular topic that they post stuff that make you wonder if they have any neurons firing at all up there in their grey matter.

"For every forward of this e-mail (now share of a post), Microsoft will donate money to xxx charity." (no, Microsoft can't track forwards of e-mails or shares of posts)

"The term 'rule of thumb' originally came from the width of a branch a husband was allowed to use to beat his bride." (seems nobody is really sure where the term came from)

"PRIVACY NOTICE: blah blah blah UCC 1-103 blah blah and the Rome Statute." (Geez.  Get a Snopes, okay?  And while you're at it, look up UCC 1-103 and what the Rome Statute actually is--does the privacy of your Facebook posts really have anything to do with international crimes such as genocide?)

So all that being said--sure, sometimes and to a certain extent being open-minded is good.  Sometimes, and pretty much always beyond that little line between it and gullibility, it's not so good.


1 comment:

  1. Some people feel that everything is alright as long as it is "part of their culture" - like honor killings and similar activities. They are so open minded that their brains have fallen out.