Open thread on AETV #762 »« We get email: emo poetry edition

“Closed-minded”: the phrase that loses every argument

Today I’ve had another 9/11 Truther email me wanting a “debate,” and you know, I’m all out of love. As a skeptic and freethinker, I cherish good argument. I think we all do. But the question always arises regarding when argument is pointless. While I categorically reject the defeatist attitude some people give us, that Christians’ minds are carved in stone and any debate with them is a waste of time (all of us who came from Christianity to atheism, like myself and Matt and many of you, disprove that), it is the case that there are some people it’s pointless to try to reach rationally. And while everyone’s different, I can say one thing they all have in common is the use of their favorite, fallback phrase, which many of them wield as if it were some kind of secret smart-weapon.

So this is a general post, both for the benefit of skeptics and believers, as to why the dumbest and most futile thing you can say in any argument you conduct is to tell your opponent they have a “closed mind.” And while it may seem somewhat ironic that I am saying this while, in the same breath, talking about people you can’t reach with a rational argument, you will see what I mean below, under point 3.

Here then, in a Cracked-y kind of list, is why you will always, immediately lose any argument you’re in, the instant the words “closed-minded” pass your lips (or your keypad).

1. It’s an admission you haven’t got your shit together.
I have most commonly been called “closed-minded” when I’ve done such a thorough and comprehensive job of fisking the other guy that the only piece of his ego he can salvage from the shrapnel is just big enough to write those twelve letters on, provided he squints and uses an extra-fine Rapidograph. Calling someone “closed-minded” in response to total pwnage can simply be translated as, “You know, I just can’t respond to that. I have no response to make. I am empty like a church on Monday.” But you can’t just let yourself be totally humiliated, dropping to the mat without so much as taking a final, wild and aimless swing, can you. So what do you have left? Nothing but, “Yeah…well, if you weren’t so closed-minded, you’d understand why I’m right!”

The solution here is to make sure you’re prepared to defend whatever position you’re trying to defend. Have your facts in order. It may not be that you’ve brought no evidence. But if you’ve brought voluminous evidence and your opponent is still trashing it, don’t just get indignant that he’s not overcome by the brilliance of your oratory and spiffy colorful pie charts. Listen to what he’s saying, and if it’s bullshit, show why, and if it’s a sound criticism that you really can’t rebut, make a note of it, concede the point, and go back to do further homework. You may yet be able to take him down in round two, in which case you’ll have learned something. Or he may be right and you were full of beans all along, in which case you’ll have learned something. Even when you lose, you win.

2. You’re acting like your position is entitled to less skepticism than others.
Complain all you like about the unfair one-sidedness of that old “burden of proof” thing, but whatever your claim is — that God exists, that alien chupacabras caused 9/11 by transmitting subliminal murder commands into N*Sync lyrics, that Grover was the greatest Muppet — you bear the burden of proof for it. The guy who disagrees or says he doesn’t believe you is free to sit on his ass and smile like a smug douchehat (a skill we have honed to a fine performance art in 15 years of The Atheist Experience, I am proud to boast), still not believing you, until you meet your burden of proof.

Exhibit A: Smug Douchehat. Hat optional.

Just because the scintillating truth of your beliefs is obvious to you doesn’t mean it will be obvious to others, or that it even should be. People believe things, whether they are true or false things, because they have been given reasons that they think makes whatever they believe worthy of belief. Whining that someone’s being “closed-minded” because they don’t find the reasons you’re giving them persuasive is, like point 1, just you throwing up your hands and giving up.

You simply can’t get around having to provide good reasons (what skeptics call “evidence”) to someone you think should, if not share, at least give some degree of merit to your beliefs. If you’re tempted to throw “closed-minded” at them, remember that “open-minded” doesn’t mean “believe whatever you feel like, because why not.” Though the two are often confused, “open-minded” is not another word for “gullible.”

3. You are in all likelihood being a hypocrite who’s projecting his ass off.
Allow me to present salient clips to illustrate the point from the Truther email received earlier today. Early on, he states…

It has been awhile since I popped by the 911Debunking site, but as you requested, I spent a couple of hours there again. What can I say…terrible articles and silly rhetoric backed by unsubstantiated photos and randomly chosen witness reports. It is a terrible site.

And then later:

Unfortunately, their evidence and science contradicts what I see, so I cannot believe what they say. What could their motivations be? Perhaps they are simply lying to themselves (denial) – that is my gut reaction. But perhaps they are being malicious, or are trying to save their skins. Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t matter – the evidence does not support their flimsy claims. And as I am a skeptic, I cannot accept their arguments, no matter how many credentials they wish to display.

Get all that? Any evidence that opposes what he’s chosen to believe deserves nothing less than instantaneous, categorical, contemptuous dismissal. Obviously, these scientists are mistaken, or lying, or have some shadowy nefarious agenda, or have been been cowed in their terror of Trilateral Commission ninja assassins. But whatever it is, they’re wrong. Full stop.

But…but…then…

If the atheist experience was able to objectively look at the evidence provided by the truth movement, you would be compelled to support. This would be powerful, as I am finding that almost all atheist organizations seem to tow the line. You are looked up to – inspiring leaders of reason. Please re-consider your position, as I think you may start the house of “skeptics” to fall if you relate the proper information. This would be a great thing for society, as IMHO, the atheist and skeptics societies have failed miserably with their duty to seek the truth. But this can change, and reason and evidence can push through faulty conjecture.

I will end with a few video links – I beg of you, watch with an open mind – a thinking mind – ask yourself “what am I seeing”.

Please consider my evidence with an open mind, a thinking mind! You know, like the kind of mind I had, until I learned the truth, and decided I could finally go ahead and close the fucker.

So, yeah. Hypocrite. Projector. Don’t be That Guy. Thank you.

Disclaimer and disclosure.
Is it the case that, the utterly useless fail of the insult notwithstanding, there are closed-minded people in the world? Why, yes. See above. The people who plea most for open-mindedness are usually the ones whose minds are most closed to others. Have I ever been closed-minded about anything? Am I still? I hope not to be. But I may be. And in circumstances where the facts — “facts” defined here as objective truths independently verifiable, regardless of how I feel about them — are solidly against a particular view, like creationism or geocentrism, I feel very comfortable having a closed mind to those ideas. Though I would add that in the case of proven falsehoods, you’re not being “closed-minded” to reject them, simply smart.

But as a tool in your rhetorical arsenal, to call your opponent “closed-minded” is pretty much only ever used by people with untenable positions that they defend poorly, with a surfeit of emotion and too little evidence. The minute you say it in an argument, you’ve lost. You should have brought your A-game in the first place.

Comments

  1. says

    I needed to read this. I’ve been called closed-minded several times within the past couple months by a good friend of mine who has somehow gotten herself sucked into the “Chemtrail” conspiracy.

    The sad thing is… 12 years ago… that would have been me going on about chemtrails and what not. I’ve just been at a loss as to what to say to her. She’s a very intelligent person, I’ve known her since the mid 90s, but it just seems to get worse as we get older. More new-agey conspiracy theories and brushing me off when I don’t accept “evidence” which I am skeptical of. I’ve been there, I saw the errors in the “science” I was regurgitating from Coast to Coast AM callers.

    Good points here that I can talk over with her if the subject ever arises. Hopefully we can work past it. I hate to lose a friend I’ve had since junior high over a fucking chemtrail.

    • tosspotovich says

      Conspiracy nuts need your mind to be open wide so that you’re satisfied with motive despite a lack of good evidence. I had an argument over several weeks with a work colleague over the merits of immunising his new-born. Eventually he saw sense but sadly I don’t think it was the evidence that swayed him. He came to realise that Andrew Wakefield had motivation to lie about the links between MMR and autism.

    • VanRado says

      What a coincidence, a friend of mine who is a 911 truther, started talking to me about chemtrails a couple of days ago. Some documentary must have been released about chemtrails recently.

      I get the closed minded thing from my friend, who by the way is extremely intelligent and seems to compartmentalise these conspiracy theories from his day to day reasoning.

      But I got a new one the other day when I challenged him on chemtails: by ‘always rejecting’ fringe ideas, I was limiting my creativity! My response to this nonsense was to recommend the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, where they often talk about amazing science that is more interesting than anything any science fiction author can come up with. They also talk about how often the best scientists are unusually creative.

      • says

        …by ‘always rejecting’ fringe ideas, I was limiting my creativity!

        No, you were just not letting “creativity” into places where it wasn’t called for. Craetivity is great when you’re writing fiction, or trying to come up with possible guesses that might later be fleshed out into viable theories; but when you’re investigating an event like 9/11 or the JFK assassination, you need to choose logic and reality over imagination.

    • Silversong says

      I know exactly what you mean. I have a cousin who is very prone to conspiracy theories and love to preach often reinforcing his ideas by saying I can not prove he is wrong (argument from ignorance, and that I am close minded.

      First (minor note), intelligence can be an illusion held by the silver-tongue / well versed. So I wouldn’t be quick to judge – though your friend might actually be intelligent.

      Second (close mindedness). Most conspiracy theorists are close-minded in their approach to being open-minded. That means, they believe they are obliged to entertain any odd trail of thought as an open-minded person. It is PERFECTLY fine to critically approach an idea and to discard it to a certain degree due to lack of evidence or logical basis.

    • james somers says

      Have you considered bringing the coversation to the question of why so many people mentioned by name and otherwise in the Bible gave EYEWITNESS accounts to seeing and hearing God manifested, angels manifested before them and the miracles witnessed? Can the atheist explain why so many people (people who believe that liars go to hell, people who lost their lives for proclaiming these things) would claim to see and hear the same manifestations of God? Pillars of fire and cloud that led them through the desert, who saw the Red Sea parted to walk over on dry ground, who witnessed three Hebrews cast into a fiery furnace only to live while others perished…Can they explain why these Eyewitness accounts would be given? Was everyone just insane? Or were they telling the truth…the observable, observable, observable truth? Can the Atheist explain that? Why would people be willing to risk their lives proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ when they were afraid to go in public days before, what made them proclaim that Christ had ascended into heaven…not one witness but many witnessing this? How could over 500 upstanding members of the community witness Christ alive after the resurrection if he really wasn’t? How can the atheist explain this behavior? The burden of proof is on the atheist…the burden of proof is on the one who denies his savior, not on the one who believes and proclaims him.

      Again, what about “observable” prophecy? This is evidence that HISTORY backs up for us! Prophecies fulfilled are observed evidence that history agrees occurred though it may not agree “how” it occurred. Still, the atheist must explain how over three hundred prophecies could converge and come true with regard to Jesus Christ…how could that statistically impossible event happen?
      How could the destruction of Tyre (on both land and island) be predicted by God’s prophet to the letter to be fulfilled by two different heathen kings (Nebuchednezzar and Alexander) many years apart from one another? How could the arrival of Messiah be predicted to the day by Daniel (9:25,26) based upon the 69 weeks and the starting time given which even the secular encyclopedia brittanica identified when Artaxerxes commanded for Jerusalem to be rebuilt…how could these and many more occur with complete HISTORICAL ACCURACY (which means it was observable)??

      Again, the burden of proof is on the unbeliever, not the believer. We have plenty of observable evidence, historical proof, and eyewitness accounts that cannot be denied by the atheist…why haggle over this bacteria or fly when we should be looking with them at what God’s word actually says??!!

      Just some food for thought, but remember that if Believer is wrong its no problem, if the athiest is wrong its Hellfire…worth giving God’s word a chance I think

      • says

        so many people mentioned by name and otherwise in the Bible gave EYEWITNESS accounts

        We have no eyewitness accounts. We have claims of eye witness accounts. Claims made by anonymous sources who don’t tell us how they heard these accounts or how many people the story has gone through before coming to them. Claims made in text that are rife with mistakes and signs of editing and plagiarism.

        people who believe that liars go to hell

        Except, of course, if they’re lying for the right reason. It’s an established fact that religious people often have some very interesting ideas about what “honesty” means, in the context of providing arguments for their religion.

        The burden of proof is on the atheist

        No. The burden of proof is on you to establish that these account are in any way accurate. Wild unsupported, anonymous claims are easy to make.

        the burden of proof is on the one who denies his savior, not on the one who believes and proclaims him.

        So, you admit that the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that Krishna doesn’t exist?

        Still, the atheist must explain how over three hundred prophecies could converge and come true with regard to Jesus Christ…how could that statistically impossible event happen?

        Easy. The story of Jesus was written specifically to conform to what the believers expected. Done.

        I’m going to ignore the babble about prophecies until you demonstrate a minimum of critical thought. Until then, it’s pointless to engage in such a discussion.

        Oh, and finishing off with Pascal’s Wager? Classic!

        • james somers says

          As far as evolution is concerned, how many professing atheists have actually been in these labs doing the carbon dating, testing this theory and so on and so forth?? Aren’t you really accepting someone elses conclusions from tests that you’ve never actually witnessed personally? How do you really know what data they found? How can yo know they drew the right conclusions? Your accepting their eyewitness…their point of view bases on thy’re credentials… Did you go to school with? How smart are they really? My point is that you are basing your beliefs on what you’ve been taught by others… By faith… How is that any diiferent than the witness of believersin the bible??

          • says

            When you’re sick, do you:

            A. Go to your church/temple and pray to God to be cured?
            Or
            B. Go see a doctor

            If your answer is sincere, most likely it’s gonna be B.
            If so, Why? Answer this question and you’ll have yours answered as well.

            If your answer is, however, A – Then I’m afraid no answer will suffice.

          • Kevin says

            If I want to, I can get a degree in the sciences. Even without one, I have access to all of the evidence — either directly or in the form of peer-review papers in reputable journals.

            I can go fossil hunting — never finding a fossil bunny in Cambrian strata. I can study the methodologies of the scientists, and understand the limitations of those methodologies.

            I can even speak with the scientists directly. They write books, they speak regularly, they blog, they teach.

            In addition, I can see the results of the science. We’re communicating in this manner because quantum mechanics allowed scientists to create transistors based on the wave-particle duality properties of electrons. You probably take pills to control blood pressure or cholesterol or blood sugar. You don’t assume demons are responsible for your earache — you go to a doctor and get antibiotics.

            In every respect, the sciences and scientists are credible because they are proven to work in the ways both large and small that effect virtually every part of our lives.

            Aside from fables told in a book filled with incredible claims, I have no way to access any of the evidence upon which the “faithful” base their claims.

            What’s the evidence that this Jesus fellow was divine? Miracles. Without miracles, Jesus is just a nutjob who got whacked for being a nuisance. It’s only because of the miracles that you claim Jesus is divine. Go ahead, remove all of the miracles (including the resurrection) from the bible and then get back to me as to whether you can discern if Jesus is a god or a loon who should have been on the 1st century equivalent of Haldol.

            So. How can I vet these miracle claims? Specifically:

            * Where’s the wine?
            * Loaves and fishes?
            * The healed sick?
            * The undead Lazarus?
            * The risen Jesus?

            The answer to these questions is the same. Nowhere. None of these alleged miracles left a shred of confirmatory evidence behind. They’re all “my dog ate my homework” miracles. You wouldn’t accept that level of evidence from a second grader. Why should I accept it? Especially when it would have been trivial for a real god to have left rock-solid no-question-about-it evidence behind. Heck, why did Jesus go to heaven in the first place? What’s he doing up there? What’s preventing his return? Careful with your answer, because you’ll be admitting your all-powerful god is nothing of the sort.

            You don’t have “faith”. You have credulity. Swallowing first century fairy stories as if they really happened.

            You probably read Aesop’s fables when you were a kid. You enjoyed them, maybe even learned a lesson, without really believing there were talking foxes.

            We see the stories in the bible and see the exact same thing. Fables; some of which are trying to teach often-questionable moral lessons (really — cut off your right hand if it offends you?).

            We can’t understand why any thinking adult with a normal IQ doesn’t see these stories for what they are. First century fiction.

          • says

            Science makes testable claims. Religion does not. Science includes the process of peer review, to guard against errors. Religion does not. Science deals in a reality that can be examined. Religious believers deal in a “reality” that must be taken “on faith.” It is only lack of education that makes anyone fail to see those meaningful distinctions.

          • wilsim says

            I wrote a long rebuttal directed at James but as I was scrolling back up to reread what James wrote in order to answer his questions one by one I saw that Kevin has already taken the opportunity and answered him for me, and in a much less shrill and militant tone, along with better explanations than I would be capable of.

            +1 Kevin.

          • jacobfromlost says

            You: As far as evolution is concerned, how many professing atheists have actually been in these labs doing the carbon dating, testing this theory and so on and so forth??

            Me: I think this is a good place to draw two lines of discussion together. In language/myth, the language is the way it is because we all use it a certain way and agree that is how we will use it so we can communicate…and the myths we know in our various groups are agreed upon by our shared culture which also allows us to make new stories we either all agree to accept as new myths or reject as uninteresting.

            You are getting this kind of linguistic/myth-making thought process confused with the scientific method. They are totally different.

            You: Aren’t you really accepting someone elses conclusions from tests that you’ve never actually witnessed personally?

            Me: I’m not required to witness them personally, as I understand how the scientific method works. I have no idea how the engine in my car works, but a vast network of engineers, physicists, chemists, etc, all use falsifiable methodology to determine what works and what doesn’t. Everyone in that network is a check on everyone else, as everyone is trying to find out what DOESN’T work and eliminate it. I use the same method when buying a car, never knowing how any of those people specifically did any of their jobs. I decide not to buy a Yugo because older cars tend to be less dependable, and Yugos were notoriously undependable when they were new according to my fellow (peer) drivers (nonmechanics). I did buy a Ford Focus because I found many positive reviews, the price was cheap, and my specific car passed Car Fax (and could have not passed Car Fax, but did–ie, falsifiable methodology).

            You: How do you really know what data they found?

            Me: Because of peer review. Science is very competitive, and relies on verification, reproducibility, predictivity, and falsifiability. If a particular set of scientists come to a conclusion that meets all of those, then their conclusions are useful in reality. If another scientist or group of scientists doubts those conclusions, they can run their own tests using the same controlled methods. If they falsify the previous conclusions, we’ve learned more and they win a Nobel Prize.

            You: How can yo know they drew the right conclusions?

            Me: We know they drew the right conclusions to the exact degree they are verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable. We can also be more certain they drew the right conclusions if there are many different pieces of evidence that all rely on entirely different natural processes, all of which confirm the same thing, and have no reason to all confirm the same thing unless the confirmation is correct. We are never “absolutely sure”, but such a web of mutually confirming evidence means the conclusions are very reliable (as reliable as gravity, for instance, even though we can never be absolutely sure gravity won’t stop working in 5 minutes).

            You: Your accepting their eyewitness…their point of view bases on thy’re credentials…

            Me: No, not based on their credentials. This is where you get the language/myth-making thinking confused with scientific thinking. Scientists have no control over what the evidence indicates; they don’t simply all go into a room and agree that the internal combustion engine will work in the same way we all agree that “combustion” is spelled this way for the sake of communication, or in the same way we all agree Superman’s cape was not black for the sake of the shared Superman myth. Science isn’t “dependable magic”, and we can’t change conclusions based on personal preference, whim, or culture.

            You: Did you go to school with? How smart are they really?

            Me: How do you know someone is smarter than you are about a given subject (and not just faking)? And how do you find out that they are smarter? Using the very same scientific method! If someone claims to be a mechanic, have them fix your car to demonstrate their smarts. If you distrust what they tell you about the car, don’t allow them to fix it and take your car to MANY mechanics, and see if there is a pattern to what they say is wrong with it. If there is a pattern, and you tell the last guy to fix the problem, and after he does what he does the car starts, then you can be EXTREMELY sure they are smarter than you with regard to mechanics, and EXTREMELY sure what the problem was…while never knowing a thing yourself about mechanics.

            You: My point is that you are basing your beliefs on what you’ve been taught by others… By faith…

            Me: No. The same web of scientists using falsifiable methodology to come to mountains of evidence that make the internet work, cars run, satellites function, etc, are the same web of scientists that have found mountains of mutually confirming evidence of evolution–evidence that uses completely different natural processes and has no REASON to confirm each other unless the confirmation is TRUE. That is the complete opposite of faith. I know falsifiable methodology works in reality. And a web of evidence determined by falsifiable methodology is even MORE dependable then having one or two pieces of evidence.

            You: How is that any diiferent than the witness of believersin the bible??

            Me: There is no web of evidence confirming anything substantive that is claimed in the bible. The claims are unverified, not reproducible, not predictive, and not falsifiable. In essence, the claims are literally useless.

            This is again where I point out you are conflating language/myth-maker thinking with scientific thinking. You may think the bible is true because a group of people agree it is true. But that doesn’t make it true. When scientists agree something is true, it isn’t based on the fact that they made up electricity and now it works, or that they made up gravity and now it works, or that they made up a round earth and now it’s round, or that they all agree evolution is real and now all the evidence confirms it. They looked at the available evidence, said, “Maybe X is true” when X is a falsifiable hypothesis, and tested X to see if it passed the test or not. You do this enough times, you come to a useful set of conclusions that all work in reality. When those conclusions form a web that all conclusively lead to the very same thing–like evolution–then that is a far more dependable conclusion and has NOTHING to do with the scientists’ simple agreement. The dependability of the conclusions has nothing to do with faith. (If you take your car to 100 mechanics, and 99 say your battery is dead, and one says your headrest isn’t adjusted properly which angers the car gods, do you go with faith or falsifiable methology to get your car to run again?)

        • james somers says

          Just as you can’t see why any intelligent person wouldn’t see chance and circumstance in our existence, so also Christians can’t understand why you don’t see the same evidence as God’s handiwork or the eyewitness accounts, historical evidence and fulfilled prophecy as proof… Many very well educated and intelligent people and scientists do, you know, even though you don’t get it… You suppose it’s ludicrous to believe God put us here… But is that any more ludicrous than Richard Dawkins- when pinned down by Ben Stein for the origin of life – claiming that space aliens might have seeded us here a long time ago from a galaxy far, far away?
          I think we just won’t find that common ground where we agree… But one thing we can agree on is that death, unfortunately, is going to make one group out as the unfortunate liars and fools… See you on the other side when we find that out? Or i guess if you’re right we just won’t see anything at all ever again ;)

        • says

          So, just to be clear, you’re not going to respond to any of what I said?

          In case you change your mind, please answer this: Do you agree that an anonymous text claiming that there were witnesses to an alleged event is not equivalent to actual eye witness testimony?

          Don’t babble on about the bible. This question isn’t about the bible. It’s about the kind of standard for evidence you employ. In the abstract, do you agree that there’s a difference in the validity of an actual eye witness account vs. a claim of eye witnesses?

          • james somers says

            I actually have responded to your non-responses… I posed the first questions we’re discussing, you did not see the bible as eyewitness testimony and still claim it to be “anonymous text” though the writers are well known for nearly every piece of text disproving that bogus comment. Historical accuracy for the bible events is well known, but you won’t admit it, etc… I think you’ve not answered me… Instead you would have me stop babbling about the bible… Give up the miracles? Why would i give up the miracles when they were done as proof to israel and the world that Jesus is God in human form, the Messiah… Again these events were reported by real historical people who were willing to give their lives rather than deny its truth… Were they simply gluttons for pain and death, or had they witnessed events that they could not deny no matter what was done to them? You would like me to abandon proof, simply because you refuse to consider it valid… That’s no reason at all. A Vhristian will always come back to the Bible… We believe it to be factual, and none have yet been able to prove otherwise… History backs up its historical content, why should i assume the miraculous must be false when the other is clearly fact?

          • says

            Where the hell do you get your information? The gospels weren’t written by the people whose names they now bear. Even christian bible scholars accept that. It’s obvious from even a simple reading and comparison of the texts. Anyway…

            Instead you would have me stop babbling about the bible… Give up the miracles?

            No. Stop babbling about the bible for the purpose of answering the question. The question I asked, while relating to the bible, doesn’t actually have anything to do with it. The question is separate from a discussion on the bible. It’s a question about validity of testimony. And, of course, you did exactly what I asked you not to. You started babbling about the bible and ignored the question itself.

            Let’s try again. Remember that I’m not asking about the bible. I’m not arguing about the validity of any part of the bible. I’m not even discussing whether the authorship of the gospels is known. I’m simply trying to establish a base-line that we can work from.
            My question is very simple:

            Do you agree that an anonymous text claiming that there were witnesses to an alleged event is not equivalent to actual eye witness testimony?

            Can you answer that simple, straightforward question?

            If it’s still too complex, let me make it even simpler:
            Let’s say that I show you a document. On it is written an account of an event. The document is not signed. I can’t tell you who wrote it. I don’t even know if the person who wrote it actually witnessed the event or heard about it from someone else.
            Do you agree that such a document does not constitute eye witness testimony?

          • james somers says

            You mentioned, Pascal’s Wager, which I had left you with… rather you dismissed it… despite recognizing it and hating it, the risk it covers is still just as real. The risk that you are wrong and have thus endangered yourself beyond belief. You can argue and disavow, and turn your nose up at that logical argument, but you cannot do away with the reality of the risk you undertake by not believing in your Savior. Like it or not, believe it or not, you are putting yourself at risk…and just think, you’ve only got a 50% chance of being right! Well, it’s nearly as good as a meteorologist telling us whether it will snow…and they’re never wrong are they ;)

          • james somers says

            Ah, but I don’t accept the “anonymity” of the eyewitness testimony given to us in scripture…Even if it were anonymous, which it is not, you have not answered why multitudes would be willing to suffer torture and death promoting fallacies, nor why scholars today would lay down their lives for the same belief…are they simply insane? Or do they realize what you don’t?

          • says

            The risk that you are wrong and have thus endangered yourself beyond belief

            What about your risk? What if you believe in the wrong god? You face exactly the same problem. What if god likes atheists? I’ll go to heaven, but you will all suffer for eternity.

            More to the point, do you really think that god would be fooled if I pretended to believe? Don’t you think such dishonesty might just make him even madder? If I’m honest about my disbelief, he might at least respect that.

            I could go on and on. Pascal’s Wager is a stupid argument. Plain and simple. I just doesn’t work.

            and just think, you’ve only got a 50% chance of being right!

            1) Just because there are two options, doesn’t mean the odds are 50/50.
            2) There are more than two options. You do realize that other religions exist, right? Christianity isn’t he only one.

            Ah, but I don’t accept the “anonymity” of the eyewitness testimony given to us in scripture

            I DON’T GIVE A SHIT! Goddammit, are you congenitally unable to stick to a point? I could have sworn I just told you that

            I’m not arguing about the validity of any part of the bible. I’m not even discussing whether the authorship of the gospels is known.

            Oh wait. I did.

            We can get to that discussion later. It doesn’t even make sense to begin that discussion until we’ve first established if we even agree on the meaning of the term “eye witness account”.

            Now, answer the question or go away.

          • james somers says

            I have stuck to the original point I brought up? You attempted to dismiss those claims as invalid and move on to something else…and gee, I did refrain from losing my temper and cussing you as well.

            Does God like atheists? How about some proof for that one…? Oh, wait, YES, he actually “Loves” atheists and wants to save them from their sins! Where did I get that? The bible…the same bible that convinced me when I WAS JUST LIKE YOU. The same bible that convinces atheists all the time that they are wrong about God’s existence.

            Would God have you insincerely? NO, you’re right. I never claimed he would save the insincere…the bible is clear there also. However, that isn’t the point of Pascal’s argument. Only to state that none of US knows all…so you could be wrong. The argument is meant to have you consider this one thing: was your denial of God, who came in human form to be a sacrifice to save you, worth what limited freedom you think you enjoy. We’re all headed for the grave one way or another and have limited time with which to live our lives. Pascal’s argument simply seeks to show that you might be wrong and having been wrong will endanger the eternal soul you don’t think you have. I’ve examined other religions, including just being a good ole church member without genuine faith. Religion doesn’t solve man’s problem…Sin…the breaking of God’s Law and its penalty, eternal separation. God came in human form to solve that problem, but you have to be willing to transfer your confidence from self to God to receive the benefits of that sacrifice…Salvation and eternal life.

            Since you can’t seem to control your temper, I’ll say “Hope, the Lord is able to convince you,” since that’s not my responsibility anyway. But I will pray for you…the Lord knows who you are.

            Anger management classes are available, BTW… good bye

          • says

            And good riddance.
            I have no interest in talking to a person who can’t answer a simple question. I gave you three chances to answer. Three strikes, you’re out.

      • says

        Name a single individual from among these 500 witnesses, and cite a source for his original account of what he witnessed, outside of the Bible.

        See, this is the difference between myth and science. You are simply told, by your holy book of choice, that there were 500 witnesses to a supposed supernatural event, and you believe it uncritically, without expecting any independent evidence or asking to see citations. It simply does not occur to you to ask who any of the witnesses were, or if they left corroborating accounts of this miracle on their own.

        In science, someone making a claim is expected at all times to show their work, so that other scientists working independently can confirm its accuracy. This is called peer review. Any unsubstantiated claim is unacceptable.

        The reason you think the claims that support your religious beliefs deserve to be called “evidence” is that you don’t think evidence is a thing that has to be confirmed, especially if it appears to support what you’ve already chosen to believe.

        You’re basically demonstrating a trait among Christians I’ve noticed repeatedly over the years. Christianity simply fails to provide its adherents with the proper cognitive tools to understand what distinguishes a fact from a belief. This is why you make the basic mistake of thinking that it’s not the person making a claim who bears the burden of proof for his own claim. In short, your understanding of how reality works is literally upside down.

  2. rowanvt says

    I’ve been called closed-minded in many instances. My usual retort is “I am open-minded, I just don’t have a mind so open that my brain fell out.” It’s usually good for several paragraphs of outraged retort.

  3. says

    But you can’t just let yourself be totally humiliated, dropping to the mat without so much as taking a final, wild and aimless swing, can you. So what do you have left? Nothing but, “Yeah…well, if you weren’t so closed-minded, you’d understand why I’m right!”

    Like when the bad guy empties his clip at Superman, does no damage, and throws the gun at him.

  4. says

    I am always having to explain to people that I am “open-minded” to good evidence. But once I’ve looked at your evidence, decided it’s not good, and then explained why in great detail, and you then respond by calling me “closed-minded”…then you’re the douchehat.

    • Ben says

      Completely agree – the times i can remeber being called “closed minded” is when ive listened to evidence (and done additional research where possible) – discussed and still come to the conclusion that the premise is moronic….

      Dismissing things out of hand with no evidence and no discussion is close minded.
      Gathering evidence to the extent that you see something is just silly/wrong etc and therefore dismissing it is logic.

    • says

      I am proudly closed minded to some ideas. There are some ideas out there that are so irrelevant or so patently absurd that they don’t even get to the position of provisional regard and discussion.

      Tracie’s magical transcendent dice are a good example. The entire idea is silly. I am closed minded to that.

      I also must admit that I am beyond the creation/evolution debate as on social media. It is full of ignorant misinformed people. As there is no robust, active scientific debate on the subject I reject all creationist claims without regarding their merits, first.

      • Orlando says

        Adam, are you certain you understand Tracie’s transcendent dice analogy? Perhaps I am not as intelligent as you, but I perceived her “dice” as having uncommon explanatory power. And did you close your prodigious mind to it before evaluating it, or after? Just curious….

  5. says

    A short, deconversion story that seems relevant to item 3.

    When I was a Jehovah’s Witness I went to this guys door with the Presiding Elder (head honcho) of our congregation. The dude was cool to us and listened carefully, he even took one of our magazines. I think his phone rang or something because we let him go and took off. As we were walking away my partner said, “Its nice to find someone so open minded.” (or something like that).
    I suppose I have always had one of those sarcastic inner voices, because the immediate retort in my head was, “Yeah, so we can close it.” I consider this the exact instant I started really questioning what this term means and how much of my own mind I was actually using.

    I always look forward to your posts, Martin. Thanks.

    • James Solomon says

      My (one-horse) town librarian is a Jehovah’s Witness and she is always giving me JW material to read and says “you have to read it with an open mind”.Hmmm. The library is also an Information Centre and when tourist ask her where they can visit the 30,000 year-old cave paintings belonging to the local indigenous tribes, she says to them (pan-faced), “Oh they’re not worth seeing because the Earth is only 6000 years old and so they can’t be real.” Hmmmm.

  6. NH says

    I agree that the term “close-minded” gets tossed around too much. I also agree with most of the points mentioned, including that it’s extremely unlikely to ever help your case by calling the other person close-minded, even if you are correct. However, I think it’s overstating things to say that you lose by even using the term. If that were true, this blog post loses x 13 ( 14 counting the title).

    • says

      Well, using the term in the context of discussing the merits of its use is a very different thing from using it in an act of name-calling trying to silence an opponent. So I think your concerns are unfounded.

      • NH says

        “Well, using the term in the context of discussing the merits of its use is a very different thing from using it in an act of name-calling trying to silence an opponent.”

        As I said, I agree with the overall message. It’s specifically the parts that boil it down to a simplistic “using the term means you lose” that I was referring to. So it’s probably more just the phrasing and not the intended meaning that bothers me. There are plenty of ways to use the term outside of the name-calling usage.

  7. OneAmatoryScam says

    It’s actually very easy to discount some critical points in the official story of what happened on 9/11, sufficient that a new investigation is more than justified. It’s usually much easier to disprove a theory than to prove one, as all you have to do is find a non-trivial detail that is impossible. Let’s see if we can do that here.

    [And with much apology to OneAmatoryScam, this is where I'm going to put the kibosh on what was a very lengthy comment presenting what he feels is a debatable issue regarding 9/11, with links. And I know it's going to seem very unfair, because OneAmatoryScam was, really, doing what I said people who argue should do, which is calmly present their case with source materials. So I probably seem like the "closed-minded" jerk now.

    No, the only reason I'm cutting this off — and I suppose I should have made this abundantly clear in the OP — is that the point of this particular post of mine wasn't the relative merits or lack thereof of 9/11 conspiracy theories. It was to address the use of a specific rhetorical cheap shot, designed only to shut down criticism from a position of weakness, that I frequently hear when I'm arguing with people, be they theists or conspiracists or other true believers. I really don't want the comment thread here to turn into another endless here-we-go-again battle between 9/11 Truthers and skeptics. I suppose there is a place for that discussion (though I weary of it, personally), but it's off-topic here. Though a letter from a Truther was partly what inspired the OP, it wasn't his beliefs as a Truther I was challenging so much as his hypocritical use of the open-minded/closed-minded gambit to privilege in his favor the very "open" discussion he claimed to want to have.

    So even though some of you might be burning to present your detailed scientific analyses of what you think really brought down Building 7, or whatever, this wasn't a 9/11 post, and to rehash those debates here for the nth time would jack the thread far, far away from the real point of the OP. I respectfully ask you to refrain.

    Thanks and I hope everyone understands. —Martin]

    • OneAmatoryScam says

      Martin, I’m a big fan of yours, and of the show in general. I understand and accept your objection. I’ll try to wait and find a more appropriate post to make that sort of response to. Thanks and keep up the good work you guys do!

          • Orlando says

            Eventually, when they dig deep enough, the Truthers will find that the government is behind their movement. How, then, will they reconcile the conflicting beliefs? I guess they could self-medicate with homeopathic drugs…

          • says

            Orlando: I don’t know about the government, but I strongly suspect the Republican Party is behind a large chunk of that movement. We all know Bush Jr. is guilty of ignoring warnings that turned out to be true; so the PoG have to manipulate the public debate to get their critics to make themselves sound as silly as possible. Better to mislead us into a fog of asinine delusions than to have to face honest criticism of their very real malfeasance.

          • says

            I don’t disagree in principle, but there is, of course, no good evidence for that either. Anyway, as I said, let’s not let this thread turn into a lengthy debate over the plausibility of this or that 9/11 theory.

      • says

        Ooooh, now he’s got us in suspense! If he shows up again only to spout the same rubbish as all the other troofers I’ve laughed at, I shall be most disappointed. Try to sound more coherent than a LaRouchie, okay?

    • says

      It’s usually much easier to disprove a theory than to prove one, as all you have to do is find a non-trivial detail that is impossible.

      Um, no, it’s not that simple. What if we find a non-trivial detail in your conspiracy narrative that’s impossible? You don’t just have to poke one hole in the prevailing theory; you have to come up with a more satisfactory specific alternative theory, and prove it! This is something conspiracy-buffs NEVER do.

      We didn’t abandon geocentrism the minute someone found a hole in the “official story;” we abandoned it ONLY when a new explanation — helocentrism — was articulated IN DETAIL, fleshed out, and proven by references to ovservation. But instead of doing this, all the 9/11 troofers do is say “There’s a hole in the official story, therefore you have to accept MY wild-assed story (not someone else’s) by default, without further questions!” Sorry, kids, grownup rational investigation doesn’t work that way.

      • says

        You could also say that the ID/creationism camp did much the same thing. Their constant mantra is that there are “gaps” in evolutionary theory, and that the more “gaps” a theory has, the worse the theory is. What they don’t recognize is that the alternative they offer is one big gap that is larger than the universe.

      • OneAmatoryScam says

        There are two main things the matter with your post, and they would seem to work to support each other. First, why do you assume I have a “conspiracy narrative”? I don’t. I rail against these nutcases who come up with intricate all-encompassing explanations as loudly as anyone here. Coming up with a more accurate account will necessarily involve a detailed examination of available evidence, among other things.

        Second, your suggestion that we don’t abandon a theory despite contrary evidence until we come up with a complete replacement is absurd. If Joe is our main suspect in Bob’s murder, then we establish that Joe was out of state the night in question, we don’t keep him locked up until we find a new suspect.

        But that doesn’t even accurately describe the problem. The problem is not that there’s an unexplained hole or gap in the theory, the problem is that there is an EXPLAINED part where the explanation is impossible. This is fundamentally different.

  8. says

    Dammit Martin, I just KNEW that you were in on the conspiracy!! Now, I don’t have any evidence for that so you just keep an open mind on the subject… right?

    Actually, I sort of think the “open/closed mind” nonsense is similar to solipsism, in that it seems to be a way to set fire to the chessboard when it looks like you’re a move away from checkmate. It isn’t just rejecting your judgment about their claims, it is rejecting the entire concept of being able to look at evidence and draw conclusions.

    • Matt says

      Well it all depends how it is used. If you’re having an evidence driven debate and your opponent runs out of evidence, and THEN resorts to solipsism, it’s a pretty douchey move.

      That said, when you say this:

      “it is rejecting the entire concept of being able to look at evidence and draw conclusions.”

      You seem to imply this is an invalid position to hold, when that’s simply untrue. Solipsism is an uncomfortable truth we skeptics must ignore in order for “truth” to be defined as “a claim supported by evidence”.

      Calling closed mindedness, on the other hand, is just a combination of words thrown out there that don’t really mean anything, but appear to have just the right sound to them such that it prima facie makes the skeptic look arrogant and unyielding (which of course isn’t true).

        • Matt says

          This sentence

          “Solipsism is a nonsensical position from which nothing of value can be extracted BY DEFINITION.”

          Sure, it’s a practical pain in the ass. But just because it doesn’t provide any positive, useful in-world data that we can use to our advantage, it does not mean it’s false, quite the contrary, if you take solipsism to mean the following:

          ” Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist.”

          then it’s necessarily true, since we have no a priori way of proving the outside world exists.

          Not saying it’s an idea worth pursuing, since it goes nowhere, but at least it’s logical, unlike blurting at any random time “You’re closed minded! Wahhhhhh”.

          • Matt says

            To clarify, I mean solipsism in the epistemological sense, not metaphysical. Saying “the outside world does not exist” is a claim that requires proof. Saying “we can’t know if the outside world exists” is true by definition, since the only way we can prove our senses are trustworthy is to use something other than senses i.e. pure reason, which can’t prove jack in this case.

          • says

            Actually, I’m pretty confident that a proper analysis of solipsism leads inevitably back to a position essentially indistiguishable from naturalism.

            If we take the experience as the only thing we can be certain of (which, in a strict sense is quite correct), we’re still left with the fact that the experience we have behaves exactly as if it was the result of an objective external world.
            As such, for the purposes of making decisions, postulating an external world, even if only as a mental tool, is entirely reasonable. We might not be able to speak to the objective reality of this external world, but subjectively, it’s real.

            But of course, if the experience is all there is, then subjectivity is objectivity. What I mean is that if there is no external world, then the experience is the real world. It’s the only thing that exists, so it makes no sense to say it isn’t the real world, right?
            And since my experience includes the idea of an external world, reality includes an external world. Presto!

            If you run with solipsism, you end up switching out a few words, but you essentially end up back where you started. Instead of subjective mental phenomena and an external world, you just have the part of your mind that is experienced as internal and the part of your mind that is experienced as external.
            For all practical purposes, they’re the same thing. It’s just a thought experiment with no practical implications at all.

            This is my personal take on the old koan:
            First there’s a mountain
            Then there’s no mountain
            And then there is

          • Orlando says

            I believe everyone’s mind exists except my own, which is the product of some or all’s imagination. SO I guess I’m an Ur-solipsist. Or simply a figment. And in the non-Quantum regime, I could be called a fig-Newtonian.

          • Zengaze says

            Going to have to reply to luke here as the reply option isn’t available. The koan

            First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…….
            The mountain

            It’s one of my favourite koans because it demonstrates how bullshit koans are…… An old zen master sat in zazen meditating on the mountain before him, after many years his sense of the mountain changed, he became the mountain, after many more years he realised that it was just a mountain.

            I like to simplify it to sanity-solipsism-sanity

          • says

            @Orlando

            There’s a point there. You can’t actually be certain that your mind exists. Only that a mind exists, which happens to be having the experience of being you.

            A technicality perhaps, but then solipsism is all about technicalities.

            @Zengaze

            I like to simplify it to sanity-solipsism-sanity

            That kinda is what it boils down to.

          • says

            …we have no a priori way of proving the outside world exists.

            Sorry, that’s bullshit. We have a preponderance of evidence indicating that the universe our senses perceive is real, and absolutely no evidence to support any alternative explanation.

          • says

            To clarify this point, a priori means things that we can know by reason alone, before we evaluate evidence. As such, Matt’s point is correct.

  9. Pantherboy says

    True story. A fundy friend gives me C.S. Lewis to read, hoping that “it helps”. I slog through it, and in return lend him Dan Barker. I offer my opinions on where I think Lewis is wrong. He tells me that he doesn’t read books full of insults and deceit, and couldn’t make it past the first couple of pages of Barker. But he’s disappointed that I wasn’t more open-minded. Right.

    • rrpostal says

      Classic. This actually got me a bit upset. You actually read his book and thought about it, yet you are branded close-minded. Meanwhile, the “open minded” person will not read yours because they’ve already come to a conclusion about it. There is no way of doing that if you have a functioning concept of irony. I would remind this person of what they did each and every time I saw them until they accidentally understood what was wrong with this picture.

    • Lee says

      Thanks a lot! Now I look like a jackass for posting the same exact video as you. I also recommend theramintrees if you haven’t seen his videos. He and qualiasoup helped me understand the atheist position and rationale on my way from catholicism.

  10. Lee says

    Thanks for the post, Martin. Love the show and the blog. I was recently called closed minded in so many words because I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife. I tried to explain how I would accept evidence if she could produce any, but was still dismissed as closed minded. I got through to her, to a degree, with the help of youtuber qualiasoup and this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    I’ve got more work to do, but at least she understands where I was coming from.

  11. Warp says

    I have always compared conspiracy theories to religions. In fact, more than that. I have always considered conspiracy theories to *be* religions. Because that’s what they are. They present all the exact same symptoms.

    Maybe I have fallen a bit into defeatism, but for quite a long time ago whenever some random person tries to sell me a conspiracy theory, my standard response has been simply “sorry, I’m not interested in your religion, go somewhere else”. I’m tired of arguing with the nutjobs.

  12. timberwoof says

    Lee, that points to an interesting way of thinking, the notion that requiring evidence to substantiate belief, as opposed to just accepting one on faith, means that one is closed-minded.

    The rational thinker’s ideas that one will not accept as true things unless there is evidence for them, that there is nothing supernatural, and that one can’t take a holy book’s word on things (see what I did there?) are, to this way of thinking, closed-minded.

    Martin Wagner presented three ways in which saying that someone is closed-minded fail in a rational discussion: calling someone closed-minded that reveals ignorance, assumption of privilege, or projection. I suspect that these counters will just be seen as further evidence of closed-mindedness. Although true, the counters will be completely misunderstood. If I knew how to deal with that problem, I’d win the Internet.

    • Orlando says

      Win the Internet? Don’t you realize the Internet (praise be to the Internet) is a supra-concousness that is controlling virtually all aspects of users’ reality?

      Facebook is the second aspect of the Holy trinity, the third being Steve Jobs, the Internet’s human actualization whose Holy relics spread throughout the world. For concrete evidence of the latter, recall that both presidential candidates have said this election is all about Jobs.

  13. John Kruger says

    As evidence piles up that you must rule out somehow, you have to keep making a conspiracy bigger and bigger. The bigger a conspiracy becomes, the less likely it is. This is not to say that there are no conspiracies, the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal comes to mind, but as more people are involved a conspiracy is more and more likely to be found out.

    It is intellectually easy to just keep enlarging a conspiracy to protect your theory. I find the more interesting question is often why a person is so attached to a particular theory and unwilling to give it up. You must be open minded to evidence, not just theories. Not if you want your beliefs to correlate with reality, anyway.

  14. jacobfromlost says

    I usually respond to the claim that I am “close minded” by explaining what “close minded” and “open minded” means (and I am aware there are shades of meaning, but I think mine is the most useful in the context of past discussions).

    “Open minded” means you accept as true that which is demonstrated by means of meeting the basic standards of evidence (verifiable, predictive, falsifiable, etc.).

    “Close minded” means you reject as true that which meets the basic standards of evidence.

    Of course, some people take “open minded” to mean “entertain this idea for a moment”, but that ISN’T the way those who fall back on open mindedness as a last resort mean it. They don’t mean “suspend your disbelief for a moment as I tell you this story”, they mean accept this story is TRUE after you suspend your disbelief through the entire narrative (in truth, it does make the story much more compelling! lol).

    The problem is we know what happens when you are so “open minded” that you start accepting unverified elements as true. Your brain simply weaves a story you like–one that’s compelling, interesting, suspenseful, etc, to the kind of person you are (in relation to the kind of things you want to believe in the context of your culture).

    You want to believe in alien abduction, you can weave a story. Bigfoot? Weave a story. Trolls? Make a movie–called “Troll Hunter”.

    watch?v=TLEo7H9tqSM

    What’s the difference between “Troll Hunter” and “Ghost Hunter”? Nothing much, except in our culture we often want to believe in ghosts. (“Troll Hunter” is a spoof. At least, I hope it is. Norwegians don’t really believe in trolls, do they? lol Well, the first few moments of the movie tells us it is real footage, so we must believe it or we are closed minded, right?)

    • vethtiche says

      Sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve completely missed the point of what it means to be open or closed minded.

      I grant that there are ambiguities because both christians & atheists can use the meanings in a similar way.

      To be open minded simply means that you are willing to give due consideration to any possibility, hypothesis or theory on its merits – or in short – “anything is possible”.

      Most people will have their own constructed world view based on their own experiences and evaluation of those different possibilities.

      BUT, it does not mean that you can accept a carte blanche of all possibilities as TRUE to be open minded. You just need to be open to those possibilities. You don’t have to believe in ghosts or aliens (abductions), you just have to be willing to consider the possibilities when credible evidence turns up.

      When christians charge atheists or non-believers with not being open minded, they mean that you should be open to the possibility of God and the existence of some higher being. What they unfortunately do not realise is that, as agnostic atheists would testify to, they do accept that possibility but on the condition of verifiable evidence.

      Open mindedness works both ways – you have to consider the possibility of something being true, and also that it may well be FALSE.

      In considering religion, most atheists or free thinkers also take into consideration other concepts like nature, science and even philosophy. It is in consideration of all these plus their own real world experiences (eg. why prayer rarely works) that they conclude in rejecting religion – at least until evidence turns up.

      When christians are urged to be more open minded however, it is because they have revolved their believes around a single constructed world view (that of the bible), and base their acceptance of all other concepts on whether it fits with that world view – ie. the very definition of what being close minded means.

      Mind you, EVERYONE – christian, atheist or otherwise – will have their own constructed world view based on their life experiences. The difference is that a christian world view is more likely than not to be largely based on just one or two sources (bible & community), while atheists often have the benefit of science as an added source.

      To clarify again, a person who is close minded is someone who is unwilling to challenge his own world view even when confronted with contradictory evidence – the classic allegory of the cave from Socrates.

    • jacobfromlost says

      vethtiche: Sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve completely missed the point of what it means to be open or closed minded.

      Me: I don’t think I have.

      You: To be open minded simply means that you are willing to give due consideration to any possibility, hypothesis or theory on its merits – or in short – “anything is possible”.

      Me: Sure. But the merits are defined–ie, the basic standard of evidence.

      You: Most people will have their own constructed world view based on their own experiences and evaluation of those different possibilities.

      Me: Sure, but that doesn’t change how facts are demonstrated and how they are not.

      You: BUT, it does not mean that you can accept a carte blanche of all possibilities as TRUE to be open minded. You just need to be open to those possibilities.

      Me: What in my post contradicts this? I explained the very same thing. The difference is that the when claimants say they want skeptics to be “open minded”, they don’t want us to throw our hands up and say “anything’s possible”, they want us to say THEY ARE RIGHT.

      You: You don’t have to believe in ghosts or aliens (abductions), you just have to be willing to consider the possibilities when credible evidence turns up.

      Me: Exactly what I explained in my post, except I was using a more reliable definition of “evidence”–that which is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable. If the evidence is just “credible”, that is no where near enough, as different people can have vastly different opinions on what is credible and what is not.

      You: When christians charge atheists or non-believers with not being open minded, they mean that you should be open to the possibility of God and the existence of some higher being.

      Me: No, that isn’t what they mean, as I can think of NO atheist who has ever said they are not open to the possibility of a deity. This is a strawman invented by theists. We can see this isn’t what they mean because when we TELL them anything is possible, they keep telling us to have an open mind. If all they meant was to be “open to possibilities”, why would they keep pushing us to have an “open mind”?

      You: What they unfortunately do not realise is that, as agnostic atheists would testify to, they do accept that possibility but on the condition of verifiable evidence.

      Me: My standard would be higher than simply verifiable.

      You: Open mindedness works both ways – you have to consider the possibility of something being true, and also that it may well be FALSE.

      Me: Again, I have no idea what your criticism of my post is. Perhaps it is to my definition of closed-minded? I would define closed-minded as rejecting a claim as true even after it is demonstrated to be true via the basic standards of evidence because you are CLOSING your mind to what is staring you in the face. If something is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable, and you STILL REJECT IT, you are closed-minded. You are NOT closed-minded simply because you do not accept things as true until such time as they meet these basic standards. Not accepting something as true does not mean you make any claims about its truth or falsehood. This misunderstanding about what open-minded and closed-minded means is at the heart of the problem with all unfounded claims–from conspiracy theories to god claims.

      You: In considering religion, most atheists or free thinkers also take into consideration other concepts like nature, science and even philosophy. It is in consideration of all these plus their own real world experiences (eg. why prayer rarely works) that they conclude in rejecting religion – at least until evidence turns up.

      Me: Rarely? You have evidence of prayer working?

      You: When christians are urged to be more open minded however, it is because they have revolved their believes around a single constructed world view (that of the bible), and base their acceptance of all other concepts on whether it fits with that world view – ie. the very definition of what being close minded means.

      Me: So they are rejecting claims that have been verified, reproduced, predicted and confirmed, and falsifiable yet not falsified. Exactly what I said “closed-minded” means.

      You: Mind you, EVERYONE – christian, atheist or otherwise – will have their own constructed world view based on their life experiences. The difference is that a christian world view is more likely than not to be largely based on just one or two sources (bible & community), while atheists often have the benefit of science as an added source.

      Me: I think you misread my post.

      You: To clarify again, a person who is close minded is someone who is unwilling to challenge his own world view even when confronted with contradictory evidence – the classic allegory of the cave from Socrates.

      Me: And how is that different than what I said it was?

      Moreover, the chained people in the cave were NOT confronted with contradictory evidence. They were confronted with second hand testimony of people who had left and returned. To reject those claims until such time as they are demonstrated is the RATIONAL position, and is NOT closed minded, as the rejection of the claims is not absolute and utterly contingent on the evidence (evidence that is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable).

      • vethtiche says

        Hi Jacob,

        I apologise if my post hadn’t made clear on why I disagreed with you.

        You have taken to addressing my post point by point, which is a little silly here since you yourself have noted we tend to agree on the general points.

        My objection was to your definition of what being open and close minded means. Here are your original definitions:

        “Open minded means you accept as true that which is demonstrated by means of meeting the basic standards of evidence (verifiable, predictive, falsifiable, etc.).”

        “Close minded means you reject as true that which meets the basic standards of evidence.”

        What I objected to was your use of “basic standards of evidence” – “basic standards of evidence” have nothing to do with the definitions of open and close mindedness.

        In fact, now that I look at it – actual truth has little to do with it also.

        To be open or closed minded refers more to “entertaining the possibility”, which you yourself skirted on in your paragraph following your definitions, but somewhat rejected.

        To give a few examples:

        Imagine we are neighbours and one day while at the market you see me running up to you to tell you your house is on fire.

        To be open minded here means: “Really? Let’s go take a look!”

        To be closed minded: “Nonsense! My home is made of fire retardant material so it can’t possibly burn! Buzz off!”

        Now mind you, when I came to tell you your house was on fire, I had no actual evidence (none that would meet your ‘basic standards’) that your house really was on fire. And it doesn’t even matter if your house really was on fire or not.

        The point is, would you go take a look? Thereby accepting that your fire retardant home may yet be susceptible to fire?

        Next example:

        Now I suppose you don’t believe in God, ghosts or alien abductions. But you would grudgingly admit the possibility they might exist. This despite there being little to nothing that would meet your “basic standards of evidence”. Would this qualify as being open minded?

        Final example:

        Back to the allegory of the cave. I fully accept that the chained person is hearing 2nd hand testimony, but I still find your response interesting and indicative of the flaw in your definitions of open/closed mindedness.

        Here’s what you said:

        “To reject those claims until such time as they are demonstrated is the RATIONAL position, and is NOT closed minded, as the rejection of the claims is not absolute and utterly contingent on the evidence (evidence that is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable).”

        As you well know, the chained person did not even consider going to take a look at the outside world, so he is indeed as closed minded as you can get. Your failure to recognise this while focusing on the rational position (yes I know it is), really shows that you have placed too much value on the evidence as opposed to actually finding out if something is true or not.

        It is the willingness to find out that is the true measure of how open you can be – not the evidence you have on hand.

        Now you may find it ludicrous to imagine that people who would not bother to discover the truth when others have told them so (who wouldn’t go check if their house is on fire???).

        Yet we know that such people do exist. There is a video on youtube where Richard Dawkins was confronting a creationist woman on the evidence of evolution. He kept telling her to go take a look at the transitional forms at the museums, yet she kept insisting that he showed her (??!!).

        Cave People do exist.

        On a final note, I can understand that people will have different interpretations and definitions on what being open or closed minded means, but I really do object to your definitions. I repeat – evidence has little or nothing to do with it – I hope I have demonstrated sufficiently this time in the above examples.

        In fact, I really have never seen or heard anyone use open mindedness in the way you define it. Even Christians have always asked me to consider the possibility first before trying to present (what they hoped was) the ‘evidence’.

        I could address some of your other points – but I’m too lazy.. besides, I only really had that single objection.

        • jacobfromlost says

          Me: You are wrong. If believers simply wanted us to be open to the possibility, then why do they keep badgering us when we say we ARE open to the possibility? We even ask them for their evidence, and they have none. Their not having any evidence doesn’t mean we are not open-minded.

          You: As you well know, the chained person did not even consider going to take a look at the outside world, so he is indeed as closed minded as you can get.

          Me: No, the chained person was chained, so COULDN’T take a look. Moreover, they couldn’t even IMAGINE taking a look, which is the entire point of the Myth of the Cave. They weren’t in the position of understanding what the claim was, weren’t in the position of looking for evidence, finding none, then rejecting the claim as unfounded. They didn’t even know what the claim was, and had no way to find out. As you know. (Which was Socrates’ entire point.)

          You: Now I suppose you don’t believe in God, ghosts or alien abductions. But you would grudgingly admit the possibility they might exist. This despite there being little to nothing that would meet your “basic standards of evidence”. Would this qualify as being open minded?

          Me: Again, I don’t think you are reading my posts. You are perfectly able to say something MIGHT exist without saying it DOES exist. You can be open minded by accepting things as existent which meet the basic standards of evidence, AND STILL say things that don’t yet meet the basic standard of evidence MIGHT exist BUT WE JUST DON’T KNOW.

          You: He kept telling her to go take a look at the transitional forms at the museums, yet she kept insisting that he showed her (??!!).

          Me: And that person would be CLOSED MINDED because there are mountains of evidence that meet the basic standards of evidence, and the person will not accept them. This is why my definitions of open-minded and close-minded are more useful than simply “entertaining a possibility” and “not entertaining a possibility”. Those two positions divorced from demonstrated evidence are useless in reality and in discussion–which is why claimants continue arguing even after we say “anything’s possible”.

          You: In fact, I really have never seen or heard anyone use open mindedness in the way you define it. Even Christians have always asked me to consider the possibility first before trying to present (what they hoped was) the ‘evidence’.

          Me: The confusion comes from the fact that Christians want to confuse the two. They want “I’ll entertain the possibility” to mean “I accept X is true” without explicitly saying so, and therefore they conflate the two definitions. If what you are saying is true, and all Christians want nonbelievers to do is to “entertain the possibility”, then why do they continually get angry and more insistent AFTER WE CONCEDE the possibility? The only reason can be because “entertaining the possibility” is not their aim at all. There aim is to get us to accept it as true, and telling us we are not “open minded” in these exchanges is CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE that the definition of “open minded” they are using when the rubber meets the road is MINE, not yours. If they only wanted us to “entertain the possibility”, they would have stopped talking after we admitted anything is possible and we don’t know everything. But they NEVER DO.

          • vethtiche says

            Where to begin?

            You keep asking me to reread your post and yet you do not reread your own quotes.

            I can accept that my first post may have been ambiguous, but I thought I made it very clear in my follow-up that my objection (possibly the only one) was to your definition of Open & Close Mindedness.

            I even quoted your own definitions for your review, and I am doing it again:

            “Open minded means you accept as true that which is demonstrated by means of meeting the basic standards of evidence (verifiable, predictive, falsifiable, etc.).”

            “Close minded means you reject as true that which meets the basic standards of evidence.”

            I have said and DEMONSTRATED by my 3 examples that YOU DON’T NEED EVIDENCE to show open mindedness or even closed mindedness (you don’t need actual truth either).

            Now to bring up something you said in your last post:

            “Again, I don’t think you are reading my posts. You are perfectly able to say something MIGHT exist without saying it DOES exist. You can be open minded by accepting things as existent which meet the basic standards of evidence, AND STILL say things that don’t yet meet the basic standard of evidence MIGHT exist BUT WE JUST DON’T KNOW.”

            Yeah, I GET IT. I already know this. What you fail to recognise is that your DEFINITIONS completely EXCLUDE the LATTER part of your statement, namely:

            “AND STILL say things that don’t yet meet the basic standard of evidence MIGHT exist BUT WE JUST DON’T KNOW.”

            I REPEAT: You don’t need to have any evidence to be open minded (or closed) about something.

            BUT YOUR DEFINITION CLEARLY SHOWS THE NEED FOR EVIDENCE.

            Do aliens exist?

            You can be open minded or closed minded on the existence of aliens, yet there is no real EVIDENCE pointing either way.

            As far as I’m concerned that’s GAME, SET & MATCH.

            I am just a bit irritated that you adopt the strategy of countering my posts on a point by point basis, yet keep completely silent on the points that DO MATTER, while bringing up points that I only consider trivial.

            Is that supposed to be a silent acknowledgement of my OTHER arguments? Poor form if so.

            But I doubt it. Because you said this:

            “You are wrong. If believers simply wanted us to be open to the possibility, then why do they keep badgering us when we say we ARE open to the possibility? We even ask them for their evidence, and they have none. Their not having any evidence doesn’t mean we are not open-minded.”

            At the very beginning of your post – and you level the most serious charge against me – that I am WRONG. Considering that your every other argument was a counter to a specific point – except this – how should I take it? That you consider me deluded?

            It is very CLEAR to me nonetheless, that you have strong feelings about this (a repeat! but for clarity)):

            “If believers simply wanted us to be open to the possibility, then why do they keep badgering us when we say we ARE open to the possibility? We even ask them for their evidence, and they have none. Their not having any evidence doesn’t mean we are not open-minded.”

            I already know this. I even acknowledged it (in a fashion) in my first post:

            “When christians charge atheists or non-believers with not being open minded, they mean that you should be open to the possibility of God and the existence of some higher being. What they unfortunately do not realise is that, as agnostic atheists would testify to, they do accept that possibility but on the condition of verifiable evidence.”

            Not the best explanation perhaps, but we DO have the same idea.

            It’s not my problem if christians trip over themselves in misunderstanding open mindedness. And it’s not my fault that you have problems with those kinds of people. Normally when I debate christians I’m able to reduce them to silence. Though to be fair, I haven’t really dealt with the fire & brimstone types.

            All said, I think the correct definition of Keeping an Open Mind should be:

            Keeping an open mind on a POSITION means being willing to take into consideration NEW information, knowledge or evidence pertaining to that position or POSSIBILITY of said position.

            Keeping a closed mind on a POSITION means being unwilling to take into consideration NEW information, knowledge or evidence pertaining to that position or POSSIBILITY of said position.

            There I opened myself to attack.

            NOTE: I say POSSIBILITY rather than TRUTH, because I believe truth is not a precondition. Eg. Being open minded on aliens does not mean you accept aliens exist, but that you accept they MAY exist.

            NOTE: There is nothing wrong with being closed minded on certain things. Eg. I am pretty closed minded that Creation Science is false (due to the innumerable evidence against). This is based on current available evidence (thereby fitting your own original definition), but the point is that I would not be willing (at least uninterested in) to consider any new ‘evidence’ from creationists.

            I can understand that people are generally unwilling to admit their mistakes, and I have to admit I opened the attack (should have done it in a less confrontational manner), but that was because your definitions jumped out so strongly to me as being, well, WRONG.

            I can also understand that it was kind of meant as a disclaimer, but you had effectively narrowed (very significantly) the meaning of what keeping an open or closed mind means.

            There are other issues to read or talk about, so I hope this ends the matter (it almost never does).

            At least don’t make me requote your definitions….

  15. NoApologetics says

    Oh! I like this post I was hoping it was going to go past 3 Imagine my disappointment and furrowed brow when there was nothing after three. Maybe for future post you could do a top 7, 10, 500? Most annoying fallacious arguments/shit people say to atheists: I submit Atheists are just as bad fundamentalists, they’re two sides of the same coin.

  16. says

    Thank you Jeebus, er, actually- thank you, Martin!

    I was just having a hankering for a good takedown Wagner-style (I was just reading that awful piece of dreck from yet another humanist who knows so much better than the atheists what they should be doing with our time that he wrote an entire article telling us to do what we *are already doing*.) I thought, here’s something I would love to see Martin demolish, and I come here to the blog and there’s another fantastic asswhooping. Ahhh, much better.

  17. Gordon Campbell says

    Scepticism and open-mindedness only seem like opposites. They’re one and the same thing–assigning to truth claims the degree of certainty that the evidence warrants.
    If someone is too open-minded to the possibility that 911 was an inside job, they are being too close-minded to the possibility that it wasn’t.

  18. Timberwoof says

    Argh!

    CloseD-minded.

    The door is closed. The mind is closed. Closed-minded.

    Close-minded, I suppose, would describe two people who think alike: their thoughts are close.

    I just had to get that off my chest.

    … says Timberwoof, the Spelling Conservative who doesn’t like to lose good spelling to loose thinking.

  19. left0ver1under says

    “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    - Patrick Moynihan

    There’s nothing wrong with people reaching different conclusions as long as people accept and agree to all the same facts.

    The problem is, argumental argumentrolls live in denial. The 9/11 “truthers” believe garbage about “planned demolition”, “jews dancing”, “steel couldn’t melt at those temperatures”, etc. Raving religious loons do the same things, making false assertions and non sequiturs, hoping that enough blathering and verbiage will “win” an argument.

  20. Zengaze says

    I recently had a relative dismiss me as closed minded when I rejected his truther nonsense. What can you say to that? Maybe you should highlight it for the puke that it is, I just let it slide. It was on Facebook and he had been splashing around for quite a while whilst I picked apart every post he puked up

    I also got the “I’ll email you the conclusive evidence” line half way through the conversation, which enabled him to continue to puke up his pet craziness and appear as if there was something to verify it. I never got that email.

    I’ve come to the same conclusion as Martin, the closed minded move is nothing more than “I’ve got a shitload of woo that you aren’t accepting on my authority, therefore you’re being duped into not seeing my truth”.

    In reality my estimation of him took a nose dive as it was blatantly obvious he had nothing except his wonky thinking and pattern seeking brain. It was like discussing reality with a five year old, if they don’t like the outcome they throw a hissy.

  21. Orlando says

    After watching a slew of exorcism movies on cable (the Church pumps out at least one a year), it has become clear that the obligatory Skeptic ( young priest, a reporter, an atheist) is a trope, a straight man, a straw man set up to be converted and thus lend power to the Catholic thesis that demons are the cause of misbehaving teen-aged girls, often pregnant, presumably by Beelzebub.

    Since abortion is a non-starter, even for demonic blastocysts, exorcism is the only resort for the faithful.

    The wise, and wizened, senior priest usually opens with a volley to the effect, “You skeptics are closed-minded. Here is the ultimate question: what would you do if you find the Truth?” That sort of thing. A twist on the, “you can’t handle the truth.”

    Then the demonized, albeit nubile, young woman looks into the Skeptic’s eyes and hisses, often in Latin, some piece of knowledge only known to the Skeptic, thus initiating the conversion process.

    Makes one wonder if the Mormons have a similar cultural narrative…..

    • jacobfromlost says

      “it has become clear that the obligatory Skeptic ( young priest, a reporter, an atheist) is a trope, a straight man, a straw man set up to be converted”

      Remember several years into “The X-Files”…after they had seen aliens, monsters, bigfoot, vampires, ghosts, vast government conspiracies, UFOs buried in the ground, government/military informants murdered, etc, etc… and Scully was STILL acting like the NEXT case would clearly be bunk, and maybe all those things she saw bunk also.

      A always thought there was something that rang false about that kind of strawman skeptic. But it did make Mulder seem sane and Scully “closed-minded”.

      ________________

      MULDER: I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’ve been able to keep it pretty quiet up until now but Donald Pankow’s brain was missing from his skull. My partner was able to find something that was previously undetected. It was the tip of what can only be described as a tiny shark’s tooth embedded deep in the bone. I think we’re looking for some kind of genetic freak– a carnivorous predator as yet unidentified. A monster, if you will.

      ROB ROBERTS: There’s no such thing.

      MULDER: Don’t you believe it. This thing definitely qualifies. It has a biological imperative to eat. I think it even ate that ground chuck you threw away.

      ROB ROBERTS: Yeah? Why?

      MULDER: Because it can’t kill with impunity and it knows it. It knows that the more it feeds on humans the closer it gets to getting caught but the hunger is always there. And it satisfies it any way it can.

      (ROB laughs nervously.)

      ROB ROBERTS: I’m sorry, but this is like good cop, insane cop.

      (MULDER smiles.)

      ROB ROBERTS: Why are you telling me all of this?

      MULDER: I think you know why.

      SCULLY: Thank you, Mr. Roberts. We’ll contact you if we have any further questions.

      MULDER: Watch out for that monster.

      ____________________

  22. curtcameron says

    You had a truther who was grammatically-savvy enough to call you “closed-minded”, with the “D” at the end of “closed”?

    That’s amazing. Most truthers I’ve seen would use “close minded.” To me, that’s a marker of laziness, or an inferior education, or something, but it tells me that I don’t have to really take his words that seriously. Same with “suppose to.”

    • stonee4 says

      There are those (that are not lazy, do not possess an inferior education, and it may behoove you to take them seriously) who would disagree with you. For example; Paul Brians, Emeritus Professor of English at Washington State University…

      “Closed-minded” might seem logical, but the traditional spelling of this expression is “close-minded.” The same is true for “close-lipped” and “close-mouthed.”

      Source : Common Errors in English Usage

      (Specific webpage : “closed-minded”)

      • jacobfromlost says

        I didn’t want to weigh in on this, but…

        There are fairly good arguments on both sides, but the best for both is that they are both found everywhere (and have been for a very long time), in all kinds of writing, and are both acceptable spellings.

        I had an ugly argument once along the same lines in a graduate English lit. class. A fellow student thought it would be funny to write “Class Canceled” on the board, and then asked if “canceled” had one “l” or two (as it would be most embarrassing if the English prof. entered with a “joke” that was misspelled on the board).

        Several people started arguing, at which point I took the third view. I told them they are both correct, both found everywhere, and both found in a variety of dictionaries. I had looked this up years before because I had noted that I had seen both spellings everywhere, in all kinds of writing in all kinds of contexts–and discovered the reason for this was that both were prescriptively acceptable.

        That made everyone mad. (You know, once upon a time no one CARED how you spelled anything. Shakespeare even had multiple spellings of his own name. English spelling “rules” today are as consistent as Mitt Romney’s political positions, and there has been more than one attempt throughout history to reform English spelling into something that makes sense. But it never seems to get off the ground because all of us who learned all the rules and all the exceptions are the keepers and users of the language…which makes us very touchy about spelling, grammar, and such. Just remember–all of the prescriptive rules started out as descriptive usage, and can just as easily be changed via the same method. Dictionaries and grammar guides are not divinely inspired. Once upon a time, no English word, spelling rule, or grammar existed. We made them all up ourselves collectively as we went.)

    • says

      In England, “close” is a noun meaning a cul-de-sac or dead-end street. So perhaps “close-minded” could mean having a mind like a dead-end street?

      But, yeah, I prefer “closed-minded,” if only because that’s how I’ve seen it spelled, and that more directly conveys the intended meaning: someone whose mind is CLOSED (adj.) to new knowledge.

      • jacobfromlost says

        Raging bee: In England, “close” is a noun meaning a cul-de-sac or dead-end street. So perhaps “close-minded” could mean having a mind like a dead-end street?

        Me: Funny you mention this. I live in the US, and the usual sign is “Dead End” for a cul-de-sac. The other day I saw a sign that said, “No Outlet”, and this discussion was the first thing I thought of, lol. There has got to be some way to make “No Outlet” into a useful replacement for “closed-minded”, but so far I can’t think of what it would be. (I was also annoyed that “Dead End” now seems to have an alternative that lacks the poetic warning of its predecessor…although “No Outlet” perfectly embodies the inane cluelessness of those with minds closed to evidence–except for the fact that I can’t figure out how to make it into a useful adjective. “No Outlet-minded” doesn’t seem to work, lol.)

  23. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    How do you convey to someone that their own statements indicate they are too incompetent to have weighed the evidence they think is so convincing; when they can’t take a hint from their history of statements repeatedly being exposed as fallacious?

    When low self-esteem is what get keeps them clinging to an idiotic ego-stroking narrative, how do you prevent intervention from becoming a humiliating/condescending confrontation that leaves them clinging ever tighter to the woobie.
     
    One way would be to indirectly make them less incompetent and wait a decade for them to maybe reassess on their own. I can’t tell if that’s a cautious or squeamish approach.
     
    A lot of deconversions involve clinging so hard the woobie disintegrates in a flurry of defensive research (at least, where there’s an authority to lose confidence in).

  24. Rey Fox says

    You’re lucky if you even get “closed minded”. Usually they say “close minded”. Which always makes me wonder, “What are you saying my mind is close to?”

  25. Jeff says

    It’s a wonder what you’ll find, with an open mind, you may be surprised…….. yeahahahahahah

  26. says

    My point is that you are basing your beliefs on what you’ve been taught by others… By faith…

    And your point is dead wrong. Our acceptance of what science tells us is not based on faith, it’s based on the universal, repeatable observation that science gets us consistently better and more reliable results than religion. (And no, we don’t accept it all without question; if something sounds fishy we question it — and no one calls us heretics! Unheard-of, innit?)

    Oh, and if most of the people doing the actual lab work aren’t atheists, what are they? Theists who admit their beliefs don’t square with observable facts? Sounds like you just sabotaged your own point.

  27. mike3 says

    “The guy who disagrees or says he doesn’t believe you is free to sit on his ass and smile like a smug douchehat (a skill we have honed to a fine performance art in 15 years of The Atheist Experience, I am proud to boast), still not believing you, until you meet your burden of proof.”

    Well, it’s okay to not believe, but smugness/ego is pathetic and a grave character flaw. Just a worthless thing.

    I don’t. I just don’t believe the claim without proof. No sleazy egocrap or other BS. Otherwise, you’re sharing a negative aspect — egotism — in common with them, just done differently.

    Best counter to “you’re closed-minded!” is “YES! I AM closed-minded! I am closed-minded to anything that has tons of evidence AGAINST it and NO evidence FOR it! It’s called RATIONAL closed-mindedness! And guess what! YOU are closed-minded too — to anything that has tons of evidence FOR it! And that is called IRrational closed-mindedness!”. And then to walk away, as any further debate (if the debate that has already been done wasn’t) is simply a waste of time and energy.


    Logic is the liberator of man.
    Ego is man’s prison.

  28. Jay says

    Not too long ago I was met with the response from a theist in that “I should be more open-minded”.

    Such response was already well into a long conversation which afterwards I returned it saying that “you don’t care about if what you believe is true or false”, that “this shows close-mindedness”.

    In short, the theist says I need to “be more open-minded” so I respond with “you seem close-mindedbecause of that “you don’t care”.

    I’d say this was an acceptable situation to use the therm “close-minded” since it was for describing the (this) theist’s position.

  29. Anonymous999 says

    I’m not a religious person,I’m an American born Jew who does not practice Judaism, just don’t tell my mother….I do respect the right of other Jews to do what they believe in. I’m neither an Atheist or an Agnostic in fact I have yet to find a word which describes what I am (that’s not entirely true I’m a genius in Science and Math, yet my terrible grammar and writing skills almost denied me access to my first choice school ;-) ). It is my opinion that anyone who says “God absolutely exists without a doubt” are no different than those who say “There is NO possibility that God exists”. BTW, when I say “God”, I’m not talking about any particular one, maybe there are several. That is not my belief at this time though. I love Physics, however I am no expert, I just recently received my Bachelors, I’m a work in progress, I love Science. Science has no aversion to change,no ego and no agenda. Science is not the truth, it is the pursuit of truth. That pursuit of truth is still in it’s infancy, A truly open mind never rules anything out, at least not permanently. I don’t understand this war between those who believe in God and Atheists, to clarify when I say Atheists I’m actually talking about people who, for some reason feel compelled to piss religous people off, and when I say religous people I’m talking about the insane ones who thinks Obama is both the Anti-Christ even though he is a Christian. I just want to know why? and to what end? The world would be such a terrible place if everyone was a WASP or if everyone was a militant atheist. It’s fine not to believe in God, that is everyones right, Just as it’s religous people’s right to believe in God. Neither side is going to change their mind. No matter how hard I try I cannot figure out why 2 groups who hate each other so much, are so attracted to each other. If I don’t like someone I avoid them, I do not seek them out.

    The above is based on something I posted on a “religous sight”, with a few changes. So there may be errors as it’s late and I have quite a few things to do. Please do not be offended as I’m sure this does not apply to everyone who doesn’t believe in God,. I will ask you what I asked them, worded a bit differently. What is the basis of your attraction to religous people? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you believe you are better or more intelligent based solely on the fact that it is your belief that Science and God cannot co-exist (in other words there is absolutely no way that any kind of God can exist, once again I’m not talking about any specific God). so once again, I’m just curious
    Thank You,
    anonymous

    I simply ask for the best answer you can provide. I’m not attacking any individual, perhaps your answers will change the way I view the situation. I only ask that answers stick to the issue without resorting to attacks against me.

    • says

      It’s fine not to believe in God, that is everyones right, Just as it’s religous people’s right to believe in God. Neither side is going to change their mind.

      But this is false, because I changed my mind, Matt Dillahunty changed his mind, everyone who’s ever been raised in a religious environment and grew up to be an unbeliever changed their minds. Atheism and non-affiliation with established religion is the fastest-growing religious demographic in the US.

      Talking about what people have a right to believe in is beside the point. The point is whether or not it’s better to have beliefs that comport to reality, that are backed by verifiable evidence, or to have beliefs that are not supported in that way. On the atheist side, we think it does in fact matter whether what we believe is actually true.

      Why do atheists talk about religion so much? Because religious belief informs people’s decisions, and in our view, those decisions all too often lead to actions that are harmful. Religious belief is behind homophobia and the decision to deny gays and lesbians civil rights. It’s behind the denial of science and lack of education. It’s behind global terrorism. These are things that impact real lives, and thus deserve to be fought.

      • Anonymous999 says

        Thank you for your feedback, To clarify, when I said “side” I was talking about it as a whole, when you say you changed beliefs, as an adult did you independently believe in God or did you grow up in a religious household. You said it should be “fought”, fought how? Science is full of paradoxes, scientists hold contradicting beliefs because they believe that an answer will come. In your opinion how does this differ from “faith”?
        Thanks for your response, it is highly appreciated.

    • says

      BTW, when I say “God”, I’m not talking about any particular one

      Then the term is without meaning. “God” has so many potential meanings that if you don’t specify, it’s completely vacuous. That’s why so much time is spent discussing definitions of god.
      You have to talk about a particular god or you’re not talking about anything at all. The above sentence is simply without content.

      • Anonymous999 says

        The definition of atheism (according to google) is “the theory or belief that God does not exist.”
        To add clarity amd context. A higher intelligence that, at least partially was responsible for creation of reality as we know it. When I wrote that originally my intent was any God of any theistic religion. Is there any definition(s) of God which you believe in?
        Dictated but not read

        • says

          A qualified no. I can see accepting the existence of something that someone might choose to call a god. For instance, imagine a sun worshiper who chose to call the sun “God.” I might disagree with him on the divine status of the sun, but I would if nothing else certainly accept that the sun existed as an entity. But in the traditional, supernatural sense, I don’t believe in any gods, no.

          Atheism is the rejection of theistic claims. A specific kind of atheism, called strong atheism, can involve “the belief that God does not exist,” but this is not necessary.

  30. William Kyburz says

    Martin,

    Why are you trying to “win” and argument? Know, Understand, Think, Conceptualize, Solve .. this is my motto. So I would begin with Martin. Why is he trying to win an argument? If Martin succeeds what does that prove? That God does not exist? Then I would ask Martin, you mean you don’t believe in YOURSELF? Almost all on this page use the word God as if they knew what they were talking about.

    Some suggestions: 1) Begin by defining your terms .. when people ask me if I believe in God I ask back

    a) What do you mean?
    or
    b) Do you mean the God of Abraham? or Zeus or Vishnu .. etc etc

    Either of these two questions begins to choke them up.

    Just some simple suggestions from someone who has never “lost” an argument with a Philosophy professor.

    Best regards,

    Bill Kyburz

    • says

      Know, Understand, Think, Conceptualize, Solve .. this is my motto

      Seems kinda long and complicated; maybe because I haven’t internalized it. I prefer the one I got from Bruce Lee:

      Accept what it useful
      Reject what is useless
      And add what is essentially your own

    • says

      Well, for someone so brilliant, you seem to be confused on some salient points. For one, here is how things usually work around here: Theists come to us with arguments they think are brilliant. When we refute them, or show they don’t work, in such a way they cannot respond, usually “you have a closed mind” is what they fall back on, in lieu of a better argument, you see.

      Considering all the arguments you’ve never lost, you’re lucky no one’s pulled that stunt on you.

  31. William Kyburz says

    A follow up:

    UNDERSTAND CLOSED-MINDEDNESS

    i suggest reading:

    The Psychology of Closed Mindedness (Essays in Social Psychology) by Arie W. Kruglanski

    Good luck in debating.

  32. Ann V. says

    When someone calls me close minded, I generally respond with one of two statements:

    1. I know what I want, I know what I like, and I know what I believe. I am quite content with that.

    or

    2. If not agreeing with you makes me close minded, then how about the person who actually felt the need to start the argument in the first place because they didn’t like that someone didn’t agree with them?

  33. says

    Some good insight. The only thing I didn’t agree with was that being able to refute Christianity, it made you not closed-minded if you now chose to pay it no mind, just that you were smart.

    In reality:

    1. It is still closing yourself off to it.

    2. There is no evidence to disprove or refute Christianity’s claims. Especially no where near excluding the subject from fair discussion.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    http://www.facebook.com/findingneverlandband

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