Atheist Meme of the Day: Open-Minded /= Gullible


Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

Being open-minded doesn’t mean thinking all possibilities are equally likely. It means being willing to consider new ideas if strong evidence supports them. And that’s just as true for religion as anything else. Atheists aren’t close-minded — we’ll happily reconsider the god hypothesis if we see some good evidence for it. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Comments

  1. Mark says

    “Being open-minded doesn’t mean thinking all possibilities are equally likely. It means being willing to consider new ideas if strong evidence supports them.”
    This is wrong. Being open-minded means being willing to consider ALL possibilities, regardless of whether or not they have good reasoning or evidence behind them – and regardless of whether or not they are “new.” I’m trying to find the dishonest skeptic that started this whole trend of carefully (and improperly)defining the concept of open-mindedness to be helpful to the skeptic movement. You skeptics need to be more skeptical of your own people.

  2. Flail says

    Mark, you can’t possibly accept all possibilities for honest consideration. Think of the sheer mental time and effort it would take to consider every ridiculous and unfounded thing that people could throw at you.
    For example, if I tell you there is a monkey riding a wild stallion in your living room, would you spend more than a fleeting second of your time to dismiss the possibility? How about if I told you of an ancient, eternal monster made of spaghetti?
    Under your definition, only those with Williams Syndrome (or similar conditions) would be “open minded”.

  3. Valhar2000 says

    Wow Mark, you must have a really big ass, that you can pull all that out of it.

  4. Mark says

    Wow, you people are very disrespectful. While I do respond to necessarily harsh criticism, I do not respond to unnecessarily disrespectful criticism.

  5. Maria says

    Mark, If that wasn’t a respons, then what was it?
    Flail is right, you can’t possibly consider all possibilities for everything. Especially not when some possibilities have been shown to be wrong and has been thoroughly debunked decades ago. To keep considering stuff like that is not open minded… it’s stupid! Open mindedness is as much about rejection as it is about considering. If new evidence comes up you are always free to reconsider earlier rejected possibilities again.

  6. Bruce Gorton says

    Posted by: Mark | May 10, 2010 at 07:24 PM
    Being open-minded means being willing to consider ALL possibilities
    Considering a position is not the same as adopting it. To honestly consider something you need to weigh the evidence and arguments for it in order to form an opinion over whether it is likely to be true.
    If it doesn’t have good arguments or evidence for it, then rejecting it shows that you have in fact honestly considered it – to be bunk.

  7. says

    Mark, that position is flatly ridiculous. Do you really think it’s close-minded to reject the possibility that there might be a china teapot orbiting the Sun? That there might be an invisible, incorporeal dragon in Carl Sagan’s old garage? That gravity might be caused by a flying spaghetti monster, holding us all down with his noodly appendages? That lightning might be caused by Thor?
    That’s essentially defining “open-mindedness” out of existence. Nobody considers all possibilities, even ones that are implausible or unsupported by evidence. We couldn’t function of we did. We’d be paralyzed. Or worse. If every time I saw a car come barreling down the street towards the intersection, I considered the possibility that it might be a hallucination or a car made of light or the second coming of Jesus in disguise, I would have been dead long ago. We have to sort through possibilities, and make decisions on how to act based on which is most likely.
    Which is why being close-minded doesn’t mean rejecting possibilities as unlikely. It means being unwilling to consider possibilities, or to re-consider that your old conclusions might be mistaken… even when strong evidence supports it.
    (Oh, and Valhar2000: I adore you, but please do dial back on the personally insulting language. This isn’t Pharyngula. I try to keep criticisms here limited to ideas and behavior, not to people. Thanks.)

  8. Mark says

    All this disrespect from everyone, including Christina, too. Are there no skeptics on this planet that can be nice and just make an argument? Do we all have to use words like “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “bunk,” or talk about the size of my ass? (I don’t think it’s that big…) And you people are some of the nicer skeptics that I’ve had contact with. Hmm…well, I’ll just say that if anyone respectful has any input on who the skeptic is that came up with this idea about open-mindedness being only about consideration of new ideas and not old ones, I would appreciate your input.

  9. Indigo says

    Here`s the question, Mark: how many times exactly are we expected to keep reconsidering an idea? I for one am sick of being accused of being closed-minded for having reached a conclusion and being comfortable with it. I`m plenty open-minded: bring me new evidence and I`ll examine it. That`s all being fair requires me to do – not to listen to the same song, over and over again, and say, “Well, maybe *this* time it`ll make sense!“

  10. Mark says

    Umm…sorry Indigo, I disagree with that. Being fair does require you to listen to the same song over and over again. Maybe *this* time it will make sense. It’s happened before. I know that always being open and never knowing for sure that you are right is frustrating, but that’s the way that it has to be. I think that we all just have to get used to it, until some brilliant philosopher can come up with some way that we can be absolutely certain with absolutely no reasonable doubt. I personally do not believe that such a thing is possible, but I am open-minded, so I will acknowledge that I might be wrong. I have gone over that song a million times, and probably will a million times more…

  11. says

    Hint: constantly whining about tone in a passive-aggressive manner doesn’t help you: it makes you look like a whining, pretentious twit.

  12. says

    All this disrespect from everyone, including Christina, too. Are there no skeptics on this planet that can be nice and just make an argument? Do we all have to use words like “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “bunk,” or talk about the size of my ass?

    Mark: I make a distinction in my blog between insulting/ criticizing ideas or behavior, and personally insulting individual people. I asked Valhar2000 to dial it back (and I’m going to ask themann1086 to do the same), since their comments crossed that line. But if you don’t want to have your ideas called ridiculous, I suggest that you not parade them in a blog dedicated to critiquing ridiculous ideas. (What’s more, you yourself referred to “the dishonest skeptic that started this whole trend.” How is that not insulting?)
    As for your last argument: It is flatly ridiculous. If we had infinite time and attention, you might have a point — but we don’t. Our time on this earth is limited, and it’s a waste of time to keep considering every wacky possibility that’s been tested and tested and found wanting, simply because there’s an infinitesimally small chance that it might be right. If we kept reconsidering the possibility that the earth is the center of the universe, we wouldn’t have time to explore that universe and figure out what is almost certainly true about it.
    What’s more, we have to make decisions — and we have to make those decisions based on conclusions we’ve provisionally reached about how the world works. As I said: If every time I saw a car come barreling down the street towards the intersection, I considered the possibility that it might be a hallucination or a car made of light or the second coming of Jesus in disguise, I would have been dead long ago. We have to sort through possibilities, and make decisions on how to act based on which is most likely.
    And I would put it to you that you do not act in your life in the way you’re advocating. When you’re considering how to leave a tall building, you don’t seriously consider the possibility that, if you jump out the window, fairies will catch you and carry you gently to the ground. If someone suggested it to you, you would reject it, and take the stairs or the elevator. How are atheists and skeptics acting any differently?

  13. Maria says

    Do we all have to use words like “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “bunk,” or talk about the size of my ass? (I don’t think it’s that big…)
    I fully agree that we do not need to discuss the size of your ass, but I am sorry… Some things actually are stupid, ridiculous and bunk! It is not insulting to point out that some assertions actually are these things.
    It’s not the same as saying that the person who makes these assertions necessarily are stupid. They could be wrong on just this one thing, for example.

  14. Jimmy Crummins says

    Mark
    People who think they know what’s right and those at variance with them are wrong, tend towards the obnoxious in discussion. This is a truism regardless of the political spectrum. The posters here are every bit as fanatical and every bit as possessed of a sense of self-righteousnous as some of the Islamic militants I had the pleasure of talking to a few years ago.

  15. Maria says

    Umm…sorry Indigo, I disagree with that. Being fair does require you to listen to the same song over and over again. Maybe *this* time it will make sense.
    Then why are you disagreeing? If that is your position you don’t really have a leg to stand on disagreeing with anyone on anything. You should just sit down and listen to it over and over again until it starts to make sense to you. I don’t see you doing that! Why not practicing as you preach, Mark?

  16. Bruce Gorton says

    Sorry Greta, I just can’t resist on this one
    Posted by: Jimmy Crummins | May 12, 2010 at 02:56 AM
    Your first post here was an outright insult to every other poster here, you failed to present any meaningful arguments or even really indicate that you had bothered to try to undersand anybody elses.
    Your huge game of intellectual masturbation isn’t even logically consistent.
    For example your statement that atheists are just intellectually dishonest and reject arguments out of them not fitting our preconcieved notions.
    Never mind that most of us were at one points theists, thereby having to have changed out minds on something fairly fundemental, your later arguments were basically that atheists shouldn’t challenge theists’ preconcieved notions with things like facts and arguments.
    In other words you defended the precise behaviour you castigated atheists for, to your mind, displaying.
    You also made a downright stupid blanket statement slamming activism, likening all of it to the “activism” of Adolph Hitler.
    Never mind that human rights as a concept exist mainly due to activism. Activism, when you get right down to it is vital to social change, and while not all changes are good, to make a blanket statement like that quite frankly demonstrated you are an intellectual poseur.
    I even gave you a few things in a rather extreme comment you could legitimately disagree with just to see if you could come up with an argument. Instead you whined about how Greta doesn’t want you commenting on this blog.
    A whine which I notice, hasn’t stopped you commenting here.
    And that is your general tone – that of a whiner without a point.
    Now you talk about fanatacism – but I think I see that in your comments. Only, you aren’t a fanatic in terms of religion, or politics, or anything that really involves forming an opinion, or even being informed.
    I think you are a fanatic post-modernist pseudo-intellectual. You are a fake fanatically trying to make yourself sound bright, while challenging those atheists, or religionists or whoever the hell you are arguing with at any given moment.
    You have posted your arguments all across the blog and quite frankly there isn’t any content to them. You might encounter better arguments if you actually had the guts to form one.
    And maybe you would encounter less “Self-righteousness” amongst people you disagree with if you were honest in your disagreement rather than behaving like a passive agressive wanker.
    And here is the thing, even profound nationalists and religious people are individuals beyond their beliefs.
    They can exhibit their own flaws and strengths, with means even with beliefs that tend towards the self-righteous the fanatic Christian can be anything but self-righteous.
    That is why the very worst persecutors of gays tend to get caught going to gay prostitutes. It isn’t self-righteousness, born of an overly high opinion of yourself, that fuels the worst fanatic. It is self-hate. It is denial of who you are.
    Mother Theresa was a monster if you look at how those hospices actually operated – and for all of her protestations it turned out she was an unbeliever denying it to herself.
    To paraphrase a Jesus quote (Funny thing about that, there are few ideas I actually agree with in religion) – what you reveal saves you, what you hide damns you.
    And so far you have spent so much of your time damning people for having opinions that you haven’t revealed any of yours.

  17. Bruce Gorton says

    Posted by: Mark | May 11, 2010 at 01:33 AM
    Your own posts haven’t exactly been brimming with respect. If you have a point, deal with the substance of the rebuttals, not the form they take.

  18. says

    Bruce, Bruce, Bruce… I appreciate your sentiments, believe me. But please, please, don’t feed the troll.
    Jimmy: Your concern is noted. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Mark says

    Bruce, my posts have been as respectful as I could possibly think to make them while still getting my point across. That is different than most people here (including Christina) who are mean because they want to be. Disrespectfulness has a way of overwhelming reason in any conversation, even among people who are well-reasoned. This is one of the reasons why I usually don’t get in discussions with anyone from the skeptic movement. I thought that Christina was better than most, but then she informed me that this website is “a blog dedicated to critiquing ridiculous ideas.” I was not aware of that. Also, to Jimmy Crummins, I agree with what you are saying. That is part of what I’m trying to get at with respect to my position on the importance of open-mindedness.

  20. Mark says

    Hmm…reading some of the content of the posts more carefully…I wonder if there is another person named Mark posting here. I seem to be getting accused of posting things that I never posted. Sorry if I caused some confusion. I would ask that people criticize what I am posting here and not what somebody else named Mark posted at some other time on this blog.

  21. Bruce Gorton says

    Umm…sorry Indigo, I disagree with that. Being fair does require you to listen to the same song over and over again. Maybe *this* time it will make sense.
    No, it won’t. If you have dismissed an argument for lack of evidence, the only way it will make sense *this* time is if there is more evidence *this* time.
    And once there is more evidence for it, it really is a different argument.
    To borrow Flail’s example:
    If I simply say I have a monkey riding a stallion in your livingroom it is a different argument to if I can provide live-streaming video of it.
    Now note the difference in how I am handling your argument to how I am handling Jimmy’s. You are presenting an honest position, and you are doing it on a thread on which it is actually relevant.
    You are giving me something other than you for me to attack. Try to keep it on that level, and to avoid falling into the trap in which you take disagreement with your position as “disrespectful.”
    Because when you do that you tell us that you aren’t a person worth respecting. Those who deserve respect rarely ask for it.

  22. Bruce Gorton says

    Posted by: Mark | May 12, 2010 at 12:34 PM
    You seem to be of the impression that people are being mean to you.
    Greta and the rest of us – really aren’t. Attacking your ideas isn’t disrespectful, to try and claim that it is, is to claim authority nobody has.
    This is for the very good reason that we are all wrong sometimes, and when we are wrong, our ideas need attacking. Sometimes we are so wrong, that laughter is the best approach to it.
    If you have isolated yourself against skeptic sites, then I am afraid you are admitting that your interpretation of us being mean is less about us being mean, than you not being used to dealing with dissenting opinions.
    Now while there has been the odd jibe against you personally, most of the arguments against you have been against your ideas.
    Here is the thing, what words we decide to use is just personal quirks, what matters is the idea.
    So take what ideas you were expressing here:
    I’m trying to find the dishonest skeptic that started this whole trend of carefully (and improperly)defining the concept of open-mindedness to be helpful to the skeptic movement. You skeptics need to be more skeptical of your own people.
    You accused the skeptical movement of dishonesty when it comes to what it means to have an open mind. Considering this is a skeptics blog, that means us.
    You further made a claim of double standards. Both are issues we take fairly seriously.
    Now first of all, my point still stands – considering something isn’t the same as agreeing with it. Which means the common usage of open-minded by the skeptical movement stands. The basis of your insult is wrong.
    And even if it weren’t, to allege dishonesty is itself also wrong because it misses the point that people can be mistaken.
    It doesn’t matter how you tried to tone it, it is the idea itself that is the problem.

  23. Mark says

    Well, I guess I’m a troll now. And this from the woman who says that it is not okay to call people names on this blog. Really, I’m reluctant to drag this out any further (especially since the only one who cares about respect is Jimmy Crummins) but I feel especually compelled to point out another problem with skeptics that is being demonstrated here. The problem is that so many skeptics think that it’s okay for them to break the rules and not okay for the other side to do so. Well, it’s pretty clear that I am not wanted here, so this will probably be my last post.

  24. Jimmy Crummins says

    Bruce
    Lack of respect in discourse is an indicator of insecurity in your own intellectual standing. I have watched Noam Chomsky fend off the most strident attacks on his person by lessar men because he is secure in his intellectual position. He fends off those attacks with quiet dignity. Not with obnoxious personal attack.
    My objections to rapid social change on any issue stem from harsh personnal experience after witnessing such change going south. Your attacks on my person are not going to change that very hard won viewpoint.

  25. Bruce Gorton says

    Posted by: Mark | May 12, 2010 at 07:10 PM
    Greta was referring to my post to Jimmy, not to you.

  26. Bruce Gorton says

    Posted by: Mark | May 12, 2010 at 09:35 PM
    I have done it myself sometimes.
    Anyway, if you want to continue the argument on civility – I think it is a bit unfair to hijack Greta’s blog with it so I quickly wrote something up this morning.
    My blog is pre-moderated so your first post might take a while to show up – but it at least isn’t disrupting things here.
    (Just a note – the blog is usually my way of expressing my peculiar sense of humour, so take its over-the-top nature with a pinch of salt.)

  27. Valhar2000 says

    (Oh, and Valhar2000: I adore you, but please do dial back on the personally insulting language. This isn’t Pharyngula. I try to keep criticisms here limited to ideas and behavior, not to people. Thanks.)
    Very well, I will remember that in the future.

  28. Valhar2000 says

    The posters here are every bit as fanatical and every bit as possessed of a sense of self-righteousnous as some of the Islamic militants I had the pleasure of talking to a few years ago.
    I am reluctantly compelled to grant that Jimmy is correct: in fact, only this last weekend I slaughtered a village in Pakistan. I kinda knew it was wrong… but I couldn’t help myself.

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