Is it possible that an open mind is dangerous? Yes. If your mind is all-encompassing, and you are willing to accept whatever comes into it, then remember that the only thing that accepts anything and rejects nothing, is a sewer. G.K. Chesterton said it best, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” (Autobiography). Avoiding mental sewage is as important as being aware of our confirmation biases, as we learn to think clearly and live vibrantly.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
I was in a bookstore a few years ago and found an old copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachaen Ethics –a classic on ethical discourse –then when I was about to pay for it the clerk asked me if I would donate to their literacy program for children. I was happy to contribute, as I reached for my wallet I asked, “what are the children reading?” She shot back “Anything they want, we don’t care what they read, as long as they read!” I was startled. I asked “If someone told you that “it does not matter what children eat, as long as they eat,” would you agree?” She ignored my question, became upset at me. She repeated her mantra.
My point stands, what we listen to, watch and who we spend time with matters. It really does matter. We need to have filters on our minds or eyes, as they are the windows of our soul. What we read is just as important as what we feed ourselves. So then we ought to watch what we feed our soul. But at the same time we have to be aware of what psychologists call confirmation bias. It is our cognitive blind spot.
Confirmation bias is best summed up by what Francis Bacon said
“It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives.”
Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking, that one person tends to ignore evidence that goes against one’s beliefs whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs! For example, if you believe that the President is an awful leader, and his position on the war on terror is weak, then news showing his problematic foreign policy will confirm your presuppositions and dispositions and thus you will find yourself agreeing with it before you see the evidence for it.
However the opposite will be the case if you are predisposed to like the President.
This can be applied to religion as much as to anything else. If you are a Christian, and there is news found to show contradictions in the Bible, you will naturally try to explain them away. The same is true of some committed atheist. She will not try to explain them away but will use these “contradictions” to confirm her presuppositions and dispositions against God and the Bible, without, many times, even looking at the evidence. See my prior post on Bible Contradictions.
What do you think? How can we over come our bias?
See Science Daily for more information on Confirmation Bias.