A friend of mine once said that having an open mind is like having an open sewer. I assume what he meant by that was all that unfiltered raw data just flows right in and becomes randomly assimilated into some kind of unrecognizable, grotesque intellectual morass. I suppose that could happen, but it’s still a risk we have to take because otherwise, we have to assume a closed mind is better. A closed mind means many or all topics are strictly off limits, unless of course those with the closed minds are the ones proselytizing to you. A closed mind usually begins early in life when young brains are very much open to new ideas and experiences. Once input is received and synaptic connections are case hardened, it becomes extremely difficult to re-wire them with any conflicting ideas no matter how innocuous those ideas may seem to be in the eyes of the presenter. To a closed mind, such ideas or trigger words are merely trojan horses that can only lead them down the road to perdition. This can lead to reflexive inflammatory rhetoric that, more often than not, is directed at the messenger rather than the message in order to intimidate and shut him up, i.e. censorship. It can even lead to violent confrontation and war.
But what about scientists, aren’t they trained to be open minded? Uh, this also happens to people who call themselves scientists. Unfortunately, they have an added layer of protection because they presume themselves to be “educated” and hence immune to the stifling confines of a closed mind. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We all suffer from this malady, with a tendency to gravitate toward the baseline of having a completely closed mind as we calcify with age. The more you surround yourself with like minded people and their opinions, the more closed minded you become. Striving for an open mind is extremely hard work. You need to be able to look at unvarnished facts in a honest way with no preconceptions. Of course, this is impossible to do for a number of reasons: How do you find “unvarnished” facts? Where do you look for them? When you “find” them, how do you know just how unvarnished they really are? The short answer is you don’t know any of this. Even the most brilliant, honest open minded scientist cannot be sure of his own data, much less anybody else’s data. They tell you this fact in the discussion section of every research paper they get published via peer review.
So what to do? You must be skeptical, not only of others, but of yourself as well. Who is presenting this “data”? Do they have an agenda beyond trying to get at the truth? What, if anything, do they gain by converting you over to their way of thinking? Are they just arguing to win a verbal contest or does anything they have to say resonate with truth?
I’m almost 70 years old, so I’ve been around the block a time or two. This much I can say with a reasonable degree of accuracy: If what some people are doing makes absolutely no sense, somebody is probably making a lot of money off of it; and chances are they’re not coming by it honestly. Worse still, some people want to burn the world down and remake it in their own image. If they ever took the time to look into a mirror with an open mind, they would see what a horrendous mistake that would be.