Via Slashdot, I was pointed to the Edge Foundation’s annual question to that effect, put to a cadre of scientists and science-oriented writers and other intellectuals. The stuff is fascinating.
It stirred another question in me, though: what would the same article look like if asked of a bunch of religion and traditional liberal arts professors? Would they be clever rhetorical “I’ve changed my mind that the Bush administration is capable of no more evil than it has already committed” or honest reassessments? I’m especially curious if ardent professional theists–seminarians, theologians, pastors, imams, etc.–would have meaningful things to say.
To me, the possibility of being completely wrong is one of the reasons science has been so successful as a human endeavor. In fact, the capability of reassessing and admitting you are mistaken is one of the attributes I look for in someone to hire. I don’t need people who are going to doggedly keep doing the wrong thing. I want someone to realize that their preconceived idea was wrong, and more importantly, are willing to admit it and change it.
What have I changed my mind about? I used to think that conservatives were unfairly painted as motivated by racism. While I think the race card is still overplayed, I have come to see a lot of what conservatives believe in social issues as at least tainted by racist attitudes, even if they aren’t active hatemongers. Not that they’re the only ones, but they are much more guilty of it than they’re willing to admit to themselves.
I was a global warming skeptic until the late 90s. Once the satellite measurements were corrected, I had to change my mind. And now that alternative causes have been thoroughly tested and falsified, I’ve had to conclude that we’re causing it with CO2 emissions.
I used to think that people were capable of living in a pure market economy with no welfare state whatsoever. While I still think it would work, I don’t think humans are psychologically capable of living (peacefully) without some sort of welfare net. I still worry that we’re insufficiently humble about the power of humans to outguess the market. Too few of us are willing to recognize that any time you help one person, you hurt another or several others. It’s made me pessimistic that we’re doomed to kill the golden goose of the market until the next time it’s reborn out of desperation and bloody revolution. I’m not yet convinced that’s inevitable, though, so it’s worth trying to stop it.
What have you changed your mind about?