Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How Open Can a Mind Be?

An accusation I often find levelled at myself whilst having discussions with "believers" is that I, have a closed mind. This quite often follows my request for evidence of a claim. I simply can't stress the following statement strongly enough:
            Requesting evidence of a claim or proposition, isn't indicative of a closed-mind!

Requesting evidence is sensible, it is what we do every single day, it isn't confrontational, it shouldn't cause offence. Certain believers want their claims to be taken on face-value without providing any supportive data, if these people were selling you a car, would they take such um bridge if you asked to check under the bonnet (hood for our American friends)? I doubt it.

I sometimes wonder if the offence caused isn't because the people making these claims, know that they simply cannot provide any evidence beyond eye-witness testimony. This is never more evident than when I mention the possibility of testing claimed psychic abilities. A bit of background, I have recently noticed a spate of Facebook users performing readings on photographs shared by other users on paranormal pages. Now this is a claim that would actually be fairly easy to test over social media. Thus far I have offered the test to several individuals who have made such claims. One individual was very nice, thought that it was a good idea, but declined anyway. The rest, without exception have become extremely irate that I  would even dare suggest they test their "powers". Every single one of them has approached the idea from the angle that such a test would only be an attempt to "DISPROVE" their claim. That implies to me that these people aren't confident at all in their abilities. Yet they don't think twice about telling people they have spirits, ghosts or demons in their homes, or around their persons.

Anyway, back to the point, each one of these individuals, and in many cases supporters witnessing the discussion, have linked my desire to test these abilities under tightly controlled conditions, to the possession of a "closed mind". The truth is, if I actually had a closed mind. If I had decided that aspects of the paranormal and supernatural categorically do not exist, then I wouldn't waste my time testing these claims!

The truth is that we can assess whether a person has a "closed mind" by asking one single pertinent question:

What would it take for you to change your opinion/belief of x?

My answer would be, in all cases, empirical, testable, verifiable evidence. What about the believers, could anything change their beliefs? Often the answer I have received to such a question is "I know what I saw/experienced/felt and nothing could persuade me otherwise." Well when we get that answer, we can only come to one conclusion about who is in possession of the closed mind.

 In the past two days I've come accross a couple of photos posted with the message "This isn't (insert photographic effect) So don't tell me it is, I know its not!" or similar. Also I've seen videos posted with the message "This is proven so don't even try to debunk it!" or thereabouts. This is clearly demonstrative that some "believers" need to heed their own advice about being open minded. Here's a face book message I received as I was writing this, that perfectly sums up every point I've made in this post.

Also here are Ken Ham and Bill Nye responding to the question that perfectly sums up the "closed-mind" issue. Watch this and then you are free to go about your day.

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