The other day I was handing out flyers outside the Marriot Hotel in downtown Vancouver encouraging people to think critically about the event they were about to see. That event was a group reading by self-proclaimed psychic and medium John Edward.
The event was a success, we handed out a number of flyers, engaged a few people in conversation, had a few neat encounters, got banished to the sidewalk by hotel staff… for more information check out Radio Freethinker episode 76.
The general nature of the flyer we were handing out was structured around how anyone can be a psychic medium like Edward. It laid out step by step how Edward operates and makes it appear that he’s communicating with spirits.
This is what I explained to one man who came up to me and asked what I was handing out. I told him that this flyer can show how anyone could do what Edward does, I specifically mentioned how “you or I could use this…” To which the fellow I was talking to said no, he didn’t think I could. Why? I wasn’t open minded enough.
Which got me thinking, what does being open minded mean?
One of my favourite quotes about being open minded comes from a Tim Minchin song (which he apparently lifted from some book he read) “If you open your mind too much your brain will fall out”.
My definition of being open minded is being willing to consider new ideas and suggestions. A close minded person does not consider new ideas and is not willing to entertain new ideas. They make up their mind on something based on a preconceived notion of the world.
Being closed minded is probably the most common criticism I get as a skeptic. People assume that because I don’t believe in ghosts or mediums, it’s because I’ve made up my mind that such things could never exist and no amount of evidence could convince me otherwise. Unfortunately that’s such a misunderstanding of my position, which comes up so often, that I’ve almost lost all will to keep correcting people.
As a skeptic, I’m convinced by evidence. I proportion my belief to something based on the amount of evidence presented. It’s not that I’m intrinsically opposed to belief in mediums, however because more rational explanations exist to explain them in comparison to suggesting they have magical powers; I will come down on the side that presents the most consistent evidence and doesn’t require further assumptions/conditions about the universe (like magic) that will require further explanation.
There’s a really good video explaining open mindedness and critical thinking on YouTube, created by a fellow named QualiaSoup.
How do you describe what it means to be open minded? When someone accuses you of being closed minded, how do you respond?