Some people are dogmatic. They are immune to evidence and argument. But one purpose of logic is to change minds. If you are presented with a sound argument that contradicts your views, you ought to change your mind.
Dogmatists ridicule people who change their mind as “unstable” and “flip-floppers.” Of course, many people do change their mind based not on sound arguments but due to the changing tides of emotion or public opinion. But that does not mean we should deride those who have the courage to change their mind when it is shown they are wrong.
The capacity to change your mind on the basis of sound argument, even late into life, is the mark of someone truly committed to critical thinking.
In 2008, Edge.org asked dozens of leading thinkers from across the globe:
What have you changed your mind about?
Here are some of the answers:1
- Keith Devlin, mathematician: Mathematical Platonist –> NOT
- Lee Smolin, physicist: Quantum reality is timeless –> Time is real
- Paul Davies, physicist: Laws of physics are immutable –> NOT
- Rupert Sheldrake, biologist: Skepticism is primarily an intellectual virtue, whose goal was truth –> Nope, it is used as a weapon.
- Susan Blackmore, psychologist: I used to believe and prove the Paranormal –> Now I prove it false
Your author likes to think he, too, can change his mind in response to argument and evidence. Here are some things he has changed his mind about:
- The Beatles are the best rock band ever -> The Beatles are the most overrated rock band ever. [In 2005 I was persuaded by the problematic but still substantial arguments of rock historian Piero Scaruffi.]
- Christianity -> freethought / atheism. [In 2007-2008, I was persuaded by such writers as Dan Barker, Michael Martin, and Robert Price.]
- Religious sex-avoidance -> Sex positive. [In 2008.]
- Republican -> Libertarian -> Empirical politics. [I was raised Republican, was attracted to Libertarianism in 2008, and then realized that politics didn't require ideology. It could proceed like a science.]
- Libertarian free will -> No contra-causal free will. [Early 2009.]
- A-Theory of time -> block universe. [Early 2009.]
- Objective moral values are grounded in God -> There are no objective moral values -> There are objective moral values. [I lost hope of objective morality in 2008, but was tentatively persuaded of their reality by Alonzo Fyfe in 2009.]
Now, think about yourself. Do you have the capacity to change your mind – even about your most deep-seated convictions, such as those about religion or ethics or politics or spacetime – in response to good arguments? Are you able to practice logic all the way, not just by evaluating argument, but by responding to them appropriately?