Sunday, October 18, 2015

Changing one's mind

You can get some good stuff on the Internet and a lot of garbage. Sturgeon's law  that 90% of everything is crap is more applicable to the Internet than anything else. The other day, I came across a comment by Gandhi which is one of the good stuff.
I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to grow inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned, with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and, therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he has still faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject.
Some time back, for some reason, I saw the the titles of a couple of my old posts and couldn't recall what it was all about. After I read the posts, I remembered having typed some sentences in it but for the most part it seemed as if I was reading someone else's post. So it is entirely possible that you may come across inconsistencies in my views. If so, Gandhi has the answer.

It has become the norm to regard changing one's view as a sign of weakness. Our first instinct when shown our contradictory statements is to somehow show that both mean the same thing. Talk shows often have one politician saying that another had said something in the past that is opposite to what he is saying now. I think that it is ok to change one's mind  provided of course that it is based on experience and reason and not due to political convenience depending on whether one is in the Government or in the Opposition.

For example, Arun Jaitly said when in the Opposition that disruption was a legitimate form of parliamentary protest but now he is against disruptions. If he holds on to the changed view whenever he finds himself in the Opposition then the change of mind is credible.

Faith is a realm in which minds are very difficult to change,  with scientific information that contradicts a cherished belief leading people to doubt the study in question. In psychology, the motivation to resolve conflicting ideas is called cognitive dissonance and it leads us to try and resolve the contradiction in whichever is the most personally satisfying way, rather than whichever is the most in tune with reality.

Many people revel in mysteries. Some look at them as challenges to be solved; some like them for their own sake, thinking, like Keats, that explaining a rainbow in terms of its prismatic colors destroyed the beauty of a rainbow. Keats wrote, 'Do not all charms fly / At the mere touch of cold philosophy?' They don't want to change their minds about a mystery and would prefer to be left alone in ignorance. In Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins talks of an incident when Michael Shermer publicly debunked a famous TV spiritualist:
The man was doing ordinary conjuring tricks and duping people into thinking he was communicating with dead spirits. But instead of being hostile to the now unmasked charlatan, the audience turned on the debunker and supported a woman who accused him of 'inappropriate'behaviour because he destroyed people's illusions. You'd think she'd have been grateful for having the wool pulled off her eyes but apparently she preferred it firmly over them.

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