BELIEFS: What Would It Take to Change Your Mind?

Waking me up on a Saturday morning is one thing, but waking me up for this … 

Admittedly, it was after nine, but if you were going to wake me up on a Saturday morning, you had better be Amazon or FedEx.

I was anxiously waiting for a new chipper that promised to improve my shoddy golf game, so I grabbed my bathrobe and made for the door.

Swinging it open, I was greeted by a young, smiling couple who began by asking, “Would you like to know the truth?” 

‘Who the hell wouldn’t,’ I thought, rubbing my eyes, trying to get a sense of what was happening. 

As my eyes gained focus, I could see they had some colourful pamphlets, which presumably contained the truth. 

Holding the bundle of truth closely to her chest, the young woman informed me that the word of God was the truth and that he (God) wanted what was best for me. 

Well, as it turns out, my truth was that I had been raised in a Christian fundamentalist home. For the first 18 years of my life, I felt like I was an experiment in the Manchurian Candidate.

I quickly and kindly told the Witnesse’s that I was not interested and “gently” closed the door.

But that visit bothered me for the rest of the day. Not because they woke me up, and not because I thought that they had anything of value to say, but it was the spirit of what they did … and why I so vehemently detest the blind arrogance of religious beliefs, whether those beliefs come from religionists or determinists. 

I can think of no better example of the base problem with people who claim to have the corner on truth than the one Andy Norman gives in his thought-provoking book Mental Immunity, in which he has a section titled “What Would It Take to Change Your Mind? “

He then tells an intriguing story that juxtaposes the difference between what I would term “one’s love for truth” and one who “tries to make true that which he loves.”

In February 2014, two contestants entered a packed auditorium at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

They were there to debate the scientific merits of the biblical account of Creation.

The pro-biblical debater, Ken Ham, was defending the literal truth of the origins story of Genesis. His opponent, science educator and T.V. personality Bill “the Science Guy” Nye, stated that the Genesis story was scientifically untenable.

Not surprisingly, neither man succeeded in persuading the other to change his mind, but what was fascinating was their answers to a question posed by the debate’s moderator:

“Gentlemen,” he asked, “what would it take to change your mind?”

In context, he probably meant “change your mind about evolution,” but his framing of the question was suggestively general.

Ham replied, “I’m a Christian. No one is ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true.”

Nye responded with one word: “Evidence!”

It was a perfect expression of the scientific attitude: 

Give me good evidence, and I’ll change my mind.

At the end of that Saturday, I realized that I, too, bow at an altar, but it’s the altar of science. Not an alter that claims to know the truth, but one that’s in perpetual pursuit of truth. 

The Witnesses are no more guilty of blind thinking than much of the rest of humanity who cling to implanted, baseless beliefs, whether that be astrology, theology, or determinism. 

Now with that being said, I have no problem with people putting their faith in anything that helps make their lives more enjoyable, it’s the claim (often with smug superiority) to have the handle on truth that I take issue.

A quote attributed to the late great economist John Maynard Keynes, who was attacked for changing his mind, replied, “When the facts change, I change my mind; what do you do, sir?” 

Whether Keynes actually said this is irrelevant; what’s relevant is the response itself. Unfortunately, people who change their minds are often considered flip-floppers, opportunists, or charlatans.

But the “truth” is that down through the ages, the giants of humanity would accept nothing less than evidence, and when confronted with it, they willingly changed their minds; without them, we would still be swinging from the trees on a perfectly flat earth.

P.S. I did get that chipper, and the “evidence” would suggest that you cannot buy your golf game. 😒