Open or Closed?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020



1. Mind Open---to alternative points of view

2. Mind Closed---to alternative points of view

3. Tales from the Dark Side---we have cookies


Mind Open

to alternative points of view

John Stuart Mill is a very strong advocate of openness to alternative views. Here is a summary of why he feels openness is so important.

a. Your point of view may be wrong---to believe otherwise is to assume you are infallible.

b. Your opinion almost certainly does not contain the whole truth, and alternative points of view may have valid elements. If you have the honesty and self-confidence to recognize them, understanding increases---the presentation of your point of view more powerful.

c. Even if the other point of view is completely wrong it is important to listen carefully and present your position vigorously and honestly. Otherwise your point of view loses its vitality and freshness---becomes nothing but dead dogma and rhetoric.


"He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …

Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form."


Here are very effective ways to expand your openness to alternative views.

1. Commit to rationality. If you or the other side ignores basic logic, you or they are stupid, corrupt, or a hopeless ideologue. Don’t waste your time.

2. Acknowledge a valid point or criticism. Good move. You’ve learned something, and greatly increased the other side’s willingness to listen to what you have to say.

3. Acknowledge and question your assumptions and biases. There is no human on earth whose opinion is not heavily based on assumptions and bias. Objectivity is an illusion. Even hard data is meaningless until interpreted, and the interpretation is dependent upon the assumptions and biases of the interpreter.

4. All points of view have weaknesses. Congratulations if you can acknowledge the weaknesses of your own. You are wiser and more honest than most of the rest of us. Using that ability leads to even greater wisdom and honesty.



Mind Closed

to alternative points of view

John Stuart Mill’s ideas are so high minded,

so obviously true.


Just the flowery, flowing rhetoric of intellectuals in their safe cocoons, protected by gated communities, army, police and the Zoning Commission---and lots of hot air among friends. When their basic beliefs are challenged they are as ready as anyone to shut down opposing views. They just do it with bigger words, bigger lies and so much more hypocrisy.

Oh my, you might be tempted to say. Such overblown rhetoric. Such mean-spirited cynicism. Or maybe just a sad attempt at satire or lampoonery. And you shout, “I dare you to defend what you just said”. And so I shall.

I’ll start by pointing out that a free, honest and knowledgeable assessment of all sides is extremely rare. Guess who agrees with me.

Albert Einstein

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity, opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are not even capable of forming such opinions.


There are two very good reasons why people have so much trouble forming alternative opinions and try so hard to shut down opposing views. And especially why they try so hard to shut down those rare flashes of opposing views within themselves. They shut those down real quick. Are you an exception?

1. We are pack animals. Humans protect their intellectual territory as much as wolves protect their physical territory. The need to belong to a pack greatly reduces any need or desire to honestly access the ideas of those mangy curs across the river. Those who dare are not treated kindly by the rest of the pack.

2. There is therefore little need or incentive to honestly access all sides of an issue. The vast majority of people do not even know the logic and data supporting their own side. Nor have they felt the need to develop the critical tools needed to evaluate such information even if they did.

When people accept a belief, they immediately go into confirmation bias, accepting evidence for, automatically rejecting evidence against. Level headed, intelligent people are not immune. Those with kind hearts and good intentions are the most easily taken in because they assume that people who believe as they do are as nice as they are. It takes them a very long time to realize that they are being manipulated, if they ever do.


Here are very effective ways to protect your intellectual territory from those mongrels down by the lake.

1. Play the ad hominem and genetic fallacy cards---two cheap ways to avoid ever having to consider the merits of an opposing argument. Just throw nasty names, or dismiss the argument by demonizing the source.

2. Create an abominable straw man. Simple and another cheap shot. Argue vigorously against an easily countered argument the other side never made.

3. Cherry pick, exaggerate, minimize. Only present evidence that supports your position, and exaggerate its relevance and validity. Minimize the relevance and validity of evidence presented by the other side, and be sure and call them a bunch of cherry pickers.

4. Interrupt when the other side is making a good point, or on a roll. Ask them to define a word they just used, or to please repeat what they just said. Drop a pencil on the floor, or start coughing. Anything to interrupt the flow.

5. Double Standard. Could not be simpler. You demand the other side do none of the above. You do them all.

A strong belief in the validity of their point of view is all most people have. Just agreeable generalities, uplifting platitudes, massaged and licked daily by their friends and what they choose to read and watch. Happy Juice flows through your brain. It pretty much comes down to:

We GOOD---they BAD

We SMART---they DUMB

There are a few, a very few individuals such as John Stuart Mill, who are reasonably successful at honestly evaluating all sides of an issue. They are typically independently wealthy, tenured faculty members, or retired. Such people are rarely leaders of a political or social cause. They lack the dedication and fire of someone who has The Truth.

If you want a nourishing and satisfying discussion of whether or not science and religion are complementary or incompatible go find a follower of John Stuart Mill. If you want a nourishing and satisfying reinforcement of your belief that it is one or the other go get your average agreeable citizen.


Serious thinkers want to have their opinions challenged

by competent and forceful proponents of opposing views.

Let me know if you find one.




Tales from the Dark Side

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This adventure expands your Maps of Reality

and gives you a great opportunity to watch pack behavior.

A serious challenge. You probably get your news from sources that tend liberal or conservative. For instance, you might regularly visit The Huffington Post and Salon on the left, The Drudge Report and Breitbart on the right.

If you read both sides you don’t need this adventure, and are to be congratulated for being exceptionally open-minded. But if you read only one side, carefully read both sides every day for two weeks. The above four websites will do fine.

Notice how both sides cherry pick what they report or don’t report and reinforce the positive and negative trigger words they favor to support their talking points and narratives. You will find some truth in the spin but the selectivity, exaggerations, and minimalizations are a little less than honest.

You probably won’t convert, but may find the other side not entirely wrong. At least you’ll have plenty of wild tales from the Dark Side to share with your pack.

Of course if you are tightly bonded to your pack, don’t waste your time. What you believe are not talking points and narratives, they are The Truth! And you have such fun smearing, bullying, and shaming the other side.

Such fun having your honest, open-minded, clear thinking friends right beside you. Smearing, shaming and bullying those flea bitten, stupid mutts who just swam across the river.



Started to explore other packs, a little, kinda like an adventure. Maybe not such a good idea to go exploring. More friction in my life with people, and myself.


I didn’t want to do this one but my bf insisted. Glad. Ya the other packs are not all bad. Even learned new things. Mostly wrong of course, but not all.


Oh my, what an adventure. Both sides lie through their teeth, all the time. So sure of themselves. So self-righteous. Ok, there is no Truth. I knew that. Just didn’t know how much everybody twists reality to fit their pack. Wonder how many realize they’re doing that?

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