An open mind: Part 2

I always enjoy it when people comment on my writing, so I thought I'd answer some recent criticism of this entry, and keep going on this subject because I keep thinking about it.

One component of being open minded about a new idea is the ability to de-contextualize it from your own world, and try to re-contextualize it in that of the idea-holder. Let's use the idea of the Burka: that head to toe covering that so many places in the middle east have their women wear. As a modern American I sure don't identify with that idea. So to open my mind to it I have to do some imagination exercises. I have to think about what it is in the culture that shaped me, that makes me dislike the idea. Then I have to think about what it could be in their culture that makes it seem like a good idea. Finally, I have to evaluate those cultural influences and try to determine their intrinsic worth. That's where things get hairy of course, and I think that's one of the big reasons postmodernism arose. People are squeamish about judging other culture's ideas and it's much easier to just say, "To each their own." The problem with this approach means that you now have lost any power to oppose evil. Because if you can't say one belief is inferior to another, you can't say for instance, that Hitler's ideas were worse than your own. So when it comes to the topic at hand, I submit to you that the postmodern approach only superficially accomplishes true open-mindedness. In fact, it only dullens (not a word) the mind, as there is no need to concisely slice through anything difficult when you can just wave your hand and say "Whatever… everyone defines their own truth." But to actually discern good from bad, you have to be able to pull out some sort of mechanism for doing so. Ethics, morality, religion, common sense… different people call it different things, but it boils down to the same process. You accept or reject an idea based on what seems right to you or to an authority you believe.

So let's get back to opening my mind about Burkas. I will do my best to lay aside my values and preconceptions. (Although I admit that this is impossible for anyone to do completely, no matter how open minded they are.) Research is the best way to do this. But since I don't have time to research the history of the Burka, I will make some assumptions that I think are pretty safe based on the few things I do know. I know that it's worn to keep men from seeing the women a lusting after them. I think it's based on some scriptures from the Qur'an, but it may also be a cultural concept. So there are two areas where I can identify with the Burka. I agree that modesty is a good thing, and I also agree in respecting scriptures. I haven't lost my identity as a western Christian because of this exercise. I still diverge from the idea of the Burka because I think it goes too far in forcing modesty, and I believe that the Qur'an was not God-inspired. But the process of imagining where the idea comes from, and why it's important to people gives me a greater sense of understanding for their idea. This is a good thing. I think it is more honest than the form of open-mindedness that the Left is preaching.

Now I'll respond to some criticism of my last Open Mind entry…

Anonymous said:

"Believing that God knows all is NOT open minded. In fact, it closes your mind to the very fact that there may be good scientific resources that you can learn and grow from."

"Being open minded would be maintaining your spirituality and morals, but still leaving room for humans learning scientific information. (that’s why god gave us these big brains, right?)"

First of all, holding any particular belief about God can not intrinsically be open or closed minded. If I believed that there was no god, or that god was a cat, or that I was God, it would not make me more or less receptive to new information that could change my mind. That is a totally separate function of personality. Granted, you could have a belief that excludes other beliefs. But that is a matter of degrees in most cases. Because EVERY belief excludes it's opposite. If you believe that the earth is flat you cannot also believe that the earth is round. So in that sense -like I was trying to point out in the last entry- you have closed your mind to other contrary ideas. But I think how receptive you are to those contrary ideas is contingent on a couple of factors about your personality. First, how adventurous or gregarious are you? How creative? How secure in what you believe? All of these factor into your willingness to entertain new ideas. So no matter what you believe -even if you believe nothing really exists- that belief in and of itself does not effect how open minded you are. Receptivity to new ideas that can change your worldview are built into your personality, not your beliefs.

I mentioned in the last entry about how some people believe that religion and science are totally separate and can never mingle. This is based on the idea that science can only address matters with naturalistic explanations. That's a fine theory, but it is a philosophy with an alternative. People today seem to forget that. They have bought into the idea that everything in existence has a natural explanation that eventualy Science will discover. I would say that a more pure form of science would be an exploration of truth no matter where it leads you. Instead the scientific establishment has boxed itself in and drawn artificial lines regarding where they can explore and where they can't. So who has the closed mind here? Who has closed their mind to the laws of entropy? (Nature never builds itself up into higher and higher forms of complexity! It has always done the opposite.) Who has closed their mind to the irreducibly complex? (How did nature randomly create completely interdependent mechanisms that are useless except when working together?) Who has closed their mind to anything that they can't explain with diagrams and flowcharts? Those open minded humanistic scientists, that's who.

God gave us a tremendous gift when He created our minds and our thirst for knowledge and truth. Any Christian who is "against science" (As you seem to believe about me.) is not following in the foot steps of his Creator, and is probably insecure about his faith. But no more insecure or stubborn than an evolutionist is about considering a supernatural explanation for what they would like to believe has a natural one. Science, art, philosophy, etc. are all noble, great pursuits that can lead toward God. But they get derailed when they are made into a god themselves. And once they loose that life-line to the One who made them possible in the first place they become corrupted.

So is my mind closed to what science can teach us because I believe in God? Maybe we should poll the most famous scientists in history who provided the biggest leaps in scientific knowledge and see if their faith in God hampered them? Newton? Einstein? Galileo? None of them were naturalistic atheists, and they seemed to do just fine. Next time you assume a Christian is intrinsically close-minded to science just look in a science history book.

"Nothing against believing in god though… It's just that our human belief in a God, is just that...human. If we are intrinsically flawed in our thinking, then our understanding of the "truth in god" has to be flawed too."

I couldn't agree with you more. That's why I ended up where I did: we are hopelessly lost without Revelation. That is: God telling us what's up.

"You say that god is the way to find truth. But you also say that no human can fully find or understand truth. To ME (and many), god is understood to be a human creation, to fulfill our spiritual and moral needs."

That's a great theory. But I have some questions about it. Where did these people who made up God come from? Where did matter come from? What was here before the big bang? Why do we have spiritual needs? And yes, I've heard the one about morals being a residual effect of the evolutionary process and societal structuring. You can explain ethics away with that. But not spiritual needs. But that's all diluting my point… which is that it's awfully presumptuous to be a tiny speck in the universe, trapped in time and space, and declare that there is no God! How could you possibly know that? What caused you to close your mind to that idea?

"God? Where does that come in exactly? It just doesn't make logical sense. Not unless you've been diligently taught as a child to think that there is this entity hovering above us all waving his “magic wand” to make life, death, earthquakes and evolution happen. I know you're spiritual, but you aren't that silly. Tell me it isn’t so.

You seem so smart, but damn, DAMN, you're awfully brainwashed and closed minded in my opinion. "

I was indeed diligently taught as a child to think that there is a God. Though your caricature of Him is pretty laughable. It's interesting to me that people can think that a belief in an entity above and beyond humans is silly. Especially when they don't have a better alternative theory for the existence of everything. I understand that within the framework of naturalistic humanism there is no need to account for the existence of everything. But those within those confines should realize that they are putting their faith in a very new and unproven philosophy that simply ignores a great number of human issues. And if they don't step outside of them to examine the evidence that undermines their worldview they are being quite closed minded.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!


Anonymous said…

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