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What Have You Changed Your Mind About?
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That's the Edge question for the year. There are a lot of responses to read through from a lot of people. I can't say I was impressed in general by the responses, though a few here and there were interesting.

Here's my response to the question:

I get branded as a close-minded stalwart all the time, but I do in fact change my mind from time to time. Anyone who doesn't is a fool. But there's a sweet spot somewhere between radical skepticism and utter gullibility. Carl Sagan once said that you should keep an open mind, just not so open that your brain falls out.

So you should constantly criticize new information that comes your way, and you should constantly reevaluate your own beliefs and their justifications. Most change is slight revision, but occasionally you might need a complete overhaul.

I obviously changed my mind about belief in god. When I was 10 years old, I believed in god. I started having doubts around the age of 13, when I really started hitting some of the heavy duty reading material. From there it was a slow fade until my 20's, to the point where I see very little reasonable justification for believing in god.

What about more recently changes? Well, in my 20's, I used to think homosexuality was aberrant, from an evolutionary point of view. But that was before I understood concepts like kin selection and before I liberalized a lot of my views on personal and sexual behavior.

I also used to believe in some form of karma, that is, a just world. You do good things and good things will happen to you. I still think there's a correlation between being kind and generous and people returning the favor, but that has more to do with game theory and person-person interaction than the fact that the universe gives a shit about what you're doing. And there's a correlation between hard work and success. But there are cases of people who work hard who die penniless and miserable, and those who don't work at all and live in the lap of luxury, so I don't believe in any sort of universal arbiter of justice.

And of course I'm constantly revising my views on science and the study of cognition, though I haven't had any wholesale changes since I started the PhD program.

How about you guys? Any fundamental shifts in your thinking relatively recently?


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