free debate

March 1, 2010

When I've Changed My Mind

It is almost redundant to say that, as humans, we like to be comfortable. Part of being comfortable is often being comfortable in our beliefs. Each one of us has a way we think the world works. We will sometimes even incorporate parts of our beliefs into our concept of ourselves. This can make it extremely difficult for us to be open to changing our minds. Unfortunately, we are better at justifying our beliefs than at changing them. This is sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance, which is a topic for another post. Here I want to talk about something more personal.

I enjoy challenging people's ideas. I am not afraid of confrontation, and I think this opens up dialogue that would otherwise never come up. I make a point of telling people that I will change my mind with the evidence, but it's not easy. So I wanted to show an example of when I changed my mind.

I used to be a huge supporter of herbal medicine. I would defend supplements like Airborne and Cold Snap for treating minor illness. I was never to the point where I would decline science-based medicine, but I thought the less processed it was, the better. Alternative medicine is really popular within my family, and I picked it up from them. I didn't really see a difference between alternative medicine and science-based medicine.

For me, the major change came when I learned how science-based medicine modalities are evaluated. The idea that different forms of treatment should be tested to see if they are effective and safe just made sense to me. I then learned that there is no research to support the claims of alternative medicine and they are not properly regulated.

I wanted to write this article for two reasons. First is to show that I don't expect anymore than I am willing to do. If we truly want to find truth in the world, we need to be able to admit when we are wrong. I always challenge people to prove me wrong, and I will follow through if anyone can find the evidence. The second is something I direct more at skeptics. I did not change my mind because someone just came up to me with research papers proving me wrong. I changed my mind because I understood how to evaluate the evidence. I think we need to spend more time teaching the skills of critical thinking, and maybe less time preaching our conclusions.