Thursday, January 03, 2008

Have You Changed Your Mind?

One of my favorite online reads is Edge which bills itself as representing the third culture. The third culture refers to those intellectuals who bridge the sciences and the humanities, what C.P. Snow referred to as the "Two Cultures". One feature of Edge is a series of contributed response to some important question of the year. This year's question is "What have you changed your mind about?" and the responses are quite fascinating. At least the scientist's responses should put to rest the notion often bandied about by non scientists that scientists are inflexible and dogmatic.

Here are some mind changers worth checking out:

Paul Davies used to be a committed Platonist. About time he came around to my type of thinking.

Lera Boroditsky has decided that language can change our sensory perceptions after her experimental data contradicted her original and long held belief.

William Calvin has changed his mind about global warming after visiting Greenland.

Roger Bingham has given up evolutionary psychology..or at least what had been the prevailing notion of how the human mind worked.

Finally on a pessimistic note but he may be right, Lee Silver concludes that in contrast with what intellectuals like to often believe:

" While its mode of expression may change over cultures and time, irrationality and mysticism seem to be an integral part of normal human nature, even among highly educated people. No matter what scientific and technological advances are made in the future, I now doubt that supernatural beliefs will ever be eradicated from the human species."

What have I changed my mind about? Over time I have gradually shifted my belief in the balance of nature, now believing that the biological world consists of populations opportunistically evolving and that the balance of nature, like design, is an illusion.

What other mind changers are out there? How have your beliefs changed?
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