An open mind as process, neglected by both political wings

Julian Sanchez (Epistemic Closure, Technology, and the End of Distance), Andrew Sullivan (The Closing Of The Conservative Mind: An Update), and Tyler Cowen (Is the conservative mind more closed?) are discussing comparative¬† Epistemic Closure closure of conservatives and liberals. I don’t understand the idea as a subtle matter of philosophy, but is being used to describe Conservatives more unwilling to change their minds in response to facts than liberals are.

We’ve discussed this before, (I stand by my position that the left is also anti-intellectual, Both parties are firmly tied to anti-intellectualism) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I don’t agree with this claim. To know if people’s minds are open it is not enough to ask if they believe facts supported by evidence. It is also critical that people believe them because of the evidence. But it isn’t enough that they believe them because of the evidence, they must understand how the evidence makes the claim true.

For example, there are many reasons why you could believe that Greenland is an island. You could believe that Greenland is an Island because your 7th grade social studies teacher said that it was an island. You could believe that Greenland is an island because you’ve heard that there are maps that show that Japan is an island, whatever an island is. Or, perhaps you know that an island is a body of land surrounded on all sides by water and you’ve seen a picture (or heard from a reliable source) that indicates Greenland is surrounded on all sides by water and so thereby you both know what is an island and what is not and have the evidence to know that Greenland meets that test. That may seem like a strained example, but in Southern California many people refer to “Coronado Island” when it really is “Coronado Peninsula” because they don’t know what an island is, have never looked at the map, or have simply have heard other people call it that.

So it isn’t being right that makes you open minded. Instead, it is following a process of reason and fact gathering that makes you open-minded. I am deeply skeptical that this process utilized more fully among liberals than conservatives. It simply depends on the subject. Anthropogenic climate change and evolution (except for people) might be in the liberals favor, while the effectiveness of markets and human nature might be in conservatives’ favor.

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