Sunday, September 30, 2007

An Open Mind

Recently, whilst debating on the Today message board, I have noticed a polarization between those who regard themselves as old school atheists and the so called New Atheists. The former are characterized as 'open minded' whilst the latter are seen as 'zealots'.
I am sceptical about the concept of open mindedness. It might be true that a psychometric index of flexibility of thought, or receptivity to new patterns of information might credibly be formulated and tested. I do wonder whether people can accurately assess this in the course of debate though. For example, are we swayed by irrelevant factors when deciding how open minded a contributor to a debate is? Factors like how much their position conflicts with ours and how confrontational their style of debate seems.
I wonder whether there is a direct correlation between the cognitive flexibility of a person and how open minded they seem to be. My initial thought is that there is not.
What do you think?