Science Solitaire

[Science Solitaire] What is an open mind?

Maria Isabel Garcia

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[Science Solitaire] What is an open mind?
Openness is a fundamental principle of growth. This is because this is the only way to welcome change.

As someone in her 50’s who has life-long friends since childhood and sees them often enough in catch-up sessions, I take part in sessions about how lost many of us are in the way things we thought were “unquestionable”- like gender, politics, religion- are now being questioned. Most of them think that their set of beliefs and their understanding of life form the fundamental set of principles against which the evolving scenes of the younger generation should be judged. That is very normal, which is why it makes it even sadder and more frustrating.

Whether planet, plants, cells or machines, they are who they are and evolve because they are open to exchanges of elements and information from what is outside their own making. Our planet is alive because it receives energy from a star – the sun! Plants interact with light, water, wind and nutrients to make them grow. Cells get inputs from pathways inside the living organism where they are, to be able to manufacture energy for that organism to function. Even machines have to be connected to a network such as the internet to be able to compute the answers and possibilities that we are looking for. Nothing is a closed system and so change is a basic reality we have to contend with.

I have a challenge for those perhaps in their 40’s and up – in the midst of great upheavals now in the way we view ourselves and others in terms of the gender, politics, the work we do, the way we play, among others, do you just stand still holding on to your staunchest beliefs? Or do you give chances for your mind to open up?

Openness is a fundamental principle of growth. This is because this is the only way to welcome change. Holding on to your initial beliefs because you think your conviction is who you are is akin to thinking your fashion sense cannot be abandoned because it is who you are. A “belief” is a decision to stick to something – it is not a permanent brain part. It can change when it has to, so you and your life can be better or adapt better. “Conviction” is overrated.

When we witness humans argue in a closed loop in domains like politics and religion, they defy the pathways of growth and improvement. The science of openness or creativity gives us clues on how we can let the air in our musty rooms in our heads. Experts think that one of them is checking our own confirmation bias – our tendencies to look only for evidence that support our own belief and ignore evidence that does not support it.

For example, could we change the rules in senate or congressional hearings so that supporters or opposition of any issue take the side they are not on to see if they can actively find evidence that do not really support their initial beliefs? That will not necessarily change their beliefs but it will actively expose them to contrary evidence.

Another way to drive an open mind is to make a decision to enter other ways of knowing. If one is in the sciences, learn how different art forms or traditions come to know what they know. It will not just make you open but also creative as you will be able to forge connections across those fields that were invisible to you before.

Being open-minded does not mean “surrender” or falling through because you do not have filters. “Filters” are a given. You just have to make sure you think through possibilities (do not ignore them) and change for better filters if they no longer are making you or your life and relationships better. –

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Ms. Maria Isabel Garcia for her inspiring article entitled, “What is an open mind?” As for me, her most important statement is: “When we witness humans argue in a closed loop in domains like politics and religion, they defy the pathways of growth and improvement.” It is really unfortunate that especially in the field of politics, we always argue in a CLOSED LOOP. It is really very hard to be open minded when one’s vested interests especially one’s privileges, rank, status, wealth and lifestyle are threatened. This type of CLOSE-MINDEDNESS is what characterizes our Traditional Politicians backed by their strong Political Dynasties and accumulated immense Wealth amassed via Political Patronage and Corruption. Hence, the political system which we have right now: our Traditional Republican Government is a system of government which “defy the pathways of growth and improvement.” Thanks again to Ms. Maria Isabel Garcia.

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