The goal of education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind – Malcolm Forbes
People are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones – Charles Kettering
November 24, 2010
By Craig McKee
It’s all about assumptions – that immovable foundation of ideas we won’t compromise under any conditions even when those ideas are proven wrong. These are the dogmatic beliefs that block us from considering new possibilities.
We all have biases. We all operate with a set of core beliefs about how the world works. We all see things through the filter of our upbringing and our experiences. But truly wise people are those who realize the limiting effects of their biases, and who will consider new information even when it contradicts their existing beliefs.
The 9/11 Truth Movement was born as a result of people who were willing to look beyond the obvious. They didn’t take what they were told as unchallengeable truth; they used their brains to evaluate what they were told and what they saw. They tested the information critically.
Most people think they are completely open to new ideas and concepts; but they aren’t. They don’t apply the same criticism to the “official conspiracy theory” of 9/11 that they do to others they don’t like.
I’ve heard friends and acquaintances saying things like, “I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.” One of these is a college history professor, a very intelligent man. But I question how wise he is. You can be open-minded without being wise, but you can’t be wise without being open-minded.
The 9/11 doubters come up with many explanations for the anomalies of Sept. 11. These answers range from completely crazy to reasonable. Nevertheless, I’m happy to be challenged; this helps me refine my views and to drop ideas that have not stood up well to scrutiny. But too often, these challenges are the result of lazy thinking based on preconceptions, not on evidence.
The other night I heard from a friend whose roommate believes that all conspiracy ideas about 9/11 are easy to debunk. My friend related this with a sympathetic tone; he apparently felt bad that I was about to be shot down.
Take for example the reports of large explosions in the basements of the World Trade Center. His explanation? Jet fuel got into the elevator shafts and flowed down to the basement where it ignited.
This person is willing to take a wild stab in the dark with no proof, just because it supports the official account. He prefers to come up with a completely implausible scenario rather than consider the obvious – that bombs were detonated in the building.
Often the doubters won’t even bother to do this much. They’ll ignore points they can’t explain, hoping no one will notice. Otherwise, they’ll mock and ridicule ideas they don’t like.
They start with the conviction that it couldn’t have been the government that was responsible for this act of mass murder; it must have been Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden because that’s what TV said. And that’s what George W. Bush said. This is the non-threatening story we be comfortable with.
It doesn’t matter how many holes there are in this “official” story, the doubters will turn themselves – and the laws of physics – inside out to make their defences plausible. What they don’t seem to realize is that they’re not defending this story because it makes the most sense, they’re doing it because they have to defend their unmovable beliefs. They seem unsatisfied with any doubts that don’t involve catching the perpetrators on video tape planning the attack.
Having said that, open-mindedness doesn’t mean accepting all ideas as being equally valid; we still have to filter out the stuff that makes no sense. But we can still do this with an open mind.
Unfortunately, we often have trouble differentiating between someone who confidently expresses their opinions and someone who is closed off to any possible change in those opinions. You can be firm in your ideas without being closed-minded. We also mix up the concept of being open-minded with being indecisive. Not the same thing.
But intolerance can come from any direction. Some of the self-described “truthers” I’ve corresponded with, or who have commented on stories I’ve written, seem to be curiously happy to defend the official story. A 757 didn’t hit the Pentagon? They say that even considering this is offensive and divisive.
Sorry, but I don’t get it. They say the Pentagon event happened just like the official story says, but they’re questioning the official story? Huh?
I’ve heard a lot lately about how certain subjects are simply off limits to investigation. They’re just too off the wall, and considering them would tarnish the whole 9/11 Truth movement. And the people who have been in the movement for some time have already vetted everything, so new people should just accept their talking points and not question them.
But isn’t questioning what we’re supposed to be doing?
Obviously when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the vast majority of people believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. But a small minority didn’t buy it. And they didn’t give up. The result is that within 15 years, the majority of the U.S. population had come to agree that Kennedy had been killed as part of a wider conspiracy (actually it is closer to 75%).
That official story was weakened severely. And that’s what’s going to happen here. It’s not going to happen because of closed-mindedness or small-mindedness. It’ll happen because sincere people with open, critical minds are open to controversial ideas. These ideas may not be comfortable, but they might be true.