Breath of Clarity

The Open Mind

The practice of challenging traditional thought can produce amazing new discoveries. It’s been revolutionizing thought since all the way back in fifteenth century when Galileo Galilei approached astronomy from a completely unique perspective. The traditional Catholic Church’s theory of geocentrism suggests that the Earth is at the center of the universe and the sun orbits around it. Galilei challenged this concept with the Copernican theory, also known as heliocentricism. According to the astronomical model, the Earth and plants revolve around a sun at the center of the universal system. Aristarchus of Samos originally proposed heliocentricism in the age before Christ, but the viewpoint gained limited recognition because the scientific evidence was lost in time. It wasn’t until Galilei used indirect evidence about gravity, that heliocentricism was rediscovered and became the primary accepted theory among humans on earth. There wasn’t a mathematical model that solidified Galilei’s theory until the sixteenth century. Without this open-minded attitude about the possibility of the Copernican theory being valid, the scientists would’ve never worked for centuries to compose a mathematical model that revolutionized the field. Without the abstract thinking before the evidence was found, there would’ve been no advancement in astronomy.

Ever since elementary school, kids learned that the best way to defend a thesis statement is through use of evidence. However; surprisingly, unbiased and factual information only slightly impacts our perspective. According to the article “How Facts Backfire” written by Joe Keohane beliefs are already “lodged in the mind”. Keohane referenced a study completed at The University of Michigan, which found that “like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.” The article is based on the backfire concept, “a natural defense mechanism to avoid cognitive dissonance”. Factual information often limits our capacities to expand thoughts. We become obsessed with validating current orientations that we aren’t willing to expand our realm of contemplation.

Despite these negative consequences, individuals aren’t necessarily consciously responsible for their closed-minded way of thinking. According to A Mind of One’s Own written by Cordelia Fine, factors that we are often unaware that we deny sway our decisions (14). Without being consciously aware of this natural flaw in the mental process, it would be impossible to start to change it. It is understandable that humans so often stand firm to beliefs because it is instinctive nature.

This flaw is noticeably visible in the egocentric anthropologist. “The Observation of Savage Peoples” emphasizes the necessity to prioritize completeness when working on a fieldwork project in an area with different degrees of civilizations. The author continues to explain that anthropologists who chose not to follow this and be egocentric end up satisfying for less than perfection because they “fear that in penetrating the mysteries of their being, they will ensure their own abasement and meet their conscience” (Degérando 33). The author continues to say that through comprehensively studying a topic, we gain further insight into ourselves.

International service trips are becoming a popular method for students to explore their inner self. Student travel program organizations are now more willing to accept applicants with a non-domination spiritual perspective. Leaders found that, during reflection time, students are more engaged and willing to listen to their peers if they are still in the midst of formulating their own perspective. Doug Pierce, executive director of Quest UW-Madison Student Travel Program, explained that those individuals are more open to other’s opinions during reflection. Pierce said, “quest students are encouraged to be introspective about their own faith and openly ask questions about all faith traditions and philosophies. We hope that Quest helps each participant move along their own spiritual path, and see questions as a sign of deep thinking and humility.” The students who view their spiritual journey as a process are more willing to grow on the excursion.

Recognizing our lack of expertise and certainty in religion can humble our approach. In order to adopt a more balanced perspective, it’s essential to start from the foundation. It’s important to consider Socrates’ principle that stresses humility by recognizing that we need to be “self aware of our own ignorance” (Paul). Only by doing so can we acknowledge the validity of points of view different from our own. We must thought-challenge constantly to allow our minds to stretch to their limits. It will allow our society as a whole to reach its full potential.

It’s essential, though, that you understand what the most effective way to genuinely adopt this new humble mindset by changing behavior. The more effective way to become well-rounded individuals is to stop censoring the existing information that we allow ourselves to be exposed to. The article “The Echo Chamber Revisited” explains that since “we can now choice among myriad information streams, we encounter only news that reinforces our world view”. It’s important to advocate awareness of this unconscious tendency, especially with the emergence of technology used as a research tool. Starting with youth, students need to change their research habits. If teachers advocate unbiased research practices, adults will get accustomed to exploring all points of view before forming claims.

The consequences of adopting this change in perspective will improve daily life. It will make people morally better because it will make people more understanding of others. It won’t necessarily make people happier initially because contemplation can raise a lot of confusing questions. However, overall, people will feel more content with themselves because they will feel themselves thinking more thoroughly. Through questioning beliefs in a skeptical manner, individuals will totally have no doubt and strengthen faith even stronger than if they committed to an original orientation. Routinely questioning the conventional makes individuals realize the immense quantity of unanswered qualities of life. Through experience, certain perspectives can be changed, or even more validated. Confusion has the capability to increase thirst for knowledge, and make people grow. They’ll start to respect their own intellect enough to want to build it to become stronger.

Political activists need to evaluate the way that we approach culture and highlight that this interpretation is significant because it determines how we interact with other nations. Debate about foreign involvement needs to be with an open mind, taking the culture of other nations into account. Americans will become more willing to interrogate key opinions in a collaborative manner, as opposed to perceiving other cultures as opposition. Through educating Madison political activists, it’s possible to extend this mindset beyond the local community and influence interactions among individuals of different custom. Focusing on understanding, instead of fighting, the unfamiliar will allow individuals to interact at a level of higher connection.

Works Cited

Allen, Arthur. “True Believers.” Slate. Washington Post Company, 2013. Web. 5 October 2013.

Degérando, Joseph-Marie. “The Observation of Savage Peoples.” Reprinted in Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader, edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben and Jeffrey A. Sluka. Pp. 33-39. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

“The Echo Chamber Revisited.” On the Media. New York Public Radio. WYNC, New York. 17 June 2011. Radio Podcast.

Fine, Cordelia. A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.

Keohane, Joe. “How Facts Backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains.” Boston Globe 11 July 2010: Web.

Koehler, Jonathan. “The Influence of Prior Beliefs on Scientific Judgments of Evidence Quality.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 56:1 (1993): 28-55. Web. 5 October 2013.

Paul, Sarah. “Plato: The Apology.” University of Wisconsin-Madison. Humanities Building, Madison, WI. 6 September 2013. Lecture. Pierce, Doug. Personal interview. n.d.