Thursday, September 14, 2017

Most Important Questions

If you have been around nerds that are fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will be thinking of a question like, "What is the purpose of life, the universe, and everything?" But as fun as a discussion of this question or the novels would be, this is not really the most important question. The most important question is both much more fundamental and can be applied to so many things.

Most of us don't examine our own beliefs very much or very often. We pick up a few in childhood. Change all of them in our adolescence. And then acquire another layer of beliefs in our early adulthood. Then we stop asking questions and get jobs.

There are lots of people that believe in God because their parents taught them to. There are an equal number that don't because their parent taught them to and they rebelled later. Neither of these reasons is a good reason.

There are lots of people that are Democrats or Republicans because their parents were. There are an equal number that aren't because their parents were and they rebelled and picked the other party. Neither is a good reason.

I could go on and on. Groups of people that like Coke or Pepsi. Groups of people that believe in vaccination or not. Groups of people that believe in global warming or not. Groups of people that have good oral hygiene or not.

The vast majority of people have these beliefs or preferences and haven't thought about them for many years. Sometimes decades. That is why this question is important.

People that think that they are living the examined life will be saying. "But I have asked this question." And they are expecting the question to be, "Why do you believe the way you do?"  And this is a good question. But it is not the best question.

Whether it was in your youth, at your parent's knee, or through a mature study and examination, everyone has a conversion experience to all of their beliefs and preferences. There is a reason you believe the way you do. It is important, but not as important as you think.

And that leads us to the real question. The most important question. The question that will help you peel back the layers of tradition, and habit, and peer pressure. The question that will show you what things you believe and know for good reasons and the things you are only clinging to because it's easier than figuring it out on your own or for some fanatical and unreasonable reason.

The question is, "What would it take to change your mind?"

Simple isn't it. It has an elegant structure that is unassuming. Yet it also has a sharp edge that can cut away the facade like a scalpel.

If we use this question well, we will not only find out what we really believe and think, but will discover better reasons. We may change our minds on a few things that we thought we believed.

When we are in a discussion of some conflict or controversy. We can reduce the fighting by saying, "In order for me to be convinced and change my mind, this is required." This required evidence will either show us to be a fanatic or will give the discussion a more rational basis.

Applying this question does not need to wait for an argument. Each of us is capable of asking this question of ourselves. What would it take to change my mind that Macs are better than PCs? What would it take to change my mind that eating meat is not inferior to vegetarian diets? What would it take to change my mind on politics, religion, or personal preference and belief?

Once applied, the question shows us things that we are accepting and even acting on that we have not examined thoroughly. It will show us things that we believe that we are fanatics about. Fanatics are people that have a belief or argument that cannot be falsified.

Most of the time we think of fanatics as religious. So let's start with that example. If you ask yourself, "What would it take for me to change my mind about my Church or Religion?" And the answer is, "Nothing short of an angelic visitation," then you might be a fanatic. If on the other hand, the answer is simple, "If I pray and feel like God wants me to attend a different church, I will." Then you are probably not a fanatic.

But religion is not the only way people can be fanatics. Many people are fanatical about other things. Global Warming is one that I like to talk about. I had this argument with a friend. If we ask, "What would it take to change your mind about Global Warming?" And the answer is, "Nothing, Global Warming is Science!" then you are a fanatic. If on the other hand, the answer is, "If we take regional temperatures on a monthly basis and compare them to like months over a 5-year span, the result should show a warming trend or not." Then you are not a fanatic.

Here is the tip. If you don't have a reasonable way to change your mind. Especially if you don't have ANY way to change your mind, then you are a fanatic. And your argument or belief is probably false.

So, what would it take to change your mind?

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