Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bad Argument: The Open-Mindedness Strawman

Open-minded image
Open-minded image
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When promoter of a questionable scheme that claims to have something new and exotic, cannot refute your logical criticism, they will often summon the "open-mindedness strawman". Basically, they accuse you of being closed minded and not accept their idea of business or product.

Here are a couple examples, all real comments posted to BehindMLM:
  • I’M AN OPEN MINDED OPPORTUNITY SEEKER. This sounds like a good opportunity.
  • We give away FREE “membership” cards to open minded people we choose to invite to share in our good fortune. 
  • Open your mind! Maybe, just maybe, life does not have to be crap? You do not HAVE to LOOK FOR NEGATIVES in truly amazing opportunites?
  • Since you are not ready to open up your minds and accept the new thing you will not be able to cherish this new concept
  • and many many more. 
The problem is their definition of open-minded is NOT the dictionary definition. The dictionary definition of open-minded is "willingness to entertain new ideas". It means to consider and evaluate new ideas. It does NOT mean ACCEPT new ideas without evaluation and deliberation.

To promoters of questionable schemes, open-minded means "accept whatever I said as the truth, and ignore everybody else".

Never mind any proof or logic that points the other way.

Don't quite see it? Here's an example:

A: I believe in T because of X, Y, an Z.
B: T is wrong because of I, J, and K. Your use of X, Y, and Z are wrong because of _____.
A: You are just close minded! You refuse to accept T as real!

If A had analyzed B's position, and can explain why his rejection of X, Y, Z proof are not correct, and/or explain why I, J, and K does NOT disprove T, and they are all solid logic, not fallacies, then he would be open-minded. However, in this case, B was the open-minded one because he had studied A's position and have rejected it due to evidence and logic. A's refusal to even CONSIDER B's position is all the more ironic in that he's the close-minded one, yet he accuses B of being close-minded.

This sort of argument is a variant of equivocation fallacy... they use a word that seem to be advantageous to them (accusing your side of being not open-minded), but their use of the word is wrong.  They are abusing the word as they are not using the word as it was actually supposed to mean.

Very often, this was done as a "preemptive strike", as the people who tell you that you are not open-minded, are themselves not open-minded, as they are the people who are not changing their mind when faced with evidence disproving their position.

If you believe A+B=C, and I have evidence in front of you that says A+B=D, and you refused to accept my incontrovertible evidence, does that make you open-minded, or close-minded?

Real open-mindedness requires a person to have thoroughly examined both sides of the issue, carefully considered both SIDES without using intellectually dishonest debate techniques, and chose a side based on his own belief system. Imagine debating against yourself, honestly.

That is the polar opposite of most people engaged in suspect schemes, where they only know the side that is advantageous to them, and anything NOT supporting their side are to be ignored and avoided as "negativity".

That is closed-minded person pointing to his/her opponent(s) and accuse the other side of being close-minded.

That's why it's a bad argument.


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