The Fear of Being Wrong

Randy Murray thinks you’re probably wrong about that:

I judge people, but not on the current state of their knowledge. I judge them on their willingness to learn, to think, and to change what they believe to be true. I think that is the fundamental philosophic difference between the scientist and the believer. The scientist should always be willing to say, “based upon new information I am willing to re-evaluate.” The believer often shuns information that contradicts what they “know.”

It’s a thoughtful piece, and it makes a good companion to my article, The Man Who Knows Nothing. In that post, I explained how adopting the know-nothing principle is not a matter of playing dumb. Rather, it’s a way to avoid being so attached to your ideas that you fear being proven wrong and subsequently become unreceptive to new information. As Randy puts it, you become a believer rather a scientist.

If you can eliminate that fear, whether it’s by being willing to change your opinion or by adopting the know-nothing principle, you’ll actually learn and grow much more quickly. In both cases, you become more receptive to opinions different from your own. This open-mindedness is inherently beneficial because, even if you don’t know for certain which answer is the right one, simply being aware of different viewpoints will enable you to both be more knowledgeable about the topic and to better formulate your own opinion.

When your mind is open, you become less afraid of being wrong. You become less defensive about your ideas, and thus you become more calm and relaxed. By being open-minded, you free yourself from the risk of having your inner peace disrupted by someone who thinks differently than you.