Fellow blogger, Steve Morris, did a post on the importance of admitting when you’re wrong. He finished up his post with this challenge:
So I had the amazing/stupid idea of putting this into practice on more formal terms. I propose to create an international Admit You’re Wrong Day.
As many of you are bloggers, I challenge you to have a go yourselves. It might be therapeutic, if it doesn’t leave you looking like a complete idiot.
In the spirit of that challenge, I thought I’d do a post on things I’d changed my mind about since blogging about them, that I now think I was wrong about. As I commented on Steve’s post, if you’re not changing any of your views over time, then you’ve stopped listening and thinking. When we publish our opinions, we run the risk of locking them in, and creating a self made ego trap. Hopefully this is a small step against me doing that.
First, let me be clear that I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things over the years. My views on politics, religion, history, science, and many other things have changed dramatically over my adult life. But most of that happened before I started this blog. In many ways, I’m glad I never had much opportunity to publish my views when I was younger, since it would have put me in the position of having a lot more to recant. But I only started in November 2013, so this list won’t be too long. (Who knows. It might be much longer in the future.)
So here goes!
My early posts were highly skeptical of things like conscious qualia, thinking that it was mostly an illusion. A lot of that view had come from reading Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmore. But after additional reading in neuroscience, notably the work of Michael Graziano and Michael Gazzaniga, I now think that was hasty. My current view is that consciousness, qualia, sentience, is a data processing architecture, and that we’ll need to understand it if we ever hope to give it to machines.
I’ve noted in multiple posts the common scholarly belief that ancient pre-Axial age religions didn’t have a moral aspect. I got this from reading numerous articles and books. But I’m now tending to think, based on the work of Ara Norenzayan, Robert Bellah, and many others, that this is a scholarly myth, that ancient religions did have a moral aspect, although what they considered to be the right and proper way to live might horrify us in many cases.
I expressed skepticism of the need for the US becoming involved in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). I still think my reasoning in that post was sound, but ISIS has shown itself to be so barbaric, so opposed to basic civilization, and so interested in spreading their medieval ideology of hate, that I’m much more sympathetic to the idea than I was at the time. I still think a lot of caution is called for though.
I was probably too strident in dismissing fine tuning problems in physics. I still think many of them are simply looking at things backwards (i.e. the universe isn’t fine tuned for us; having evolved in it, we’re fine tuned to it), but some of the coincident physical constants and properties seem to be amazingly improbable, and demand scientific investigation. That said, I find God and multiverses both problematic as possible explanations. One strikes me as “God of the gaps” theology, and the other as anti-theist counter-apologetics. Both seem like “just so” stories.
These are the mea culpas I can think of right now. There are undoubtedly more. This is my 647th post on this blog, so I’m sure I’m missing some other cases where I changed my mind. But these are the ones I’ve been meaning to mention for a while. That said, if you’ve noticed any inconsistency in prior posts, please let me know.