Essay:Quantifying Openmindedness

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Original Conservapedia Article: Quantifying Openmindedness.


"We quantify intelligence (IQ), academic performance (grades), body weight (pounds or kilograms), running speed, and all sorts of other personal characteristics. But perhaps more useful than any of those numbers would be a measure of open-mindedness."

Attempting to measure ones openmindedness is an interesting theory, though a big problem with conducting a test measuring ones openmindedness is subjectivity. Whoever writes an exam or test or some other kind of quantitative/qualitative survey will undoubtedly let a certain amount of bias or subjectivity into the questions, although it is possible to minimalise this. Let's hope Andy tries to do this himself.

"By "open-mindedness" I mean a genuine willingness to consider the evidence before rejecting an idea. I do not mean tolerance, or a rejection of absolute truth, or skepticism. Open-mindedness means here what the dictionary says: "receptive to arguments or ideas."

"Open-minded means "receptive to arguments or ideas."" See how the essayist receives arguments or ideas here.

"Example Questions and Topics"[edit]


"1. Do you resist admitting the possibility that a conservative approach to education is far more effective for students than a liberal one?"

How predictable; Andy jumps straight into the conservative vs liberal argument, yet he fails to define conservative or liberal educational techniques, and by wording the question in such a way that implies conservative superiority, "researcher" bias is blatant. This could also be turned on its head, i.e. replacing conservative with liberal and liberal with conservative.


"2. Do you resist admitting that something you accepted for over a decade is, in fact, completely false?"

This is a bit better than the previous question as it doesn't include examples of a political nature, but the question itself indicates that ones views or beliefs may be compromised by another's, and the question does not indicate whether or not evidence regarding the views is taken into account. Oh well.


"3. Do you resist the possibility that Hollywood values result in significant harm for those who believe in them, and to innocent bystanders? "

And we jump quickly back in to the narrow, Conservapedian view of the evil outside world and "Hollywood Values". What a surprise. The notion of "Hollywood Values" causing harm is an obvious indication of the researcher's bias (not to mention Americentrism) against what he deems to be "Hollywood Values" and the wording of the question implies an answer to support the researcher's ideals.


"4. Do you think it is impossible that increased gun ownership reduces the rate of crime?"

The wording here is a bit weird, I don't know why Andy's used the word "impossible" when the word "possible" would suffice. Nonetheless, this question asks about a specific political debate topic which may well be inaccessible by some audiences, largely relevant only to countries where gun laws are a controversial issue.


"5. When President Ronald Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, did you think that it was impossible for the Berlin Wall to be torn down?"

I have no idea what the hell this has to do with quantifying openmindedness. This is another question which could be inaccessible to some audiences, and with an obvious bias in favour of President Reagan against Gorbachev. Also, perceptions of the Berlin Wall would be incredibly different in different political movements in Capitalist Western Germany and Communist Eastern Germany and the Soviet Union; citizens of Eastern Germany who had lived under Soviet rule since the end of the Second World War may have thought it impossible for the Berlin Wall to come down, and likewise with the movements in the West. That's not a question of openmindedness, it's a question of the society you've been brought up in, and what you've been brought up to believe. As such, the question isn't a measurement of openmindedness, but rather asking for opinions of Communist teachings.


"6. Did you think, or still think, that the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars") is impossible?"

Another Americentric question which could be inaccessible to some audiences. The wording of the question also implies a favour for SDI.


"7. Do you think that it is impossible that the Shroud of Turin is authentic?"

There is obvious Christian bias in referring to the Shroud of Turin, which is more than enough to completely denounce this question's validity.


"8. Do you think that there must be a material explanation for remarkable homing and migration behavior of birds and butterflies?"

This is an incredibly offbeat and irrelevant question which quite possibly has never before been given any kind of consideration whatsoever by anyone doing the test. Inaccessible to some most audiences.


"9. Do you think that it is impossible for the speed of light to have been different in the past?"

This can be denounced by the same basic argument as the previous question.


"10. Do you think that it is impossible to measure openmindedness?"

Why would you do the test if you think this? Anyway, it's a stupid question with the same irrelevancy and invalidity as the previous questions.


"11. Do you think that it is possible that evolution did not occur?"

Anyone that has two brain cells to rub together can tell that this is blatantly biased against evolution, otherwise evolution would not be mentioned in this context. Also, there's no question on this "test" asking "Do you think that it is possible that creation did not occur?"


"12. Do you think that is impossible for the power of 2 in Newtonian gravity, whereby the gravitational force is proportional to 1/r2, to be more precise with an exponent that is slightly different from 2, such as a gravitational force proportional to 1/r2.00000001?"

See rebuttal to question 8 with added argument that Andy has only included this to try and appear knowledgable in mathematics.


"13. Do you resist admitting that some things taught to you in school are completely false, and even known to be false by some responsible for the material?"

This is a nod to Andy's repeated claim that public schools lie to their students and are fully aware of it. Obviously bent in favour of his own worldview against public schools.


"14. Do you refuse to admit that your religion might be false? "

This question was added by another user [1][2] and later removed by Andy [3]. Interestingly, the user added it again [4] and it remained there until 2009. While the question was not originally by Andy, it may be possible that he chose to see it as someone from a non-Christian religion answering to try and convert them to Christianity. Otherwise, I don't know why he kept it here for so long. Maybe he's just an idiot and had missed it.

"Measuring the answers"[edit]

"A dozen such questions[5] can be posed, and one's closed-mindedness can be scored based on how often they answered "yes" above. Answering more than half as "yes" reflects acute closed-mindedness."

As I mentioned when going through each question, all of them are bent to either a Christian Conservative worldview or irrelevant scienfitic questions that are totally inaccessible to audiences with little or no understanding of the subject covered. Closemindedness cannot be measured using a 14-point questionnaire with irrelevant questions about mathematics and laws of physics of which the researcher has no basis nor qualifications to attempt to prove.

"Follow-Up Questions"[edit]

"For each topic, a short set of follow-up questions is appropriate:

Have you seriously considered the evidence for this idea?

1a. If no, then is that because you have never heard of it?
1aa. If if you have never heard of it, then will you seriously consider the evidence?
1ab. If you have heard of it, but have never seriously considered the evidence, then on this question you lose a point for lack of open-mindedness.
2b. If yes, then how much time have you spent reviewing the evidence? What evidence did you look at?
2ba. If less than 1 hour, then you lose a point for lack of open-mindedness.
2bb. If more than 1 hour, then ... [Optional question: When, where, what and how did you review the evidence? If the answers are consistent with your claim of spending more than an hour, then ...] ... you gain a point for open-mindedness.
2bc. If you have not reviewed the evidence due to lack of time or interest, have you formed an opinion about the idea anyway?"

Ignoring the confusing numbering system Andy's decided to use here, if you're administering a timed written test to someone and you say "by choosing this answer you lose a mark", do you really think the subject is going to go for that answer? That's the same as writing a maths test that says "What's 9x9? a) 81, b) 54, c) 18, d) 1 NOTE: b, c AND d ARE ALL WRONG."

Altogether, these follow-up questions are worthless as they tell you what gives you marks and what loses them. As well as this, the question that says "If you have heard of it, but have never seriously considered the evidence, then on this question you lose a point for lack of open-mindedness" is ridiculous. Imagine going to the zoo and looking at the elephants and the zookeeper comes up to you and starts talking to you about the elephants and their sleeping patterns or some other elephant-related behaviour and you say "oh sorry, I don't really know much about elephants," and then the zookeeper gasps and says, "well, you must be closeminded!" IT DOESN'T WORK DOES IT!?

"Further Refinements"[edit]

"A more sophisticated approach would be to replace the time threshold (an hour in the above example) with an analog version or formula that converted time spent reviewing the evidence of a new idea into a a variable for openmindedness. For example, the open-mindedness variable O could be:

O = t / 60

where t is the time spent in minutes. O could then be summed over a series of topics, and normalized by dividing it by the number of topics."

I'm not gonna bother looking into this one too much, as I was always terrible at maths and statistics, and even Andy's probably possibly better than me. However, measuring the amount of time someone's spent looking at evidence provided doesn't measure openmindedness. Prior knowledge affects the answer and the evidence which Andy would provide would no doubt be incredibly biased in favour of his own worldview. Also, it's a matter of interest levels: if you aren't interested / don't care about something, you're going to nod off if some wacky fundamentalist starts blathering on about it.


Andy's an idiot.


  1. "Roman" adds it here
  2. And he changes the wording here
  4. "Roman" adds it and justifies his contribution as "One cannot truly call himself open minded, unless he is open to accept the possibility (not probability) of the falsity of the religion he was born in.)"
  5. I don't know whether he also means to include questions 13 and 14.

See Also[edit]