Each year, Edge asks some of the most prominent thinkers in the world one question.
WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?
Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?”
Some answers from our favorite atheists are below:
A flip-flop should be no handicap
… I have changed my mind, as it happens, about a highly paradoxical theory of prestige, in my own field of evolutionary biology. That theory is the Handicap Principle suggested by the Israeli zoologist Amotz Zahavi. I thought it was nonsense and said so in my first book, The Selfish Gene. In the Second Edition I changed my mind, as the result of some brilliant theoretical modelling by my Oxford colleague Alan Grafen…
Competition in the brain
I’ve changed my mind about how to handle the homunculus temptation: the almost irresistible urge to install a “little man in the brain” to be the Boss, the Central Meaner, the Enjoyer of pleasures and the Sufferer of pains…
Mother Nature is Not Our Friend
Like many people, I once trusted in the wisdom of Nature. I imagined that there were real boundaries between the natural and the artificial, between one species and another, and thought that, with the advent of genetic engineering, we would be tinkering with life at our peril. I now believe that this romantic view of Nature is a stultifying and dangerous mythology.
I always change my mind about everything, and I never change my mind about anything.
That flexibility is intrinsic to being human — more, to being conscious. We are (or should be) constantly learning new things, absorbing new information, and reacting to new ideas, so of course we are changing our minds. In the most trivial sense, learning and memory involve a constant remodeling of the fine details of the brain, and the only time the circuitry will stop changing is when we’re dead. And in a more profound sense, our major ideas change over time: my 5-year-old self, my 15-year-old self, and my 25-year-old self were very different people with different priorities and different understandings of the world around them than my current 50-year-old self. This is simply in the nature of our existence.
You can see previous editions of the Edge Annual Question here.