What Have you changed your mind about?

 When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy. When God changes your mind, that’s faith. When facts changes your mind, that’s science. 

~ from Editor John Brockman, the Edge book, What Have You Changed Your Mind About? 

Do you know someone who seems to know everything? When you share a new idea with this friend or colleague, they give you that “I-knew-it-all-along” kind of nod and smirk? This person is more likely to be thinking about what they are going to say next, than listening to what you have to say. I have to admit, I find it hard to talk to Mr. “Knew-It-All-Along.” It’s never their intention, but I feel stupid with them.

Here’s a book about a bunch of really big smarts from a variety of fields, who come to the conclusion that what they knew, was wrong, and were willing to change their minds, something which Mr. “Knew-It-All-Along” will find this very hard to do.

In this book, editor John Brockman asked renowned scientists and thinkers around the world this one simple question:

What Have You Changed Your Mind About?: Today’s Leading Minds Rethink Everything (Edge Question Series)

Take this specific example from developmental psychologist, Paul Bloom. (He wrote a brilliant book on the moral development of kids, called Just Babies.) Who would have thought that you can make a case against empathy? Listen to his compelling argument with neuroscientist, Sam Harris podcast before you make up your mind.

(Since the time of this writing, I just realised he’s book on this topic is finally out. It’s called, Against Empathy)

Here are two  of my favorites:

1. The Collaborative Community, by futurist and founding father of the internet, editor at large for Wired magazine and author of The Inevitable Kevin Kelly:

“Much of what I believed about human nature, and the nature of knowledge, has been upended by Wikipedia.”

Kevin Kelly goes on to elaborate about the power force of communities that shaped Wikipedia as we know it today.

2. What Constitutes Life Satisfaction by cognitive scientist and nobel prize winner in economics, Daniel Kahneman: “Conditions that make people satisfied with their life do not necessarily make them happy.” Kahneman makes a compelling argument on this topic. I had to re-read this a few times, at different times to let this one sink in.

The folks at Edge.org are a generous bunch. I just realised the whole damn book is free in their website! [https://www.edge.org/annual-question/what-have-you-changed-your-mind-about-why](Somehow, I found it more compelling to read it in the paperback form. Maybe’s it’s the tactile thing, but I also reckon the layout and the commitment we give to a given book, makes it more focused.)

If this book were to be released in 2015,  past president of the DSM-IV committee, psychiatrist Allen Frances   would have been an important addition to this series  on his change of mind and his outcry of the DSM-V (Check out Dr. Frances’ talk on the recent issue of diagnosis Inflation, and his thought provoking book, Saving Normal).

(Here’s an early article in 2010 by Gary Greenberg on the heated battle of the DSM-V. Well worth the read)


Now, back to us. Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves: When was the last time you changed your mind?

Do we read new things seeking to be confirmed, or do we open ourselves to be disconfirmed?

Do we hold tentative, or do we end up solidified in our ideas, metaphors, and beliefs about what we know and practice as a psychotherapist?

Once again, “When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy. When God changes your mind, that’s faith. When facts changes your mind, that’s science.” My add-on: When you change your own mind, that’s atheism. When someone changes your mind, that’s love.

In relations to our field of mental health/psychotherapy, I would love to hear from you in the comments below, the very same question John Brockman asked six years ago:



Daryl Chow, Ph.D.