When was the last time you changed your mind?
April 3, 2006 11:46 AM   Subscribe

When was the last time you changed your mind?

"When was the last time you changed your mind on any important issue because somebody wrote a sound argument and presented you with good evidence that your own view was wrong.

That's right, it never happened."

Or did it? Have you ever changed your mind about something big? (Switching to Dr Pepper doesn't count). Why? What caused it?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water to Religion & Philosophy (44 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: chatfilter

This wasn't the most recent time, but the Boomerang Probe deeply reordered my view of the universe's fundamental nature. It was a bummer of a day, to be honest.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:49 AM on April 3, 2006

Well, I now think invading Iraq was a bad idea. Way back when I just thought it was immoral.

Someone convinced me today that CSS class names should be semantic (menu, content) rather than graphical (redtext, greybackground), but I wouldn't call that important, as such.

What's the point of this question?
posted by Leon at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2006

Happens all the time. But then, I am one of those bastards that discuss all the time for the sake of discussion. I love discussing, and love that people disagree with me. If, at the end of the discussion I don't change my mind about anything, I see the discussion as kind of useless...
posted by qvantamon at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2006

When I was 12 I thought evolution was a big lie. I was attending a private (Southern Baptist) high school and was told every day in "science" class that evolution was not only "a" big lie, but "the" Big Lie.

Upon leaving that school, attending a public high school, and taking a real biology class (and discussing the actual evidence for evolution) I completely changed my mind.
posted by bshort at 12:04 PM on April 3, 2006

I was initially in favor of the war. I was very mistaken and would not now buy any arguments along those lines again.

I used to think MAD was sane policy.

I used to believe in supply-side economics, but reading a lot of mises.org has changed my mind.

I used to be a materialist, now I interpret things like atoms strictly as predictive models.

If you don't change your mind sometimes, you aren't questioning anything.

A good axiom is that truth as such just can't be put into words or any other form, so every idea we have about the fact of things is just a way of speaking. This makes it much easier to pick up and put down theories; the difference is how I relate to the theories I hold.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:07 PM on April 3, 2006

I switched my view on the death penalty from "Those bastards must die!" to an ambivalent "I suppose the death penalty is not a good thing at least as structured at present" primarily because of the innocence argument. There was a back and forth on the question on a college chatlist I was subscribed to.

Also, in my first year of law school, with a good law professor I would change my mind about a position I was *sure* of roughly three times per class. (Only a slight exaggeration.)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2006

I can think of a few big issues I've changed my mind on. Nothing in the past few years, though.

I was opposed to gay marriage (based on nothing more than the 'ick factor,' I guess you'd say) up until around 10 years ago. The thing that changed my mind was an article in the Economist that argued, basically "why not?" (Not sure of the publication date, but I do recall the title was "Let them wed.")

I was ambivalent towards the death penalty but not really bothered by it up until, oh, 8 years ago. I think it was around that time that there were a lot of stories regarding problems with the death penalty (people wrongly accused, etc). This got me thinking about the fundamental issue more, and I ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a bad thing, as an overreach of government power.
posted by adamrice at 12:10 PM on April 3, 2006

I changed my mind about gun control policy issues after I took a class at college on: crime, drug, and gun Control. The book Negroes With Guns was pretty influential in making me see new sides of the issues, but I mostly just realized that what I once believed was not congruent with facts.
posted by Packy_1962 at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2006

Response by poster: What's the point of this question?

I would just like to understand some of the scenarios which result in people changing their minds. For me, it happened while watching this episode of Alan Partridge. For others, it might be a bereavement, a lottery win, a profound book... or some other thing I've overlooked and would like to know about.

Don't tell anyone, for I fear a humongous derail, but I guess I would be particularly interested in responses from the Usual Suspects in the local flamewars.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2006

I used to be hard-core fiscally and socially conservative, and identified with the Republican party. Now I'm very socially liberal, although I retain my fiscal conservatism. I now identify much more strong with the Democratic party. I mainly changed as I started to see multiple real failings of my ideology in the real world, over the course of several years.
posted by 235w103 at 12:15 PM on April 3, 2006

I used to support stricter gun control laws until someone asked me if I thought that the problem with guns in the U.S. was that too many were in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
posted by ferociouskitty at 12:16 PM on April 3, 2006

I've changed my mind on the death penalty, governmental regulation, Mac vs. PC, gun control, racism, immigration, why we lost Vietnam, and probably others.

For most of them, I realized I was being suckered by fallacious and sophistic arguments that were a product of my suburban upbringing (except the Mac vs. PC thing).
posted by teece at 12:19 PM on April 3, 2006

I have changed my mind about lots of things - religion, politics, death penalty, abortion. I was still quite conservative politically when I came to Metafilter more than 5 years ago. I can't point to any one event that changed my mind in the aforementioned areas, but I'd like to think that some of the well-reasoned opinions that I came across in the blue helped me to open up my perspective. I'm certain that the several years I've spent in Europe have also helped to make me more open (and liberal).
posted by syzygy at 12:20 PM on April 3, 2006

I considered myself an atheist, but then someone once made an argument like "Well, doesn't the universe itself display some intelligence, some computation? If so, does that not technically meet the definition of a god?" I thought he had a point, so I became a non-atheist without actually changing any my beliefs, just my definitions.

Later on though, I decided that was wrong and that 'god' really only applies to a supernatural deity. Simply defining god as 'everything' makes any statement about god a non-statement.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 PM on April 3, 2006

I changed my attitude about Mac vs. PC, but I was very young at the time. I changed my mind because I took a programming class and learned DOS and C++. and I'm like "The command line is so cool"

Later on the amazing arrogance of adolescent mac users turned me off of the platform completely.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 PM on April 3, 2006

Being adopted (and also being somewhat of a civil libertarian) I go back and forth on the pro choice/pro life thing.

I object to pro life arguments on purely religious grounds (I'm on the atheist side of agnostic), but at the same time I'm sure glad I wasn't (not) born right next to an abortion clinic.

It sickens me that people seem to be knee-jerk on this issue one way or the other, it seems, by what they *think* they should believe. I know a lot of pro choicers who probably haven't thought about the issue for more than about ten seconds, but will vigorously defend their position. I give them my reasons for being pro life, and they're not sure how to respond.

Another touchy subject...I used to object to excluding gay membership in the clergy, but now I just wonder why someone would want to try to be accepted into an institution and an ideology that doesn't want them in the first place.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:24 PM on April 3, 2006

Politically, I've swung from a strict conservative to much more of a libertarian. That's probably the effect of my "liberal" college education.

And I was VERY anti-Mac until I sat and played with one... I just got rid of my last PC (traded it for a Mini) a few months ago.
posted by cebailey at 12:25 PM on April 3, 2006

Reading "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (at 16) changed this white suburbanite's mind about who he was and what he stood for. A discussion about the death penalty in college made me realize I wasn't pro, I was anti (except in cases of treason, but that's a different thread).
posted by availablelight at 12:28 PM on April 3, 2006

Interesting. I never think of my views as being fixed points, but always in the process of changing. I was once a devout Christian, but became an agnostic, then an atheist. But I'm open to possibilties...

I was once radically anti-abortion, then radically pro-abortion, and now fall someplace in the middle.

And so on.

But these changes happen gradually, over the course of months (and often years), not instantaneously.

Most people I know (for example, my wife) have held the same views all their lives, and I don't understand how that's possible. How can a person not change positions on anything between the ages of sixteen and thirty-six?

Changing viewpoints is part of growing, part of learning, part of living.
posted by jdroth at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2006

I changed my mind about environmental determinism (I don't believe in it now).
posted by edgeways at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2006

I would posit that very few people are swayed by singular arguments (as in ferociouskitty's case), but are instead convinced by arguments taken in aggregate.
So maybe there IS a reason to have the same religion/politics/whatever thread over and over again?
posted by 235w103 at 12:33 PM on April 3, 2006


If you're atheist open to possibilities, you're not atheist. You're agnostic. As for changing your mind, wasn't it Winston Churchill who said that if you're not liberal when you're under 30 you have no heart, but if you're not conservative when you're over 30 you have no brain?

Oh, and I changed my opinion of Chirchill after I talked to a few Australians...
posted by jimmythefish at 12:34 PM on April 3, 2006

I'm not sure if I changed my mind exactly, but I've certainly lost any reverence I had towards capitalism and the "invisible hand of the market" after spending the last few years working in finance.
posted by mullacc at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2006

Have you heard, delmoi? The command line is back in OS X...

Yeah, I know that. but while it was the command line that got me into DOS, it was the attitude of Mac users (and the companies marketing) that really turned me off. That hasn't changed too much.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2006

There are a few issues that I flip-flop back and forth on periodically. Abortion is one of them: I have yet to find a position on it that I feel truly comfortable with, and the cognitive dissonance that comes from that leads me to change my mind often. The last big flip (or was it a flop?) on that one was a few years ago. I expect them to keep coming every few years.

And 235w103 is right — it's never been a single discussion that changed my mind. Once I realized that, I did a lot less arguing and a lot more trying to lead by example.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:39 PM on April 3, 2006

hoverboards don't work on water: what did that Alan Partridge episode do to change your mind? And what about?

Alan: Smell my cheese.
Tony: No, I don't want to.
Alan: Smell my cheese!
Tony: Alan, please
Alan: Smell my cheese, you mother!
posted by Huw at 12:41 PM on April 3, 2006

For me, it happened while watching this episode of Alan Partridge.

I'm intrigued: was the big change that you didn't like Knowing You, Knowing Me, but did like I'm Alan Partridge? Or was it something more profound?

Monkey tennis?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:43 PM on April 3, 2006

Yes, I used to be very anti-God and anti-Christian but a friend invited me to an Alpha course and once I got past the initial "obivious answer" people (who I nearly punched at the time!) I found I was able to get real answers to the difficult questions and was able to make a complete switch to believing that Jesus IS the son of God (due to the historical evidence).

That was a big switch of mind for me.
posted by pettins at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2006

I have changed my mind on the death peanalty twice (against to fo to against again), on the existance of God and the importance of religion numerous times, and whether or not I should have voted for Nader at least twice.

Most recently, I have recanted my former position that animals have "rights" as modern Westerners understand them. Having read Peter Singer more closely, and a few other things I can no longer support the idea rationally, although emotionally I'm still open to hear a good rebuttal.

But if you send/post slaughterhouse pictures it won't work. I'm over the gore-fest.

But seriously, I think a lot of people who are devoted to "reason" (for lack of a better word) are much more susceptible to major changes in their opinions than you would think.
posted by illovich at 12:47 PM on April 3, 2006

Evidence changes my mind. Sometimes it is evidence marshalled by writers whose judgment I trust (which, I'm afraid, excludes almost, but not quite all, of the usual MeFi political writers.)

In November 2000, I thought George Bush was compatible with my politics and had prospects to be reasonably good President, and I voted for him. The accumulated evidence of four years brought me to the conclusion that, while Senator Kerry showed every indication that he'd be a perfectly awful President, President Bush had proven beyond any doubt he could not do the job. As I'll always take some chance over no chance, I supported Senator Kerry.

I have changed my mind about the stewardship of President Clinton. I look back at the late 90s as a kind of fever dream. What, I wonder, was I so pissed off about?

More along the lines of what I believe you're fishing for, I was a strong supporter for the invasion of Iraq. I now believe I supported a badly mistaken decision, not taking into account the relentless (and predictable) incompetence of this Administration, and the complexity of the region and peoples into which were intervening.
posted by mojohand at 12:49 PM on April 3, 2006

I gradually morphed from moderate Republican to reasonably lefty Democrat over the course of a few years - not because anybody laid out any particular arguments though. I simply left my smug little comfort zone when I started working a part-time retail job and realized how shitty life is for the working poor. Shrub's election kicked me hard to the left, and every Repub misstep since nudges me a bit further.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2006

If you're atheist open to possibilities, you're not atheist. You're agnostic.

A brief introduction to Agnostic (or Weak) Atheism

I used to be an evangelical Christian. Now I'm an agnostic atheist. That change took about seven years, and included a lot of reading, praying for people who later died of cancer, involvement with cult-like churches, developing friendships with non-Christians, studying the Bible, and taking theology classes. With a system as pervasive as that one, it's never just one thing. Oh, and reading MetaFilter had its effect too. It gave me different viewpoints to think about. (You heathens!)

I'm not sure what ultimately caused the change. I'm sure it was one of those "straw that broke the camel's back" things. Eventually there was so much cognitive dissonance that something small triggered a switch.
posted by heatherann at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2006

In November 2000, I thought George Bush was compatible with my politics and had prospects to be reasonably good President, and I voted for him....I have changed my mind about the stewardship of President Clinton. I look back at the late 90s as a kind of fever dream. What, I wonder, was I so pissed off about?

Mojohand, you just made my day. I've been waiting to hear a recanting of the terribleness of Bill from anyone.
posted by illovich at 1:01 PM on April 3, 2006

If you're atheist open to possibilities, you're not atheist. You're agnostic.

That's not technically true. An agnostic is someone who believes it's not possible for humans to know if a god exists. In fact, I would say that if you're "open to possibilities" you're not agnostic at all, but you can probably be provisionally atheist
posted by delmoi at 1:02 PM on April 3, 2006

Over the last few years, I have gone from "Popular things are rubbish" to "Popular things are good". To be honest, it has been a while since I changed my mind about anything political except where new information weakened the old point of view.
posted by teleskiving at 1:08 PM on April 3, 2006

Oh, as to why that happened, part of it was the influence of my wife, and part of it was that I was hanging around with snobby people a lot less.
posted by teleskiving at 1:10 PM on April 3, 2006

I didn't vote for bush in 2000, but I would say I 'half voted' for him by voting for Nader in a swing state. Not that I thought nader would make a good president, far from it, but I couldn't stand either bush or gore. Honestly I didn't think bush would do anything terrible. I remembered his father's presidency from my childhood and it didn't seem so bad. I really believed he would be a 'moderate' republican.

Since then I've become a huge liberal, yet, none of my core issues have changed. I still believe everything I did in 2000, but apparently I'm a huge liberal now. Whatever. I do support things like Gay rights and Abortion much more now, but mostly because I can't stand the idea of "them" winning.
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2006

Response by poster: Smell my cheese, you mother!

I guess this had a profound effect on me in some way, but the line that proved to be the tipping point in my transition from embarrasing Naomi-Klein-style-leftist to Hands-Off-style-libertarian was when Tony says "We don't owe you a living."
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:21 PM on April 3, 2006

I was pro-death penalty til 9/11. After that I decided I couldnt stomach people intentionally killing other people, no matter who was doing the killing. I also used to be agnostic, til I took a biology class and now I'm an atheist. My fiance used to be a christian til he made a good friend (online) who was gay, and decided his belief that his friend was a good person wasnt compatible with what the bible was telling him; now he's an atheist too. Abortion is something I struggle with: I strongly believe in a woman's right to choose, while still finding abortion icky and of questionable morality.

Also I used to think Aqua Teen Hunger Force was stupid, and now it is my god. So I guess in a way I'm not totally an atheist.
posted by supercrayon at 1:28 PM on April 3, 2006

I changed my mind about gun control policy issues after I took a class at college on: crime, drug, and gun Control. The book Negroes With Guns was pretty influential in making me see new sides of the issues, but I mostly just realized that what I once believed was not congruent with facts.
posted by Packy_1962 at 8:12 PM GMT on April 3

Which way did you change to? Pro control, or anti?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2006

I recently changed my mind about doctor assisted suicide when my boyfriend and I had a discussion about it. I felt that terminally ill patients should be able to end their suffering whenever they choose. He gave me some very complete, well-formed arguments based in fact that made me rethink my views. The arguments ran the gamut from practical (i.e 75% of doctors are against it) to emotional (the influence of a family that has conflicting emotions/motives in relation to the length of a family member's life).

Overall, I think that he was successful in changing my perspective because I trust him and value his opinions. He also discussed the issue in a calm, rational way without aggressively trying to change my mind. Had he become confrontational about my difference in opinion, I don't think I would have really listened to his perspective.
posted by elvissa at 1:37 PM on April 3, 2006


My daughter's choral group sang for President Clinton at some AFT function recently. You'll appreciate that I asked her, if she got the chance at a reception line, to tell the former President that her Dad wanted him to know that he was really, really sorry.

She shook his hand, but being sixteen, was too embarrassed to convey my regrets.
posted by mojohand at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2006


Turns out we're actually both right. Answers.com (while not the absolute arbiter of the use of the English language) gives us this as the definition:

ag·nos·tic (ăg-nŏs'tĭk)

1a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.

1b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.

2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.

I've always subscribed to the 1b. definition, given that 1a. is largely useless - if one can't know, then for all practical intents and purposes God doesn't exist.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:40 PM on April 3, 2006

Maybe i'm in the minority here, but I reckon Mefi, amongst other things, has made my move to the [in english/euro terms] right/centre clear.

I used to be very anti-capital punishment. I am less so today. I think that when one has some faith in the criminal justice system, which the criminal justice review board has promoted in me, and some very clear cases of multiple murder (Fred West, Harold Shipman, Ian Huntley), then I really do not see why said murderers should remain alive. In other words, I do not attach as much inherent value to every human life as I used to.

I am very anti-fundamentalist religion - whether Islamist, Religious Right, or Likudnik. I used to be very pro-multicultural, and am now greatly in favour of integration.

However, I am pro-gay marriage, anti-Iraq war, pro-civil liberties. Like most, I guess I am a ragbag of contradictory beliefs. Ho hum.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:59 PM on April 3, 2006

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