How do you change your mind?

lemecdutex(z15 CA Petaluma)November 3, 2008

I've been wondering that for a long time. What does it take to change your mind about something you've thought for any length of time?

Are you persuaded by rational arguments? Or is it something more of a so-called "gut-level" thing? When's the last time you changed your mind after having made it up? Why?

My personal experience is that it's terribly difficult to change a mind. It seems to happen so rarely that I've been unable to see what it takes for most people, so that's why I'm asking.


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Tell us what it will take to change your mind. Could you use a little prompting?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 1:27AM
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skywatcher(Tennessee 7)

I've changed my mind when I learned that my decision was made on incorrect facts.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 1:28AM
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I think I've changed my mind about political propositions, especially when I don't feel sure to begin with. I've changed my mind about people as I learned and understood more about them.

But that doesn't really answer your question. I think good decision making is more profound and combines good boundaries and a willingness to empathize.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:14AM
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I change my mind when I see a better way to accomplish an objective, a kinder, simpler, more inclusive possibility. Oftentimes, it's a process of information-gathering, but sometimes it's just that "click" that puts a final piece in an intellectual puzzle.

The last time I changed my mind was in the last month or so. I believed that people of different political views could speak reasonably about their differences, learn from each other, and aim for compromise. I solicted opinions, asked for rationales and evidence, and placed my conclusions in limbo during the process. I wish I could say it was a successful effort. I did listen carefully, and sadly, most of what I heard was hateful and fearmongering. Not enough good information to change my political position, but enough to make me rethink my original assumption. I learned that we can hold different views and feel passionately, share information and come to shared conclusions or agree to disagree, but there are people who either can't or won't think, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. I'm sad to see rigidity and cruelty in people, but it's magical thinking to believe there are no ogres.

It's been an eye-opening, wonderful experience to see the efforts most of you have made in your efforts to explain, detail, and challenge all of us. You've inspired me and helped me to articulate my thoughts. I find myself very grateful for HT and am so pleased I could lurk here. It's the first place I come online...and a major resource for sorting out complex political issues.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:49AM
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It usually takes more persuading to get you to change your mind than it took for you to form your original conclusion. Maybe that's just another way of saying that facts matter, and we don't always have the whole picture in the beginning.

Seeing where I've been wrong is always a little uncomfortable, but I have managed to get through it plenty of times. Nobody gets it right every single time. Correcting or adjusting earlier impressions with newer information is always kind of refreshing for me.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 6:33AM
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I agree it's usually harder to change your mind than it was to come to the original decision. And the longer you have the original one, the harder I think it is to change.

I think we've seen one way - in pauline's case, it was a trusted loved one that convinced her. The point about seeing that your assumptions were incorrect (house of cards, so to speak) is another. I'm sure if you found that not just that your assumptions were wrong, but that someone LIED to you about something important would be key.

So, I don't know what does it for me, personally, I'm sure it's a mixture of those things at any point in time.

Probably my biggest change in the last 10 years was when I came to the conclusion that using native plants was the right thing to do. But that was not a flash moment, it came upon me over a year's time, each layer unfolding until the transformation was complete.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 6:58AM
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I think it's harder to change your mind largely because of ego - who wants to admit either to themselves or to others they weren't right in the first place (whatever "right" is)? My mind is changed when facts are presented that show me my first decision wasn't made with complete and accurate info.

I'm with esh in that my most significant changes happen over time. It happens as I gain added experience and as my priorities evolve. My biggest change has been in how we obtain the food items we consume in our home. As I've learned more about fertilizers and chemicals in food products, I've done a huge about face with growing what we can and shopping with local growers who use organic practices for the rest. The way I view it, our bodies and health are our #1 assets, and if we don't have them in good shape, nothing else matters. Ten years ago, it was only about saving money. Now it's not.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:51AM
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I change my mind becasue of new information, discovery that information I had was flawed or wrong and/or a change in circumstances which make my original decision no longer suitable to the situation.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 8:04AM
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I think that how hard it is to change your mind depends on whether your position is based on belief or opinion. Beliefs can be impervious to logical dispute, but opinions can be changed through persuasion, new facts, or carefully constructed argument.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 8:17AM
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Here's one Ron...
Years ago, as television began getting more and more sleazy and various groups threatened boycotts, tried to introduce legislation etc. against this, I always thought, "What's the big deal? Turn the tv off." Then, listening to a radio talk show one day, I heard someone make the point that it's fine to turn the tv off for your kid. But your kid has to sit in school and make a life with all the kids whose parents won't turn off the tv -all the kids who are watching mega-violence and age-inappropriate sexual content in the comfort of their own homes. I had a lightbulb moment, and quickly changed my mind. Now I believe there should be more govertmental control over what is available for our young people.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:21AM
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Having an epiphany, an aha moment, a moment of clarity makes it easy to change my mind. I had one recently and have posted about it before. I have always called myself a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, happy to say I have always voted for Democrats. Recently I wondered how I would feel if Senator Obama had selected a running mate like Governor Palin and I realized that the good of the country must supercede any party alliance, so I would have to begin doing research on the Republican ticket to see if I felt comfortable voting for them instead.

Sometimes these moments of clarity come following disappointment about something or anger or simply a paradigm shift. It could be anything that prompts one to start questioning themselves and their belief system.

The possibility of this happening depends on how one views oneself and the world, I think. I would like to believe I am ever evolving and so I am open to having my world rocked with new knowledge and changing opinions and hopefully, a maturing belief system.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:27AM
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david52 Zone 6

I'd always thought that it was a sign of wisdom to keep, in the back of your mind, the thought that you just might be wrong about something - you don't have all the information.

As well as knowing that a situation can change, and knowing that a different reality/truth for other folks is just as real/truthy as it is for you.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:28AM
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I continue take inventory of assets and liabilities regularly as I was taught years ago as a form of emotional and spiritual recovery. There is also a quote in the AA Big Book that I took to heart at 25 and it has served me very well for 31 years.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." it's attributed to Herbert Spencer

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:29AM
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tobr24u(z6 RI)

I don't ever change my mind because I know that I am always right, and I just can't undersatand why others don't see it that way...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:34AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Without running on at length, I recognize that there are levels of engagement determining how easily I might change my mind. Deeply held beliefs, such as religious ones and racism, are least likely to change, no matter the new information or arguments. At the other extreme are peripheral things like dress, eating preferences, reading selection, and choice of adult beverages.

Political beliefs for some of us rank up there toward religion, with deep family roots, community traditions, history, and perhaps racism and broad acceptance of bigotry (e.g. us versus them). I grew up in a very conservative and racist/bigoted environment. Once away from this environment I came to see the world differently through exposure to and thinking about new ideas and people and events.

In the end, our information remains incomplete or partially erroneous and the choices available are often not particularly attractive. Political ideology may color our choice but ought not to be so limiting that we refuse to examine other options.

I try to pick the best possible choice for the future.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:30AM
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I'm always open to change, as long as the facts dictate that my original choice was not correct. That's why it's always prudent to look at a situation from as many angles as you can. With a complete and clear picture, the choice becomes obvious. In any choice, there are consequences... being prepared to live with the consequences of your choice is also a part of decision making.

Do I ever change my mind? Always! I'm female, and I reserve that right! LOL!

But seriously, I don't make choices without looking at a situation from all angles.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:56AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

"I agree it's usually harder to change your mind than it was to come to the original decision."

I disagree. I have learned to continually update and question any and all "original decisions" I ever manage to make. I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of ever being certain about anything. Once certain I immediately imagine I must have missed something. The only absolute certainty I actually believe exists is that virtually everything is fluid or relative and you just have to be agile enough to constantly adapt.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 11:20AM
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lemecdutex(z15 CA Petaluma)

I didn't want to put in my experiences on this in case that would be seen as directing the outcome in any way, plus, I truly wanted to see what others do.

First, let me say that this has done exactly what I'd hoped, people have responded thoughtfully and intelligently, and not one person made a trolling remark. I hadn't been thinking about it when I wrote the question, but it does prove, once again, that even people who one disagrees with profoundly often find common ground. For instance, Nikoleta almost perfectly described my experience, particularly that comment that when I do change my mind, it's actually refreshing. I think that's due to the fact one is more confident that they have enough information and have made an informed decision.

I know that I can be persuaded by facts, as long as the facts themselves actually are facts. I try to remind myself regularly that the truth is the truth, no matter who says it. On the other hand, I don't bother listening to anything certain people say any longer, because they lie so often or are so dishonest that listening to them is like taking in pollution, it takes too much effort to constantly remove their trash from your conscious, and worse, from your subconscious. So, Rush Limbaugh, Maureen Dowd, Bill Kristol, most of the political pundits, most of Fox (Sean Hannity in particular) news I consider worse than a waste of time. They don't have the facts and truth as remotely an important consideration.

I do take a dim view of passing around misinformation, and have had the unpleasant task of sending e-mails back to family and some friends when they've passed on bogus stuff. If it's particularly egregious, I send it back with the refutation and ask that they send this out to everyone they sent the original to, but as far as I know, they never do that. However, I do hope that it makes them more cautious in the future before they pass along something that really is too perfect to be true.

Anyway, all that to say, I do my best to always allow factual information in. These days, there being so much misinformation, so easily spread, I tend to take a skeptical view first, sort of a "verify, then trust" stance, unless the source has a history of being quite accurate, but even then, I find myself looking for any flaws. I think the worst feeling of all is finding out that someone or something you trusted is careless with the truth, and that you've been fooled, it just makes me feel almost physically sickened with the disappointment. Then again, I have to remind myself that no one is perfect, and remember that anyone, especially myself, can make an error based on non-willful ignorance. But, all in all, it's good to keep in mind that "the truth is worth it" for all the effort it sometimes takes!

As far as the last major change in opinion I had, it was when I decided to go completely against the republicans until or unless they cleaned up their act. That was a number of years ago, but it took several years to get to that point. It started with a vague unease when some were pushing religion too much, and went on from there.

One thing from years ago popped in my mind just now, and it always gives me a chuckle, when I first started seeing those bumper stickers that said "Rush is Right" I thought "Why are they saying that about a Rock and Roll band?" LOL, I had no idea who Rush Limbaugh was, and thought they were talking about the band, Rush.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 11:47AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

It takes water boarding to change my mind.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 12:14PM
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Yeah JPW, but then you'd be lieing ;o)

If we changed our minds all the time then we'd always be wrong, right? or am I wrong?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 12:42PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

You're both. Probably. I think. Wait, now I'm not so sure...

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 1:06PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Change of circumstances could make me change of mind. Its our ability to be flexible that allows us to adapt to changing conditions. Without some flexibility we would be extinct.

Wisdom is knowing when to be steadfast and knowing when to change course.

Or not. :-)

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 1:22PM
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lemecdutex, you can send your reply to those obnoxious spam e-mails to everyone the sender sent to by clicking on "reply all". I do that now. I used to ignore them, but I just got fed up and started replying, with facts, and sending to reply all.

I rarely change my mind in an "aha" moment. Ususally, it happens over a period of time when I find out facts that dispute what I originally believed. And, I guess, changing one's mind actually means coming to believe something other than originally believed, which can apply to religion and politics, a person's character, or the best place to buy groceries. Rarely does it happen because of what someone tells me, but by my discovering facts that dispute what I originally believed.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:05PM
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I'm so happy to read all of your posts. It's heartening to know that many people do make it a point to reevaluate their beliefs, to keep in the back of their minds that you can't be too positive about almost anything.

And, marshallz, I admire people like you, who can have bigotry instilled in them and still have an open enough mind to question it. I think that's wonderful. I wonder what makes some people able to do this and others not?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:26PM
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lemecdutex, I'm also happy that you decided to ditch the Republicans until they cleaned up their act. I don't personally know anyone who's done that, and it's made me lose a lot of respect for Republicans.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:31PM
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oceanna(7 WWA)

Ron, I can identify.

I've trained a lot of dogs and some horses by a particular method. I was never all that satisfied with it, but it was all I knew and I was good enough at it to teach it. Then one day I encountered something leaps and bounds better. I made the transition pretty quickly, within weeks, going after the new information voraciously. During that time I had to repeatedly UNlearn things I thought I knew. It was very humbling, but also exciting.

In 2000 I was at what I didn't know at the time was to be the end of a dozen or more years of being a Libertarian, and voting for the Republican when there was no Libert on the ballot. The change didn't happen overnight, but was more gradual and consisted of learning hundreds of things that showed me where I had been wrong. This is not to say that I've given up all of what I treasured; I haven't. I still hold some of those ideals dear and always will. But most have been replaced.

I replied to this simply to let you know you're far from alone. There is life after change. :)

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:31PM
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bill_vincent(Central Maine)

My personal experience is that it's terribly difficult to change a mind. It seems to happen so rarely that I've been unable to see what it takes for most people, so that's why I'm asking.

Although it's rare that you hear someone in here come right out and admit that they've seen someome else's point of view as valid and made it their own, if you watch close enough, you'll see it happens with I'd say a moderate frequency-- on both sides.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:34PM
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newjerseybt(5b NE PA)

I was at a McCain rally in Scranton yesterday and was shocked when the entertainer asked how many McCain voters were Democrats. A loud roar went up along with a show of hands. It had to be about 20%. I expected 2% at most.

I guess changing one's mind can be quite easy.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:53PM
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Although it's rare that you hear someone in here come right out and admit that they've seen someome else's point of view as valid and made it their own, if you watch close enough, you'll see it happens with I'd say a moderate frequency-- on both sides.

Bill, you and I have probably disagreed more than just about anyone in this forum, but I've come around to your position not to support the lesser of two evils anymore. So yes, sometimes those of us in this forum do change our minds as well. I used to be a part of the problem, backing the same corrupt system of two corporatist parties, but no longer. I'm voting for a far-left alternative candidate, not exactly your position, I am sure, but at least I've gotten over maintaining there were significant differences between Republicans and Democrats, when they are both corrupt and more alike than not. Real change will [eventually] come from third party alternatives, not millionaire candidates controlled by wealthy donors.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 10:04PM
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lemecdutex(z15 CA Petaluma)

Oceanna, for some reason that reminded me of one time I made a change differently, and that was when I switched from using Windows to Mac. A few months after moving to California, I got a job in a Mac-only office. Being so used to Windows, I had a hard time with the change, and didn't like the Mac (it was a Performa, so that's probably part of the problem I had!). Even though I had friends who said the Mac was better, they had not used windows, so I didn't consider that a valid basis for change. Anyway, one day I saw a Mac on sale at our local Fry's and decided what the heck, I'll buy one. I used the two machines side by side for a few months at home, and then gradually quit using the WIndows machine. One day I realized that with the Mac I was actually using the machine for what I bought a computer for in the first place, to get work done, and that I'd been spending an inordinate amount of time in the care and feeding of the Windows operating system. So, I converted to using Macs as my computer since then. With my current system (a MacPro with the intel processors), I've got Windows XP installed to run at the same time as the Mac OS (we need Windows to run Fedex and UPS software), so I still keep up with Windows and how it works, but I definitely prefer the Mac. That was one time where no one but myself changed my mind, and that was via actual use rather than reading any arguments anywhere, listened to what anyone said, or any other outside influence. I can't think of any parallel situation where I didn't at least read something that caused me to consider the change.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 12:57AM
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oceanna(7 WWA)

Oh Ron, I hear you. I was a happy Mac user, and got forced to switch to PC at work. I had a real rough time with that switch for a long time. I got proficient on the PC but I have to agree with you the Mac is more user friendly and problem free. Facts are just facts in that case.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 2:39AM
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So Oceanna, "The Mac is not back"?
8 points down going into the election, I think the only place he is going back to is the Senate to ride out the last two years of his term.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 3:19AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I have a number of safeguards against faulty logic, not the least of which is checking that gut feeling. It is a sure thing that something is not right when that subliminal warning kicks in and it is past time to start asking questions. Sleepless

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 4:56AM
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Lena M

Ron, that is a great metaphor. PC vs. Mac -- and don't forget that alternative third-party candidate, Linux.

I'm trained as a scientist, and the rules include:

  1. State your assumptions
    2) Follow basic rules of logic
    3) Hypotheses (beliefs?) must be disprovable.

If I disagree with someone on an issue it is interesting to see where the conflict lies. There are many unstated assumptions, and it is shocking how little some people know about basic if --> then type logic.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 8:43AM
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Like sleepless, I've learned to go with my "gut feeling" on many issues. When I was younger, I found that I ignored this "still, small voice" at my peril, particularly in relationships.

Having said that, I try to keep an open mind, particularly in the area of politics and (sometimes) religion. I am a fact gatherer and I love collecting information and weighing all sides of an argument. More often than not, I can see both sides of an issue and find it hard to choose. I try to keep the big picture in mind, overall, and consider the future repercussions of actions /non-actions.

One example of a change of mind not too long ago: I began by disliking Hilary Clinton. Even when Bill was in the White House, I found her cold and shrill. (That was my perception of her at that time). However, as time went on and I heard her speak more often on the various issues with detailed nuance, I began to warm to her as a viable candidate whom I could respect. Thus, I even voted for her in our VA primary.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 10:16AM
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As a veteran canine breeder, I've repeated this mantra to so many potential dog buyers that it's almost ingrained in my brain: Check out every source you can... call, email, write, visit, read... and then, take all the information you've gathered, add a huge grain of salt and a large dollop of common sense... mix it all together, and make your decision based on that, and what your instincts tell you is right for you.

Even with the most informational sources at your disposal, it's sometimes your gut feeling that makes the final choice.

I think it helps to be of strong mind, not easily influenced by others... it's easy to follow, more difficult to lead.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 10:51AM
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lemecdutex(z15 CA Petaluma)

Lena, thanks for doing an excellent explanation. I hadn't actually thought of using your #3 statement. I think I do that on a visceral level, but it's far better to be consciously explicit.

I have come to understand that my "gut level" sense is actually my subconscious trying to make a conscious statement. If you study how your subconscious works, and its role in your thinking, I think anyone would find it fascinating and elucidating.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:33AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

I read somewhere that "gut feelings" are frequently misleading even though I sometimes rely on same. I do Sudoku puzzles every day. I use "gut feelings" all the time when given choice between two or three options. Some days I seem to be always right when I follow my first instinctual option. Other days I am always wrong. Weird.

I have to remind myself that all facts are "not equal" when decision time is upon me. Some truths are more important than others so that decisions require arranging facts and beliefs/values in heirarchies from most important to least important. Otherwise I become too bogged down in details.

Thanks, Lena, for stressing the scientific method (so to speak). I've notice that many folks do not understand the difference between disposable hypothese and substantiated theories and accepted "laws" of science.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:54AM
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david52 Zone 6

As a biologist, I like to hit the bar, have a few drinks, and then go with hormones and pheromone receptors.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 11:58AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

David, you dog you. ;)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 12:04PM
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Lena M

gut feelings have their place as well. Even scientists will start out with "a hunch" But a person must then design an experiment (or find data) to test that hunch. And, this is the hard part even for scientists, be willing to throw out that initial hunch. I've seen arguments take years to settle down, that first feeling can be so strong that people will find some rationalization to discard any evidence that contradicts them.

Don't even get me started on manipulations with statistics...


    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 5:49PM
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