Essay:Quantifying Openmindedness

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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 openmindedness.

By "openmindness" 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. Openmindness means here what the dictionary says: "receptive to arguments or ideas."[1]

One way to measure openmindedness is to test for close-mindedness, and then take the converse. A subject for our measurement can be asked if he views certain proposals as impossible. By impossible I do not mean mathematically impossible, but so unlikely as to be considered absurd. Belief in impossibility is a sign of close-mindedness, because it reflects the unwillingness of the subject to be "receptive" to the possibility.

For example, did our subject think that President Ronald Reagan's exhortation, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this [Berlin] wall!" was an impossibility?

Did our subject think, or still think, that the Strategic Defense Initiative is impossible?

Does our subject think that it is impossible that the Shroud of Turin is authentic?

Does our subject think that it is impossible for the speed of light to have been different in the past?

Does our subject think that it is impossible to measure openmindedness?

A series of ten such questions can be posed, and one's openmindedness can be scored based on how often they declare something to be impossible and thereby demonstrate a level of being "receptive" to ideas.