Have you ever changed your mind? What did it take?

I have read numerous studies and surveys lately that paint humans - but especially Americans - as impervious to facts. Whether it’s the anti-vaccine crowd, creationists, climate change denialism, those holding certain political positions or just your run of the mill conspiracy theorists, studies show that no matter how persuasive and factual the prevailing opposing view is presented, most will just double down rather than change their belIefs.

I like to think that this forum would be much less dogmatic. Are there any success stories where factual discussion got any folks here to change their mind on a matter of scientific, political or social views?

If so, what did the trick? Was there an epiphany or just a gradual switch? Did it happen on these hallowed grounds? Bonus points for that!

I changed my views on homeschooling when presented by lots of studies that showed it did not negatively affect the social growth of most kids and they also were not unprepared for higher education or moving on in life. I used to think the practice would churn out kids lacking in education and social skills and it seems that stereotype is incorrect.

Anyone else have any similar stories?

Sure, plenty:

I changed my mind on same-sex marriage when I was challenged to come up with a coherent argument against it other than “Most people don’t want it to be legal”, and found that I couldn’t. (This one’s been happening a lot 'round this country, and is evidence against the idea that people don’t change their minds.)

I changed my mind on universal health care when I was shown the figures, which indicated that, in addition to providing care to everyone, it would cost less per-person than our current system, with no drop in quality of care.

I changed my mind on nuclear power, once I did some research into it.

I try to do research before I choose a stance, if possible.

It’s why I’m generally correct. :smiley:

I used to think global warming was not-even-wrong pseudoscience until GIGObuster reluctantly spelled out what sort of evidence would, hypothetically, prove AGW’s predictions false. I’d never seen that done on television or in the papers – and I still haven’t, as it happens – and so, if not for these hallowed grounds in general, and that poster in particular, I still wouldn’t take it seriously.

Cite the “study”, but I find it hard to argue that a country that put men on the moon, started the internet, developed microprocessors, discovered the Big Bang, built a highway system, etc… is “impervious to facts.”

Now that that has been said…

Of course I’ve changed my mind. Since these conversations tend towards the political, I was once a volunteer for Steve Forbes, 12 years later I’m arguing for Obamacare.

I also loved rock and hated classical. Then I went through a decade-long phase where I hated rock and loved classical. Now it’s about even.

Hell, sometimes I do it for fun. I’ll ask myself - “what don’t you like/respect”, and then try to understand why it is that others like/respect that which I don’t. My latest: the music of Kanye West. My conclusion: He is a hell of a lot more talented than most, but I wish the man could elevate his material. (Hey, I didn’t say it was all intellectual development and personal growth!)

Yes, twice. Never mind the details: the key was courtesy.

The most persuasive argument is one delivered by a patient, considerate, and kindly voice of reason. When someone says, “Jeez, you’re stupid,” it sets up a psychological reaction, and (irrationally) the mind comes to resent and resist correction.

It takes the care to say, “I see where you’re coming from. I beg you to consider, though, these concerns that I have, which lead me to a different view.”

Flies, honey, vinegar.

Reading about what the Affordable Care Act actually entailed turned me into an Obama supporter and then a full-blown liberal back in 2012.

I can say that me too, although I have to say that the change on those issues happened when I was very young, I never stopped learning after leaving school (ravenous reader of history and science here) and as soon I reached adulthood I never stopped learning, and so the evidence did convince me to change my mind.

More recently I changed my mind about nuclear power and GMOs as the evidence is more in favor of their use than against. And I mellowed out on gun rights.

I changed on the abortion issue. I was against abortion, then I played out in my mind for many months what it would mean for the country to have abortion banned. I then shifted to being Pro-Choice, which I am now. Reluctantly and Fervently.

What I wish would happen around the issue is that the Reps would be accepting of abortions in the case of Rape and Incest, and the Dems would admit that life begins at least one second before birth. Then, and I fear only then, can both sides work to reduce them.

The people who respond to reasonable arguments aren’t the ones that we hear about for having crazy beliefs…

I wouldn’t say I’ve drastically changed my beliefs, but they certainly have (and continue to) evolve over time.

One thing that comes to mind is in medical screening. I used to think that in all cases, more information was better. How could the results of a test not improve outcomes, at least a little? What changed my mind was research showing that in some cases, more information does not improve outcomes (mammograms being the most recent, and before that the psa test). What changed my mind was a large, carefully controlled study with very statistically-significant results. You can theorize all you want about why this is, but that’s what the numbers show.

Of course, I’m the type of person who tends to believe large, carefully controlled studies with very statistically-significant results. If you show me such a study showing homeopathy works, I’ll believe it. I’ll be amazed, I will look furiously for an explanation, but I’ll believe it, at least provisionally until more such studies are produced. The people who do believe in [creationism, homeopathy, cell-phones causing cancer, vaccines causing autism, etc.] are not the type of people to objectively look at the evidence. Once you can get someone to objectively look at evidence, it’s easier to convince them (assuming the evidence is on your side). Now how to convince someone to do so I’m not so sure.

Now, this works for things where there’s an obvious ‘right’ side and ‘wrong’ side, but for true matters of opinion (much of politics), it won’t.

Reading what the Affordable Care Act actually entailed convinced me it will never be successful in the United States and that Single Payer is a much more effective way to go. It just fails to address too much of what causes the American health care system to be bloated.

I still don’t think single payer will happen in my lifetime.

Two biggies.
I believed in God as a kid, went to Hebrew School, went to shul even when I didn’t have to. I wasn’t kosher or anything, but I kind of accepted what my family said they believed.

Then in high school I worked in the English book room, where they had a stack of Bibles for a Bible as literature section of AP English. I read the introduction, which talked about how the Bible was actually written, the multiple authors, the editor, all stuff my teachers had never told me. At that moment it became clear that it was all a myth.

I used to be a conservative. But when George Bush, an obvious simpleton, was nominated in 2000 I began to wonder how anyone could support the crap this guy was saying. I started comparing my beliefs to reality, and I soon left the Republican party. It has just gotten worse. Maybe it is that they left me, but no matter.

I’ve come around to a cautiously pro-Israel stance from a much more rabidly anti-Israel one (I’m still pro-Palestinian, the two not being mutually exclusive)
I used to be fairly anti-GMO, now I’m cool with it. still hate Monsanto, though.

Some of them are.

I changed my mind on (amongst other things) creationism. Looking back, I’d classify that as a crazy belief.

The internet is for pandering to and cementing your beliefs, not changing them.

Its main effect was to help make me more cynical about human nature and history. And agnostic or suspicious of big ideas. I used to believe in the betterment of mankind through democracy and liberal economics (talking high school/college freshman age). Now I’m pretty sure that’s a bunch of nonsense. When Bush won in 2004 I was down in the dumps for several days because I cared so much. Like it really mattered. Now I view politics more like riffing on a so bad it’s good movie. I blame dissident blogs and books.

One bad side effect of that was around 2005-2007 or so I was a bit of a doomsday peak oiler. Didn’t think we’d be cannibalizing our neighbors or trading squirrels for bullets, but I was pretty sure oil would peak any day now, crash the economy, and then the U.S. would start gobbling up more Middle Eastern nations and diverting the oil. Didn’t happen. And everyone pointing to alternatives to conventional crude was correct. Except the crash part, that was true. But a different cause. It amuses me to see the Oil Drum site is dead and buried, long before the peak.

I can’t remember if it was a Dworkin book or some random feminist blog, but several years ago I read someone try to explain why the right resisted the liberalization of sexual mores and movement feminism without appealing to religion or “know your place” type misogyny. I still disagreed with that view (as did the author) but it made total sense. It was weird since I thought there was zero merit and then I was sympathizing with '60s conservative mothers trying and failing to explain to their daughters why free love was a load of crap.

Respectfully, if you think that’s more true of “Americans” than others you probably haven’t spent much time outside America.

I’m British (if you didn’t know), and before, say, about 2005 I was the most ardent and convinced Thomas Paine-like constitutional radical. I was (small-r) republican, advocated abolition of the House of Lords, the adoption of proportional representation for the House of Commons, federalisation of the British Union, and I was even firmly convinced that the European Union was Britain’s destiny and that a federal European nation-state was inevitable as it was desirable. I was a member of the Liberal Democrats, Liberty, and Charter 88.

Now I could not be more different. I befriended a staunch Conservative in my first post-university job who is ridiculously intelligent, and while he could never persuade me on economic matters (we still differ massively there) or on social matters such a gay marriage, he soundly bested me in every debate we had about all the stuff I mentioned in my first paragraph. At first (as I think is general), I tried to avoid arguing while still holding on to my bruised, battered beliefs, but upon reading up in trying to better arm myself for debates, I found myself finding the arguments he made more convincing.

Now, I’m a firm monarchist. While I am now an opposer to electing the House of Lords, I still see merit in some reforms (which is more than my friend does), and I remain agnostic/cautious on election reform. I am still pro-European but more firmly on a ‘what’s best for Britain matters’ stance and hold no illusions on the utopia of a European federal state. I am still centre-left on economic issues though.

This is absolutely correct. Be nice during a discussion and you have a chance of convincing me. Be aggressive or nasty, and you’ll make me stick to my opinion.

Another important factor is life experience, rather than discussion with others. For example, I was a hard-core anarchist who hated state authorities for many years. Fast-forward to today, after having lived in Sweden for two years, and I actually see the point to having a state. A strong, transparent, generous state has helped Nordic countries achieve the highest levels of welfare in human history, why couldn’t it do the same elsewhere?

I’ve also changed my mind in relation to free trade (used to be against it, now am in favour) and GMOs (used to be against it, now see no problem with them apart from the corporations that own them). In both cases it took university lecturers to explain to me clearly what the issues were and what alternatives there are. As mentioned: very academic, relaxed, non-aggressive discussions did the trick

So… are the people who said they changed their minds upthread just rare exceptions?

I was against affirmative action and thought we should all ignore race. Then I started reading a wealth of writing about the impact slavery had on families, which lead to more and more, and now I’m absolutely on the opposite end of the spectrum. A big pile of well researched information did it. IIRC the internet wasn’t a significant part of the process.