This week Australian politicians backed reforms they’d attacked (in opposition) then supported (during an election) then attacked again (in government).
Now I usually like it when people change their minds; it’s often sign of an active intellect working its way through the arguments. Maybe that’s what happening here. Or they might just be doing what politicians do: to boldly go whichever way the wind blows.
So how do you spot the difference?
Scientists change their minds all the time. Once they’ve discovered a new fact or disproved an old theory, they’ll admit their error and embrace the new paradigm. The really great ones actually enjoy being wrong; Stephen Hawking makes very public bets about theories and last week he joked the discovery of the Higgs particle cost him $100.
Like all working minds, he reserves the right… to be wrong.
See, that’s the difference: admitting the mistake.
In science, the admission of error is a sign of a great intellect, whereas in politics (or for that matter, religion) it’s seen as the ultimate dishonour, a sign of weakness.
It’s a situation we create every time we demand instant answers and then complain if they’re only half-baked. We force people to ‘stick to their guns’ even if they’re pointed at their own heads.
Which is a shame, because a mind that can’t admit fault, can’t learn. It can’t develop. It can’t improve. Or apologise.
That’s why it’s not the minds that change that worry me.
It’s the ones that don’t.