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Science Needs a Scout Mindset; Here’s Why

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

Scout or soldier? When it comes to our opinions and beliefs, there’s a bit of both in all of us. But which mindset is more beneficial? On a new episode of ID the Future, I welcome Dr. Jonathan McLatchie to discuss the characteristics of a scout mindset and how it relates to the debate over evolution and the evidence for intelligent design.

In her book The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t, journalist Julia Galef makes a case for the scout mindset: a motivation to see things as they are, not as one wishes them to be, and a willingness to revise beliefs in response to new evidence. Here, Dr. McLatchie unpacks Galef’s five characteristics of a scout mindset and describes simple tests we can apply to our reasoning to reduce bias. McLatchie also outlines ways we can practice the scout mindset, such as being more willing to admit when we’re wrong and seeking out good critics. 

One advantage of the scout mindset is that it makes adjusting the confidence we have in our opinions more of a low-stakes enterprise. There’s no hill to desperately defend or die on. Disagreement becomes an opportunity to simply update our positions, like a mapmaker revising a map as new data emerges. In today’s polarized climate, having a scout mindset can help us reason more effectively and more humbly in service of the truth. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

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