Who and What is Narrow-Minded?
Narrow-mindedness is a legitimate accusation. A person is narrow-minded whenever he fails to give any idea or evidence due consideration. For example, a person who believes that free market capitalism or ethical vegetarianism is the best and truest view without having considered competing views is closed-minded.
However, the assumption that any and every idea and piece of evidence is always worthy of consideration is false for two reasons.
First, some things are not worthy of consideration, like patently immoral choices (like rape) or patently trivial choices (like which cereal to eat for breakfast today). Also, if one can establish that one idea is not significantly different than another, one is justified in maintaining that it is not worthy of special consideration. Say, for example, that you establish that a person’s prejudice against Arabic people is racism, and that all racism is immoral; then it follows that racism towards Arabs merits no special consideration over against racism towards black people.
Second, a person might have concluded on sufficient evidence that a certain hypothesis is true, in which case it is neither reasonable nor necessary for him to continue to reconsider the same evidence. Say, for example, that a scientist has taken soil and water samples from an area in which a certain company is dumping chemical waste. After many repeated experiments, the scientist finds that the company is undoubtedly dumping harmful chemicals into the environment in excess of the legal limit. It would not do for a representative of that company to accuse that scientist of being narrow-minded simply because he has finished his analysis and come to a conclusion. Provided that the evidence is sufficient, the experiments were conducted properly, and the findings were conclusive, it is not incumbent upon the scientist to consider the same evidence again. Reason demands that the scientist come to a conclusion, whether that be that the evidence affirms or denies the hypothesis, or that the evidence is insufficient.
Nor is it even feasible to never come to a conclusion on anything. If one never came to the conclusion that any food, any medicine, or any mode of transportation was sufficiently safe and good, life would be a precarious and absurd affair indeed.
Furthermore, to demand that everyone always remain open-minded about absolutely everything is itself closed-minded, since it fails to consider the possibility that some people may have concluded on sufficient evidence that some hypothesis is true or false, and also the possibility that some things are not worthy of consideration.
Granted, important matters (such as religion, politics, ethics, etc.) require more careful consideration than trivial ones. But it does not automatically follow from the importance of any question that the answer is unknowable. Nor does it necessarily follow that there is more than one correct answer. Nor does it follow that the answer is more difficult to obtain, provided that one has avoided any cognitive biases which would have impaired his judgment. Nor does it follow from the fact that a question is difficult or controversial that a conclusion is false or the answer unknowable. Certain theories in Quantum Physics are both difficult and controversial, but it does not follow that some physicist hasn’t got it right or won’t do so in the future. And anyone who dismisses someone else’s conclusion merely because the matter is difficult or controversial does so at his peril–at the peril of being narrow-minded.
One can only accuse another person of being narrow-minded after one has established that some idea or evidence is, in fact, worthy of consideration and that that person has not, in fact, considered it.
Thus, Christians are not inherently more liable to the charge of closed-mindedness than anyone else, least of all those who narrow-mindedly assert that one must always remain open-minded about everything. If we ought to come to no conclusions, then the conclusion that we ought to come no conclusions should not be come to. It is a self-contradictory position. Thus, we can take the warning that we should always give ideas and evidence due consideration without for a moment being obliged to eternally withhold judgment. Indeed, what does “consideration” mean except thinking about whether something is true?