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Your task is to persuade someone to change their mind, without threats of loss or violence. Possible?

What does it take to be a catalyst for peaceful change? Or is this an impossible task? If persuasion is indeed an art form built on communication and language, how do you - or someone you can site as an example - use the tools we all possess, to reform outdated ideals?
Apply this ideal to the current OCCUPY movement.
While certainly committed to the cause - are these individuals persuasive in regard to getting results? Is the change they wish to enact clearly defined? How can they use the momentum they've gained to see their goals met?

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    Nov 19 2011: Libby, great concept! Take a look at what this man did in the midst of war and hatred. He changed my mind about American soldiers and made me cry with hope!
    • Nov 20 2011: thank you for sharing this! truly inspiring - gives me hope to know about people like this man. amazing!
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    Nov 20 2011: I think that relationship is the key to persuasion.

    Establlishing and getting past the major obstacle of trustworthiness is crucial. If trust is established, I think it then takes some rapport in communication, and then the skill of presenting excellent evidence plus the skill of really drawing out and listening to the other's evidence from the other person's perspective. This way we incrementally creep toward common ground. If we find common ground, we can reiterate respect and commitment to the process and to each other. At this stage we humbly admit where we were not admiting some truth, step out onto common ground and invite the other to join us.
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      Nov 24 2011: QUOTE: "I think that relationship is the key to persuasion."

      I think there is something to this but not simply relationship to the expositor of the new idea - relationship to the larger community.

      We want to belong (it's part of our genetic and evolutionary heritage) if we get a sense of belonging by believing in Jesus and the world being 6000 years old, we will believe in Jesus and the world is 6000 years old. Belonging is more important to us than believing in something that makes sense.
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        Nov 24 2011: Yes, it's not only possible, it is IMpossible to do it any other way (threats, violence, etc.)

        There is an arsenal of "weapons" a civilized person could use to persuade someone to change their mind.They include the skill of persuasion itself, empathy and compassion are useful, ultimately it takes education is some way shape of form for the change to take place...

        Thomas - "Belonging is more important to us than believing in something that makes sense."
        I respectfully disagree. For me, both are critical to a meaningful existence, but I think they can be (for some people) mutually exclusive.
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          Nov 24 2011: Hi Jim,

          QUOTE: ""Belonging is more important to us than believing in something that makes sense."
          I respectfully disagree. For me, both are critical to a meaningful existence, but I think they can be (for some people) mutually exclusive."

          I wish it were true but, if we look around, we will see ample evidence of us believing in things that "make no sense." To list a few: astrology, reincarnation, heaven, hell, "72 virgins," aliens hosting a global enlightenment in 2012, military intelligence, network marketing, lotteries, fairies, ghosts, creationism, dinosaurs-as-hoax, science-as-panacea, that we are rational, that war works, diets, evangelists, revelation, politicians, politics, etc.

          Think about it, why would anyone choose to believe what some member of their society says about a supernatural being who cares if you eat cabbage on a Monday?

          It can have nothing to do with cabbages or Mondays (we know this from observation) but when someone we respect tells us that a supernatural being has confided in him that eating cabbage on Mondays will result in a calamity, we will believe it. (And we will.)


          Because we do not want to be shunned - and believing eating cabbage on Mondays will cause a calamity is not too big a price to pay to be accepted by the group.

          Of course there are very few people who would be so silly as to believe eating cabbage on a Monday would cause any troubles at all (unless we washed it down with a beer) but there are, for example, about 150,000,000 Americans who think the earth might have been created about 6000 years ago.

          Nowadays, we get to choose "our clan" so we can bond with people who believe pretty much anything but, I assert, it is not REALLY the belief that is important to us, it is the belonging to the group. As long as what the group believes falls within certain parameters, we'll stay (or join.) If the beliefs get "too weird" some of us will go. Some of us will drink the Kool-aid.
        • Nov 25 2011: REALLY good comments. i hadn't extended the premise to a "group mentality" - and in thinking about that - it relates to so many issues. like why people are hesitant to go "against the grain" or speak up about injustices. i IS hard to be the cheese that stands alone! and needing to belong is a truly powerful motivator.

          i think you've touched on why bully-ing remains so prevalent in society. and why it's such news to the world when a single person speaks out against a seemingly powerful entity.
          I was personally so moved by the "it gets better" campaign. because it started with a single voice, risking everything to show compassion and outrage for hate crimes. i felt i was witnessing true courage. some of my family members are gay - and when they came out, there wasn't nearly the support we see now, and of course - there is still a long way to go when it comes to changing the minds of people who condemn others and are judge-mental about race, religion, gender or sexual preference.
          "the most dangerous people in the world are those who have the strength of their convictions, and are wrong." my grandfather used to tell me that. no matter how the years pass, i still find it to be relevant.
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      Nov 24 2011: Debra - I think you are a shining example of what it takes to persuade someone to change their mind about something.

      I've never known you to be anything BUT persuasive in how you communicate your thoughts. Your sense of respect (both for yourself and for others) plays a large part in it, but you also bring to conversations perspective, compassion (yes, I'm going to sign the charter :)) empathy, intelligence and open-mindedness. I may not always agree with you, but you always change me.
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    Nov 19 2011: Even if you persuade me, you won't persuade me - Aristophanes.

    That's the hump to get over. But it can be gotten over. It takes persistent patience.

    Peaceful change cannot be forced and so cannot be quick. Patience. And a few other virtues.

    That's why peace will win in the long run..
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      Nov 20 2011: QUOTE: "Even if you persuade me, you won't persuade me - Aristophanes."

      You have persuaded me this it true. I am convinced.

      No, wait!
      • Nov 20 2011: Ha! perfectly said! It seems this is a much older topic than I realized!
  • Nov 19 2011: Command of language, understanding of people, boundless energy, relentless optimism, charisma, inner peace you can draw from, determination, innovativeness and creativity, and commitment.

    There are techniques associated with argumentation theory, critical thinking and decision making, psychology, and public speaking that would help you win discussions that were in a debate format. Being exceptional as a writer or artist can help you get your message across. You need to be able to inspire, provide hope and reach the inner spirit of people hearing or seeing your message. You need to be able to unsettle the ideas they have that are causing thier own inner disharmony and replace them with your ideas that provide the inner peace. You need to do this with each communication with enough force to cause them to want to hear your next message.

    The more people you can reach with your message, the stronger your capability to cause peaceful change. Good Luck!

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    Nov 24 2011: Hello Libbey, great topic.

    Let me share a little of my story. I grew up catholic and somewhere in my teenage years I let go of my religion. A few years later, most of my family became newborn christian. Two of my brothers actually became pastors and to this day they preach (one of them leads a congregation).

    Being the black sheep of the family, I got to spend endless hours as the lone defender of any topic where science and religion were at odds. Their mission was very noble: they wanted the best for me and they want me to be part of this newly found joy and happiness. My mission was equally noble: I wanted them to be part of this newly found joy and happiness of learning the far reaching power of science to explain what we are, what this word is, what this universe is.

    But it never really happened as planned. We discovered that there are limits to what we would give up. It was interesting to see it as doubly asymmetric mirror: I would appear more inflexible in always questioning everything, i would see them as more inflexible in trusting things blindly.

    I do love them dearly, and that helped in trying to find common ground, to not giving up early. As Debra and Thomas said, relationship and a sense belonging were key.

    The trick, i suspect, was that we were both willing to recognize we can shift belonging. I think too that the sense of belonging is engrained in our dna and is a powerful subconscious drive, but consciously defining a new group to include us both could satisfy that craving and provided a path forward.

    For ows, i would suggest to find ways to strengthen the group relationship (doing things together), and strengthen the sense of belonging by crafting the groups that will be most inclusive. ows has had a good start: the group definition is generic enough to be inclusive, and it can be refined gradually.

    When our entire trusted group shifts opinion, we immediately question ourselves and are more willing to change too
    • Nov 25 2011: hi andres - i was raised Catholic, and still am. I have two daughters - one whom simply feels as though the religion has many dogmatic untruths, and struggles with that. i agree with her actually, but we converse most about what it takes to evoke change and the value of belonging to even an imperfect religion. i love my faith, but do not see it as perfect. i'm certain our Pope would have MUCH to say regarding that feeling, and does, among today's Catholics. i can use my intellect only so far as to accept i could be wrong. from there, it's all faith. my other daughter believes without much question, in our faith. she adores the mystery, the harder to accept concepts don't seem so for her. but in that belief - there is tolerance and the thought that older teachings will change, it just takes time. my brother used to read "why i am not a christian" by bertrand russel, on the way to mass. LOL. he is agnostic today. my aunt, raised catholic, is aethiest. my dad, a catholic, gets super pissed off when people even mention creationism. my mom is the principal of the biggest catholic grade school in our dioceses - she is brilliant, approachable and as an administrator - perhaps the best around - she is Catholic and actually does the rare thing, she lives her faith. two of our extended family are gay, and Catholic. two are divorced, and Catholic. i think our family actually represents the larger norm in terms of the Catholic religion - no matter what they say in Rome. there is a huge gamut, a range of people who are part of a single faith, but in reality don't subscribe to every single teaching.

      we come together often, but as individuals who share genetic code, common history, and surnames - but we are so different from one another. you can almost divide us in half by left brained or right brained attributes. yet, there is without doubt total love and respect. like you and yours, we don't need to be the same - but we do need to be together. that has always seemed fair. ;)
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        Nov 26 2011: Thank you for sharing some of your story too Libbey. It is refreshing to notice that my family might be closer to the typical than I previously thought.

        Bertrand Russell's "why I am not a christian" :-) seems like it would be interesting to have a conversation with your brother and your aunt too!

        I have an excellent friend who is a christian pastor in Virginia, and one day he saw me reading Russell and he told me he would be interested in reading it. He brought a book for me in exchange "The Case for Christ" and i did read it with interest.

        I don't think we have been able to persuade each other much over the years, but we share more than that (we are both software developers), and I consider him a very smart individual, so we can sustain a friendship even with our deep differences
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    Nov 24 2011: I believe there is a big difference between trying to “Change someone’s mind” and “helping them to see more clearly.”

    When I look back at people who “saw more clearly” after our work together, a clear pattern with three components emerges. I use the terms “frames, filter and focus” to describe how we define what we believe is reality. Frames are the limits of our perceptions (we simply do not see what is outside our frames), filters are emotions and biases that color and slant our perception, and focus is what we pay attention to (and therefore assign importance to).

    The process of helping another see more clearly starts with being able to view through their frame and filter while realizing the perceived importance of what they focus on. (This is the opposite of logic which starts with the premise “You are wrong” and leads to defensiveness and self-justification.)

    Once both parties are on the same page, it is a matter of gradually increasing the frame, clearing the filter and focusing on improvement. Jumping outside the frame too quickly or using a filter that leads to defensiveness creates obstacles that undermine or reverse the process.

    In sum, we can help someone see more clearly when we are able to feel what they feel, understand that their perceptions make sense to them, (even when we disagree) and then provide opportunities to see a larger picture more clearly and focus on what can make life better for everyone. (Using the terms, frame, filter and focus, seems to simply this process in my experience)

    The Occupy movement need to understand the frames, filters, and focus of the people they are trying to influence (the middle class) and take care not to act in ways that contribute to frames, filters and focus that political consultant serving the 1% are skillfully manipulating in order to undermine their cause.
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    • Nov 25 2011: i think you are right.
      it seems logical that a persuasive person would also be one who was able to operate effectively as part of an "ensemble cast" so speak. if one's ego isn't in the way or at stake, i'd think there is a better chance to win over the opposing side, because focus is on the issue at hand in a clearer way.
      i've always had a harder time trusting anyone who appears to be self serving.
      that said, their are an awful lot of convincing "actors" in the world, people who adopt a cause for purposes that aren't so altruistic. it can be very difficult to discern who is motivated by peace, and who just likes attention, in lots of cases!
      great comments Griffin! thought provoking!
  • Nov 19 2011: Yes, persuasion is an art. You can pursued someone to change their mind as long as you have their best interest at heart.
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      Nov 20 2011: QUOTE: "You can pursued someone to change their mind as long as you have their best interest at heart."

      Only if they want to change.

      There are countless stories of people literally dying rather than changing their minds about issues such as: smoking, medical treatment, diet, religious belief, and so on.

      Even if, for example, we try to persuade a Jehovah's Witness that it is in his or her best interest to provide a blood transfusion for their 4-year-old little girl to save her life, it sometimes takes a court injunction to make it so.


      We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. – Michael Shermer
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    Nov 19 2011: QUOTE: "Your task is to persuade someone to change their mind, without threats of loss or violence. Possible?"



    "We have a lengthy prehistory and history and a powerful cultural and multicultural background, and both cast lengthy shadows if not powerful shackles on who we are, what we believe we can do, what we actually accomplish, and how." – Howard Gardner

    "Be the change that you want to see in the world." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

    "Our own minds are changed – either because we want to change them or because something happens in the real world or in our mental life that warrants a major change. The change can occur in any sphere: our political beliefs, our scientific beliefs, our personal credo, our views about ourselves." – Howard Gardner

    "Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

    "My life is my message." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

    "On the most basic level, a change of mind involves a change of mental representation." – Howard Gardner

    "Emancipate the mind." – Hu Jintao
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    Nov 19 2011: Yes- Dan and Chip Health wrote a great book, "Switch," aiming at making a change when change is hard.

    But before you try to persuade someone to change their mind, consider whether their mind is truer than ours and consider whether we should change our mind too. In other words, consider that the opposite might be true as well.
    • Nov 20 2011: I'm a big fan of Dan & Chip, and "Switch" - I found it to be very sound yet it altered the way I viewed the process of change, quite a bit. Nice contribution - thanks!

      I think from what you've said I get this:
      Persuasion is a powerful force - especially when applied with the right measure of respect for all opinions.

      The mind we change might be our own!
      Very cool!
  • Nov 24 2011: To answer the one question, yes there are, have been, and will continue to be many champions and, they have been persuasive. Using Jesus as your example what can be concluded is that message has not been accepted by all, it has not reached all and there are competing beliefs. Whether religion is rational from a religious person's perspective is a mute point since "faiith" (and yes I understand that many consider that "blind") is what most are based on. In other words it can not be argued from a scientific platform. That chasm, between empirical evidence and belief, may never result in one or the other or a single belief system coming into place. That is the nature of homo sapiens I suspect and supports your last comment. Conversely, for certain base freedoms, there have been champions - Ghandi as an example - who succeeded. My personal belief is that these types of champions will continue to improve the world, country by country and person by person. From a practical perspective the schism(s) in religion and faith will in all probability preclude any likelihood of one central religious belief. On the other hand a set of common core values, more noticeable, will evolve. Those might accept, to give, to love and to not cause pain. These things many of us already practice regardless of religion. One last point, and I am not taking the God can't be proven or dis-proven path, is creation (not in the creationist sense). We exist, we have changed and the net effect of all change has been positive over the historical record. Given we do not go extinct and change continues the collective world will become a better place.

    And on that note have a Happy Holiday even if you don't believe in Turkey's or Pilgrims...(as well as the rest of the TED Audience).
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      Nov 24 2011: Hi Stephen,

      I think you are replying to my post but may have run "afowl" of the TED "so-and-so-has-replied-to-your-comment function" which shows you the reply AND a separate comment box that - if we use it - places our reply at the head of a new thread; not after the comment we are actually replying too.

      The remedy is to click the "reply" button in the comment itself.

      So assuming your reply was to me: Thank you.

      I agree with some of what you say, disagree with a bit, and didn't quite follow some of it (in particular your reference to God and creation.)

      And thank you for your Thanksgiving greeting. As a Canadian who lives in China, I wasn't even aware it was Thanksgiving. (Canada celebrates Thanksgiving at a different time; and China does not celebrate it at all.)
  • Nov 24 2011: I'm not sure we are on the same page but let's address your concerns. First let me assure you I read but the examples you site have nothing to do with my statement. Taking one of the more controversial subjects you mention, religion, let me address that with, hopefully, some overwhelmingly logical argument.

    Most religions assume there is a God. Many religions believe their God is the one and only true God. In the name of religion wars have been fought and crimes against humanity have (and continue to) occurred. Are these actions representative of the basic tenets of most religions? No. Can people be influenced? Yes. Is it possible that accounts for this dichotomy? Yes. So what is the issue? Could it be that a correct definition of religion is our "personal" relationship with whatever we happen to believe in as opposed to group? Will all except this statement? Of course not if the evidence of history and actions bear witness but logically it is correct. The logical point, in this case, is attempting to get agreement (a single belief system? ) does not make sense. A belief in God (or not) is personal.

    Government (all forms of) are evolving institutions reflective of (again) a host of factors as evidenced by unending controversy. Controversy itself is part of that evolution and the battle for basic rights continue, those being "freedoms" dependent on the social and cultural factors within a country (however they are defined). We have come from religion(s), the first laws and civilizations beginning, to a world court, with nations governed by laws, and the United Nations, albeit all are less than perfect, but it does present a picture. We are getting there and relative to history very rapidly.

    Those overwhelming logical arguments you refer to, many of which I agree with, more often than not lack a plan - PART OF MY ORIGINAL STATEMENT - and a champion willing to commit their life to it. That is the failure. Case rested.
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      Nov 24 2011: Hi Stephen,

      You do make a compelling case but, alas, it has been set asunder by that most pernicious of human failings: we're logically irrational.

      There have been many a plan and many a champion; and our capacity to see what we want to see, where we want to see it, has rendered each of them ... successful.

      Successful within their own theatre of operations. That many, maybe most, of their visions are mutually incompatible or downright contradictory does not seem to dissuade their adherents in the least.

      For 2000 years people have been dedicating their lives to champion the message of a carpenter from a small middle-eastern town; and for 1500 years or so, others have championed the message dictated to an illiterate desert trader; and these champions - all of them - have been very persuasive, wouldn't you agree?

      Now, while these champions have been promoting their causes, others have been championing other, perhaps more inclusive or "rational" causes; they too have met with a level of success. But no idea has achieved universal acceptance.

      We are brilliantly, wonderfully, exceptionally, irrational beings; and we use our logic in defence of that which we hold most dear, our beliefs no matter if they be rational ... or not.
  • Nov 24 2011: Question 1 - Overwhelming logical argument and a plan. Unfortunately both exist far too little....and conflict continues. Question 2 - Answered in the response to your first question.

    You may judge both Occupy Wall Street, Congress and the President and draw your own conclusions. Plans are lacking in all areas but, curiously, though fragmented Wall Street may accomplish more than the other two (no super committee embarrassing for us as a nation and oops, guess what they were missing.....see the answer to question 1 if in doubt).
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      Nov 24 2011: Stephen,

      Surely, you're joking.

      Overwhelming logical argument and a plan? Have you read (for example) "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris; "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins; or any grade school textbook on science?

      The overwhelming logical arguments abound aplenty and yet, 53% of Americans (for example) identify as creationists (which implies they believe the earth is 6000 old - give or take a few years.)

      We have quite a few intelligent people right here on TED who assume capitalism, democracy, socialism, libertarianism, rationalism, whateverism, will work if only "the rest of us" simply did it right. As in, "Capitalism works; it's just that we're not doing it right." Etcetera.

      No amount of logic will convince us that ANY system that requires seven billion people to adopt a single worldview does not, will not, and cannot "work."

      No, really, it will work if we only get the Chinese (or the Americans, or the Christians, or the Muslims, Skeptics, vegans, carnivores, old people, young people or ___________ [fill in the blank]) on board.

      Just imagine the golden age that we'll usher in when everyone believes in ... Jesus ... Science ... Jesus and Science ... Rational Thought ... Emotional Truth ... Spiritual Truth ... Balance ... The American Way ... whatever.

      There is overwhelming "rational" evidence in support of this assertion - that we will never adopt a single worldview - and yet it will be rejected, almost unconsciously, by the champions of every "ism" that promises a utopian (or just pretty darn good) future.
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        Nov 24 2011: I believe logic is a narrow road which only affects the thinking of those who are already on the same road. Creationists have a logical arguement to support their belief based on partial evidence as does Dawkins in promoting his “selfish gene.”

        We never have more than partial evidence and logic is much better at justifying what we already believe than generating new discoveries. In fact, very few new discoveries were generated through a purely logical process.

        Logic does not allow us to “switch roads” which is why it is impossible for a computer to generate humor or do anything creative. I believe DeBono’s “water logic” to be as important, if not more so, than “rock logic” in solving human problems.
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          Nov 24 2011: Hi Bob,

          I agree.

          Logic took the Titanic to the bottom of the sea. (Not what de Bono means by water logic but telling nonetheless.)

          But I am a huge fan logic. It is a wonderful faculty ... in its place.
      • Nov 25 2011: I wonder - will a utopian society exist if we can simply RESIST the urge to try to "convert" others? Its seems acceptance, a willingness to live and let live are key. i know i personally do not believe in creationism as science. therefore, it doesn't belong as part of a school's curriculum in the subject of Science. but - and here's where my experience is based solely on catholic school education, i did take religion classes every day, for 12 years. our course of study included ecumenism, and we learned about different faiths. not to the same depth as our own - but i was fortunate, because we learned from a standpoint that was objective. never once did i hear, 'they are wrong, we are right" And it was fascinating - and helped me understand the belief systems members of other religious groups were so invested in. i think creationism as a study of the bible taken literally is equally fascinating, and am not at all adverse to it's teaching as part of courses in ecumenism.
        because i had the knowledge, i am definitely not personally offended, for instance, when a person of a certain faith tells me "convert or be damned to hell" because i know what motivates them. and i don't feel critical of them either, or as though i have to convince them of my beliefs.

        to listen, to learn, to appreciate the vast diversity in people remains such a tough practice for human beings.

        i've often thought that most religions would just cease to BE if they actually met their goals of converting the world to their viewpoint. after that task was completed - what is left to actually do?
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          Nov 25 2011: QUOTE: "I wonder - will a utopian society exist if we can simply RESIST the urge to try to "convert" others?"

          Speaking poetically, we could say I live in Utopia ... and have done for 40 years or so (with periodic excursions to dystopia to pick up supplies.)

          I accept that not everyone lives in their own personal Utopia.

          So will a Utopian society exist? It does now ... at least for one person. (And I suspect I am not alone but do not wish to speak for others.)

          Your education sounds enlightened and would be an excellent model we might consider implementing on a wider scale. Daniel Dennett proposes just such a curriculum in a TED talk on the subject.

          I do agree that acceptance is key - to a lot of things. And, personally, I have no problem if someone believes the world is 6000 years old or that Jesus died for their sins. I do not agree with such assertions but I do not mind if anyone believes in them. I do mind if they are presented as absolute truths.

          I recall a conversation here on TED were someone said essentially: "I believe in Jesus, the Bible, Heaven, Hell, etc."

          My only comment was, "Cheers." There is no point of disagreement if someone tells you what they believe. They know what they believe.

          Now, if someone says the Bible is inerrant, or that Jesus died for MY sins, I will (usually) enter into a discussion with such a person because the Bible is clearly "errant;" and the whole concept of redemption and salvation is not one I accept.

          However, even though I might engage in a discussion, I do not expect to change anyone's mind.

          It would be irrational of me to have such an expectation.
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    Nov 21 2011: Reason.