What is So Wrong With Being Absolutely Right

This 2009 publication from Prometheus Books is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking books I’ve read in many years. The first item in the book website q & a is a definition of dogmatism:

Dogmatism is the practice of pronouncing one’s beliefs with rigid, arrogant certainty. Absolute certainty. Psychologically, it is considered a personality trait in which various aspects of evolution, biology, culture, and social learning predispose people to act as if they were the sole expert on a subject. Even in the face of convincing evidence that should give reason to pause, dogmatic people will not, as Churchill said, “change their minds or change the topic.” They simply refuse to see things any other way, and fail to consider the possibility they might be wrong.

Chapter 5, “Black-and-White Thinking,” lists thirteen characteristics of dogmatists:

Cognitive characteristics
1. An Intolerance of Ambiguity
2. Defensive, Cognitive Closure
3. Rigid Certainty
4. Compartmentalization
5. Lack of Personal Insight
Emotional characteristics
1. Belief-associated Anxiety or Fear
2. Belief-associated Anger
3. Existential Despair
Behavioral Characteristics
1. Preoccupation with Power and Status (as evidenced by behaviors)
2. Glorification of the In-group; Vilification of the Out-group
3. Dogmatic Authoritarian Aggression
4. Dogmatic Authoritarian Submission
5. Arrogant, Dismissive Communication Style

Although I read the book mainly in hopes of making sense of some of the challenges and trials of writing about religious history in a scholarly context, the issues of mixed ancestry community history are quite similar. Fortunately there does seem to be marked progress in terms of the openness and friendliness of online discussion of these issues. Slowly but surely the dogmatic voices are being replaced by those of openminded inquiry.