If you consider yourself reasonably intelligent and have ever had to have an argument with the lesser fortunate, you’ve no doubt felt frustration with idiots who cling to their “right” to their “opinions”. Often they will even try to guilt you into letting go of the argument (undoubtedly better supported by evidence in your favour) by saying something along the lines of “Let’s just agree to disagree” or “You have the right to believe as you do, why can’t you respect my “right” to do the same”. Sound familiar? There are several problems with this way of thinking, and I think it’s about time we stop being politically correct and just address them at their core. Now, I’m not going to say that freedom of speech should be eradicated or that people should stop having opinions. I’m simply saying let’s IQ test people before we let them speak. Kidding… not really.
All opinions are not equal in value or relevance (not even close)
For reasons unknown to me, people seem to be under the impression that their opinions are relevant, irrespective of what they base them on. This might be due to them basing their opinions on something which – in the context of the topic of discussion – holds no innate value (i.e. using religion to argue against science), or it may be due to their opinions being based solely on what they’ve been spoon fed as children, never bothering to explore greater knowledge as adults, or perhaps something entirely different. Just about any area of science is a great example of people having opinions about things that they have no understanding of, especially – you guessed it – evolution! There is this ludicrous idea among anti-evolutionists (who typically are not educated in biology at all, and whose opinions on evolution always demonstrate how little they actually know and understand about the process “If I’m a monkey, why can’t I have babies with chimpanzees) that it is “only” a theory. They are not entirely incorrect. Evolution is indeed a theory, but a scientific theory doesn’t mean what the name implies, and therein lies the first misconception. Contrary to what some these anti-evolutionists might claim (“there is insufficient evidence to prove..”), there is evidence by the thousands, and indeed evolution is as much a “fact” as gravity. Only a fool would ignore the evidence. Unfortunately, we live in a world where fools are hardly a rarity. That, however, is only part of the problem. The other part is what we teach our children. The way current school systems work, we don’t teach scientific thinking before university level. We don’t teach adequate independent, critical thinking to our young. We don’t teach them to follow the evidence. We don’t teach them how to build solid arguments (from the base up). If they aren’t taught these things, how are they supposed to know? In order to make this simple to understand, I’ve designed an ingenious, high-tech visual aid to illustrate the difference between relevant and irrelevant opinions.
This simple model can be applied to all areas of life with few alterations. If you’re having a philosophical discussion for example, much of what you’re discussing might be hypothetical, ethical etc., but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t establish a solid base for your conclusion. A solid base is never baseless personal beliefs (like religious beliefs). For example, many religious people argue that being homosexual is unnatural, yet there is no evidence to support this. In fact, all evidence is to the contrary. Homosexuality is found in many, many different lifeforms, including the mammal known as Homo sapiens sapiens. Human sexuality, however, is much more complex than just “gay” or “straight”, but that’s for another blog post. Point is, it occurs naturally in nature – it’s not unnatural. To someone whose religion says otherwise, however, it is. “God didn’t intend it to be this way, it’s an abomination! It’s not natural!”. Sure, you might believe that it’s not natural, and that might be your opinion, however (as I already pointed out) you don’t have to look very far to see that it is (if you want to look far and are adept at reading scientific literature, read one of the many published research journals on the subject)! Which brings us to the problem with the next subject in today’s headline. While it is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of modern society, freedom of speech can also be very destructive, especially when seemingly intelligent people in power have an immense platform to propagate their baseless beliefs, influencing the minds of children and adults alike, making them hold beliefs that are ultimately detrimental to our advancement as a species, for example that evolution is “just” a theory, that being homosexual is an unnatural choice against god, and therefore they shouldn’t be afforded the same basic human rights as others, that a fetus is a person with feelings and therefore women shouldn’t be in charge of their own reproductive organs etc. It is the entitlement we feel to our beliefs and the willingness to blindly believe what we are told that validates this sort of thinking, and also enables places like The Creatonist Museum to be established, and that allows for “abstinence only” sex education in schools to flourish. If we let go of our egos and followed evidence, these crazy concepts wouldn’t even be conceived! This also goes for every day stupid opinions: if we taught children to be evidence focused, rather than dogmatizing them with fantastical beliefs that require nothing but “faith”, we would automatically be raising them into critically thinking adults, who would base their opinions on something solid, rather than dogmatized “morals”, who wouldn’t readily believe what their power-hungry politicians spoon fed them, and who – on a smaller scale – would be less inclined to gossip, as that is nearly always based on hearsay i.e. the stupid man’s evidence.
When we could be raising independent, critically thinking, highly intelligent, young adults, who would focus on evidence over “faith”, who would be able to make their own decisions as to when they were going to have a baby, and who wouldn’t hate other people based on their “unnatural ways”, we’re raising barely-teen parents, who think dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time (or that dinosaurs didn’t exist at all), and who love to gossip about their gay neighbours going to hell. OK, so those were two extremes, but while the former extreme is a rarity, the latter, while extreme, is disturbingly familiar, and in today’s society, both parties’ opinions are apparently equally “valid”. How does that work, exactly? Would my opinion on what would be the best treatment for someone with brain damage be thought of as equally relevant, valuable, and worthy of mention as that of a neurologist? Of course not! Why should it be any different for everyday life? What constitutes “unnatural” for religious people often holds no basis in reality. Why should opinions with no basis in evidence, only in faith, be shown any reverence in a world that only works the way it does, with planes, cars, internet, medication and everything else, because evidence based science holds up? Why should women not have complete rights over our own bodies, why shouldn’t gays be allowed to live in peace, and why shouldn’t we teach young people good sex education? Take away religious beliefs, look only at the evidence, and there is nothing left to argue against it, This is the problem with “opinions”. This is the problem with “beliefs”. Combine baseless opinions and beliefs, with freedom of speech, a flawed and inadequate educational system, add a democratic society, and you’re left with an open playing field for hateful people to negatively impact the lives of millions.
I’m obviously not saying that freedom of speech should be eradicated. I’m not saying I have a better alternative to democratic society (or that there is one). I’m just saying there are major flaws when these concepts are used and abused when people of disturbingly low intelligence end up in positions of power. In positions where they are able to influence the lives of millions. When abortion laws are dictated by religiously blind men, who the laws will never directly affect. When scientific advancement is halted by religious morals and ethics, by philosophical ideas of what “life” is, When religious beliefs are used as an excuse to take away the rights of men and women simply because of their sexual orientation.
I realize there’s a touch of irony in this blog post: I’m criticizing “opinions” whilst frequently venting my own in this and other posts (well, semi-frequently, at least). When holding these opinions, me being a blogger is in itself a bit ironic, or it would be if I wasn’t so incredibly right all the time. *smug smile* *self assured shrug*
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