Monday, January 26, 2009

You Don't Have the Right to Your Opinion

If you're like most Americans, you were told many times that "everyone has a right to their opinion." In a legal sense, that's true, although expressing that opinion can sometimes have negative consequences for your career: for example, if you're a meteorologist, expressing skepticism about the human-induced climate change theory is essentially career suicide. But it's not really accurate.

If you research a subject intensively and get information from multiple independent sources, then you do in fact, have a right to your opinion because you've earned it. But what if you haven't done the research? Or what if all your sources draw the same conclusion and you haven't considered any alternative viewpoints? Or if your opinion is just "common sense?" In that case, you do have an opinion, but it's not really your own. Especially if it's just common sense, because that usually means that it's so obvious to you given what you've seen and heard that any opposing viewpoint is simply inconceivable.

So do you have the right to your opinion? Yes, but sometimes "I don't have enough information to know for sure" is the correct answer.

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