Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sometimes Your Opinions Are Wrong. (NaBloPoMo)

Dispair! Horror! Woes!!

I missed posting yesterday and have thusly and therefore forgone perfection for NaBloPoMo.  But alas, one must put on one’s big girls panties and soldier on.

I hear there’s been an election result that might actually throw humanity back into the stone ages. So, on the plus side, at least I’m not responsible for that, right?

Which brings me to my rare blog rant. I don’t use this blog for non-book rants very often (although see here for a word related one and check this one out about mental illness in books).

This rant is about opinions and ideas.

In grade school, elementary school teachers often tell children that opinions are things that can’t be wrong, can’t be proven. They say that all opinions are valid and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This is a safe thing to do with elementary school children because they don’t really know anything at all, AND because what they are fighting over is whether strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream. It is, by the way. So, then as children we put the words "I think" in front of things so we can say "that's my opinion, all opinions are valid!" in order to win an argument.

What teachers really mean is not that all opinions are valid, but that usually, people should be allowed to have their own PREFERENCES. Unless they have made a pact with Satan and think that avocados are edible. They clearly are not.

However! As humans get older, they are actually supposed to learn things. With this increased knowledge and ability to reason, their opinions start to be informed by actual facts and information. And because of access to information and the amount of time different people spend gathering that information, some people’s opinions are actually better formed than other peoples. This is why we go to doctors when there is a weird pain in our chests. Because when they say “I think it might be your heart” it means something different than when your 20 year old high at 2pm nephew says it.

Ok. What does this have to do with anything, you wonder? Well. Multiple things.

We know a lot about humanity and how people interact with one another. We know a shit ton about the different systems that people are in and how these systems (education, family, political, legal, justice, etc.) impact people both individually as well as on a grand scale. We know about global warming, police brutality, and gender as a social construct.

For a random person to say “I DON’T THINK” in front of “THERE IS GLOBAL WARMING” doesn’t make that a valid opinion. It makes that person wrong. For an environmental expert to say it, it might mean that they have a different way of looking at the data, but that they are an expert suggests that they actually know what that data is. You, as a regular person with regular people knowledge of land, sea, air and fracking, can still think that, but your opinion is not as valid as other people who actually know the science.

If you say “I THINK BLACK PEOPLE ARE INCARCERATED MORE THAN OTHER RACES BECAUSE THEY ARE BIOLOGICALLY PREDISPOSED TO BE MORE CRIMINAL,” you are wrong. It’s actually counter to the data we have on people across races from biological, social, psychological, and even justice systems. You can still think that, but your opinion is probably not based in the facts. It’s also racist but that’s a whole other thing to rant about.

To say “I THINK THAT SPANKING CHILDREN WITH WHIPS IS UNLIKELY TO CAUSE THEM PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE LATER IN LIFE” is wrong. You can still beat your kids (likely illegally in most states). But your understanding of the data is wrong. You might have been beaten as a child and turned out fine. That doesn't actually change what we know about the increased risk of problems associated with spanking.

And finally, you can say that you think “words are just words” and that it “doesn’t matter what people say” and that “representation doesn’t matter” and that “my feelings are the most important thing to consider in making a decision” but those things are just not supported by the actual evidence or the state of the world. I know this whole thing flies in the face of your early childhood thinking. But, I bet you can also think of times when you looked back on an opinion you held, after getting new information or trying something out, and thought "wow, I was wrong about that." At least, I hope you have. That's the shit I'm talking about!

Feel free to drop your thoughts and feelings below. 

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