Sunday, 1 January 2012

Opinions Are Not Sacred

Have you ever been in a debate with someone, it could be about anything at all, to have them say "Well, that's my opinion!" as if it trumped anything you could possibly say in response?

This is something that really frustrates me because, while I agree that everyone is entitled to hold their own opinion, that opinion is not sacrosanct. Having an opinion does not give you the right to completely ignore any debate against it, nor does it give you the right to stifle those who disagree with you.

Some people are of the opinion that black people are inherently inferior to white people, others argue that homosexuality is a choice, in the face of all research on the topic. Some people even go as far as to claim that Marmite is not delicious!

Should these opinions go without criticism?

Most people would say "Of course not," (except for the Marmite one, which is intended purely as a joke). But this is what the people who attempt to derail arguments and debates with "Everyone's entitled to their opinion" do; they open up the field for people holding these opinions to quash criticism before they receive it. There are opinions which discriminate against and, in extreme cases, are harmful to others.

In case you question how an opinion can be harmful, here is a real example:
Over the last year a number of gay teenagers across the U.S. committed suicide in a great tragedy. How many of them feared the opinions of those close to them? They genuinely thought they had no other options and so took the desperate step of ending their own lives.

It is incredibly similar to the Christian privilege in both the U.S. and Britain, which ends up with the Churches complaining of prejudice whenever they are criticised. In a society where they are not used to having anything bad said about them then anything said which isn't positive is decried as unfair.

This is not the case. It is fair to criticise opinions, especially the discriminatory ones. Everyone's opinions should be held up to scrutiny, reconsidered and re-evaluated based on the best available evidence. Unsurprisingly then the best outlook that presents itself is scepticism. Be sceptical about everything you believe and allow evidence to alter your opinions if you are presented with something which contradicts your previous position.  You may not even know that you are discriminating against someone with what you say and do, but as soon as you are made aware of it you should take your steps to change.

Then again, that's just my opinion...

Here endeth the rant...

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