When Facts and Opinions Collide

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

― Harlan Ellison

I like this. 

I’ve always found it very hair-tearingly frustrating, when attempting a friendly but serious discussion with someone who is unable to defend their position on a subject, when presented with facts and figures that demonstrate, if not prove, their position wrong, to have them say, “Well, that’s my opinion, ” as if that settles everything. 

Well, it sorta does, doesn’t it? There’s just no profit in attempting or continuing a discussion with someone who refuses to consider the possibility that they may be wrong. (Of course, it goes without saying that you, yourself, are always open to be persuaded, naturally!)

It’s one thing to steadfastly hold an opinion on those things that are beyond observation and, therefore, measure – the existence of God, example – but to refuse to concede to demonstrable proof on a subject that can be observed and measured is beyond the pale. Even lacking demonstrable proof, a preponderance of evidence should be sufficient to convince someone that their position is weak and needs further research instead of blind belief.

Climate change comes to mind: there are conflicting results from academic/scientific studies as to the nature and extent of the causes of the exacerbated climate changes around the world, but when those studies financed or run by individuals or groups on either side of the argument who have vested interests (financial or political, for example and are therefore biased) are dismissed, the preponderance of evidence still shows there is a significant change from what has been normal in the past and to hold the “opinion” that it isn’t so is simply ignorant.

Even in a court of law absolute proof is not required for conviction of a crime, circumstantial evidence that rises to the level of above “reasonable doubt” is sufficient for a judgement of guilt. And there is no reasonable doubt to substantiate any opinion that there are no unusual climate change occuring, that I’m aware of.

I mean, the disappearing ice in the Arctic Circle, and the unprecedented calving (that’s the size of the state of Delaware) of a section of the Antartic ice shelf the other day, both due to warming ocean temperatures, the significant increase of violent storms and their intensity in parts of the world – and the desertification and extreme heat waves in other parts – should be convincing in and of itself that something is happening.

And the evidence is that mankind is at least, to some degree, partially responsible in several ways, principally through the accumulative effects of the burning of fossil fuels dating back to the onset of the Industrial Revolution. But that’s another debate that in no way lessens the fact the Earth is undergoing a world-wide climate change.

I have never known just what to say to those who believe that their opinion is a valid response to fact. But now, with the above quote, I now have the perfect comeback to “Well, that’s my opinion”, to those people that I otherwise have no vested interest in, who insist on continuing to argue a point without factual basis. 

They may become so offended by it that they won’t ever speak to me again, but that’ll be okay by me. There’ll be fewer ignorant people in my life who refuse to think and who only accept the judgements of other equally benighted naysayers. Life is too short to waste my time on them. I know that sounds rather imperious, but as the expression goes, you can’t fix stupidity.

Now, how to say the same thing, only nicely and without offense, to those I do have and want to keep in my life, but who are just as hard-headed?

Maybe there’s no safe way. I guess I’ll just have to smile and let it go, and find some innocuous subject to talk about.

So long as it’s not the weather.

– Bill


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