Skip to main content

You are not entitled to your opinion

Thanks to Prof. Joe Barranco for linking to an excellent, short article called No, You Are Not Entitled to Your Option. The author nicely articulates a feeling I've had for a while: "You are not entitled to your opinion, you are only entitled to what you can argue for."

This is something that is almost trivial when it comes to scientific beliefs among scientists. No one would ever give a colloquium talk and say, "Well, it's my opinion that the Big Bang never happened. I know everyone else says otherwise, and I know there's tons of evidence in support of it and that many different areas of science rest on the truth of an expanding universe. But, look, I just feel that it's not true, and I'm entitled to my opinion." Nope. Sorry. It doesn't work that way.

For anyone to challenge something like the Big Bang---or even something actually debatable, such as whether the initial mass function of stars is universal or not---they would need to present evidence to back that belief. This is obvious. It's just good science.

However, I find it interesting that even scientists fall victim to the mentality of "well, I'm entitled to my opinion" when it comes to non-science issues, such as teaching methodology or whether certain traditions should change or why students behave certain ways.

And, of course, we see this mentality quite a bit among politicians, particularly on one side of the aisle, when it comes to their level of belief in certain science-based conclusions about our world. Take the climate-change deniers, anti-evolutionists on the Texas and Kansas school boards, or anti-vax people who think that vaccines cause autism. As stated in the article

So what does it mean to be “entitled” to an opinion? 
If “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” just means no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial. No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven. 
This isn't just elitist, high-minded academic thinking. Adhering to the rule of entitlement to only opinions you can defend is the only way that we can reach sound conclusions about our world. There are truths out there. The world does, in fact, work a certain way, and we can figure this out. But only if we are to be intellectually honest and avoid sloppy thinking that allows us to wiggle out of uncomfortable challenges of our beliefs. I'm saying this to myself as much as preaching to the choir that is my audience :)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from NBA.com, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:


I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

\begin{equation}
x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)
\end{equation}

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…