Monday, February 09, 2009

Misfortunes of the present age #1

That everyone has an opinion on everything. Tiring, don't you find?

I suspect this is what was behind this rant I found via Norm:
"I don’t believe I have the right to an opinion about something I know nothing about—constitutional law, for example, or sailing — a notion that puts me sadly out of step with a growing majority of my countrymen, many of whom may be unable to tell you anything at all about Islam, say, or socialism, or climate change, except that they hate it, are against it, don’t believe in it."
Norm's comments are to the point. It got my attention because pupils go on about their right to their opinion quite often. I won't tell you what I usually say to them because you'll worry your children are being subjected to slow-death by sarcasm - with some justification.

It's the old failure to distinguish between rights and duties, innit? People wouldn't get themselves into such a mess if they got this but it isn't very well understood, in my experience. People do indeed have a right to their opinion - it's the idea that this creates some corresponding obligation on my part, as if everyone's opinion was equally valid and equally worthy of respect. Clearly they're not.

Some of today's youth get really quite offended if you say this - so you have to explain it to them. Very slowly. You're entitled to your opinion that the world is flat but I'm afraid it's round. The evidence is copious as it is overwhelming. Plus I've seen it on the telly and I'm afraid the whole faked moon-landings isn't an opinion I'm going to waste precious minutes of my life listening to.

Frankly some adults aren't much better. We see this in the whole 'respecting other people's beliefs' thing. I believe this, therefore I'm entitled to your respect. Afraid not. You can believe, for example, that every word of the Bible is true if you wish but the law of non-contradiction, which is essential for coherent thought, makes it really rather difficult to respect this view, especially when it becomes obvious that the holder of this opinion hasn't read the damn thing all the way through.

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