Are you entitled to your opinion?

One of the driving forces behind my Facebook discussion page and this blog is to distribute information and spawn civil discourse over important, difficult, and often divisive topics.

I do not have a problem with people offering up differing opinions.

I encourage it.

I hope to learn from the discussion and debates with them. I hope to gain a better understanding about the reasons for their views, I hope for the possibility that they’ll change mine or I theirs, or the possibility that by discussing with them my own views will become stronger in foundation, or that we’ll both become better able to articulate our views to help others understand. Agreement is not the driving force here, knowledge, understanding, and progress are.

I find myself frequently returning to an essay written by Patrick Stokes in 2012, entitled “No, You’re Not Entitled To Your Opinion.”

The premise of the piece was that we are, each of us, only entitled to those opinions which we can logically defend.

There is no need for any of us to waste our time on people whose opinions and views require an unwavering embrace of oft disproved talking points and emotional appeal rhetoric with no factual support. In fact there is great need to stop wasting our time and effort on such people with such views.

For example, if we want to have a discussion of religious faith vs evolution, there is little room any more for a literal interpretation of creationism.

But if one wanted to argue a metaphorical interpretation, one that assumed a “Day” in the week of creation from the perspective of a God might equate to a millennium or eon here. In which each biblical day of creation lasted for what humans would measure as a century or more, there might be enough merit to that argument to be worthy of exploring. If their concept of “intelligent design” incorporated a theory of a scientific trial and error or even a slow and methodical divine guidance that matched evolutionary theory’s pace instead of a literal instant creation, it would create more to delve and explore. But there’s no real reason for any of us to allow Ken Ham to waste any more of our time and resources on that literal interpretation of Genesis, nor his Dinosaurs on the Ark crap.

That’s nothing but a disingenuous manufactured ignorance designed to distract and delay the rest us from doing anything with the science and knowledge that’s already disproved such theories time and again. And as long as we entertain it, by giving it the faux legitimacy of open debate, we give it both credibility and exposure to a larger audience.

By doing so, we do far more harm to everyone, we delegitimatize our own arguments, and we encourage an ever expanding opposition of willfully manufactured ignorance.

The same is true of discussions of the risks of vaccine. There are risks, they should be discussed and explored intelligently, but we shouldn’t allow a repeatedly disproved claim that they all cause autism to create a resurgence of preventable diseases. Sadly, that is exactly what we’ve allowed to happen, but continuing to give print and airtime to those making that claim over and over again.

The same is true of people who claim that systemic racism doesn’t exist because they themselves haven’t actually knowingly benefited from it or been victimized by it. Despite all the overwhelming evidence of the imbalance of both enforcement and punishment based upon the systemic policies in place.

There is always room for dissent.

We should all be open to having our views challenged and either openly refuted or validated. Such discussion leads to greater understanding and new paths of inquiry.

We must stop giving credence to those who don’t want to increase knowledge and understanding, but to crush it and to stop our progress from it.

Right now, those people hold positions of policy making authority in our Republican presidential administration and directorships in our government’s national scientific agencies, and they’re making horrifically uninformed or ill-informed decisions to further their own personal agendas. In the process they’re waging a political war against science and knowledge.

If you believe such people deserve a voice in these discussions, then you’re part of the reason we’re moving backwards on so many issues that should already be far behind us.

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