By ANDREW WANG
“No, you’re not entitled to your opinion.”
That’s the title of an article that I, alongside 30 or so of my fellow second-period Philosophy classmates, was subjected to by Mr. Stafford.
It sounds absolutely outrageous, but the title makes it seem more intense than it really is. What I’ve gathered from the reading is that the weight of an idea or opinion should only be worth as much as the amount of evidence supporting it. By extension, opinions that are backed with little to no evidence deserve little to no “respect.”
If I walk downtown and start screaming about how dinosaurs don’t exist or about how the Earth is flat, people would be right to ridicule that “opinion.” I’m sure most people would agree with me that neither of these claims should be taken seriously due to the utter void of evidence supporting them.
In casual American political discourse, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “respect my opinion.” Of course, there are many scenarios where opposing beliefs are justifiable if they both have some ground to stand on. It should be known that I am in no way trying to dismiss the concept of ending a discussion in this way so long as substantive points are made. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is agree to disagree.
Unfortunately, to some people this means that they can protect their indefensible opinions under the shield of “just respect my opinion, bro” or “so much for tolerance.” Asking someone to respect your opinion is not an argument. Instead, provide evidence to support your opinion. If you can’t do that, research it more to find some evidence, and if that fails, maybe you should reconsider having that opinion in the first place.
It might seem like I’m complaining for the sake of complaining, but there are reasons to recognize that not all opinions hold equal weight. In order to maintain the integrity of discussion, unfounded beliefs should not be given the deference that is prescribed to meticulously researched ones.
In the real world, this concept usually pertains to those who reject scientific findings, such as flat-earthers, climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers. Of course, we’re also witnessing in real time an astounding number of people who buy into conspiracy theories that COVID-19 is a vastly exaggerated hoax or that it was created by foreign governments to destroy America. These people fly in the face of every scientific and medical professional, and their opinions simply do not deserve respect.
In a similar vein, people often have beliefs that may be defensible, but they’re unable to articulate why. These individuals are also prone to resorting to the catch-all “respect my opinion” excuse once they run out of justifications.
Of course, the remedy here is to simply be as well-researched as possible, but it seems more genuine and, in my opinion, more respectable when somebody admits that they are not informed enough to argue for their side, rather than falling back on a cheap cop-out.