No, You're Not Entitled to Your Opinion

by TessaSchlesinger

If you're tired of people who believe that just because they can open their mouths, they're entitled to their opinion, read on...

It was Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; who wrote the immortal line, "“All opinions are not created equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others" and it was Patrick Stokes, a professor at Deakin University in Australia who has said, "You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for." Opinions, these days, are two a penny, and most of them aren't worth the air they move when voicing them. So why are all opinions not created equally, and why should some people just keep their opinions to themselves?

The History of Opinion

Informed opinion

In the days of peasants and kings, certainly the peasants were not entitled to an opinion. If they opened their mouths to voice what they thought, they might well have paid for that opinion by losing their lives. That is how freedom of speech came to be. It was to enable people - generally in terms of religion and politics - to say things without getting executed or arrested for treason.

Those were the roots of freedom of speech, however, and the term, 'opinion' meant something completely different. Opinion has its roots in academia, and in the way that people begin to shorten expressions in order to speed up conversation, the phrase, 'informed opinion' just became opinion. But opinion was always meant to be informed, and today, for the most part, it is not.

In these days, a conversation can go something like this...

Child 1: There's no such person as Father Christmas. It's just your parents giving you your presents.

Child 2. Oh, yes, there is. I got presents last year and my dad said it was Father Christmas.

Child 1: Just because you got presents doesn't mean that Father Christmas delivered them. Did you actually see Father Christmas?

Child 2. No, I didn't see Father Christmas, but one has to believe.

Child 1: Have you checked out whether Father Christmas actually lives by doing a search for him on the web?

Child 2. I saw Father Christmas at the shopping mall. He definitely lives.

Child 1; That was just an ordinary man pretending to be Father Christmas.

Child No. 2. Look, I'm entitled to my opinion.

That kind of conversation can drive anyone who bases what they say either on solid confirmed information or deductive logic crazy. The kind of people who invariably come up with "Well, I'm entitled to my opinion" seldom know the difference between a fact, an informed opinion, or just plain saying what they like.

Saying what one likes isn't necessarily an opinilon. And, yes, of course one can say what one likes, but to call it an opinion when it flies in the face of evidence and deductive logic is nothing but a whisper in the wind, is a bit of a reach.

You're entitled to your own opinion when it makes sense...

Some People's Opinions are Insignificant...

No Comments From the Peanut Gallery

Everybody has heard the saying "no comments from the peanut gallery." It essentially means that any comments from a particular group of people are without worth because their opinions are insignificant and not worth listening to.

That is as true today as it was when the idiom came into being.

So why do some feel that they're entitled to an opinion even when there is no worth to their opinion?

Essentially, it's ignorance. It's the result of having grown up in a culture which has confused a combination of equality before the law, freedom of speech, and informed opinion with UN-informed chatter..

Let's look at what some other's have to say about so many who believe ardently that they have a right to present their uninformed opinion as if it were informed opinion.

The Impossibility of Arguing With Some People.

When to press the delete button.

There is an article on the Wells Law Blog in which the writer (an attorney) states, "This refers to a person who basically refuses to defend their position, preferring to demand respect for an opinion because dammit, it’s their opinion."

As a writer, I know that side of things only too well. I will write either an article which is well supported factually with many links there to confirm what I'm saying, or I will use a step by step deductive logical process to show my reasoning. What will happen? Someone will come to the comments section and say, "I disagree with this" and then come up with some piece of indoctrinated cliche or the propaganda of the day. If one shows the flaws in this 'opinion,' the response will be something like, "Well, we can agree to disagree" or "I'm entitled to my opinion."

David Wells (the attorney) then says, "I have yet to encounter a situation where it is not a craven attempt by someone who cannot defend their position to cast the attention back on the person who is kicking their butt."

I agree. I've lost count of the times where people who cannot defend their opinion will resort to 'their right to their opinion.'

Yes, they may have a right to their opinion. However, they do not have a right to waste my time, and that is why, recently, I have made the policy just to delete all indefensible opinions from any article which I write.

You're entitled to your own opinion - on your own page - not on someone elses!

No, You Can't Have a Conflicting Opinion on My Page!

Non-experts are not permitted the same platform as experts.

In this particular section, I'm going to be quoting Patrick Stokes who wrote on the website The Conversation which "provides independent analysis and commentary for academics and researchers."

He maintains that the trite saying that everybody is entitled to their opinion when that opinion cannot be defended is dangerous for society because it is causing a situation in which the information of non-experts is becoming increasingly confused with the information coming from experts.

Mr. Stokes touches on what I said about the history of opinion when he says, "Plato distinguished between opinion or common belief (doxa) and certain knowledge, and that’s still a workable distinction today: unlike “1+1=2” or “there are no square circles,” an opinion has a degree of subjectivity and uncertainty to it. But “opinion” ranges from tastes or preferences, through views about questions that concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions."

He points out that increasing numbers of people expect to have their views on science and other issues respected just because they have an opinion, when, in fact, they have absolutely no knowledge as to what they are talking about.

The full piece can be read on The Conversation Website and it is suggested that if you want to comment on this article, that you read all the links which are provided so that you have an informed opinion. All other comments will be deleted.

Everyone is NOT entitled to their own facts.

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts"

The frustration in dealing with so many people who feel entitled to their own opinion is that their opinion is not based on facts, and all opinion should, most decidedly be based on facts. It is not an opinion if it is not based on fact. It's mere poppycock and the ramblings of an uninformed mind. 

People who have no training and no knowledge of a topic have no more moral right to having their opinion accepted as equal in worth to that of an authority on a topic, than a five year old has the right to dictate the sexual activity of his parents.

"Entitled to my opinion" used by people who lose arguments...

Do you have an opinion?

When to present your opinon

An informed opinion comprises either knowledge and/or deductive reasoning plus the ability to express that information in such a way that it effectively counters the argument.

Religious beliefs, therefore, cannot be argued in terms of opinion because there is no factual information involved. Factual information is information that can be replicated, can be observed (it's not circumstancial), or has been witnessed by numerous people. 

Only present an opinion when...

  1. You have read the article. This does not mean scanning it or looking at the headline. It means you have read the article thoroughly and have clicked on the accompaning referral articles to see what they say. Why? Because what you might want to say could be covered and it's obvious to the writer that you haven't read the article when you cover ground that has already been covered. Also, you might assume the article says something that it doesn't.
  2. When you're an expert on the topic. If you're not an expert and all you've got is from TV coverage and what your social network says, get out of the kitchen. You're not entitled to comment on climate change unless you've actually looked at the science. So don't comment.
  3. You can ask a question to clarify what the writer is saying. 
  4. You can point out an erronious 'fact' with evidence and/or you can point out faulty logic and explain why it is faulty.

To think you have an opinion just because you want to repeat what the media is saying, and/or what your friends and religion/political party is saying is not a well informed opinion. It's indoctrination. An opinion requires solid research and much thinking... To pass a comment just because you want to be part of the conversation if you don't have anything valid to say is simply not okay. Well, not for me, anyway.

People do not want to change their opinions. They just want to change yours....

New Study on People with False Beliefs

...."a new study suggests that this type of tool may not be a panacea for dispelling inaccurate beliefs, particularly among people who already want to believe the falsehood. ....

"The problem with trying to correct false information is that some people want to believe it, and simply telling them it is false won’t convince them,  .... For example, the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States was widely believed during the past election season, even though it was thoroughly debunked."



Why I Now Delete Comments

No Comments from the Peanut Gallery

I detele certain comments because the people who make them are not interested in learning anything new. They simply want to present their own point of view (which they can do on their own blog or site). They have no intention of even reading or studying the information given to them. When one disproves their current point, they don't acknowledge defeat, they just find another angle. It's tiring, and I truly do not have the energy or a stomach for it.

As noted throughout this article, this isn't only my issue. Many people get tired of the incessant contradiction. Also, as the above study indicates, there really is no intention of 'learning' or 'changing their minds.' So, truly, it's just a waste of time for everybody.

Of course, positive comments where there is agreement is acceptable, as are comments with accredited information which disputes what I am saying. Logical deduction which shows errors in my reasoning is also welcome... 

Over to you.

Updated: 10/04/2013, TessaSchlesinger
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TessaSchlesinger on 07/20/2015

Frankbeswick, you're correct. Sorry so late in response. Just found your comment now.

frankbeswick on 04/10/2015

Some people use the phrase that they are entitled to their opinion as a means of justifying their position. It isn't, for it justifies nothing. However, it contains a truth that all are entitled to think and hold opinions, but they have a duty to think about their views in order to hold them. However, the opposite fault is to restrict the right of holding opinions to academics, who can be quite snobbish.

I would not rely on Plato for a discussion of opinion, as Plato's idiosyncratic view of opinion was that it concerned facts about the material world, and he contrasted it with Noesis, knowledge of the forms of things, and dianoia, knowledge of mathematical forms not derived from the form of the Good. Nowadays we restrict opinion to statements of belief that can be justified, but not proved, which contrasts it with knowledge, which is characterized by proof.

TessaSchlesinger on 04/09/2015

Country Sunshine, you are quite correct. Few people realize that the word 'opinion' means a deduction made from facts. In other words, 'legal opinion,' was the result of understanding the laws and applying it to a situation. Most people don't have opinions. They think that what they feel, hear from others, or are brainwashed into believing, are opinions. They aren't. :)

CountrySunshine on 04/09/2015

The thought comes to mind that when a person says "my opinion" s/he are actually talking about what they feel. It is important to base your opinion on facts rather than emotions. Nice, and interesting article. It provides food for thought!

TessaSchlesinger on 04/11/2013

Thank you, Katie. :)

katiem2 on 04/11/2013

Hummm the ego is a funny creature. I always say other peoples opinions of me are none of my business. Great Read! :)K

TessaSchlesinger on 04/10/2013

Catana funny enough, the first time I heard the phrase was in 1996 and it floored me! But, yes, it's been around for about two decades now!

TessaSchlesinger on 04/10/2013

Thank you, Catana. Yes, I absolutely have frightened everybody away. I didn't mean to. I was just so sick and tired of those people who have been indoctrinated past a particular school of thought and they cannot present evidence for their position.

It's actually very easy to spot when someone has been indoctrinated.

If you ask them for the step by step logical deduction and the verified research for their position, they will either a) attack your character b) change the direction and topic.

The reason they do that is because they honestly don't know why they believe what they believe.

I prefer to interact with people who have actually thought things through and have the evidence to back it. They also know the difference bewteen factual evidence and propaganda.

And, of course, there are many of them around. But, unfortunately I scared them away as well. Pity. There were some really good people who had great insights! :)

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