Thursday, February 6, 2014

All Opinions Are Not Equal

What's up with news stories with totally inaccurate attention grabbing headlines? 

For the past couple of days, headlines have proclaimed some variation of the following headline, Obamacare Will Cost 2.5M Workers by 2024. However, if you read the articles, it becomes clear that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not conclude that the ACA was a causative factor in the decrease of workers. The CBO concluded the reduction in worker hours was almost entirely because of workers choosing to work less. According to the CBO report, “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business’ demand for labor."

The problem is straightforward. A lot of people never read past a story's headline so their conclusions are based on a misleading headline. Some of those who read the article have poor reading comprehension skills and come away still believing that the ACA will cause 2.5 million people to lose their jobs. All of these misinformed people like to share their invalid information and the chain of people firmly believing information that is false grows by leaps and bounds. Couple that with the American belief in individualism and that all opinions are equally valid, and ill-informed opinion becomes fact for millions.

I think one of the dumbest statements that I see far too often is, "I'm entitled to my opinion." When people declare, "I'm entitled to my opinion," what they really mean is my opinion is of equal value to all other opinions.

There's no entitlement to be ignorant. If my opinion is that a giant turtle carries the world on his back around the sun, then my opinion has no value; it's worthless. Stating that I'm entitled to have it doesn't make it have merit. It's still worthless and of no value. 

All opinions are not equal. We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that they are. All we need do is examine how many publicly funded schools in multiple states are allowed to teach creationism under state science education standards as an alternative to evolution. Additional states are poised to pass legislation this year to expand the science curriculum to include creationism.

Replacing intellectual analysis with personal opinion undermines our ability to make decisions based on facts and knowledge rather than belief. Ethics play second fiddle to a mish-mash of personal beliefs and emotions about groups of which we are not a member. A key tenet of our constitution's Bill of Rights is that the government shall not establish or govern religion, yet hot button issues such as abortion and gay marriage that divide us at present, center around the attempt of some Christians to impose their belief system on our system of secular law.

We have many issues confronting us that we must address as a nation and as a part of the world. Climate change is a reality, not an abstract theory. Access to clean water, clean energy, and clean air are essential to the survival of all of this planet's inhabitants. Working together is necessary, but to do so we have to develop diplomatic strategies and policies for resolving our differences and not fall back on wars and police actions as problem solvers. We need to work collectively on solutions to these issues, not cling to opinions shaped by misinformation and narrow belief systems that we have elevated to the level of absolute fact.


cmbsweden said...


Jeff Winbush said...

You can be sure you will see that "2 Million Will Lose Their Jobs Due to Obamacare" phrase repeated time and again in GOP attack ads when the Congressional election season revs up in the spring. Of course every fact is not the truth, but as it has been proven time and again it is very fortunate for politicians that most people do not think. Or bother to read either.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Also, may I add to your fine discussion what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: "You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."

The media do a terrible job in this area, and especially on this story.

Phyllis ZG said...

This piece has immediately moved to the top of my favorite "Examined Life" blog posts. The ugly end result of this train wreck of rational thought processes is that, when confronted with facts that refute their beliefs, the response of the ignorant is to deny the facts because "they come from a biased source." The old chestnut "Don't confuse me with the facts" is no longer a joke.

Sally Bowman said...

Thank you very much. This says it better than any other writer out there. Your final paragraph is tremendous.

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Bob said...

I agree with your core premise, all opinions are not equally valid on every subject. However, I think I see you fall victim to that to which you object, and which Moynihan most eloquently addressed: "You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts." For example, You repeat an assertion about jobs lost because of Obamacare and debunk it on the basis of first order effects, failing to note the second order effect that millions of people are leaving the job market because Obamacare both increases income from not working and makes job creation more expensive. Mixing issues, in this case, the objective argument about validity of all opinions with a political issue on which you hold a biased opinion that leaks through like a split water pipe. Similarly on climate change.