Is Your Opinion As Valid As Mine?

Having a disagreement with someone is the best way to Find out if you’re wrong about something. And there’s no better way to learn something new.

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I love debating. Not for the purpose of proving that I’m right, but for the purpose of both understanding why other people believe what they do, and to test the validity of my own conclusions.

One of my greatest frustrations when debating is the claim that “my opinion is just as valid as yours.” Essentially, they assume that because they believe it to be true, it should have equal standing with everyone else’s opinions. And they’d get terribly offended that you’d dare to infer that your opinion is more valid than theirs.

Now, let me begin by stating that I consider that you have the right to believe anything you want, so long as such a belief does not harm others. You can believe that the Earth is flat or that the moon landing was faked or that only your belief in god is valid.

There are, rather surprisingly, people in developed nations who still believe that the Earth is flat. While they have every right to have that opinion, or that belief, they do not have the right to consider their conclusions as having equal validity with those who have concluded that the Earth is a sphere. There is just so much evidence supporting the latter claim, while there is so little supporting the former.

Consider the global warming debate. Now, I know that some of my readers (hopefully a minority) will be of the opinion that global warming is a fraud. Certainly, we’ve had plenty of politicians doing their best to convince us of this. How many times have I heard such people begin their objection with, “I’m not a scientist, but…”

You can believe that the Earth is flat or that the moon landing was faked or that only your belief in god is valid.

Here’s the thing, over 95% of climate scientists—those most qualified and able to interpret the data—are in agreement that global warming is a real thing. When someone quotes a scientist who disagrees with those findings, that person is almost never a climate scientist. Instead, they are usually someone working in an entirely different field.

We are told, over and over, that the opinion of politicians (who by their own admission don’t understand the science) or of scientists who don’t actually study the climate, should be given equal weight with the opinions of scientists who have studied this in great detail, and who have tons of evidence to support their claims.

How to address this issue? It’s actually very simple, and it’s what I always try to do. When someone makes a claim that you believe to be untrue, don’t attack them, don’t say they’re wrong, don’t mock them…just ask them to present the actual evidence that they have for their claim. Then present your evidence.

If your evidence is greater than theirs, then you’ll feel comfortable in concluding that your opinion or belief is better than theirs. If their evidence is greater than yours, then congratulations! You’ve just learned something new, and should look into this further.

In my own experience, people tend to be fairly good at the first part; but quite poor at the latter. It’s easy to conclude “I’m right.” It’s far more difficult to conclude “I could be wrong.” If you’re going to be critical of others for believing things when the evidence indicates they are wrong, aren’t you obliged to make the best effort to correct yourself when the evidence indicates that you could be wrong?

Please avoid the ignorance/arrogance of assuming that just because you believe something is true, it should automatically be considered equally seriously with all other claims. The validity of your belief is directly proportional to the amount of evidence you have for it, compared with the amount of evidence for competing claims.

Is it possible, even after all of that, that I am wrong about some things? Absolutely. In fact, I’m 100% certain that there must be some things that I think are true, but actually are not. It could be because I have the wrong evidence, or because I don’t have enough evidence. But that is true of every human being on the planet, nobody is 100% right about everything.

Category Op-Ed