Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Failure of the Day: Opinions and Facts

This is weird to me: by and large, people, even intelligent and well-educated people, cannot tell the difference between their opinions and facts.

I don’t mean things like “green beans taste bad,” or “REM used to be great but now I am kind of embarrassed for them,” which are opinions that serve as facts to the person holding the opinion. I mean things like whether there is a god and when life begins. You know—the stuff that’s totally pointless to talk about at all. But I’m blogging about it because my author is late with his chapter again and I have time to kill.

I understand why people like to have opinions about these things, and they are entitled, after all, but it still surprises me that people believe they can know the truth about them just by forming opinions. And the idea that they can legislate their opinions so it is in effect illegal to disagree with something that has no proof either way strikes me as downright silly. Faith (which of course is what we are really discussing here) is by definition irrational, and the law must at least attempt to be rational…Is that not the ballgame for any arguments against the absolute separation of church and state?

Of course, I have opinions about these things too, just like everybody. But because I am not omnipotent, I don’t assume that my believing a thing is true makes it so. And that’s the step that almost nobody else takes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why, especially given the propensity of people to cultivate opinions about things despite having not one single shred of actual information about it. So now everyone thinks Scott Peterson “is” guilty even though no one has seen any evidence either way. Because he, y’know, seems guilty. And because the TV people keep telling us that he is, especially that awful Nancy Grace, but that’s a whole other issue.

Some people have the perfectly fine opinion that life begins at conception, and other people have different but also perfectly fine opinions about when life begins. The two groups have a lot in common—for instance, neither can prove their opinions in any way. They have just one weensie difference between them: the former are trying to make it illegal for the latter to disagree with them.

In the end, even if I weren’t inclined to disagree with the notion that it is okey dokey to force women to be human incubators for children they do not want, I would like to think that I would side with choice if for no other reason than that position does not seek to make acting on one’s beliefs illegal.

This was a totally useless post, but I feel better now.


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