Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Six Most Dangerous Words

And no, they're not "The Bush Administration has a plan." (Sorry, Molly Ivins.)

The six most dangerous words in the English language are, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." It's one of those stupid phrases people use to end debates, a way to conveniently duck any issues of whether or not they can coherently defend their opinion or articulately explain their problems with someone else's. It's a phrase only used by people who shouldn't use it, and it is, as a concept, devastating to political and cultural motion.

Think about it. I'm a creationist, whose last contact with science was senior year of high school. You're an evolutionary biologist who's spent every day of their lives keeping up with the latest developments in the field, and who knows backwards and forwards concepts it'd take me years to pick up on anything more than the most superficial level. Why should I be "entitled" to an opinion contrary to yours?

I'm a politician who's spent the last three years explaining how the leadership of a foreign nation possessed chemical weapons they could deploy against us, was attempting to obtain nuclear weapons, and was affiliated with a terrorist organization that had made strikes against our country. The evidence clearly and persuasively shows that I'm wrong, and possibly that I'm deliberately lying. Why should I be "entitled" to continue to hold those opinions?

I'm a religious activist with a belief that gay people are "dangerous" to human civilization, and must be dissuaded from their sexual inclination by any means necessary. My only evidence for this is an old book which I believe to be the inerrant word of the divine creator (and my only evidence for that is an old book which I believe to be the inerrant word of the divine creator, and my only evidence for that...) Why should I be "entitled" to hold to that belief?

Understand, I'm not talking about the right to free speech here. If you want to go around saying that black people are inferior to white people genetically, nobody can stop you, and nobody should be allowed to stop you. But that's not an opinion you should be allowed to hold unchallenged, and it's not an opinion you should be free to disseminate unopposed. Because the saying is 100% wrong. Nobody is entitled to their opinion. Everyone has to earn it by thinking about it, studying it, defending it, and considering it. And if you're not willing to do that, then no. You're not entitled to your opinion. But others are entitled to tell you to shut up.


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Anonymous said...

Well, let me depart from the comments you have gotten so far, and add something actually semi-pertinent. (-:

Harlan Ellison perhaps put it best: "you're not entitled to your opinion; you're only entitled to your INFORMED opinion. If you don't have one, shut up."

John Seavey said...

The above comments have been deleted not because they said things I disagreed with. I'd just respond to those. They were deleted because they were spam, and if people are going to post links to their ad sites, I want a little sugar for that action, thanks. :)

Stuart Douglas said...

Surely the six most dangerous words in the world are 'Adapted for audio by Gary Russell'? :)