By Brian Gully
“Opinions are like __________, everybody has one.” You’ve probably heard the phrase and can fill in the blank to complete it. But how does the rest of it go? “They all stink!” It is a pretty empowering expression, and could be useful to brush off some negative remarks that might be interfering with the scheme of things, but is it valid?
Modern technology has made it possible for the opinions of others to become widespread and easily accessible. A Facebook comment or a status update is infinitely easier to write than an op-ed piece. This makes it easy to see that everyone does have an opinion. But they are not all equal.
Imagine you were diagnosed with a brain tumor and started to seek out some advice from others on what could be done about your ailment. The first opinion you receive is from your friend, a mechanic. He has a general idea of how parts work together in an operation, and through that knowledge, tells you how he would go about extracting the tumor.
Next, you seek the advice of your coworker. She isn’t sure how the brain works, but has access to a computer and could attempt to remove your tumor with the help of WebMD and some YouTube videos.
Finally, you meet the surgeon whom your doctor recommended. He tells you he’s practiced medicine for a little over 20 years and specializes in brain surgery. Whose opinion would you trust? Who do you want operating on your tumor?
This is a hyperbolic example, but important in illustrating that opinions are not all equal. The quality of an opinion should always be under critical observation to determine whether or not it is good or bad.
Recently, opinions have been given by anti-vaccination groups, climate change skeptics and others who believe scientific research is equivalent to a rumor written on a bathroom stall. They believe their own opinions automatically hold as much value as those who have dedicated their life to a certain field.
This is not to say that ideas should never be challenged. Some of the greatest scientific advancements have come to be because of the challenges made to theories that were previously accepted. For example, the discovery of penicillin only followed challenges to early medicine. Once doctors figured out that sickness did not come from evil spirits and instead came from germs, outstanding advancements were able to be made.
It’s true, everyone does have an opinion and it is easy for each opinion to be heard. Some of those opinions, just as the old expression goes, truly stink. An opinion’s true value (or lack of stink) has nothing to do with the size of a group or a celebrity endorsement. The quality opinion is, and should always be judged, on the research and experience that is supporting it.
Today, climate change is a subject that is still virtually ignored by one of the two major political parties in America. Even though a whopping 97 percent of scientists agree climate change is a growing threat brought on by humans, skeptical opinions by non-scientists seem unable to budge. Just a few of the scientific societies in consensus with this concept are NASA, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Physical Society. Members of these organizations have devoted their lives to scientific research, for the purpose of benefitting society as a whole. Their opinions are credible, and should be genuinely considered by all of us.