Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Does Your Opinion Mean Anything?

The basics.

Oftentimes, getting back to them is harder than we think.

Consider, for example, the basics of how we develop an opinion about something.  Sometimes, an opinion can be entirely unsubstantiated and hollow, but it doesn't really matter.  Other times, however, our opinions need to be grounded in something other than merely our ability to articulate them.  If we want our opinion to mean anything, we need to appreciate the basics for constructing a rational thought.

So, what are the basics for constructing a rational thought?  Well, without getting too philosophical and technical, can't we agree that rational thought needs to be capable of withstanding at least an equally weighty counterpoint?  For our opinion to carry more weight than others, then, it should be based on something more robust than our own personal hopes and perspective.  Otherwise, why should anybody else pay any attention to us?

What it is that keeps us from simply babbling?  It's building a viewpoint on something more substantial than ourselves, or even a shared opinion among like-minded selves.  The basics for how we develop an opinion require that our opinion incorporates as much truth as we can understand about the topic at hand.

If you don't agree with that, then you're not going to agree with anything else I have to say.  And it probably means that you consider truth to be a relative concept.  Which, frankly, makes no sense, because for you to believe that truth exists in the idea that "truth is a relative concept" is a dead-end oxymoron.

You may not want to believe some things that are true, but that doesn't make those truths false.

Getting too heavy for you?  Then consider this practical illustration of my point from an exchange I've had on social media this week.  It involves a Facebook post from and a link to an article about the current transgender debate entitled What Jonathan Merritt Gets Wrong About Christians and the Transgender Debate.

Here was my original comment:  For all you intolerant writers who disparrage Brown's viewpoint, consider that he does NOT say trans-genderism doesn't exist! You've gotta actually read his article before you react with vitriol: "In short, we are simply not convinced that there is clear scientific evidence for transgender identification, OTHER THAN cases such as intersex individuals or those with biological or chromosomal abnormalities."

Now, here are the responses to my comment:
  • Reply from Ralph:  Brown gets to reap as he's sown, just like everyone else, Mr Laitinen. And so he shall.
  • Reply from Swanson:  There's no point in reading it. Anyone familiar with “Dr.” Brown knows that he has an extremely unhealthy and delusional obsession with anyone who is not a white, christian, cisgender, heterosexual person.
  • Reply from Parks:  Gee, Swanson, he's got a PhD and you just have a masters. (Didn't you just challenge me on the issue of my education?) So what do you have, a Masters Of Hypocrisy?
  • Reply from Ralph:  PhDs in "Near Eastern Languages" is hardly qualifying in terms of speaking on matters of biology, science or genetics. So your apples to oranges comparison FAILS, Parks.
  • Reply from Kirk:  He doesn't have a PhD in psychology or any medical or scientific field. He doesn't have an MD. He doesn't have a qualified opinion.
  • Reply from Cothran:  Parks hes got a phd in near eastern languages. Nothing in psych, medical, biology, or even religion. My opinion is just as valid as his
  • Reply from Swanson:  Parks, a PhD in "Near Eastern Languages" disqualifies him from commenting on medical, biological or psychological issues as much as your lack of education disqualifies you. There's also the issue of Brown's well-known drug addiction. My higher education in Medical Sciences informs that drug addiction can eventually lead to profound changes in neurons and synapses and irreversible neuron necrosis, with the potential of severely and permanently compromising regions of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning and memory. In other words, sit down, clowns. Both of you.
  • Reply from Adcock:   You [me, the Opinionated Layman] would be the intolerant writer. Refusing to tolerate your oppression is just good policy. Maybe you should learn to spell disparage before you use it in a sentence

Now, a couple of things:  First, if I was going to be snarky, my reply to Adcock would be, "Okay, I'll see your correction of my misspelling and raise you an ungrammatical sentence, since your last one ends without any punctuation."

After all, which is worse, in terms of grammatical errors?  My misspelling of "disparage," or Adcock's omission of punctuation at the end of his last sentence?  Who decides which is worse?  Or are they both fairly equal in terms of their ability to obstruct the flow of thought and information contained in each reply?

They're both fairly equal mistakes, right?  Because neither one confuses the reader about their respective author's train of thought.  And we accept such mistakes as the price we pay for sloppy typing in social media, my use of a word that is commonly misspelled (probably because it's not commonly used), and Adcock's socially-common practice of sending a social media text message with a minimal amount of punctuation.

Still too technical?  Well, sorry, but sometimes getting to the basics requires that we get a little technical.  And that takes a little bit of time, and some patience.  And the willingness to admit that we're not always right.

In terms of the broader perspective of transgenderism, however, can't we still apply the basics of legitimate opinionizing in crafting a solid reason for countering Adcock's point?  He accused me of being intolerant, and he tried to reason that refusing to tolerate my oppression is good public policy.

Which means he's believes that his opinion has more validity than mine.  But does it?

Let's ignore the fact that Adcock and the other people who replied to my comment really didn't address what I actually wrote.  They presumed that I'm entirely anti-transgendered people, when in fact, I was pointing out that transgenderism does exist, but not nearly to the extent social liberals say it does, and it's not an emotional condition, but a biological one.

But let's presume that these folks are "haters," and they think I'm a "hater," too, since that fits easily into their narrative of conservatives now being on the wrong side of popular public opinion.

What makes popular public opinion valid?  The fact that it's popular?  Popularity isn't truth.  We can't vote to make something true.  We can't vote that the grass is purple.  Living in a democracy, we like to think that "might equals right," but that's a fallacy, whether you're conservative or liberal.

Some things are wrong, and some things are right, and no amount of social engineering can change that.  Think about it:  have fundamentalist evangelicals engineered the "right" of heterosexual marriage?  No.  Governments around the world - even non-Christian ones - have recognized since the dawn of time that heterosexual marriage is the only way to propagate a civilization.  Homosexuality exists, but its existence doesn't make it a valid corollary to heterosexuality, whether you think homosexuality is a sin or not.

You mean I'm dragging the Bible into this?  Well, yes and no.  If you know your anthropology, you'll know that cultures that have never been exposed to the Bible have made heterosexual marriage their standard.  That is truth.  That is logic.  You don't have to have a Harvard PhD. to see the rationale.  Truth is.  Opinion is sometimes truth.  And sometimes not.

Which brings me to a second point, and that's regarding the bickering above regarding the merits of a PhD and a Masters degree.  Which is more valid?  Which is more important?

Well, consider that computer pioneers Bill Gates and Michael Dell don't have a college degree.  And their opinions don't mean much?  Steve Jobs never finished his degree.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg doesn't have a college degree either.  Shall I continue?

What matters isn't the degree, but the ability of a person to base the things they think, say, and believe on truth.  Which means truth is basic to deciding whether my opinion is worth more than the opinion of people like the folks who responded to my Facebook post.

Of course, the warning for evangelicals like me who are wary of blowing the transgenderism issue completely out of proportion is that if we're going to claim the baseline of truth for our viewpoints, we need to remember to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Do you see the hostility in the replies to my post?

Hey evangelicals:  Let's not sound like those angry, unloving folks.  You see how their miserable attitude helps to undermine their position?

That's a truth we need to remember, too.

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