Aug 8 2007

Are all opinions equally valuable?

Jamie Barrows


First off, this entire post is just my opinion. Now that we got that out of the way, I can begin my little rant.

Are all opinions equally valuable? This isn’t a politically correct or popular question to ask these days.
In the Web 2.0 world, every blog, news site, and search engine is filled with people posting their opinions on everything under the sun. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The freedom to post and publish your own opinions and viewpoints is one of the very best things about the Internet. No longer are we tied to a few elite columnists and reporters for our news and analysis. But the ability to post does not necessarily mean you have the knowledge to contribute meaningfully to a topic.

The overall consensus in both the political world and the Internet world seems to be that all opinions are equally valuable. I think this is somehow an extension of the post modern idea that all positions, even contradictory ones, are equally true. But as I posted in a previous post, that is simply impossible and not rational. But lets get back to the opinions question.

Are some opinions more valuable than others? I would have to say yes. You might say that that is not really all that controversial. After all, that is why we get the opinions of experts. Who would you go to for opinions on law? Lawyers. And for opinions on health, you would go to doctors. So we can all agree that some opinions are more valuable that others. And the thing that makes them more valuable is knowledge and experience.

But if there are valuable opinions, then why can’t there be worthless opinions? While it isn’t popular to say so, I believe that opinions by people who do not know the history and facts of a situation are useless and worthless. Not just less valuable than those of experts. I mean worthless. If a person does not know anything about what he/she is giving an opinion on, then there opinion is useless.

Does this mean that I think that only the opinions of experts are useful? No, but I do think that voicing an opinion without first learning the facts about it is pointless. Far too many people simply parrot the sound bytes of politicians and news reporters without ever finding out the facts for themselves.

In this day there is no excuse for that. Nearly all the facts and history about almost anything are online. Anyone can read those facts, if they just put a little effort into finding them. So it’s just not that hard to be informed and knowledgeable about something. And that is all you really need to have a valid and useful opinion rather than a worthless and pointless opinion.
So do your opinions fall into the valuable group, or the worthless group?