“That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man!”

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

I’m going for a short one today, in an attempt to get back on schedule for two posts a week!

It’s become apparent that one of the things this blog addresses is discourse, whether it’s conversation between two skeptics, or between a skeptic and a non-skeptic. You can find plenty of disagreement everywhere, but I certainly hold a higher standard for the skeptic side of any conversation, which is why I’m more likely to nitpick the skeptic and point out the flaws in their discussions. Even if the non-skeptic is way off base, I expect that out of someone to be more off base if they aren’t basing their worldview on evidence based methods.

One of the worst rebuttals I see between skeptics is something that should be referred to from now on as the appeal to “that’s just your opinion, man!” This is not an omnipresent rebuttal, but it is common and inane enough that it’s somewhat worth spending a few paragraphs discussing.

Usually this comes in the comments of an opinion piece, after a strong stance has been vigorously defended. Yes, opinions are subjective, and a position that benefits the person making their case may not be beneficial for someone else. But after this, some random passerby will feel that it’s necessary to point out that it’s merely the author’s position, and that not everyone will agree.

Fucking duh.

film-the_big_lebowski-1998-the_dude-jeff_bridges-tops-pendleton_shawl_cardigan

[Image: The Dude from the Cohen Brothers’ film, “The Big Lebowski” gives a sour look in a bowling alley]

We live in an age of information and the average person now has an unprecedented social reach. Not only can we instantly shout out everything on our minds to hundreds of people at once on a variety of social media platforms, we now have media such as blogs and YouTube channels for spreading our messages far and wide. It’d be nonsensical if we didn’t. The problem appears to stem from the idea that in front of every blog post or in every YouTube video there is an implied statement that says “based on my best information up to this point, I would like to make my case here.” And some people aren’t charitable enough or they are too dense to overlook that and state the obvious.

This also often goes for calling people “posturing” when they share their positions online, to smear someone as narcissistic or as an idealogue who thinks they have all the answers to everything. I can see why it’s easy to fall into that trap. Whenever I come across someone that I violently disagree with in a post, it’s easy for me to slap the “arrogant” label and leave. Even if that’s true, my problem seems to evaporate when I add the implied addendum to their statement. This benefits both parties, as they aren’t dismissed thoroughly, and if they are truly wrong about some things I am able to take them seriously and point out any actual flaws I see.

Even on this blog, some people might think of me as some self-important millennial who has all the solutions to the world, and I assure everyone reading that this isn’t the case. I know I have a lot to learn, and I encourage any legitimate rebuttals in the comment sections (I have yet to delete any comments). However, I do think I’m capable of making points that people will learn from and share. I’ve had people thank me for the things I’ve written that have encouraged them, and sometimes people I greatly admire will share something I’ve said. But this doesn’t mean I think I’m particularly important. Anyone reading my posts (or anyone else’s) should simply see each platform as a space for certain ideas, where it’s a given that they’re going to share their opinions.

So if something lacks substance, that’s fair enough. If someone doesn’t have evidence to support their case, that’s fair as well. If an idea is just shit, that’s fair game to point out, though I’d encourage constructive criticism. But if the best thing you can say to someone is “that’s just your opinion”, you’re just stating the obvious and wasting someone’s time.

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