Forming Our Opinions

Over the holidays I had a discussion with a Libertarian family member. I knew we would not agree on much but I was very interested in how she arrived at her points of view. And I had a real breakthrough moment. We were discussing global warming and economic issues. At some point she talked about her research into one or another issue and I could feel her disdain at my lack of same. AND THEN IT HIT ME.

Many of the opinions held by people are supported by their own research. This can of course involve confirmation bias and misinterpretation of data. I personally prefer to find my experts. People in various fields who I learn over time I can trust. They can take this data and interpret it a lot better than I can with my limited education in certain fields.

Conservatives and Libertarians will tell you that they have “done their homework”. They believe that by doing their own research they are employing a superior analysis. They accuse Progressives of having knee jerk reactions and not doing the work themselves.

But the truth is that they are doing themselves a disservice (along with the rest of us). By doing their own research they are doing a very limited and uneducated job. They cannot possibly interpret the data , or read enough of it, to compete with experts in the field who have had many years of research to bring to the task at hand. We can try and get a handle on those areas that interest us most…but the truly responsible position is to research your experts. Find out who you can trust and begin your analysis from there.

I am not suggesting that we never question. And certainly we should have more than one or two experts on any given subject to work with. But to think that we can read a few books, a few articles and then come up with a truly educated opinion is the height of absurdity. At best we can understand a small piece of the puzzle. There is a reason people become expert in their fields. And we should respect and rely on them to help us to understand.

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