It is my opinion that the sky is green. Go!. This was the challenge given to me in a debate class in my first year of university at Charlotte. I had to defend the argument that the sky was green and I must say I defended my opinion with gusto! Doesn’t mean I was right, it only means I found a rational way to defend my stance.
The earth is flat. Go! (side note: the “Go!” is how the instructor would begin the debate. He would place the victim in front of the class, surprisingly announce your opinion to defend and then yell “Go!”)
I do more arguing via email with readers that are so quick to defend their opinions. Opinions that are not based in fact. This is not to say that I dismiss them, on the contrary, I allow them to vent. Then I ask questions. I ask questions until they can’t stand it any longer. Why? Because I can tell with most people that they are being opinionated, not informed. And by asking questions I am forcing them to use their intranet machine to find this new invention called Google and find the answers.
I studied religious history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I took Hebrew, Greek and German. I studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Tacitus, Origin, the Gnostic Gospels, etc. I have spent the last 25 years post university reading everything I can find on early Christian origins, and most of those books I have read multiple times. I have opinions on the history of the early Jesus movement; I am not opinionated.
On the topic of early Christian origins I can have a somewhat educated discussion. I cannot do the same as it relates to politics. Or space travel. Or gun control. Or healthcare. Or economics. Or homelessness. Or immigration. And for this reason you will rarely, if ever, hear words come from my mouth talking on these topics except to say we need to help people. This is not to say that I am not educated. I am very educated.
I have read Darwin’s On the Origins of Species, twice. I have read most of the classics. I have spent hours reading up on topics of which I have very little experience. I spent 3 1/2 years studying higher mathematics at one of the top math programs in the country. Dr. Wicnefsky (my Abstract and Linear Algebra professor) was the first to explain to me “Mr. Ray you have a mind for mathematics, but you are a very lazy student.” (in my best thick Polish accent.) I still laugh about that today!
And I am still lazy and ignorant on many, many topics.
My least favorite thing to hear someone say is “what we need to do is…” As if to say that some random person I know has figured out how to solve the immigration problem. Or medicare. Or social security. Or gun control. Or healthcare. You sound foolish, because you are not educated enough to spout, in any form, an educated opinion on the topic. You are being opinionated.
Descartes announced, following an epiphany, that he would no longer assume that what he had learned in life was truth. But, he would seek out and doubt all things until he found genuine truth. And, more importantly, he would shut his mouth on topics he had no particular knowledge and listen.
In today’s world people are quick to speak, quick to spout, quick to offer their opinionated stance. But how many are genuinely educated in their opinion? How many of us actually know what the hell we’re talking about.
I know the answer: very few.
You and I cannot begin to understand the complexities of the United States budget and market. You and I cannot begin to comprehend the intricate details of the Healthcare Reform Act. You and I do not have the information necessary to form an educated opinion on the details that make immigration such a problem.
Yet, some stand on their Facebook rooftop and vomit out their ignorant opinionated views as if they have it all figured out. When in fact they haven’t conducted enough research to help an immigrant understand which office they need to visit to get their I9 form.
I am so sick of people throwing up all over me with their ignorance and ill-formed thoughts. I have said this to several friends, “you are not informed enough to talk about what you are talking about. So zip it.”
Better to remain silent and be assumed the fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” Socrates
If you really want to learn, ask questions. And then listen.