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Shamash said

Everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but that does not mean you have any experience to speak authoritatively on the issue.
and I kind of agree with that.

I am an opinionated old woman.

An opinion is defined as:  A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge (dictionary.com), and also as a belief that's stronger than an impression and less strong than positive knowledge (merriam-webster.com), and also as  a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. (freedictionary.com)

What these definitions all have in common is that an opinion, while strongly held, is not commonly based on knowledge.  It is often an emotional or visceral response to events.

And that means that while we can certainly express our opinions we need to be aware that there is a body of solid fact and knowledge out there that may contradict how we feel about events.

Feelings, however strongly held, are not facts.

Opinions, however strongly held, are not knowledge.

As an opinionated old woman, I am more than happy to plug my 2 cents in (or is it worth a dime now, what with inflation?  Naw, opinions are still pennies...). But, knowing my opinions are just that - opinions - I am equally happy to revise those opinions based on new information, maybe even upgrade to slightly informed.  

Opinions are not engraved in stone, and we shouldn't treat them as such.  They are fluid, flexible, changing as new information and new circumstances arrive.

Facts rarely change.  They remain the facts whether other people believe in them or not, and regardless of how people feel about them.  

Opinions change and adapt depending upon the holder's feelings and beliefs.

I try my best not to conflate opinions with facts. When I start with "I believe...", "I feel...", or "I think....", chances are, I'm expressing an opinion.  When I start with, "According to...", "Based on...", "I know...", and sometimes, "In my experience...", I am generally presenting facts. If feelings are involved, most of the time, it's opinion, and subject to change.

When my children were smaller than me (not long really, all but my youngest outgrew me by the time they were 8 years old), I never once told them "Because I said so" no matter how tempting it was to end the discussion that way.  What I did was challenged them to look it up and see for themselves.  I started this when they were old enough to start asking questions, and they learned to read really early as a result just so they could try to prove me wrong.

Them: "Why do I have to go to bed early?"

Me: "Let's look it up - here's a medical manual that explains the sleep needs of a 14 month old.  What does it say?  Here, read with me:  Children aged 12 to 18 months old need 11 hours and 45 minutes of sleep a day..."

Them:  "Why?"

Me:  "Let's keep reading ... to help with brain development and to allow for growth." I put the book down and then tell them, "That makes you smart, healthy, and big. Do you want to be smart, healthy, and big?"

They say yes, and so they went to bed.

And we did this for everything.  They were reading newspapers, encyclopedias, and dictionaries by the time they were 4 years old.  Even now, when they ask me a question they know they can find the answer to by looking it up, they'll cut themselves off and say, "I'll look it up!"  The internet has actually made that faster and more fun.  It's not uncommon to see us all on our various computers looking up information to refute a statement or to bolster an argument.

Opinions are quickly altered when facts come into play, although sometimes, feelings are so strong, they trump the facts. We end up admitting it's an opinion, and that we feel strongly enough that only overwhelming facts could sway us.  If the facts aren't that strong, then opinion trumps fact.  That happens so rarely, though, and usually only with food.  Coffee is bad for some people, but not others, therefore opinions on drinking coffee trumps the facts. Ditto for tea, wine, potatoes, rice, gluten, etc.  The only time we concede on food arguments is when allergies or health conditions come into play.

With a diverse family like mine, I couldn't be the authority figure.  My role was best exemplified by being the reference librarian - the "let's look it up" saved my - we'll go with status - so many times. 6 of my 8 children came to me as older children and oy! the arguments we had - I wasn't their original mom and if I tried to be the mom, they'd call me on it.  But librarian?  They loved the librarian.

I bought encyclopedias and dictionaries, and when computers got cheap enough to buy one, we shared that (one computer - 7 people, we managed!). With so many teens in the house, we were chin deep in opinions. We added facts, and eventually developed a body of knowledge.

Things haven't changed much since they grew up.

EDITED TO ADD:  rserven added in a comment:  

being knowledgable on one subject does not preclude a person from being knowledgable on other subjects.
That is so true.  I consider myself an expert on herbs and steampunk and hearing assistance dogs and fairy tales.  I'm pretty knowledgeable about a lot of other things and can engage in intelligent conversation on many of them, but I am not an expert. Informed citizen, perhaps. That includes the topics on which my children are experts -even though I was in the military (decades ago!), I am no expert on today's military, my children who are in service know far more than I do with my outdated info.  I have a child who is a forensic anthropologist - we can't watch crime shows together because they are often so wrong she spends the whole episode online showing me how wrong they are.  I am highly informed about forensic anthropology, but no authority by any means.  I have a child who is a planetologist.  While I know enough to follow him when he dives into talking passionately about rock formations, geologic tectonics, corona formations, etc., I can follow along (barely, but I'm there!), I am so far from an expert! But his knowledge of planetary functions in no way detracts from my knowledge on herbs or fairy tales.  And my knowledge of steampunk in no way diminishes my daughter's knowledge of forensic anthropology.

There's so much knowledge in the world that none of us has the time to become on expert in every aspect of it, but we can each have our niche - and listen to others in their niches as they listen to us.

As a result, sometimes, I feel like I've become an authority on opinions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 04:15:49 PM PST

  •  I'd like to add... (8+ / 0-)

    ...since I encounter people who disbelieve it...that being knowledgable on one subject does not preclude a person from being knowledgable on other subjects.

  •  Fact, Opinion, and Taste (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, CroneWit, sceptical observer

    The great Stanley Schmidt wrote a wonderful essay in Analog called "Matters of Opinion" (c. 1987?) wherein he made the distinction between facts, opinions, and tastes. Facts are universal truths, he claimed, while tastes were personal truths. One could have an opinion about which facts were universal, and which were tastes. Public policy should be based on facts, not matters of taste. Opinions about facts are "better" than others when they more closely align with verifiable truth; opinions about matters of taste cannot be "proven" using science or logic.

    Zen is "infinite respect for all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility for all things future."--Huston Smith's Zen Master

    by Ree Zen on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 04:56:05 PM PST

    •  Yes, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CroneWit, sceptical observer

      December of 1987. I looked it up.

      All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

      by Noddy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 05:04:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Public policy should be based on facts . . ." (0+ / 0-)

      Unfortunately that's only possible if we're agreed on first principles. Only then can the facts be applied to a problem to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

      For example, the criminals least likely to re-offend are those who commit uxoricide, the killing of one's wife. Given their amazingly low recidivist rate, why do we keep them in prison?

      This is where opinion enters into the penological forum. Do we incarcerate people, deprive them of the liberty by which they were "inalienably" endowed by their Creator, to protect the public from further transgression or do we act out of some notion of revenge? If the former, long prison sentences for wife killers make little sense, at the expense of an "inalienable" right. If the latter, from whence comes our right?

      These are not idle questions. They hinge entirely on beliefs, which I define as that which we act as if it were true (see MB's sig line), in other words, opinions.

      Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Monkeys kill people too, if they have guns.

      by DaNang65 on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 05:34:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •   The murdered wife's family and children ... (0+ / 0-)

        would almost certainly disagree.  Besides, prison is for punishment, and the deliberate ending of a life ought to equal a life sentence in prison.  Escaping punishment tells a criminal he can do it again and get away with it again.  So he kills his next wife ... or girlfriend, who happens to be your sister ... or any other person who he's tired of.  Letting people run loose who can actually bring themselves to kill people doesn't make for a safe society for the rest of us who probably would never even think of doing such a thing in the first place or, if it did occur to us, would never act on it.

        Suggesting wife killers should not be punished smacks of misogyny.  Should husband killers be freed as well?  How about child killers.  Surely there's no difference between these victims as they're all family members.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

        by Neuroptimalian on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:09:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Encyclopedias (4+ / 0-)

    were part of my childhood, thanks to my mom.  She taught me to 'look it up in the World Book'.

    Our getting the World Book when I was in first or second grade was astonishing in itself.  As a single mom raising two young kids in the mid-50s, she had absolutely no money to spare.  The daughter of immigrant peasants who graduated from high school into the Depression, she knew how to squeeze a penny, make it last, make it do, or do without.  After moving with her kids back to her home town, her first job was as a part-time secretary at a church, even though she had good skills and experience for a woman at the time.  

    Women couldn't get credit in those days, and mom wouldn't have used credit even if she could have gotten it; she had a horror of debt.  She never even put necessary things, like back-to-school clothes, on layaway because (1) how could she be certain she'd have next month's $2 payment and (2) if she didn't have that $2, she'd lose the money she had already paid down.

    Nevertheless, mom signed up to purchase a set of World Book Encyclopedias on a time-payment plan, and each year she got the annual update volume.

    When we'd ask a question she didn't know the answer to, or ask follow-up questions that were beyond her knowledge, she didn't nicely tell us to go look it up.  She'd huff with irritation, put down whatever she was working on, and stalk into the living room to pull out a volume.  She'd sit on the floor (the books were on a low shelf)  read key bits of the first entry, then shove the book toward me and my sibling.  'Here.  You can read this,' she'd say, reaching for another volume.

    Because Mom always read the 'See Also' entries.  Every one.  And the 'See also' entries for those 'See also's.  Engrossed in her own learning, she'd read until she had run through every possible 'See also' and began to get references to the first entries.

    Lost in her reading, she wouldn't speak to us or read aloud.  She would put each volume, open, on the floor when she was finished with it.  When she was done, she's get up and head back to the task she had set down.  "Put those books away when you're done,' she would say over her shoulder.

    No mothering skills to speak of, but my mom taught me anyway.  She taught me to Look It Up, to keep Looking It Up until you came to the end of the available information.  Which I still do today, over five decades later.

  •  This was part of my comment in the first Shamash (2+ / 0-)

    diary, and I think it's relevant here.

    "It seems that you've been watching a lot of people give knee-jerk reactions to, and their opinions on, events that you don't see them as qualified to evaluate.  I'm seeing bunches of people throw out all kinds of potential solutions, all the way from not germane at all to "huh, that's different, and it might work".  Brainstorming at a pretty good level, if not the best of the best.

    I won't say that the best solutions are always from outsiders, but they don't generally come from just experts, either.  I do know that expertise in an area is as likely to block new solutions as to promote them.  So don't knock the "uninformed".  And if you don't have the patience to wade through the 'bad' ideas in order to find the workable possibilities, don't knock the process."

    Authority is really, really good when you're specifying something that is already known.  It tends to be much less useful when you're trying to do something new.

    I think it might have been Arthur Clarke who said that you could write a history of science by assembling a list of all the things that someone said were impossible.  I can't remember the exact quote, or I'd look it up ;-)

    •  How many significant problems have been solved ... (0+ / 0-)

      by morons?  Name any five in history; that gives you thousands of years to consider in order to try and find some.

      Having to wade through their opinions online these days in order to (finally!) get to the worthy stuff is an absolute waste of time which benefits no one, time which could otherwise be used productively if only there was a warning ahead of time of which to avoid.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

      by Neuroptimalian on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:18:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe a better question would be: How many (0+ / 0-)

        problems, significant and otherwise, have been solved by someone outside the field in which the original problem was defined?

        I used to work in a contract program under NASA, screening ideas/new developments for publication to the civilian sector.  At the time, anybody who got an idea through us got a cash bonus, so there were at least a few people who seemed to spend all their spare time playing with us.  See, we had to give a solid reason for rejecting anything, even if it was total crap.  I'll never forget the guy who submitted five or six different design proposals for a transparent submarine.  (Well, I'll never forget the proposals.  Don't remember his name.)

        And - we got velcro.  I think it came across my desk in 1969.  I had no idea what it could be used for in civilian life, but it was a solid piece of work.  Last summer my neighbor put up a garage door screen that fastened to a set of velcro strips around the door opening.  Instant lack of mosquitos on warm summer nights.  Way more fun sitting and schmoozing.

        You want a warning ahead of time as to which ideas are bad, so that you can only read the good ones?  If it's actually a new idea, sorry, there's no way to tell in advance.  And 98 percent of new ideas end up in the garbage heap, per Sturgeon's Law.  

        So if you're actually looking for new ideas, you have to slog through the whole meshuggah.  I recommend hip waders.  But it's not a waste of time.

        •  The idea of screening affixed by velcro ... (0+ / 0-)

          has been a product on the market for years.  It was a good idea, though; very creative.

          As to the general topic at hand, I'm not talking about people of average or better intelligence; yes, they well could come up with good ideas outside their areas of expertise.  No, my complaint is that morons don't know that they're morons.  If there were a way to get them to realize this, perhaps they'd confine the sharing of their opinions to their personal lives.  Yes, I know it's a utopian idea that will never happen, but one can dream.  Meanwhile, because of them, the world is a very trying place in which to live.

          "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

          by Neuroptimalian on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:10:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The point was not (0+ / 0-)

            that screening with velcro is a new idea - it's that velcro was once a new idea, which came from a totally non-civilian, non-commercial source.  In 1969, it was a new idea, in case you didn't read the whole thing.

            I think your definition of moron might be just a hair different from mine.  Somebody who is willing to put out a new idea for other people to haggle over and test and bitch about doesn't sound like a moron to me.  (A masochist, maybe, but not a moron.)

            If your test for not being a moron is somebody that can't put out a 'bad' idea, then Edison, Tesla, Jobs, and me (and the list goes on and on), are all morons.

            If you're talking about the posts on DKos, then I'd submit that the ability to write in clear concise English generally correlates with "average or better intelligence", so I really don't see what your point is in all this.

            •  A moron is a person with a low IQ ... (0+ / 0-)

              who could never find anything of interest to say except to those in his/her immediate circle, and then only because those people are no smarter or are humoring the speaker to spare his/her feelings.  

              "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

              by Neuroptimalian on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 02:10:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  And closely related to this ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Blubba
    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

    Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. David Dunning and Justin Kruger conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others"

    Or, as Ray Stevens put it,

     "The less you know, the more you think you know, because you don't know you don't know."

    or William Butler Yeats wrote,

    "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    "

    This is much like all the hardcore Tea Party economic "experts" in the House of Representatives as Democrats meekly attempt to appease them ...

    Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

    by kbman on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 07:55:46 PM PST

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