Without Facts, It’s Just an Opinion

I just had an interesting conversation with a colleague at work. Well, it turned more into an argument, but I have to say he left the conversation frustrated and I thought that I should do a quick post.

The conversation started about an article he had read in the New York Times about how rich people (“plutocrats”) don’t believe they should be blamed for the state of the economy. We then got into a discussion on what defined a plutocrat: his definition was someone worth $200 million or more. His claim is that all of these people are basically lazy, their money inherited, and have done nothing for the lower and middle classes.
I asked him for evidence of what he was saying. His response? “Read the article!”. So I asked if the writer had presented any facts to bolster his premise. I mean, there’s got to be some information (read: facts) about this class of people doesn’t there? Well, it seems that either the article he read had no direct facts or he didn’t pick up on any of them.
Here’s the crux though: he challenged me to prove him (and the article’s author) wrong. Well, I’m not the one making these claims. I’m asking questions, asking for some data that might be there to back up what is being discussed. Here’s what I get back from my colleague:”I know it’s true”. Really? I wondered out loud to him how he could possibly know it’s true. No direct response, just dodging and weaving about what is “truth”. Well, I’m not going to get into a philosphical disussion on the nature of truth with him so I responded that in this case, there can be only one truth and that has to be backed up by facts. Just believing something to be true doesn’t make it so.
Sound familiar?
This is why why I really believe skepticism is important in our everyday lives. We read something, maybe by a respected reporter, author, whatever, and just decide it must be true because he/she wouldn’t just make things up to push their own agenda, would they? Of course not. If someone becomes upset because you challenge their assertions, it must be because there’s something wrong with those very assertions.
In the above, my colleague might be correct, but he needs to present facts to back up the seemingly (to me) ridiculous claims he was making. We should all be ready to alter our own views based on facts. I want to hammer that in: facts.
I see things like this all the time and as I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to start blogging about these kinds of encounters, whether personal or online, more and more. It’s time to toss the covers back on so-called “Skeptics” and also those that think they’re just too smart for the rest of us, the unwashed. A little sunshine on The Stupid is always a good thing.
Like the vampires that some of them are, maybe with the sunshine, they’ll explode in flames (not literally!) and we won’t have to listen to them anymore.

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