• My opinion isn’t important

    Because they tell me, I know some readers want me to express my opinions. Sometimes I do, but even then I think you should ignore them. I don’t think my opinions have any greater merit than those of others who have honestly considered all the evidence they can (or that I have). I am not obligated to make or responsible for any policy decisions. For these reasons, I think my opinion is irrelevant. It’s the evidence and the logical reasoning it supports that matters to me, and I think should matter to you. If you’re persuaded by them, fine. If not, fine too.

    A consequence is that if you wish to engage me on an issue, don’t waste your time trying to tease out or attacking my beliefs, to the extent you think you know them. Usually readers are wrong about what they are, and I have fewer of them than it seems most people do. Instead, engage me on the evidence. Engage me on the logic. Show me something I’ve overlooked. I’m grateful for it.

    Sometimes I am asked to express my opinion in exchange for something of value, like a paid column* or a journal publication. Sometimes I express an opinion for my own enjoyment or for rhetorical effect. Still, I think you should ignore it. It’s malleable, as it should be to the extent new evidence comes to light. It’s entertainment.

    I bet many readers disagree with me about the above. Great! Tell me why my opinion is so important.

    * By which I mean I am paid for an opinion column, not for the particular opinion I express. My particular beliefs are not for hire.


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    • Sometimes opinions, so long as their reasoning is explained, can be useful to help others form an opinion.

      But I certainly agree that evidence, real evidence, is a lot more compelling.

    • “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts” attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

    • Your words:

      At heart, and by formal education, I’m a scientist. Evidence is very important to me. But I’m not a fool. I know there are all manner of problems in the process of gathering, reporting, and interpreting evidence. There is bias. There is corruption. There is lack of repeatability. There is lack of generalizability. There is bad science. There is non-science. There is motivated thinking. In the face of these, we should strive hard to improve the process and use of science, not reject it.