Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Opinion vs. Fact

A few months ago, I had a brief argument with a person about whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim. She said that she had heard from her friends and family and had read on the Internet that he is indeed a Muslim. I countered that I had seen interviews on TV and read in newspapers and magazines that his father was a Muslim but that Barack had been raised a Christian by his mother and grandparents, and that he is a member of a Christian church in Chicago. She shrugged and said that she could believe what she wanted to believe. That unexpected reaction threw me for a few seconds. Then I responded that there is a difference between facts and opinions. She shrugged again and walked away. Argument over.

I was reminded of that incident recently when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate. As a virtual unknown, the press dug into her background quickly. It's no secret that I support Obama and do not think too highly of his opposition, but some of the dirt on Sarah Palin still surprised me. Mostly it was the obvious pandering to the Christian fundamentalists. I expected the strident anti-abortion stand, but then it was reported that she was "skeptical" about evolution and global warming. I started looking around for something to throw at the TV.

It amazes me that people think it's acceptable to have opinions about the validity of scientific theories, as though the word "theory" lessens the truth somehow. What about the theory of gravity? Would anyone hold an opinion denying gravity? Why then would anyone deny scientifically proven theories confirming evolution and global warming? Because they don't fit certain religious principles or a particular worldview? A better idea, and one based on the scientific method, would be to adjust one's thinking to conform to observed, repeatable phenomena. Fossils have not been placed in the earth to test our faith. Faith has nothing to do with them. Faith is for phenomena lacking sufficient evidence one way or the other, like the existence of God.

Applying faith and opinion to matters of truth and fact is not intelligent. The idea that we might elect someone to the second highest office in our country who thinks this way should make all right-thinking Americans consider their votes carefully.

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