An Opinion Cannot be Wrong

Opinions cannot be wrong. If you think an opinion is wrong what you tend to mean is that an underlying idea that a premise is built on is wrong. Facts can be wrong, opinions cannot.

Take my opinion that the God of the Old Testament is evil*. I think this based on my reading of the Bible (now 8 years ago), plus the passages that conversations about religion and morality highlight to me. With that in mind, the underlying facts include, but are not limited to, this:

In Numbers 31 God commands Moses’ army to take the virgin Midianite girls. This is either war-slavery (which is a slavery as dark as the slavery of America a few generations ago), or it is worse. God also commands the Moses’ army to completely destroy everyone else, not just the combatants; the non-combatants, the children, the women, the cattle, the buildings. Everything. This is the kind of idea that Pol Pot had: to kill a plant you must take it up at the roots.

In Genesis God drowned everyone on the planet that wasn’t Noah and his immediate family. God considered everyone, even the children that were being born and the mothers that were in labour and the children, guilty and worthy of death.

On top of these facts (I could give more, but it isn’t the point of this post) I have certain values. One of my values that is relevant to this discussion is this:

To intentionally cause net suffering is evil.

It is how the facts play off against my values that form my opinions. My facts either are facts, or I am misinformed and they are false statements. The facts are an issue of truth. My values are something you may be persuaded to agree with, but you also may not. However, my values are not issues of truth. My opinions, then, are not truth statements and therefore cannot be right or wrong.

A ‘wrong’ opinion is an opinion formed from false claims masquerading as facts.

*whether a God exists is not an opinion. God really does or really does not exist. If you get out of religious discussions by claiming that ‘it’s my opinion’, do not expect me to take you seriously.

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3 thoughts on “An Opinion Cannot be Wrong”

  1. Is it quite so simple? In medicine, diagnositc conclusions are called opinions. The reason is that the same set of observations can often be made to fit several different models consistently. Sometimes further facts help clarify the situation, disturbingly often, they do not. Ordinary opinions seeem to operate similarly. If opinions are not right or wrong, neither are the facts in many instances. Consistency is all we can ask from either.

    1. When it comes to medicine I see your point: a medical “opinion” is an expert’s best explanation of the facts. A good doctor will be able to recognise many different diagnoses from the observations, but will provide the “best” explanation. “Best”, at some point, is reliant on a value. One would hope that “best” is synonymous with “most likely” (in this case), but that’s not necessarily true.
      So in medical diagnoses there is a level of values-based guesswork and that is why it is still fair to call it an opinion.
      If you agree to a value system of “best” meaning “most likely” then you are talking about truth statements that can actually be right or wrong. The most likely explanation of a group of symptoms may be ‘illness A’, but the patient may still have ‘illness B’ or both ‘illness C’ and ‘illness D’. So long as the value system is agreed, these are no longer ‘opinions’, but are best guesses.

      I think using the work “opinion” when you mean “best guess” (even if it is a guess from a profession) is a sloppy use of language.

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