Thursday, November 2, 2017

Your Opinion is not Fact

Social media brings out the worst in some sanctimonious, self-righteous individuals that get all riled up posting about one issue or another spouting “facts” that cannot be supported by empirical data. I can’t help myself - but I do feel compelled to respond appropriately that just because one has a strong opinion does not make one correct. This often generates a vitriolic response from the self-righteous twit, which I must confess causes me endless amusements. 

Perhaps that is unfair since the public is regularly led astray by left-wing and right-wing news reporters, talking heads, alleged experts, political commentators, faux scientists, biased politicians or special interest lobbyists trying to court political favor. And it is human nature to grasp onto the opinions of those historians or experts that agree with one’s existing opinion. 

Those of us who work in the legal world of tort litigation see several times per day reports drafted by experts paid by one side or the other in hotly contested lawsuits that offer diametrically opposed conclusions based on the same objective or subjective criteria. Civil litigation is a game in which one or more individuals or businesses allege negligence or wrongdoing against one or more other individuals or businesses with the winners either convincing a jury that it should award the parties filing the lawsuit lots of money or in the alternative convincing a judge or jury that there was no negligence or wrongdoing and no money should be paid based on “the facts”. The dictionary defines a “fact” as “a matter of objective reality.”  However, for most of us perception is reality. Perception is not fact.

The lawyers pay alleged experts to provide opinions based upon facts that support their positions. Many of these medical professionals, economist, forensic engineers, metallurgists, psychologists, vocational experts, life care planners, biomechanics, forensic accountants, security or parking lot designers, biologists, pathologists, accident reconstructionists, arborists, building management consultants, building code experts, intellectual property actual confusion or reverse confusion experts, advertising experts and chemists provide an analysis that supports the side paying them. A great deal of these litigation experts are charlatans. Our legal system supports this cottage industry that uses “facts” to come to whatever conclusion is wanted.

It is also common knowledge that an eye witness is the least reliable “fact witness” in any criminal or civil procedure. The human eye is unreliable because our brains reconstruct memory that can be altered by stress, suggestion, or time.

What happens in tort litigation also happens in our political conversations. Every political debate relies upon an expert analysis that supports an agenda. Politicians and lobbyists pay for experts to reach certain conclusions about voting, racism, taxes, statues, food safety, emissions, global warming, immigration, security, trade, GMOs, explorers, abortion, arms control, hunting, safe speed limits, or the impact of the revitalized wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park. 

Moral of the story: even DNA evidence is not correct within a 100% certainty. Let go of the sanctimonious anger against those with whom you disagree. Your opinion is not fact! 

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