Knowing That I Know Nothing

I live in the general Baltimore metropolitan area, so the events in the city this week have, of course, been on my mind.  I watched a lot of the local live coverage on Monday as news outlets struggled to get a handle on what was happening.  As someone who lives in the area, part of me feels like I should have something to say.

But I don’t.  I live outside of the city.  Well outside of it.  I wouldn’t even call it a suburb.  It’s a small town a fair distance away, and I have almost an hour commute just to get to my job on the outskirts of Baltimore.  When I go into the city, it’s usually to go town to the more touristy areas with visitors from out of state.  Calling me a local is a stretch. 

More than that, though, what would I have to say that’s even worth hearing?

I don’t believe that all opinions are valid (And yes, I realize that’s an opinion in itself).  Let’s take vaccines, for example.  If you put a medical doctor with years of training and countless scientific studies on one side and a parent who believes vaccines cause autism on the other, I’m going to side with the doctor because the parent has absolutely zero experience or credible evidence.  And most of the time what they do think they know is a pack of misinformation anyway.   More than that, my response to the parent is to shut the hell up and listen to people who actually know something.  That response also holds for people who believe the Earth is 6000 years old, evolution isn’t real, or that we faked the moon landing.

Back to the topic at hand, the mere fact that I live and work kinda near Baltimore doesn’t mean that my thoughts on what happened and why are worth a damn thing.  There are many many people, from social scientists to civic leaders to life-long Baltimore residents who have things of actual relevance to say about all of this. 

If you really want my opinion (which you don’t), we should be listening to and learning from them.  We live in a complicated world.  You don’t get to reject things just because you don’t understand them or don’t like them.  I’m not sure where the saying got started, but in case you haven’t heard, reality doesn’t care if you believe in it or not.  The rest of us, however, occasionally do because your uninformed opinions can start affecting our lives when social and educational policies are set not based on facts and research but opinions and beliefs.

That’s not to say that you automatically have to accept everything you hear.  Far from it.  But doing some actual research on a subject rather than just what feels right to you based on your upbringing or other biases may lead you to a learned opinion that you can support with actual evidence.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter