“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” – Gelett Burgess
Or else – as in my case, Mister Burgess – you were right about everything in the first place.
Seriously, I’ve moderated my views on some issues, rounding off the sharp edges as it were. But there are very few topics on which I’ve done a near 180-degree turn.
One of those is hunting. I used to be completely opposed. I wasn’t a PETA-phile, mind you, but I thought hunters were basically cruel people who loved to kill defenseless creatures.
Then I made friends with a hunter who showed me I was being a hypocrite. After all, I eat meat – chicken, beef, pork, and the best food of all time, bacon.
Much of the livestock that ends up on supermarket shelves are raised in cramped and often inhumane conditions but it doesn’t stop me from making chicken parmesan for dinner.
My hunter friend pointed out that it’s intellectually dishonest to happily eat meat but leave it to someone else to do the dirty work and then have the gall to think hunters are the bad guys. Venison is his main source of meat; he wastes nothing.
The only people with completely clean hands in this debate are the vegans and I’m not planning to become one. I’m also not taking up hunting but I acknowledge that, unlike me, hunters are taking responsibility for their food supply. At least the deer have a decent life of freedom before they become dinner. That’s more than can be said for the non-free range chicken I served last night.
I bring this up because debate in this country has become ever shriller and more polarized with the middle ground evaporating all the time. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. But most people are essentially cherry pickers – we choose which statistics we trust and arm ourselves with studies that agree with our opinion.
Education writer Diane Ravitch was criticized for going from being a staunch supporter of the No Child Left Behind law to believing it is hurting education. If you read her explanation of her gradual metamorphosis, you realize she simply saw more and more evidence of the harm it was causing until she couldn’t support the law anymore.
Leftist writer Christopher Hitchens, who died last month, broke ranks with the left over several issues, including the Iraq War.
You don’t have to agree with Ravitch or Hitchens to give them credit for allowing their views to evolve in light of new events and evidence. In other words, when we call someone a “flip-flopper” does it really mean he has an open mind? (Of course when a politician flip flops, there is always the question of whether it was for expediency or a true conversion.)
So my question is this: When was the last time you changed your mind about an issue? Or let new evidence moderate your views?