Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Informed Opinion

Recently a news article stated that a woman had filed a complaint with the New Hampshire medical board over a doctor calling her obese. In a general politics forum that I read, that article prompted the mostly male group to jump all over the complaint. Personally, I would tend to agree that a doctor advising a patient that she's obese is no cause for a complaint. But a few days later, more information on the complaint was revealed, namely, that the doctor had allegedly stated that, "Let's face it, if your husband were to die tomorrow, who would want you? Well, men might want you, but not the types you want to want you. Might even be a black guy." It was also revealed that the complaint was over the racial remark, not about being lectured. Needless to say, these additional facts change the tenor of the complaint from one that sounds utterly ridiculous, to one that may have some legitimacy.

The reaction to this story makes me think of all the times I've read an article or column, and in so doing immediately formed an opinion. I don't see how this opinion can be considered "informed" at this stage, given the limited viewpoint that's presented. Even when I reinforce my knowledge of the situation by additional articles or editorials, these articles are often cobbled together from the same limited set of facts. So many times facts are hidden, either from the world at large, or simply by the slant of the article or editorial. Rarely do I stop myself from withholding judgment, but I wonder whether I should do so more often. Truthfully, I don't think it's possible, partly because of my disposition, but also because it's impossible to have all the facts about virtually any matter of State. Thus, to require one's self to obtain all the facts would preclude one from having a political opinion.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I think it's more sensible to keep an open mind even after one has formed an opinion, recognizing that additional facts may reasonably cause one to rethink one's position. Perhaps this is where I can improve. I of course recognize that such an approach goes against the grain of our increasingly partisan society, where opinions are formed over 30-second sound bites, and where changing one's opinion is "flip-flopping." But I don't see why that should stop me.