Is diversity of opinion a good thing?

(This thread is not about whether diversity of opinion should be *legal *or permitted, but rather, whether it is a *good *thing or not.)
Many if not most people, if asked whether ‘diversity of opinion’ is a good thing or not, would probably say, “Yes, it is.”

But the reality is that many if not most people don’t actually *want *a society in which there is a truly diverse mix of opinions. They want a society in which nearly everyone holds the same political or social views as they hold.
Most pro-choice people, for instance, don’t want society to be split 50-50 on the issue of abortion. They want a society that is overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, pro-choice.

Most pro-life people, likewise, don’t want society to be split 50-50 on the issue of abortion. They want a society that is overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, pro-life.

Most pro-evolution people don’t want society to be split 50-50 on the issue of evolution/creationism. They want a society that is overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, pro-evolution.
Etc. etc.
Now, there are some issues in which people will happily tolerate diverse opinions - NFL football fans, for instance, understand that 32 NFL fanbases have 32 different opinions and that that’s just the nature of the game…but when it comes to politics, many folks want their viewpoint to become the dominant viewpoint and gradually crowd out the opposing viewpoint until it snuffs the opposing viewpoint out of existence.

So, all said and done, is “diversity of opinion” a good thing or not?

I don’t think diversity of opinions is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. We can all have our opinions about something. But reasonable people recognize that an opinion is not the same thing as a fact. They also can appreciate that policies shouldn’t be established based on the prevailing opinion. There’s a reason we don’t vote on every decision that government makes.

I think diversity itself is a good thing. It just so happens that with diversity comes the differences of opinion. But difference of opinion is not why I think diversity is good. I think diversity brings different perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. A social liberal and a social conversative may be equally bothered by poverty. But the social liberal will have a different idea about how to fix this problem than the social conservative. Perhaps both of their approaches work when applied to individuals who fit a certain profile, with a certain background. But without diversity of thought (which isn’t the same thing as diversity of opinion), you will always get a suboptimal “one size fits all” solution.

I think we can all agree that diversity of opinion is a good thing.


In general, I think the answer is yes, while believing that hateful opinions and those that advocate for violence and brutality against a race, religion, etc., do not add anything positive to a group or a discussion.

I’m very strongly pro-choice, and I’m fine with a diversity of opinions about abortion. I really don’t care if lots and lots of people think that abortion is morally wrong. But I do care if people believe that the government must use force to prevent and sanction women who make certain choices about their bodies. That’s very different from just varying opinions on abortion.

Same with evolution – I don’t really care if lots of people think evolution is wrong or sinful… but I care if lots of people advocate that the government must restrict teaching of good science, or promote the teaching of pseudoscience.

I agree with a comedian who once made the point that pro-choicers are indeed the ones that also allow pro-lifers to do their stuff. Pro-lifers are the ones that do not allow any dissent (The comedian actually used more deserving words against the anti-abortion guys IMHO)

This also points to framing of discussion like if there was a controversy. virtually all who are in favor of evolution do not mind that in Sunday or religions school students will be taught otherwise, it is when they bring their faith to public schools where the problem is.

I do think a diversity of opinion is a good thing, where it fails is when one side does try to go over the idea that they are supposed to be just opinions and they try to impose their opinion to others.

Where the usefulness of diverse opinions comes is with executive decisions or the choices made by people in power that would affect us all; all the separate powers of a nation should listen to all and not just a few voices. One should remember that we should not be having this conversation today if Kennedy had not had a cabinet with diverse points of view:

Pro-choice in the strict sense like pro-choice of what food you eat, maybe yes. Pro-choice in the sense that abortion should always be an option for a particular person, no. I have no problem at all with someone holding an opinion that abortion is wrong. I only have a problem of them forcing that opinion on me. Many pro-choice people are personally anti-abortion. That is okay.

And diversity of opinion is absolutely essential in any group creative endeavor.

And anyone who says otherwise should be dismissed as a crank.

There’s quite a difference between opinions on abortion and evolution.

Abortion has moral and cultural implications. There are important points to be made on both sides.

Evolution is just a fact.

There’s not much point in having differing opinions on whether Earth gravity exists, for example.

Except that this is precisely what creationists dispute.

But not even they can deny that whether evolution exists or not is a fundamentally different kind of question than the abortion issue – a scientific question, a factual question, not an ethical question.

If we live in a country that’s split about 50-50 between people who believe that abortion on demand should be legal and those who think it shouldn’t be, then the government, the courts, major media outlets and other prominent institutions should feature people from both sides of the camp. That’s democracy. If there’s a 50-50 split on what the government should do on any issue but one half of the split is shut out from positions of power, then that would mean that the system is becoming undemocratic. If those who hold a particular position number about half, but are totally unrepresented in government, those people will logically become upset about the fact that their government isn’t representing them.

On the issue of the War on Drugs, those who want it ended or reduced enormously are probably quite a bit less than 50% but they do exist. However, as far as government is concerned, people holding that viewpoint are virtually entirely shut out from positions of power. So in that situation too, people who want the War on Drugs ended have reason to be upset about lack of representation.

Not WRT the courts, it isn’t. The courts are courts of law, not of public opinion, they are supposed to be above public pressure and politics, they should be the same regardless of whether public opinion on an issue is 50-50 or 60-40 one way or 60-40 the other way.

I think it’s a mixed bag. A group that excludes or punishes unpopular opinions runs the risk of sinking into groupthink or fascism. To an extent, competing ideas are healthy and should be promoted. For example, it is often very useful for someone to deliberately take the role of a devil’s advocate, even if only as an intellectual exercise to manage the effect of groupthink.

On the other hand, (and at the risk of threadshitting) I think your examples are problematic. Pro-choice people don’t necessarily care if the entire population is pro-choice, because the pro-choice position does not force the dissenting parties to comply with it. If someone opposes the very concept of abortion, that’s perfectly fine because it’s their personal choice. On the other hand, the pro-life position mandates consensus. They demand compliance with their own view, and their goal is to force everyone to obey their demands whether they agree or not. That is to say, the pro-choice position tolerates a plurality of ideas while the pro-life position does not. (Also, this is an issue that is very much driven by religious beliefs and cannot be resolved by facts or data.)

The other problem, as you pointed out, is with ideas like evolution (and climate change, and vaccines, and any of a number of other things…) Being pro-evolution is not a policy platform that demands compliance. It is a scientific theory that exists whether you believe in it or not. Whether there is a consensus among the population is irrelevant.

The theory of evolution is also not an “opinion.” The question of whether Nickelback is a good band is an “opinion.” The question of what actor deserves an Oscar is an “opinion.” Evolution is a factual matter supported by everything we know about science, so anyone who opposes it is either maliciously lying or disturbingly ignorant. Same goes for anti-vaxxers and any number of other allegedly controversial topics (which are only “controversial” for people who are willfully ignorant). There has always been a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism in America and it continues to have a very real and damaging impact on our society.

The big problem, however, is that there isn’t any good way to fix it. There are many, many societies in the world that believe differences of opinion should be punished through violence or imprisonment. America accepts that tolerating different ideas, even blatant lies and falsehoods, is better than living in a society where anyone who disagrees with the ruler can be punished for it.

Diversity is a good thing when it comes to things we don’t know or can’t know, things that don’t harm people, or trivial things.

For example, the following is good to have a diverse opinion on:

Best way to cook an egg
Favorite color
Favorite sports team
Best family car
Pizza toppings

Diversity of opinion is not good when its harmful or conflicts with facts, such as:

Global warming
Trickle-down theory
Heath Care

The fact is, trickle-down doesn’t work, evolution is proven fact, climate change is real and man-made, and there is no god. When people claim diversity in that context, it usually means they want their wrong ideas to be forced on others because they can’t do it with logical explanation and scientific backing. That’s when it becomes harmful, and harmful things should not generally be allowed on the pretense of freedom except in rare circumstances.

Typically, the liberal position encompasses all positions. The reason why pro-choice is the only rational stance is that in a fully pro-choice society, the anti-abortion people are free to not have abortions. In a fully anti-choice society, no pro-choice people are allowed to have abortions. Similarly, lots of religious nuts want their religion only to be the law of the land, meaning all other religions and non-beliefs are suppressed. That’s harmful. If we have complete secularism, then that allows all religious to be practiced equally, so an atheistic society is the most desirable and diversity of opinion should not be allowed. Selfish people only think about how their own views are being lessened, they never think about others. The correct choice should be to promote an environment that equally allows all other choices to be equal to yours. That’s why its laughable when I hear Christians complain about religious freedom. They never want all other religions to have the same power they do, they want theirs to be superior. Thus diversity is not a good thing when it comes to religion, the best thing is enforced religious equality

This doesn’t make sense. If the candidate representing the minority opinion doesn’t get elected, that means democracy worked. The only way to get elected is if more than 50% of the voters agree with your position.

A person who holds the minority opinion only has the right to complain if there is some sort of prohibition on their speech. (For example, if they were legally disenfranchised.) Losing an election because your opinion is held by the minority is not a reason to be upset, because losing an election is not the same thing as being disenfranchised.

ahem Colorado. Oregon. Washington. I suspect the number of people being willing to legalize nastier drugs is much smaller.

Come to think of it, one of the things people differ on is whether scientific questions are the only kind of factual questions. If there are any absolute standards of morality or ethics, “X is wrong” could be a fact; if not, it couldn’t.

On the other hand, I suppose there are extremists who consider even scientific questions non-factual. “Evolution? That’s just your opinion. Global warming? That’s just your opinion. Smoking causes cancer? That’s just your opinion.” I think this point of view is wrong (as do most of us here). In fact, I’d even say that it’s a fact that it’s wrong. But not a scientific fact; maybe a philosophical or epistemological or meta-scientific fact.

Should, maybe. But I think you’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe that public opinion does inform how they operate. The Court that decided Baker v. Nelson was essentially the same in make-up (politically) to the one that decided Obergefell v. Hodges.

Diversity of opinions is a good thing. Pretending all opinions are equal is a bad thing.

Some opinions are stupid. The reason a diversity of opinions is good is because it allows for comparison between good opinions and bad opinions and drives the bad opinions out to the fringe.

The ideal should be that all opinions are allowed but one opinion dominates because it’s the best.

Excellent summation.

Civilization works well under the “Grand Hotel” model of diversity: there are many floors, and suites, and rooms…but we’re all under the same roof. When a viewpoint is so divergent from the mainstream that it would imperil the safety of the hotel itself, it has gone beyond the acceptable limits.

When someone holds ugly views, we don’t censor them, or compel them to go to re-education camps. Instead, we argue with them, and call their views stupid. The SDMB has long tolerated those who hold repugnant views. We also call such ideas out, and rebut them with facts.

Exposure to bad ideas strengthens our minds. It teaches us how to debate against such notions. Simply banning them would teach us nothing, and is also scary because, at any point, your view or mine might be subject to the same ban.