This is going to be long, and probably rambling, because I tend to do that; in fact, it's one of the things I like about myself. This is something that I have thought about often, and for a long time, even before Internet forums. I have expressed it in different ways within the context of other threads, and I feel like talking about it now. Over many years, we have been encouraged to surrender our brains to the experts, our curiosity to the media, and our facts to the professionals, and I don't think that this has served us well. We look to religious or secular leaders for guidance on what to think, how to act, and what positions to take. We may not like or agree with what our political leaders do but we accept that they can do pretty much whatever they want, and our acquiescence on these matters hasn't necessarily served us well either. The very fact that we consider others to be our leaders is doing us a disservice. It's one thing to accept that someone has the power to take my stuff, to lock me up in jail, or to kill me, but it's quite another for me to accept that they are my leader. Where are they leading me? Is it anywhere that I want to go? Even as Christians, for those of us who are Christians, we have found it easier to accept the words that we hear from behind a pulpit or a television screen than to read the Bible for ourselves and realize that it was intended to be comprehensible to the average person. I am pretty sure that something similar applies to other religions, as well. Discussions so often involve an exchange of quotes from one expert source or another and we don't accept that anything is the truth unless it's reported on CNN or in the New York Times, this despite the fact that we may realize that these sources have an agenda and they have lied to us repeatedly. The same idea is true of pretty much every discussion imaginable. Rather than discussing something within the contents of our own abilities and brains, we look to experts who we can cite. Sure, it makes sense to consider the opinions of people who specialize in whatever it is that you want to know but, more often than not, these people have chosen their specialities because they want to control the flow of information, pushing an agenda. If they didn't go into the profession for that reason, they have very likely absorbed it because, in order to continue to be considered an expert, to be eligible for grants, or to continue to be employed in their field, they can't go off on their own. An expert who does not go along with the global warming agenda will soon be discredited, no longer cited as an expert, and may well become unemployed. Reporters who resist the political and social agendas of their employers will have no bylines, and will soon find that they have no future in media. Whatever your own social or political inclinations, the best discussions erupt from within the brains of the people who are participating rather than slinging citations at one another. Certainly, the contents of our own brains includes things that we have learned in school, from newspapers, and elsewhere, and I am not suggesting that we keep what we believe to be facts out of our discussions. I'm not even suggesting that we refrain from posting news articles, the results of studies, or other things that we come across, because these things can prompt valuable discussions, as well. By all means, keep doing that, as I am going to. However, it bothers me when someone discounts their own opinions, as if they are only useful when an expert can be found who agrees with them, and it annoys me even more when someone doesn't even bother to think things out for themselves, choosing to allow the professionals to tell them what to think, believe, support, or do. If it's a political discussion, are you giving your own opinions or are you parroting buzzwords from whichever political team you consider yourself to be a member of? We all do that, but perhaps we should try not to do it so often, or at least recognize that we're simply repeating something that was determined to be a good slogan by a focus group. In religious thought, my perspective comes from a Christian point of view because I am a Christian, but the same thing would apply to any religion, I trust. Are your Christian views the result of personal study or are you simply repeating the doctrines of whatever flavor of Christianity you decided to join? In other words, is it really in the Bible? Does it necessarily mean that? If you consider yourself to be an atheist, have you ever wondered why you're so angry with those who aren't? If you truly don't believe in God, why does it annoy you that others do? Are you truly an atheist, or are you actually an antitheist? I am not a Buddhist but I don't spend my time hanging out in Buddhist threads, arguing with the Buddhists, and searching the Internet for bad things to say about Buddha. Are your social convictions driven by polls, and a resistance to being out of the norm? Don't forget that it is important to those charged with advancing the pro-life agenda for you to believe that the majority of people are opposed to abortion on demand, and that it's every bit as important for the pro-abortion agenda for you to believe that the majority of people are in favor of allowing the choice of abortion. Both can find statistics to back them up. That's why one side refers to their issue as pro-life rather than anti-abortion, and the other side uses pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. People like to be in favor of something rather than against it, and who could argue with such positive words as life and choice? On this issue, generally the experts are paid to press whatever side of the issue they are on and everyone else is driven by good advertising, social pressure, and emotion rather than thinking it through. Wrapping this up, for now, my point is to encourage more discussions from within our own brains, and to discount the idea that your own opinions aren't worth having. Keep in mind also that, even if everyone else disagrees with you, there's nothing wrong with being the only one who is right.