Oh, their sweet, aghast faces when I say this: some opinions are ridiculous. That’s right, did you think all opinions are equal? That they’re all valid? Well, we’re in big school now and we need to retune; we need to adjust our set. What does that mean?  Oh, never mind.

Here’s a little story that I tell Year 7 as soon as I have the opportunity.

Let’s say that I think the Moon is made of cheese. We can have a harder, cheddary crust and a softer, creamier Camembert mantle and a ricotta outer core if you like. So, anything wrong with that? That’s my opinion, right? So it’s OK.

Except that it isn’t. It’s a ridiculous opinion. There is not only no reason for me to think this, other than being difficult for the sake of it, but there’s no evidence. No, I know you’ve seen Wallace and Gromit, but there really isn’t any. And you know what? There’s a mountain of evidence to suggest that the Moon is made of rock. And aside from the fact that we have samples of actual Moon rock, we’d have to entertain the possibility of there being some kind of giant space-cow, complete with a galactic dairy.

So, it’s a ridiculous opinion and I’m being ridiculous to hold it. Is there any danger in this? I might lose some friends, I suppose.  This opinion might even be indicative (check your dictionaries!) of other silly thoughts I might hold, but dangerous? Hmmm.

But what if I’m in charge of the country? What if there’s a terrible world food shortage: nothing will grow, not even in laboratories. What then? Well, maybe I’d choose to spend all of our money on a mission to the mozzarella Moon, the great Brie in the sky. We could mine the Moon for food until we found another way to grow our food. Genius!

So, a mission on which the entire world’s food supplies ensues. All of our fuel and all of our money is poured into this great trip. We sit at home, watching the television and munching on the last of the tinned beans. And then it turns out that I was wrong. The moon isn’t made of cheese. 

We’re doomed. I’ve spent all of our money and used all of our fuel on a ridiculous trip that had no hope of being successful. Suddenly my opinion looks dangerous, right? Suddenly I’m a menace. And it’s no good just blaming me because you all voted me in. You didn’t question me. You said that it was fine for me to think this Moon was cheesy because, well, it was my opinion. And we’re all entitled to our opinions, aren’t we? 

Ladies and gentlemen: if we cannot support our statements with evidence then our opinions deserve to be questioned. And it’s important that we are. It’s vital. Otherwise we could say anything at all. And that anything might just be ridiculous, but it might also be dangerous.

I don’t insist that you support what you write with evidence because it’s good writing, though it is. I insist that you do so because it is important. Because otherwise we end up with the crazies in power, because people get hurt and because, ultimately – though it may not seem important to you at the moment – it is dangerous.

Some opinions are ridiculous.