Opinion on Everything!

No matter how much we know, there is always more to learn


Opinion on Everything!
by hossein.hosseini

Have you ever wondered what it is that compels people to give an opinion on topics that they have virtually no experience or knowledge of? I am not talking about political or social topics that are common and many of us have an opinion on, rather, topics that are more fact-based or scientific in nature where some expertise is required. I am sure you have faced many such people.

At a recent gathering with friends, there was this middle-aged woman who was giving medical advice on all kinds of illnesses. Among other things, she was claiming that a certain kind of stone attached to the body will prevent a heart attack or stroke and also cure many diseases. When asked what her profession was, I was told she is a full-time home-maker with a part-time career in Real Estate. Right across the room sitting among the guests was a Medical Doctor (Internal Medicine) who was simply listening to the conversation with a broad grin on his face. I asked the good doctor the same question. His answer: “people give an opinion because it makes them feel important.”

This phenomenon, although universal, seems to be more prevalent among some Iranians. I am sure you know many who are experts in Finance, Banking, Real Estate, Medicine, Immigration, Law (and any other topic you can imagine) without actually having any experience in such fields. I honestly do not know what compels people to offer their opinions, but here are some answers received when I posed the same question on an on-line professional forum: “Perhaps some people have nothing better to do or maybe at times people find that the less they know about a topic, the better their answers turn out to be!” Another friend mentioned “I am just waiting to come across an important problem in a topic of which I absolutely know nothing about. It's obvious I know a lot about the topic that you're asking. Or, “This nature that compels people to behave in the manner you cited is what, I believe, has pushed the boundaries of science and enabled discoveries into unknown territories. The only differentiating factor is some people stumble on to the right answers.”

It is safe to assume that people in general are very opinionated. They like to offer their opinions as fact or advice, whether we want to hear them or not. Sometimes these opinions are not even very relevant to the question. These are the type of people that truly believe they are superior and smarter than everyone else and can just ramble on about subjects they aren’t qualified to speak on.

The other side of this debate is the notion of “The Wisdom of Crowds” where some argue that if you take the sum of all the answers given by the crowd, it is as good as, if not better than, the answers you will receive from the experts. There is even a book written on the subject by the renowned New York Times journalist James Surowiecki. The aggregate of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, the author argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.

The book‘s opening anecdote relates Francis Galton's surprise that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged (the average was closer to the ox's true butchered weight than the estimates of most crowd members, and also closer than any of the separate estimates made by cattle experts).

People who respond to questions usually feel they may have some insight into the situation. Whether that is true or not is up to the person asking the question to determine in their own mind. Thinking outside the box often entails answers the questioner would not normally find on their own. One of my professors used to say “anyone who says they know everything about any subject has just placed themselves into the category of ignorant. Nobody knows everything and those who claim they do are fooling themselves. If you don’t stretch, you don’t grow – and asking questions and receiving different answers is the only way to grow. “Obviously not all the answers are valuable, but they may offer a kernel of information that can make the questioner think about their subject differently and ultimately lead them in the proper direction.

As I think about the reasons for people answering questions in which they have no experience, I come across three possibilities: First, there are those who think they know everything and so answer everything. Second, there are those who answer because they know very little and would like others to assert or add to what they know, and finally, there are those who believe that the little they know might not be known by the experts and so their little bit of information might add to the experts' knowledge. Their little knowledge might just be the piece of information that was sitting outside the expertise box.

I also think experience and intelligent insight are two different things. There are many people with experience who have limited insight, intelligence, intuition or vision. There were people who thought that Barack Obama didn't have the experience to be President of the United States. Thank goodness there were MORE people who thought he possessed extraordinary vision, insight and intelligence. Many successful entrepreneurs had no experience when they started companies like Apple, California Pizza Kitchen, McDonald's, Google or Amazon.com.

No matter how much we know, there is always more to learn.


Recently by hossein.hosseiniCommentsDate
Did We Shrink?
May 17, 2012
Happy Norooz to my Iranian.com Friends
Mar 19, 2012
Orange County Mehregan Festival and Song
Aug 13, 2011
more from hossein.hosseini
Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Your writing skill is great, but I have issues with the content of what you wrote.  Maybe it’s my misunderstanding of what you’re trying to say.

“Many successful entrepreneurs had no experience when they started companies…”  There are many reasons why in a free market economy some companies make it, some don’t, one of the many is experience, but also some have stumbles into a successful business model by accident, luck, timing, etc.  But also because they were shrewd business people, knowledgeable, daring, experienced, and so on.  Also to say that people behind “Apple, California Pizza Kitchen, McDonald's, Google or Amazon.com.” had “no experience” is mind-boggling.

And the law of the averages tells us that the average number ought to be closer to the true number than the other numbers, but I have no idea how scientific this idea is that ordinary people in a crowd would be more accurate than the experts.  If that was true, and a scientific fact, then in that case, let’s say during a surgical procedure, a crowd should be asked, let’s say, how many cancerous tumors a patient have.  They don’t even have to be in an operating room to crowd the space.  A video feed of the procedure could be sent to thousand of people in different cities, or globally, and the crowd would be asked the question, how many cancerous tumors the patient have, and according to the theory presented here, their answer would be better than the experts!

Better yet, why did the crowd elected George W. Bush?  With the same logic as presented for electing Barack Obama, you should be saying “…thank goodness there were MORE people who thought he (George W. Bush) possessed extraordinary vision, insight and intelligent.”  And we all know how he turned out to be.

Nice try, nice writing, but I think what you presented here is pseudo science.


Heed your elders' opinions!

by Parsai on

On the subject of quaint medical advice from elders, for as long as I remember my mum has been admonishing me for not letting my tea cool down before drinking it. Her reasoning was that gulping down hot tea can cause throat cancer.

I'd never heard of such a thing until a few days ago when a study published in the respected British Medical Journal came to the exact same conclusion! Swallowing down hot tea is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Coincidently, the researchers were all Iranian and used a large sample population from Golestan province, northern Iran. The BMJ don't publish just any old study, so it was taken seriously enough to be widely reported across the world.

I guess science has finally caught up with my dear mum's sound, albeit largely anecdotal advice. I love you mum!



khaleh mosheh

In my not so humble opinion

by khaleh mosheh on

The wisdom of the crowd is a fallacy. Just consider the 1979 Iranian revolution that disposed of the Shah and ushered in Khomeini.


It Simply Is True

by MiNeum71 on

It´s a matter of lack of confidence, having an opinion makes one feel important; this is human. How it´s possible for many Iranians to have that self-confidence?

Besides, nice piece, thanks for sharing.


Maryam Hojjat

Thanks fo your Lesson!

by Maryam Hojjat on

The more we learn about a subject the more we realize how much we do not know.  That is what I have experienced! 


So do you want our opinion

by Esmal Latte (not verified) on

So do you want our opinion or not? You are giving an opinion on why people should not be giving opinions!

It really isn't about people giving opinions. It is more about the people who listen to them. That is the real issue not the other way around.


I was hoping that your blog was going to...

by alborz on

... to get into why Iranians are more susceptible to claiming knowledge about something they know little about, versus let's say Westerners.

Generalizations aside, I agree with your observations and furthermore I do think that there is a cultural element in the difference that we have all observed in this regard.

Before adding more to this subject, perhaps you can offer your own views as to why this diffference exists and why.

Thanks for a great blog,


anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

this is great... i think every one is guilty of this at one time or another and you say it in such a way as to NOT offend anyone.  well, i hope so anyway...LOL.

damet garm!