Our culture and even our educational system has come to value subjectivity and personal opinion so highly--and has consequently come to reject fixed standards and even reason itself--that we now value every thought for its own sake, quite apart from any reason or evidence. We hear someone say, "I don't trust him," or "That movie was really great," or "That law is unjust," and then the speaker just drops a period at the end of the sentence, It used to be that we would hear a "because" after such assertions. "That law is unjust because it treats minor offenses and major ones the same way."
Not now, however. In fact, when high school or college students are asked to supply a reason for their opinions, many of them grow instantly angry. They are offended, They take umbrage. The conversation goes something like this:
Teacher: What do you think about the main character's decision to leave town at the end?
Student: I think he's got another wife in another town and he's going to go to her.
Teacher: And you think that because. . .
Student (growing angry): That's my opinion. That's just what I think.
Teacher: But can you point to a passage in the story that supports your idea?
Student: I don't have to. That's my personal opinion.
Postmodernists and their fellow travelers have helped bring about this state of affairs by asserting that a given work can yield dozens of different but equally valid interpretations. It's a free-for-all with interpretations of literature, poetry, history, and of course political science. But the phenomenon goes way beyond textual interpretations right to the heart of interpersonal communication on any topic. No one is required to have evidence or a reason for what they assert. We're just supposed to accept it.
But accept it as true or merely as that person's personal belief? I think we are witnessing the derationalization of the modern world. People want to hold beliefs without any reason or evidence. Case in point are some of the conspiracy theories and urban legends that are so preposterous yet so firmly believed. Example:
"Did you know that TWA Flight 800 was really shot down by a US missile?"
"But an extensive reconstruction of the wreckage showed no such evidence."
"Oh, it was hushed up and the fake story about frayed wires in the fuel tank was spread."
"But that would require the cooperation and lying of hundreds of investigators."
Here would be a good time to ask, "And you believe the missile idea rather than the official reports because...."
The answer to that leads to another discussion, about those who like to believe in the "true" explanations for our society's events.