Defining Our Terms: Opinion vs. Fact vs. Truth

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Defining Our Terms: Opinion vs. Fact vs. Truth

Post by The Dude on Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:26 am

Introduction
Alright, I'm going to try something here, and we'll see how it goes. When engaging in the art form that is argumentation, too often, people fail to understand the differences between these three terms. So I'm going to post a little something about them, and we'll see how people react.

Three Kinds of 'Knowing'
Opinions
Opinions are ideas that we have about things and are based on subjective measures. Opinions can't really be verified by measurement, and are dependent on the person making the statement.

Examples:
  • Oranges taste better than apples.
  • Small government is preferable to large government.
  • 9/11 was an inside job.

Opinions are, in theory, the most easily changed, because they have no objective basis, but are usually the most difficult to change, because they're deeply emotionally-held.

Facts
Facts can be verified against objective reality. They can be measured and observed. Facts should usually be beyond debate, but often are not. This is because often, facts can be contradictory.

Examples:
  • Watermelons weigh more than cherries.
  • Large governments create more regulation than small governments.
  • Building 7 fell at near free-fall acceleration.

Facts sometimes change, with new information. Good science looks at facts extremely objectively, and is willing to adjust its theories when the facts show they theory to be faulty. Bad science ignores new facts to hold on to old theories.

Truth
Truth is by far the most difficult form to pin down. Usually truth takes the form of mathematics or formal logic. It can also take a form of 'knowing' that goes beyond logic or facts, and lies only within ourselves, and cannot be verified by anything external. But by this measure, truth can also sometimes change.

Examples:
  • 2+2=4
  • I think, therefore I exist.
  • Human existence involves suffering.

So truth is something more elusive than most people think.

Conclusion
By using this understanding of the different kinds of 'knowing', when we engage in debate, we can avoid misunderstandings when people try desperately to argue for their side. So often, we fail to recognize the difference between opinions and facts, and criticize people for their beliefs because they've worked from a different set of (often changing or outdated) facts.

Very seldom, does real truth come into play.
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Re: Defining Our Terms: Opinion vs. Fact vs. Truth

Post by The Dude on Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:27 am

Skindrift wrote:So a theory which have facts to back them up are opinions?
THANK YOU!

That's the whole point. Theories backed by facts are still opinions, but they're strongly-held opinions. Theories backed by few facts are poorly-based beliefs.

Newton's Law of Gravity isn't Truth. I can't be. Nothing in science ever can! They teach this idea in every stats course in college, and every first-year science class, but we always forget it. What is the TRUE theory of the universe? Who knows! We can never know.

But, the Law of Gravity has sound mathematics that work well for pretty much anything on earth, so we believe it to be true (lowercase t). You'd be a fool to disagree. These facts don't PROVE Newton's theory as Truth. Then along comes Einstein, with a BETTER theory of Gravity, that explains the things that were just a little off from Newton. Is this theory more TRUE? No. It's a refinement on an earlier belief (backed by mathematics, so it's a strong fact).

But, understand, a god could have created the universe to work in an entirely different way, with a different understanding of how/why gravity works the way it does (i.e. we live in a matrix). We could be way off, but our facts are pretty close, so we can use them to get stuff done.

But, still, everything in science, when it's done HONESTLY, and without political and financial interference, shares a held option saying we should all agree to believe Einstein's way of understanding things, because it provides good results (facts). But if something comes a long that's simpler, or provides better facts, then science dictates we should change our beliefs. The idea of parsimony, or Occam's Razor, while useful in science, isn't particularly good in leading to the Truth. Who's to say the more complicated theory isn't the TRUE theory, although it provides the same results as a simpler theory. Science isn't looking for Truth, it's looking for rules to explain what we see, make predictions, and get things done.

These two models may or may not be the 'actuality' of the universe. The actuality is probably beyond our knowing, but science has great tools to get things done and explain what we see. These are strong facts leading to a belief about how things work.

But they're not necessarily the Truth.

For 80% of the population, the "Truth" of the world is very different for the 20% in this group. And we can bring facts to the table until we're blue in the face, and perhaps change some people's opinions, but it doesn't mean it's True.

Who knows, maybe the NWO is preparing for a planet to hit us, and that's why everything's happened like it has. They know that not everyone can be saved, so they're setting up for a post-collision world. Maybe only 3 people know this, and the people below them are just power crazy, but the 3 at the top use that to get things done. THIS is why 'Truth' is so hard to nail down.

Then, add the personal emotional facts that provide the basis of many opinions, and you've opened up a whole new can of worms....
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Re: Defining Our Terms: Opinion vs. Fact vs. Truth

Post by The Dude on Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:28 am

AnonGirl wrote:
Find your center, and move outwards. If one direction doesn't work, try another. Explore the idea from all sides. If Obsama did 9/11, why? (We know...he stated 3 reasons...one of them was Saudi Occupation from first Gulf War). Well, why did that happen? Why did we stay? Then you can talk about Oil and war for profit or business. Just THAT is a major victory for someone to understand...that war may not only be about spreading freedom.
Oh, wow. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about Truth!

Okay. So Bush starts the second Iraq War. Let's say his motivations Oil and profits for his corporate buddies.

So he talks to the generals about the importance of securing oil. They understand that. But they also understand the importance of strategic security and what's necessary in wars. Oil or not, you have to defeat an army.

Then soldiers are recruited and told they're fighting terrorism, or fighting for freedom.

So, now we're at war. Why? What's the true reason?

Well...the guys on the ground are fighting for freedom and anti-terrorism. Their actions will reflect these beliefs....and this is what they will tell the people the meet in Iraq.

The generals want to conserve their forces and secure oil, so their actions reflect those goals. Simple enough.

Bush wants the oil. His actions reflect that goal. But the actions of the troops are only very loosely tied to that goal. If a soldier is faced with saving lives or saving an oil pump, they'll likely go for the lives. Because they're working from a moral center of spreading freedom.

So. What's happening in Iraq? What's the True story? The Truth depends very much on who you talk to. We can look at outcomes, and try in infer the truth, but we only end up with opinions. But it's absolutely True for the soldier on the ground, working from their moral understanding, that they're doing their best to help spread freedom. Unfortunately, the main tool the solider is given is the gun. If they were building schools and hospitals, they'd be doing a better job. Ask any soldier, and they'll agree with that.

So, there are three subjective Truths here (Bush, generals, and soldiers), and one set of objective facts (the outcome). To say it's True that we went into Iraq for oil is totally wrong. To say BUSH wanted to go into Iraq for oil may be true, but we can't ever really see his real motivation unless he tells us, and even then he has a subconscious that may have influenced him. So we're stuck with theories (beliefs).

So we can look at the outcome, and see that spreading freedom hasn't worked, and for most soldiers, we failed in that regard. Maybe they were able to help the people there, and can take consolation in that. For the generals, the security zone has been a limited success. For Bush? Who knows. I don't really care, to be honest. Maybe he honestly thought he was spreading freedom, and was convinced of that by Cheney. Maybe Cheney just saw an opportunity, and utilized Bush's march for 'freedom'.

Point is, this is a great example of how Truth is extremely slippery, and we need to be careful.
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