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Facts, Belief, and Opinion

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Posted on : 11:52 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,


The postcard above is from a collection owned by Dave Thomas.
I've been hearing this a lot lately:
"The fact is..."

"I believe in..."

"This is the truth..."

I hardly ever hear:

"In my humble opinion..."

People use the terms fact and belief and truth interchangeably, but they are all very different. A fact is indisputably the case - something no one can argue against. A belief is an acceptance that something is true or something exists. An opinion is a view or judgement formed about something that is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

Let's use some examples.

"I don't believe in climate change, I think it's just a scare tactic." In this example, the person has decided that scientific evidence, or facts, are not enough for them to accept that something exists. The person thinks that the climate is fine, but what is really going on is that they have formed an opinion based on their own beliefs. Climate change might be used as a scare tactic by political forces, but it doesn't make the scientific facts discussed by the IPCC any less true.

One of the more dangerous things I have heard is this one:
"America shouldn't donate to Haiti because we have too many problems of our own." In this example, someone has formed a judgement based on an opinion, and a very selfish one at that. It is indisputable that America has some problems. More than Haiti? It makes me wonder what is going on the media or in people's minds when someone thinks that an economic recession is justification for not helping a neighbor after a total destruction and breakdown of a society. A twist on this I have heard is that either the government is using Haiti for their own agenda, or that Haiti should be sent the American government so they can deal with it instead. This sounds like people want to punish Haiti because they obviously had an earthquake on purpose? I'm not sure how the logic works on that one.

Belief in God, or belief in no God, belief in a liberal government or belief in a conservative one, those things don't really hurt people. Beliefs are closely held in the minds of humans, and usually the intention is good. Opinions, on the other hand, can hurt. Just to give another example, a Muslim terrorist has an opinion about Islam that is not based on fact, and it hurts people. When people accept their opinions as beliefs or facts, that's when things go wrong. Part of my goals as a human being is to make sure that my mind is open enough to differentiate the difference between my own opinion and a fact, and respect the beliefs of others.

I hope this post wasn't too abrasive. If your opinion is that climate change is hogwash, that's fine with me. If your political beliefs are different than mine, that's fine too. This is because freedom of speech and belief is a human right.

All you need is love. :)

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