The Truth About Facts and Opinions

Preceding the pop philosophy book Everyone Agrees:

The truth is a funny thing. It is everywhere, and yet it is very difficult to find. It determines everything, yet some people say it doesn’t exist. Albert Einstein spent his entire professional life looking for the truth in something called the unified theory, and yet never quite made it. People love to think that they are quoting the truth by saying, “the facts are,” or, “that is a fact.” when really, facts are simply one person’s interpretation of the truth.

In this essay, I will explain that, what we consider to be facts and opinions are actually different degrees of the same thing and that thing is the one truth of the universe. I will describe human’s experience with this one truth in the universe, and that we humans do not know, yet, what it is. Our facts are based on this truth, but contain just a degree of this truth. I will show how absolute facts can change based on one’s perspective and that facts are just opinions which have been validated by others. Opinions are thoughts about a particular idea gained through all types of experiences. With this said, everyone must agree, on everything, because if there is only one truth, then to disagree with that, then, would be irrational.

The One Truth Exists

The truth is a funny thing for sure, and accepting the idea that there is a truth that governs laws of nature as well as laws of sociology, is hard to do, especially since no one knows what that truth is. In science, there have been recent attempts to explain everything in one equation, like the string theory, but they have major flaws and are almost impossible to provide proof for. Religion has, for millennia, tried to explain the truth of the universe, but when ideologies in religion have been questioned in the past, the ideology either has faltered or the religion has banned the question. There aren’t too many other venues humans have to search for the truth and since religion and science have consistently showed us that with every new revelation, their previous knowledge is widely insufficient, those have failed too.

Due to these insufficiencies, everyone has yet to agree on the one truth for the universe (we will see later that it takes agreement to turn theories or opinions into facts). It is much easier to agree on things that are closer to everyday life than “the truth of the universe”, like, “the sky is blue,” and, “humans require food to live.” Even though these statements can be opened to interpretation (the sky is actually a gradation of pale blue to deep turquoise), it is fair to say that all rational humans would agree with them. If we keep the statements at a low level it is easy to find common ground between two humans and thus be able to label each statement as a fact.

The truth does exist and evidence for this is our existence and the idea which I will discuss further later, that with more and more perspective, one gets closer and closer to this truth.

Perspective is the Key to the Truth

Facts are funny things too. A fact is someone’s interpretation of the truth, thus it can be completely MISinterpreted if given to someone else. Say two bystanders are sitting on a park bench and twenty feet away, a gentleman approaches an old lady and speaks with her for a brief moment before getting aggressive and taking her purse and walking away The old lady turned around and walked away. Without knowing what they were saying, the two bystanders on the park bench could arrive at completely different ideas of what happened. One was alerted to the situation and stood up. He believed what he just saw was a man stealing an old lady’s purse. “Did you just see that,” the alerted man would have said to the calm one.

“Yes,” he would have replied.

“Well aren’t you going to do something about it?” The then confounded bystander would have said.

“Nope.” The other one would have replied and would have folded his arms behind his head, “justice was served.”

To most people, this would seem very odd. The situation described would appear to give the alerted man some reason to be alerted. But what the alerted man didn’t see was that a moment earlier, the old lady had sat down besides the accused thief and his wife and picked up his wife’s purse and walked off with it. The thief was actually the old lady!

This is a perfect example of the facts being skewed due to lack of knowledge. The alerted man’s feelings were warranted based on what he saw, but he did not see the entire transaction and thus he was limited in his PERSPECTIVE of the situation.

Perspective is the key to finding the truth. It is wholly probable that with more perspective, the bystander who was going to accuse the man of robbing an old lady, would agree with calm bystander. Thus from this we can determine that with more perspective, people are closer to learning the truth.

Facts Are Degrees of the Truth

Another case of a prospectively challenged individual is one that happens most every day and can be seen wherever one is. Alowicious was an American complainer. He thought his job was stuck, he disliked his apartment, he thought that his government should be socialist so that he wouldn’t have to pay for anything. If all these things were different, he would be happy, he thought. One night, Alowicious went to his favorite restaurant (because it’s pretty cheap), and sat down by himself to order. He ordered the BLT from the cheerful waitress and received it moments later- he looked at it and was not happy. Just then an old friend of his called his name and came over to sit with him. His friend’s name was Ronny and he had just returned from a mission in sub-Saharan Africa to help a community struggling through famine. As the two friends caught up, Alowicious did not eat, he noticed that the tomato juice had seeped into the bread and had made it soggy in places. It had gotten worse the longer he waited. When Al finally got the attention of the server he said, “This sandwich is bad- you can throw it out -I wont eat sandwiches which have been soggied by the tomato juice.”

“I could bring out some more bread,” the server offered.

Alowicious looked stunned, “The sandwich is 10 minutes old now, I don’t want it at all.”

The server brought it back to the kitchen where, moments later, the cook had a bite.

Alowicious completely dismissed the story of the sub-Saharan African children who were eating grass to get some sort of nutrition in their bodies. To Alowicious, the food he was given was bad, but to his friend, it was the substance of the gods. The people who he was helping a week before would have given their house for a sandwich like that. In this situation Alowicious had very little perspective, while his friend had buckets full.

From these examples it is easy to see how facts can be changed based on perspective. In the case of Alowicious, he thought that his sandwich was bad- while his friend thought that it was good. Facts are defined as those conditions which are generally accepted as the truth, however, if Al were to say to his friend that the sandwich was bad and that’s a fact, he would be wrong. His lack of perspective disallowed his statement to be a fact. If he were to reduce his statement to, “The bread is soggy,” then he would be factual, because he and his friend would agree.

This can get very tricky when dealing with situations on the level of life, the universe and everything. What we saw in the case of the stolen purse was a fact (that man stole that lady’s purse) turn into an opinion due to its lack of perspective. Are all facts, then, just opinions?

Facts Are Validated Opinions

It can be said that, yes, all facts are indeed opinions, because it requires an additional person to agree with that opinion to make it fact. Even then it is only a fact between two people. “Wow! That means that everything I learned in class is just an opinion?” Yes. If a history teacher says that people walked on the moon on 1969, most people would say that that was a fact. They would do this based on this: they probably have seen footage of humans on the moon or experienced something similar, they have heard about it from other sources, it makes sense, and the source from which this statement has been derived has been factual in the past (that is, the source is a credible one).

However, if that same person went to a stranger on the street in the 1850s, assuming that that was in any way, shape, or form, possible, and told them the same thing, it would be laughed at. The only thing that someone in 1850 could have experienced regarding the moon landing would have been a fiction novel. No one else would have been talking about it, and it wouldn’t be a logical statement seeing as though the newest technology then was the railroad. Also, this history teacher has never been proven as a credible source to the 1850s man.

These four criteria are required to make a statement a fact: 1)personal experience backing up the statement, 2)there are multiple outside sources for this statement, 3) the statement is logical, and 4) the source of the statement is credible. Without one of these, it is valid to be skeptical. If that same teacher told his class that people have landed on Mars, that statement should be taken skeptically. Some of the criteria are met, but one isn’t. Students might have seen other spacecraft landing on Mars; it seems logical that people could have done that; and the source is credible, but that is the first time they had heard anything about it, and no one else was talking about it. Some of the students surely would have been reading the newspaper and would have found a similar story in the paper if that was true. All of these criteria are required to make a statement a fact.

But are facts the truth? It would stand to reason that with more perspective on a topic, even something as fundamental as, “the speed of light can never be surpassed,” can change. Albert Einstein discovered that light travels from one point to another, just like anything else. There was quite a few differences with light, however. The concept of time changes the closer to the speed of light one travels. If a person were traveling at half the speed of light around the Earth, time would be considerably slower, compared to Earth’s time. If he did his remarkable journey for one year, and then landed, he would have aged only a couple months compared to his counterparts on Earth. This would imply that if a human were to ride on a wave of light, that time would appear to have stopped.

Einstein was convinced that to go over the speed of light would be a paradox of nature and was IMPOSSIBLE. This, however was just was scientists did in the last year of the second millennium. They forced a particle of matter to go faster than the speed of light.

It stands to reason, then, that somethings that we take as facts can actually be proven wrong with more perspective. That should make the believers of an ultimate truth sad, but it is comforting to realize that an ultimate truth can exist without us knowing exactly what it is. In fact, humans can only become infinitely close to the truth and never reach it.

What? The more one’s perspective increases on an idea, the closer one gets to the truth, but he will never know the actual truth because this would require omniscience and we mere mortals are anything but all knowing. Again, though, humans can become infinitely close to the truth with the more they learn.

Everyone Agrees

One might ask, “What does this have to do with everyone agreeing on everything?” Well, we can say that as long as people know the exact same amount about something, they will certainly agree on it. This is a difficult idea to demonstrate, but if we assume that people’s opinion’s change based on what they learn, we can see that all that is different in people’s ideologies is their experience (whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual experience). If two people had the exact same experiences, they would agree on everything. But are they right?

Opinions Are statements of Personal Truths

We know that the only difference between people’s opinions are their experiences, but who’s to say who is right and who is wrong? Is either party right or wrong? Amazingly, both parties are right. In 99% of arguments*, people who are arguing, actually agree! The only thing on which they disagree is their use of vocabulary. If you break the argument down far enough, two rational people must agree because rational people must agree on the truth. When people give their opinions, they are actually relaying their personal truths to the listener. This cannot be judged or challenged because this is their experience (unless, of course, they’re lying). The only thing that can be challenged is their definitions of words used in the argument.

Suppose Alien A is down on earth for a weekend with Alien B. while the two aliens are conversing one night in a bar whilst trying to hit on some earth girls, Alien A’s translator gadget in his ear starts to malfunction. Alien A hears slightly different words than Alien B- for instance, his new acquaintance girl says, “I just got my hair done at the mall.” And he hears, “I just got my mare into the stall.” Or, “You have really nice teeth,” compared to, “You have silly ice beats.” Besides being really funny to his friend and his new acquaintances, Alien A’s affliction is the basis of all disagreements in the world, only a little more extreme. Disagreements are based on different definitions to common words.

Everything everyone says follows a path like this: Thought > speech > through the air > ear > brain > thought. During this expedition, a thought can change meaning because humans rely on words to communicate, and words rely on the speaker or the listener’s definition of the word to work. For a sentence to make sense, the speaker and the listener have to have a similarly developed vocabulary. For a the two participants in a conversation to agree, the two have to have an almost identical vocabulary- that is, they have to have had the same experiences.

If someone says a word that the listener has never heard, it doesn’t make sense to the listener. If the listener had heard the word in one context, he would think of it only in that context. If that context and the speakers context clashed, then they would disagree. This is similar to the story of the aliens in that Alien A’s translator associated spoken words incorrectly. If a person has a limited experience with a word, his “translator” connects it with a different idea than the speaker’s.

People who disagree are both right, as long as they aren’t lying. However, the more perspective one has on the universe and the topic at hand, in particular, the closer that person is to the truth.

The person with more perspective on a subject in an argument (although he may be wrong) is the one closer to right. The point is to gain perspective on the universe, not be right necessarily.

That’s all for now.

*If you were wondering what happened with the other 1% of people who argue and don’t agree, it’s usually because one of the people is talking completely out of their third hole and probably irrational beyond belief (see Dick Gephart).