The Unfair Fight: Truth v Opinion

Truth and opinion are constantly battling each other for acceptance and the battle is often fought within the context of a zero-sum game. Former New York Senator Moynihan once quipped that we can all have our own opinions, but we can’t all have our own facts. The problem is most humans confuse the one for the other. In fact it is that phenomenon that is the source of much of human misery. Voltaire, the French philosopher once stated, “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes” (Brainy Quote).

Truth moves in tandem with fact, but opinion is the one that often masquerades as either. Truth and fact can be elusive, even evasive. Thus, the valid is often difficult to identify or acknowledge and so when presented with an issue, one must sort out, collate and present as is – in all its naked glory – what is fact or truth and what is opinion. Humans often find this task to be daunting and demanding.

As a matter of course, humans prefer opinion over fact or truth because opinion often does not tax the mind but rather sedates it. Fact and truth are exacting taskmasters whereas opinion often requires mindless compliance, which is the course of least resistance. Once opinion is introduced into the equation, the answers are often the same: Wrong! This is starkly evident in science, religion, politics and all the other realms of the human experience. Opinion has the advantage over truth because humans, as a matter of course, have demonstrated a proclivity for choosing the shiny rock rather than the diamond in the rough.

Truth and fact are worthy of relentless pursuit, and sometimes they may even take on a fugitive-like stature, but opinion should be slaughtered at every turn – except where it is openly acknowledged that opinion and not fact or truth is at play. When the man called Jesus spoke of truth to Pontius Pilate, Pilate quipped, “What is truth?” He was never given an answer. The philosopher, Diogenes is said to have walked the streets in broad daylight while holding a lantern. When asked why, he is reported to have said he was searching for an honest man. May we all do likewise – searching for facts or truth, and along the way, give no more power to opinion than what it deserves so as to ensure that the fight between the two is fair.

Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 4:17 AM  Leave a Comment  
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My Credo

There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it — sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth.

I penned and published those words several years ago and they have served me well. The corollary to that statement is: I hate being wrong; I detest it. In fact, I abhor being wrong so much that I desperately want to know when I am so that I can stop. Such a credo requires constant monitoring and evaluating of my ideas and beliefs — primarily those [but not exclusively] that are the substance for how I live my life.

Most humans, however, tend to hold onto their beliefs with the same tenacity and vigor as when a pit bull chomps down on another dog’s body during a dog fight. Humans will sacrifice the truth of a matter to their own opinion or to an idea that is incorrect. People do not like to change their mind. This reality is probably a function of believing that changing one’s mind in the face of other information is a sign of weakness or a feeling of being diminished as opposed to one of maturity, if not wisdom. In these instances, stubbornness becomes synonymous with stupidity.

It is recorded that when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Jesus spoke of truth to which Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus did not answer. [Though earlier, to a different audience, Jesus stated, “I am the truth…”] In any event, I understand that what is true can be difficult to discern and sometime even relative. What is deemed to be true today, could later be found to be untrue or only partly true. Nonetheless, that does not absolve one of the responsibility to honor truth by continually searching for it or at least dismissing what one once thought to be true. I use the term “responsibility” quite deliberately.

No matter one’s ethos, there are few purposes that occupy a higher place than the love of and subsequent search for what is true. But as stated earlier, humans tend to not only not search, but simply select beliefs that are given them by others or beliefs that constitute “low hanging fruit”. After all, to do otherwise is very hard work. This being so, the easy thing to do is to reject ideas that do not fit into one’s construct of truth about a matter. The story of the psychiatrist and the delusional patient comes to mind:

The patient sits down and declares to the doctor, “I am dead.”

The psychiatrist queries, “How do you know you are dead?”

“Dead people don’t bleed,” he replied. At that point the psychiatrist removed a pocket knife from his desk, rose and approached the patient. He cut the patient on the hand. The patient looked at his hand and saw blood oozing out.

He exclaimed with utter surprise, “I didn’t know dead people could bleed!”

As can be seen, some people will dismiss or discount information that contradicts their beliefs. Nothing, not even “God” can get them to abandon what is wrong and accept what is true.

To that end, how many people who reject the idea of current global warming as being primarily the result of human activity, would change their mind in light of the influx of more and more  confirming information?

To that end, how many people will reject the idea of creationism/religion as well as evolution in favor of intelligent design and subsequently deism?

To that end, how many people will submit their ideas about marriage, religion, politics, abortion, free-market capitalism, etcetera, to rigorous and unmerciful scrutiny as part of their relentless search for what is true?

Of course, certain matters are not subject to being right or wrong, true or untrue. They are a matter of view point. Such a thing is fine with one proviso: The examination of all sides of an issue.

In short, a human does not deserve to take sides in an issue unless she or he has closely examined all sides of an issue. Such examination should be so thorough that one can argue any side with the conviction of a believer of that side even if one is not. Then and only then, does one have a right to an opinion [an opinion, because truth is not the final arbiter in some situations]

So, I aver again, before I embrace any idea, I will spit on it slap it, punch it, knock it down and kick it, stomp it … and if it gets back up — I will embrace it, until the next time.

Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 4:49 AM  Comments (1)  
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