Friday 17 March 2023

Do Facts Matter?

Facts Aren't truth

People confuse facts and the truth.  Truth only applies when there is meaning.  Facts only have meaning when they are connected.  When all the relevant facts are assembled in a logical and coherent fashion, the result is the truth or at least some degree of truth.

"Agreed-upon Facts":  say what?

In the everyday world, facts are hard to come by.  I find myself repeatedly forced to use the expression "the agreed-upon facts."  Is this expression redundant (a pleonasm) or a contradiction in terms (an oxymoron)?  If whatever is "a fact" doesn't that mean that everyone cogent must necessarily agree?  If whatever must be "agreed upon" doesn't that mean it is something different from if not the opposite of "a fact"?


The problem gets worse.  We live in an increasingly polarized world.  Beneath this polarization is a world where feelings trump facts.  We accept as fact whatever happens to support and assuage our feelings of the moment, and dismiss those facts which don't fit with our opinions, beliefs and emotions.

How We learn that reason is wrong

The situation isn't accidental and it isn't natural.  Beginning in elementary school we teach children slogans like "follow your heart," "pursue your dreams" and "be true to yourself" without stopping to consider what these instructions might actually mean.  Outside the classroom, we are bombarded with romance, the notion that human desire can overcome reality.  The hero will sacrifice the world--literally--to save the unrequited love of his first sight.  And fiction always proves him right.  The character who displays reason and logic, if not the villain, will be the weaselly egoist we know to despise at first glance.

Does Fiction affect how we view the world?

We can pretend that our perceptions and vision of the world are unaffected by romantic fiction.   But everywhere I look I see pandering to prejudice and naive melodrama--endless "news" stories implying virtuous heroes, innocent victims and evil villains.  The binaries of absolute good and evil only survive when they are scrubbed of facts and challenging details.  Still, the stories survive and propagate because we have all been taught to believe whatever it is that we already happen to believe . . . until a generation later and the story changes.

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