Thursday, May 23, 2013

Subject: Facts vs Opinions

Facts can change opinions.  That's the way opinions are supposed to work.  Unlike beliefs, which are usually based totally upon faith, opinions are supposed to be a personal interpretation of the facts.  At one time, everyone on earth thought the sun went around the earth.  They had very few facts, and the facts they had seemed to indicate that the earth was the center of the universe.  Over time, however, as more facts became known, opinions changed, and gradually nearly everyone on earth accepted what the new facts proved.  Most of those who believed the sun went around the earth, however, continued to believe as they always believed -- until they eventually all died off.

Opinions cannot change facts.  Neither can beliefs.  No matter how many people have an opinion or belief that human beings never went to the moon, that doesn't alter the overwhelming facts which prove that 12 American astronauts walked on the moon.

Anthrax Truthers argue either opinions or beliefs (and sometimes prejudices).  They have their own opinions about who sent the anthrax letters in 2001, and they argue that all the facts which say Dr. Bruce Ivins sent the anthrax letters mean nothing.  They argue that the official facts are are all just coincidences or otherwise meaningless.  It's often difficult to tell if they have opinions or beliefs, because they do not seem to have any meaningful facts which prove their own suspect is the anthrax mailer, and they argue that if the government would just do things their way and look at things from their point of view, the "facts" would become clear and would prove they are right.

They seem to believe that facts can be found to support their opinions.  But they want "the government" to find those facts.   And, if "the government" doesn't find the right facts, then "the government" didn't try hard enough.  When they refuse to accept "the government's facts" and cannot present any other facts of their own, then their opinions cease to be opinions and become beliefs.  Opinions can be altered by facts.  Beliefs are a matter of faith (or mindless prejudice) and are unaffected by facts.


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