Opinions, facts and the deadly consequences of confusing them
Many of the problems plaguing the world would be alleviated by better understanding the difference between fact and opinion. An opinion is a judgment or a point of view, it is not a fact.
Sprockets are at the root of most disagreements, as each side tries to impose their views on the other as if they were facts. There are debates and votes about opinions, as opposed to facts like physics, chemistry, and biology, which cannot be voted on or persuaded to change.
However, conflicting opinions, such as ideas about national sovereignty, can create facts on the ground, as we are currently seeing in Ukraine, so their power to change the world must never be underestimated. A particularly difficult quality of opinions is the ferocity with which they are often defended despite the ease with which they are formed.
On this day in 1014, Ireland awoke to a changed reality. The Battle of Clontarf had taken place the day before, ending 300 years of Viking rule in Ireland. Similarly, the Proclamation of that day in 1916 declared “the right of the Irish people to property in Ireland and to full control over Irish destinies”.
Soberingly, today also marks the anniversary of the landing of 35,000 rifles and five million rounds of ammunition for the Ulster Volunteer Force in Larne in 1914.
These days, as we observe the fallout of Russian opinions in the context of our own discussions of reunification, it is important to remember that there is another ingrained and fiercely defended opinion about sovereignty and destiny on this island.
All of these historical events, fueled by ideals of sovereignty, became state-defining facts on the ground.
In this way, many of the most basic facts in human affairs begin as opinions. These forge national identity, legal rights and social entitlements. Public opinion also changes governments, policies and laws. Similarly, consumer sentiment, a sort of unspoken collective opinion, is the fundamental engine of the economy.
Historians have divided the past into periods when human affairs took place under the influence of dominant drivers – listed chronologically as the Ages of Empires, Religions, Reason, and finally the Age of Science. Are we now in the age of opinion?
We live in a world where opinions are quickly becoming the most important driver of behavior, politics and business. Brexit is a classic example of an opinion becoming a reality, with profound implications for millions of lives. Movements like Cancel Culture and Extinction Rebellion are emerging examples of opinions that want to change the world.
All of these opinion-driven movements share the trait of believing that they alone are right and that the rest of society should change according to their point of view.
This is where our opinion-driven world of winner quickly begins to drift away from the past. We run the risk of forgetting that democracies – especially those based on public relations systems – evolved as a way to respectfully and constructively coexist in disagreements, and to change direction when necessary.
Unshakeable opinions, such as conventional wisdom or common knowledge, all have one thing in common: they can all be dead wrong, even though everyone believes them to be true.
Many regard historical opinions with a mixture of pity and astonishment at the credulity. Figures like Julius Caesar, Martin Luther, and Isaac Newton, for example, all firmly believed in the power of animal sacrifice, race, and astrology. These weren’t stupid people; they were merely subject to the mesmerizing power of the received opinions of their own time, each of which proved wrong.
We should all regularly remind ourselves of the wisdom of the scientific council that sooner or later everything we believe to be true today will one day be proven false. This is the engine of ever-improving knowledge that drives the sciences that are transforming our world.
“Orthodoxy” is the name we give to a widespread group of beliefs – note the word “belief”. This is different from a collection of facts that we call science.
Both opinion and science can change, but only science changes in response to new facts, while opinion and belief tend to be fiercely defended, leading to the truism that “Today’s heresy is tomorrow’s orthodoxy.” “.
opinions count. Once circulated, opinions can quickly spread like a virus and become powerful forces for change, for better or for worse. Social media has multiplied and armed opinions in a particularly dangerous way.
The same computer or phone screen indiscriminately displays both fake news or nonsense and information subjected to the rigors of fact-checking and editorial scrutiny typical of traditional print media.
We don’t need to be reminded how unscrupulous executives learn to master social media as a powerful vehicle to gain and retain power.
Political scientists are observing a noticeable trend worldwide that so-called “strongmen dictators” are increasingly refraining from violence and using the sustained spread of lies, especially via social media, to form opinions.
Both Putin’s control over coverage of the war in Ukraine and Trump’s reaction to his electoral defeat provide vivid contemporary examples that certainly must warn us of the need for vigilance
The reality that opinions can change is no excuse for abandoning attempts to constantly seek ways to create a better society. Nor is it helpless toleration of any views.
The lesson for our age of opinions is that we must be vigilant in naming those opinions that attempt to stifle learning and change.
Because the essence of all dictators is that they do not want to allow other points of view or other people to replace their failed opinions.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/opinions-facts-and-the-deadly-consequences-of-confusing-them-41581143.html Opinions, facts and the deadly consequences of confusing them