I've Come To Realize That "Facts" Don't Mean Much If A Person Refuses To Accept Them

by minimus 160 Replies latest jw friends

  • tec

    For example, I think my favourite t-shirt is maroon, my partner insists it is brown. I am certain I am correct, but am I? Of course sometimes whether a thing is a fact is subject to our judgement.

    I think that is more of a difference of opinion (imo, lol)... but everything else that you stated, Gromit... was very well said, and explained.



  • Gopher

    Interesting post, Gromit. It got me thinking.

    Facts should be verifiable. In your example of whether your t-shirt is maroon or brown, you can get a could compare your shirt to a color chart and determine whether there is a match. Or you could find someone with a colorimetric instrument which quantifies color based on wavelength, to get a sure answer.

    I think it's important to distinguish facts from what you term as asssessments/judgments. Facts are not subject to interpretation or debate. Certain facts are standards created by people (360 degrees makes a circle, a red light means stop). Other facts are laws of the universe, like every action having an equal and opposite reaction. In contrast, assessments/judgments are subject to debate - like who is the best singer of the 20th century, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, or someone else?

    As you mentioned, people bring their lack of trust or their prejudices to certain discussions, especially political or religious. But little if any controversial assertions in these arenas are "facts", no matter how strongly people believe it or want it to be true.

  • Apognophos

    I have a confession to make, guys. I've never personally verified the theory of relativity, for instance by observing gravitational lensing. I've never done that experiment with the light through the slits that is supposed to demonstrate the wave property of photons (or so I'm told it does). I've never even confirmed that the Earth is in fact round. I read those things in a book as a kid, though, and a person who was older than me and in a position of authority told me they were true. So I accept on faith that they are.

    On the other hand, I have personally felt the paralyzing power of a strong electric current by merely being within a couple dozen feet of a high-tension power line. When I presented this experience to a professor, he was dubious but eventually willing to concede that air itself can serve as a mild conductor, so perhaps that's what I felt. I had never learned that this could happen in any book, so I had to learn it by experience. But, you know what? Even if the professor had refused to believe that it was possible, I would still have believed it, because I KNOW WHAT I FELT.

  • GromitSK

    @tec - I agree it is a matter of judgement but the actual colour of the t shirt is a fact, no? :) - assuming we both see the same thing of course.

    @ Gopher - clearly you're right about the colour chart. Without it we don't have enough information to resolve it at present. Even with a colour chart - which one do we choose? Aren't we simply using someone else's definition of maroon, unless of course we accept the definition of the wavelength of light corresponding to maroon as you suggest and hire a lab to test the t shirt. If I went to that length to make my point I think I'd be sectioned lol. Up to that point, what is a fact seems to me to be somewhat moot. But there is a fact lurking in there, presumably somewhere maroon has a definition that isn't subective. I don't want to stretch the illustration beyond what it can support though :)

    I like your observation regarding something not subject to debate or opinion. There are lots of things that definitely qualify as facts, I agree. There are probably lots of things that are facts that we don't have enough information, at the moment, to state are categorically facts but that are highly likely to be facts. There are probably things that that we consider to be facts, but aren't. There certainly have been in the past.

    I suspect a hundred years ago the classical view of atomic structure in physics was considered an unassailable fact. It wasn't though :)

    @apog - you believe the theory of relatively is a fact, the theory is of course - it definitely exists, but I get the point you're making, you mean that in practice it is a fact? Interestingly even Einstein was convinced it wasn't a fact and said he expected to be proved wrong in parts at least. The layman, including me, definitely can't form a judgement as to it's factuality (is that a word?), we have to trust others. If next week Physicists come up with a variation to it I'd be none the wiser (though better informed :))

    The shape of the planet though is something we can form a view on as there is a lot of evidence we can examine for ourselves, if we have enough money and don't mind heights we can even go into space and see the fact for ourselves.

  • Apognophos

    My point wasn't about what is or isn't fact or what we can or can't verify, but what we have verified ourselves, and how we decided to believe the things that we haven't verified ourselves. In other words, it's difficult for any of us to talk about how "the facts" trump personal experience, and not be hypocrites.

  • GromitSK

    Agreed. I am not sure what you mean by hypocrite in this context though.

  • Apognophos

    I mean that some forum members denigrate others who are religious, who feel evidence of God in their lives and in some (rare) cases believe that they personally heard from God or saw a vision. These selfsame, proudly atheist forum members promote science as the answer to everything, and yet it's unlikely that they verified many scientific claims on their own. They've simply gone from accepting the Bible's word to accepting the word of some men in white coats.

    Now, personally I tend to side with them. I think science probably has the answers too. But I say this while acknowledging that I'm not 100% sure of anything I know. Nevertheless I still slip from time to time, and act certain of things that I really don't know from personal experience, making myself a hypocrite in view of my rationalist beliefs.

    And, too, even personal experience can be faulty, because as mentioned above, sometimes our senses can mislead us, or simply differ from others' senses, and no absolute right answer is apparent (how *do* we define maroon?).

    The only thing that I can be sure of, in summary, is that I have no right to mock other people for their beliefs or to sigh condescendingly over the fact that 'some people just won't accept the facts even if they're right under their nose'. I learned this lesson when I stopped being a believing Witness. Didn't we all?

  • Satanus

    I work w color all the time. Both brown and purple have some of the same colors, and one can easily blend into the other. I usually go by what primary colors it would take to make the color. Pure purple is red and blue. Brown has all 3 primary colors: red yellow and blue. Black and white are also to be considered for practical purposes such as lightening a color, darkening it or muting.

    I guy that worked for me for years was an artist. He and i would often argue colors. I was right, of course. Don't know why he couldn't see that.


  • cofty
    They've simply gone from accepting the Bible's word to accepting the word of some men in white coats. - Apo

    Yes of course men in white coats just spout all sorts of shit and conspire to cover up each other's errors - that's how science works isn't it?

    How on earth can an intelligent person compare risible claims of supernatural voices with scientific theories that have stood up to years of peer review and verification?

  • Satanus


    I get what youre saying. The kind of person who automatically accepts what science says today, is the same kind of person who automatically accepted what science of the day said a thousand yrs ago. Science a thousand yrs ago had quite a few things wrong. But, how could the average person of a thousand yrs ago check science? Many scientific facts of today also cannot be varified by the average person. Some of them could be wrong. Certainly, science facts are incomplete. Some scientific type people act as though they are complete, as if lab equipment of today is enough for all tests.


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