Why does this article exist?
Facts matter, but facts are not facts. They are relative. Relative to many things. Your culture. Your education and training. Your religion and family values. Your interests. Your viewing point. The context within which the fact lives. If you don’t notice, you become susceptible to belief derived policy and other bandwagons.
Most of what we believe to be facts, we believe because the beliefs support our self view.
For example, I accept as a fact that salmon tastes bad. I imagine, but do not yet accept as certain that oysters do too. Perhaps if I ever try one, I may change my mind. Notice how the fact could change. Many other things are like that too. We believe what we want to.
It is possible that absolute facts do not exist. To deal with that, I try to carry things around in categories:
- Almost certainly true
- Possibly true
- Possibly false
- Almost certainly false
If someone tells me that something is a fact, beyond all doubt, certainly so, I assign it category 4. In this situation and because I believe nothing is an absolute fact, the hype is what must matter and the underlying “fact” is just a tool for the hype.
That is where I am on man made climate change. I am there because even with continuing study of the subject I have found no compelling argument for its truth. I have noticed a lot of hype that is unsupportable with evidence and that adds to my doubts. But, I continue to search because I think it matters.
I think democracy matters, too. At one time I would have assigned it a very high score on it value. Not so much now. I have noticed that people manipulate democracy and rely on the uninformed others to generate their power. I think when the idea of democracy was created, the creators assumed an informed society. We are now saturated with untruths and ideological opinion, so how does that work out?
I mostly trust politicians and bureaucrats in their role as people. Many are fine people. But, in their political role, I find them both controlled and controlling. That is less attractive. Somehow the idea of serving the people has migrated to control and power. Maybe it has always been so.
At one time I thought religion had value. In some ways I think it still does. It is a unifying force and people gain advantage by being in a group with shared values. (Delusions if you prefer) The reality seems to be that groups motivate and help each other. When “others” are excluded or persecuted, its societal benevolence becomes suspect.
Once you believe that facts are not and there are other ways to see a situation, you become curious. It is exciting to find new ways to see and do things. Sometimes the initial belief remains as part of a new whole.
Life is hard enough without believing things that are not so. But it is difficult to get away from those. Perhaps Einstein can help.
“Reality is an illusion; albeit a persistent one.”
For a few days a year, Santa Claus is real and that is good.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.