By Kenneth Justice
~ I was sitting at coffee the other day and two people were arguing over global warming,
“It’s a fact that the earth is warming and that the average temperature is increasing in heat every year” the first person said
“You’re wrong! It’s a fact that weather and climate sometimes trend cooler and sometimes trend hotter, but the earth and its atmosphere are not getting hotter because humans are burning too much fossil fuels, and that is a fact!” said the second person
Instead of having positive dialogue, the two people sitting at coffee spent the better part of an hour talking over each other and throwing ‘facts’ back and forth in a series of verbal sparring. Their dialogue led to NO resolution, and the more they argued the more it was obvious that each person became more incredulous that ‘their facts’ were the right ones and their opponent had false information.
“Fact’s” are fickle things. If you were raised somewhere in Western Culture, chances are you’ve adopted the Western tendency to see everything through the lens of facts; i.e. black and white. Yet the reality of the situation is that what we often to believe are ‘facts’ are nothing more than ‘opinions’.
The ancient Greeks (think Plato, Aristotle, and their contemporaries) put very little emphasis on facts, and instead held in high regard opinions.
It’s a fact that you’re reading my article…..or is it? Perhaps you’re sitting comfortably in bed with your eyes closed and some dude you met last night after one too many drinks is obsessed with The Culture Monk and is reading aloud this article to you, or perhaps you’ve fallen in love with the voice from your Iphone and it is reading this article to you in that darling electronic voice? Thus, it is possible that “you’re” not technically the one reading this article, and by that admission alone we have established that it is not a “fact” that you’re reading my article.
The Greeks knew that it is pretty near impossible to prove empirically most things. For instance, do you believe the universe came into existence through the process that Darwin discussed as evolution or do you believe an invisible Deity created all things ex-nihlo (out of nothing) ? The truth of the matter is that whether you believe in evolution or creationism, you can’t “prove beyond the shadow of a doubt” empirically that your claim is true.
Sure, you can have strong evidence that supports your claim……but you COULD be wrong? There is always a possibility that,
—–) perhaps you’re interpreting the evidence incorrectly
—–) perhaps you’re biased in your position because of external influences to your life
—–) perhaps you’ve been conditioned to think a certain way by your parents, friends, co-workers, or the schools you’ve attended your whole life
When I was younger I was TERRIBLE at conversations because I always spoke AT people. I hurled what I believed to be facts at other people’s faces and expected them to accept them as gospel truth. But as I matured and I as studied the ancient rhetoric of the Greeks, I learned that many of the things I believed to be empirically true were nothing more than opinions. Opening myself up to the possibility that these issues were nothing more than my opinions helped to soften me in conversations. All of a sudden, more people wanted to talk to me, and instead of talking to ONLY people who agreed with me; a much more diverse body of people were interested in sitting at my coffee table to dialogue with me.
The best way to live in a bubble is to maintain your position that you are ‘right’ about everything you believe, and the best way to truly begin connecting with others is to open yourself up to the possibility that perhaps what you’ve believed to be a FACT is nothing more than your opinion.
Have I convinced you yet to loosen your death grip on facts in exchange for opinions? No? Well come back tomorrow and we’ll dialogue some more. For now, I’m going to finish this cup of coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society