Like most of you, I have been trying to think logically about the goings-on in the political world. Like you, I have been bombarded with so much information that it makes me wonder when it will end. When I read the newspaper editorials, most seem so one sided that they border on being irrational. It’s driving me crazy.
When hearing the political rhetoric, I’m trying to sort out what is opinion and what is fact. One of the first lessons I learned in my high school English writing class was to make a distinction between opinion and fact, and while its been a long time since high school, it is important to me to make that distinction.
The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines fact as, “a thing that has actually happened or is really true” and “reality; truth.” It also defines opinion as. “a belief based not on certainty but on what seems true or probable” and “and evaluation, estimation, etc.” It seems to me that “fact” describes what actually happened, not on my guess about what happened. It seems to me that “opinion” tries to speculate on things that cannot be verified. When someone calls another a nasty name, that is opinion. When someone describes the color of another’s hair, that is fact.
Another way to say it is that there is one set of facts. Something obviously happened.
The way we interpret something or put a “spin” on what happened is opinion. When working with a set of facts an error is often made. Do I interpret the facts, starting with the facts, or do I have a preconceived idea and look for facts to support it? Do I believe someone is guilty and then look for facts to support my belief or do I let the evidence speak for itself?
We have the same problem in religion, science, psychology, and politics. Do I use religious literature to prove my ideas, or do I let religious literature mold and shape my ideas? Do I look for scientific experiments to prove my notions, or am I unbiased in my observations? Do I approach behavioral studies to support my ideas or am I open to contrasting ideas? Do I watch political news to support my ideas and convictions, or do I let facts inform me? While no one is free of bias, I think we can try to recognize personal bias and be open to alternative ideas.
I would challenge you to fold a sheet of paper in half and label one side “opinion” and the other side “fact”. Then the next time you read the news, or watch it on television, put a slash mark under label to identify the statement as fact or opinion. You will be amazed.
“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”