Monday, July 27, 2015

Opinions vs. Facts

Here's a radical concept--there's a difference between opinions and facts.  Granted facts can sometimes be wrong, but they can be corrected over time.  I'm not sure everyone gets that, particularly when it involves political issues: climate change, race, guns, and so forth.  Harlan Ellison said that anyone can have an opinion:  I think it's going to rain today, for example.  But goes on to state: an "informed opinion" is a different issue.  Sometimes science will help inform the opinion, sometimes statistics, and so on.  Frank Zappa, the musician used to say, "Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one."  He has also said, "Some scientist say that the major building block of the universe is hydrogen because it's the most plentiful element but my theory is the universe is made of stupidity because it is MORE plentiful than hydrogen."  I don't think I can quibble with any of those quotes.

I say all of this because at times I feel like a fish out of water in Texas.  Texas is basically a red state, some have said, well it's really kind of purple, but really it's a big state, and it depends on what part of it you are in at the time.  I've lived in both east and west Texas, as well as Lubbock and Austin, and you can see a little bit of that purple here and there, but I would say it's pretty red.  Where I'm currently living it's pretty much southern oriented, of the Bible-Belt mindset, so you if you imagined it's pretty ultra right winged, you'd be right.   It's enough to give a liberal like me a complex.  Having lived in all those Texas places I've never lived in a town so enchanted with Fox news.  Unless it's football season, and the Dallas Cowboys are playing, if you walk into a restaurant, they'll have it tuned to Fox news.  Heck I even have a dentist office I go to, and yes, Fox news is always playing.  It's bizarre.

I was watching a church service the other morning, which is where some of my cousins attend.  It's an Evangelical church, which I don't know a whole lot about, but it seems to me they want to mix religion with politics, which I'm against.  Granted they don't come right out and say, we are Republican, but they might as well.  I was watching shortly after the courts had ruled in favor of the Gay Rights marriage thing.  At any rate, as a guest they had Texas Congreesman, Rep. Louis Gohmert, come up and say a few words.  Gohmert has been called out on his stupidity having been a part of the Obama, birther tribe (saying he's not an American citizen).  As well as gun control leads to bestiality, or his views on climate change or his view that Ebola is Democrats' war on women.   For a guy that has been a judge, and was Chief Justice on Texas's 12th Court of Appeals, no less currently a Congressman, he sure says stupid things, and makes Texas look like hillbilly dumbass heaven.  And that's the absurdity of the Evangelicals because they want to follow Jesus and his teaching, and say we need to elect responsible leaders and get America back on track (What track, I have no idea, perhaps back to the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock.)   The preacher was actually saying this, and it caused me to pause and think on the absurdity of what he was saying.  So you want us to elect Republicans that are God fearing folks, who will lead us to war like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?  That's just fucking nuts!  But then, religion and politics is a whole other topic of discussion...

I have relatives in this area of the world and they appear to be hardcore rightwingers too.  I connected with them over Facebook, the social network, and really, I didn't want to do that for the simple reason  that I am a politically-minded person, and figured my views might upset or anger them.  But I figured hey, if it does, they can always stop following my messages--I do that to some of them.  I guess it's equality.  However, most of the things I post to Facebook have some kind of backup or facts to them.  You can follow a link to my post and read what that post is about.  Whereas a lot of their postings are more like: Obummer is Unamerican.  (Waaa!)

Oh well, I guess it is what it is.  It's too bad though that politics can be so polarizing because we all have to live together anyway.  I've never understood why people can't calmly discuss matters whether it be sex, politics, or whatever.    At any rate, I guess the reason I got off on this topic is I found this article on opinions vs. facts and thought it was well written.


At 4:06 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

On your own pages you’re certainly free to opine as you choose. Anyone who doesn’t like it is free not to read it.

Often disputes are not really so much about facts as about which facts are more important. Accordingly, people on opposite sides of the fence commonly talk past each other. For example, someone on the left might quote some stats on income inequality and then stop, thinking he has made his point. Someone on the right is still waiting for him to make it. This doesn’t reflect any disconnect with reality or morality on either side, nor does it indicate a failure of intelligence on either side; it indicates fundamental differences in philosophy about the nature of humankind, with consequent differences in the concept of human rights including property rights. Ultimately the differences are in first principles. Since few people debate on such a basic level, political arguments seldom get resolved, they just run out of time.

Inevitably my own first principles influence everything I write, but I tend to avoid direct political commentary for just this reason. Nevertheless, we are political animals, as Aristotle told us a few years ago, so I wouldn’t try to dissuade anyone else from trying a hand at it.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Re: Disputes, facts, and what's important is probably true Richard. I think I noted on your site, both right & left tend to want the same things, they just have different ways of going about achieving their goals. That said though, I think history bears out, given some time, which works better over time ie. Some Presidents did better job than others. Even then, some might dispute that as well. But I would at least appreciate that if someone is going to argue a point, at least having some sort of validity to it as alluded to in the bottom link I gave ie. I'd like a little more than just someone's conventional wisdom, which just might amount to one's upbringing or uninformed opinion.

Still as you said, everyone's is entitled to their own opinion, BUT you're not entitled to your own facts.

Some (I wouldn't say all) historians amaze me. I had a friend that minored in history or something like that. He majored in the Russian language, and I think he wanted to be an interpreter or something like that. When discussing history or politics he had this knack to be pretty unbiased, just taking it all in at face value. He might comment on some politics like, "Well, maybe." That may be for the best. It's like I told someone, ever since I've been politically aware, nobody has solved all the world's problems yet, and we're still here. :)

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I used to be very vocal about my politics and opinions, but as I got older I realized that the stress and intensity and energy I was putting into it did me no good. I still have strong opinions, but I've learned to bite my tongue and, when I do decide to communicate them, do so in a more open way. I enjoy having spirited debates with people I disagree with, whether they're family, friends, coworkers, etc. But a HUGE lesson I've learned is when to not even get into it with someone who is so unhinged in the other direction that it's not even worth it. My stress level is SO much lower because of this simple action (or lack thereof) :)

At 8:11 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Probably good advice Drew. My brother was a lot better at that than I am. I don't think he was very vocal on a lot of issues, but when he was he was pretty intelligent and calm about it. He generally never offered advice either unless asked. I'm trying to follow his influence, in person especially; however, I think it's a more open field on a blog at times--at least it helps to blow off some steam, (ha) or air some of my thinking (not that anybody reads much of what I write anyway). As it has already been said, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


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