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Friday, August 14, 2009

Fact Vs. Opinion

Have you ever thought if you are living you life by facts or by opinions or have you given thought that how does this actually impact your life ?
Understanding the difference between Opinions and facts is important for several reasons. But this post is particularly concerned with one factor – the disturbance that can be avoided in daily life just by understanding and practicing this difference. We need to know two things:

  1. What is the difference between the two
  2. Why is this difference important and what happens when this difference is taken for granted.

What is the difference between opinions and facts?

A fact is something that can be proved. It is something that has evidence to support it. For Example: “Elephants are herbivorous animal”, this statement is a fact because it is supported by evidence. But a statement like “Delhi is the better place to live in India than Mumbai” is an opinion. Opinions might be supported by evidence or might not get supported by evidence. But Facts are always supported by Evidence/s. Some readers might need more examples; so for them I am presenting a small table below:

That AIDS is caused by transmission of infected blood.
That AIDS is caused by touching the infected person.
That congress (I) won the general elections in India in 2009 for the second consecutive time.
That the Congress (I) deserves to be the ruling party.
A balanced Vegetarian diet has multiple health benefits.
Being a non vegetarian is fashionable.
That cats are carnivorous animals.
That cats are “bad” animals.

Modern day science is based on facts. Science cannot rely upon opinions although doctors, scientists like everyone else can have a “difference of opinions”. So it wouldn’t be wrong if I say that our modern day life and all the benefits that we grab from modern science today are all because of the “Facts” that were gathered by some hard working people and NOT opinions. People whose opinions are based on facts are more sort of rational persons. On the contrary people who rest a majority of actions and behaviors on “opnions”which are different from what is factual might have to deal with a lot of maladjustments. Yes they have the right to do so, but then they should be taking the responsibility to bear the consequences.
Don’t facts deserve more respect and attention that they generally get? Why in our daily life do we take for granted the importance and meaning of facts? The same facts which have almost gifted us our life!!

Opinions can be misleading !!

Every one of us has opinions. Just having an opinion which differs from the facts does not make such a difference. The biggest mistakes are made when the most important decisions of life are made based on such opinions and not facts!When all the major actions, behaviors and lifestyle decisions are based on opinions and not facts. I might not like a fact or I might not agree with it, but I cannot refute it. Trying to refute it will mean that I am trying to swim against the flow of the river. One day I was having a conversation with someone, who was of the opinion that the best way to discipline children is to hit them. I pointed it out to him that there is evidence and now it is a well accepted fact that there are numerous researches which show that hitting does not help in the long run, further it has also been proved (therefore a matter of fact) that “Reinforcements” always work better than “punishments” in the domain of Behavior Modification. But this man would not budge! In fact he was trying to refute all the studies. But I have encountered such people many times who would not think twice before trying to refute facts. I have given a deep thought to the reasons for this behavior. Though I have still failed to understand this behavior completely I drew the following two conclusions:

  1. Since they have held these opinions for a long time, they find it difficult to listen and accept something new that does not match their thinking; the main cause for which is “EGO” (and there can be multiple emotional reasons).
  2. Relying upon facts is not as important to them, as their personal opinions about the issue. So, they do not believe in relying upon facts and evidences.

An example: Assuming that he uses this technique to discipline his children, He probably is not at all aware about the consequences of standing for his opinions against the facts. Like in this case where physical punishment is used the child runs at a risk of developing a low self esteem OR the child also might be on a risk to be turn into a rebellion. Human reactions can never be guaranteed. The central question is that - If his children start showing signs of ill psychological health later in life, will he take responsibility to cause them this pain and loss ? OR instead, will he blame his children for their behavior ?

As I said, in most cases reactions cannot be guaranteed, therefore there are very few laws in Psychology. But if we all were to deny what has been systematically proved by a full fledged science, are we not being foolish in keeping our opinions above science ?
If you are thinking that this man is being harsh, let me present you a worse example: many daughter in laws in India get very extremely maltreated, here is one major reason - that she is repeatedly gives birth to only a girl child (boys have traditionally been regarded highly in orthodox Indian societies) though there can be many reasons for such maltreatment. In this case the contrasting fact that has been taken for granted is that - Male child is always a result of a “Y” chromosome which comes only from the father and “never” the mother. There are innumerable examples of how peoples opinions {which are often baseless) can create so many problems for them, for the others and for the society as a whole. If I say that Indian culture today has become very unscientific, will it be a fact or an opinion? If an opinion then what category opinion?

An opinion based action is not always wrong or harmful. Opinions can be of three types:
A. Independent opinions that yet need to be tested for their authenticity
B. Opinions based on facts.
C. Opinions which stand against the facts.

Out of these three, as we see only the third category is dangerous. Even then, it becomes dangerous essentially only when a person does not realize that it is merely and opinion and bases his/her/someone else’s whole life on such opinions.

May be the following can help:

  1. It becomes our moral responsibility to get to know the facts before build an opinion about anything.
  2. We verify and ask ourselves if our opinion/s are based on a fact, if it is not based on a fact, then is it against a fact?
  3. What will be the likely consequences of the actions that we take based on such opinions which currently stand against the facts?
  4. We should take the responsibility incase the consequences of the actions which come from the third category opinions are highly undesirable.

For example: If Rakesh and Rima go through an amniocentesis and find out that their unborn child is abnormal and if he/she is born, will never be able to live a normal and healthy life (a fact). But they feel that terminating this pregnancy is not something that they want to do for emotional reasons (an opinion). It would be better if they ask themselves the third and the fourth questions at least!

Finally it is worth noting that this post is an “A” category opinion !! J J

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  1. Very nice blog buddy. Hope that you'll visit mine too.

  2. Hi buddy thanks for your opinion. I'm sorry about the previous comment. And thanks for showing the difference of a fact and an opinion. It will be very useful for us. Im ubuntusl. Thanks

  3. Thanks a lot Shawn, both for your caring comment and your friendly spirit :)
    But you do not need to apologize for anything !

  4. You are welcome niharika. Thanks for your understanding.

  5. Really there is a close relation between Facts and Opinions and definetely the opinions should be based on facts.

  6. In my "Opinion" this was a nice compiled blog!!

  7. Good post, was this comment a "fact" or an "opinion" ? Can be both na..... :)

  8. Excellent article, very good ananlysis!

  9. Hi Rekha, thanks for your compliment. But the question is not if it is fact or an opinion (it is an opinion) the question is that what category opinion is it ? [:)]

  10. Informative post! Very true...
    I also have some fixed mind set about some certain, CATs....though i like pets and animals...I always have some negative feeling about cat in dout without any reason!
    This is high time to get rid of these opinion based mindsets.
    Thank for the post!

  11. Very interesting post.
    Opinions of A and C kind make us prejudiced.

    Will read it again now...

  12. Thank you Indian home maker !! :)

  13. Yah! Niharika I love animals and birds very much specially when they are free in nature...I just love to capture them with my camera, like I've recently captured a couple of peahen and peacock!

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  14. Excellent post :)
    Well, I think fact and opinions are not entirely two isolated things.
    First fact comes, then opinions are formed. Formation of opinions is big issue as it needs intellect, a complete observation, and satisfying the fundametal behaviour associated with the facts. More Scientifically, when any theory is made by observation and facts, it seems to a intellectual, uinversal opinion. As the Newton's
    Laws of motion, a theory (Opinion) accepted by every one. But more the facts revealed, more the precise observation is followed, a new theory takes place, in a same way opinion.
    When a opinion is verified at the base of reason and intellect, it can have positive effect while a blindly accepted biased opinion has devastating effect...

    I like ur blog very much
    now following..... :)

  15. Hi Amit, Thank you for your compliment. Your comment also says that you have thought about the issue discussed.....thats what we are here for - to think and to cognize !! So I am happy that you helped me doing that :)....though we might differ in our "opinions". I wrote this post for mainly one thing - people who base their lives and the lives of others on type "C" opinions and then do not take the responsibility either !! These are preventable mistakes.

    Thanks for your comment.


Thank you for choosing to comment :)