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Are Facts More Important Than Opinions?

Are Facts More Important Than Opinions?

Assistant Editor

29 Apr, 2019

Fact and opinion are different as fact is something that is true and opinion is only a belief or a view. Facts are supported by evidence and opinions have no evidence.

Why Are Facts Better Than Opinions

A factual statement may be an opinion that has come from a fact, whereas, an opinion might have not come from any fact. 

As per the Webster’s Dictionary, the fact is “anything that is done or happened; anything existent; any statement strictly true; truth; reality” and opinion is something that “indicates a belief, view, sentiment, or conception.”

People sometimes find it hard to make a difference between a fact and an opinion. The right understanding of the difference between fact and opinion is needed to evaluate things and make judgments. There can be a debate between fact vs opinion, and that can through some light on these two, here we will discuss some facts or opinions. So, what’s your opinion?

What is more important, a fact or an opinion on any given subject? It may be tempting to say that the fact, but wait not so fast…

Lately, we have found ourselves lamenting the post-truth world, in which facts might have no more important than opinions, and sometimes less so. We also see this as a recent devaluation of our knowledge, but this is a phenomenon with a long history.

The view of opinions that it can be more important than facts does not mean the same thing as the devaluing of knowledge. It is always been the case that in certain situations opinions have been more important than facts, and of course, this is a good thing. Let’s see here.

Not every Fact is true

To say something a fact is, presumably, claiming that it is true. This is not a problem for many things, although defending such a claim can be harder than you think.

What do we think facts are?  These are those things we think are true, they might end up being wrong despite our most honest commitment to genuine inquiry.

You can read the book The Half-Life of Facts written by the Harvard researcher Samuel Arbesman, where he points out some examples of how facts change.

It is not only that facts can change is a problem. We might be happy to consider it as a fact that Earth is spherical and we will be wrong to do so because it is a bit pear-shaped. Thinking of it as a sphere is however very different from thinking of it to be flat.

A science fiction writer Isaac Asimov expressed this beautifully in his essay The Relativity of Wrong. The person who believes that the Earth is a sphere is wrong, and so is the person who believes that it is flat. But the person who believes that they are equally wrong is more wrong than the both.

What Is The Importance of Facts

Calling something a fact is usually used to represent the best knowledge we have at any given time.

Saying something is a fact does nothing to convince someone who does not agree with you. Proof by volume and repetition or repeated yelling “it’s a fact!” – Simply does not work. Or at least it should not.

Matters of fact and opinion

Now, calling something an opinion does not mean an escape to the fairyland of wishful thinking. This too is not an end to an argument. If we think of an opinion as only one person’s view on any subject, then many other opinions can also be solid.

For example, it is my opinion that science gives us a powerful narrative to help us understand our place better in the Universe, at least much as any religious perspective does. It is not a fact that science does so, but it works for me.

But it would be much clearer in our meaning if we separate things into matters of fact and matters of opinion.

Matter of fact is confined to empirical claims, such as what is the boiling point of a substance, is the lead is denser than water, or whether the planet is warming.

Matters of opinion are non-empirical and include questions of value and of personal preference like whether it is ok to eat animals, or whether vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate.

Matters of opinion can be obtained by matters of fact like finding out that animals can suffer might influence whether I choose to eat them or not, but ultimately they are not answered by matters of fact.

Backing up the Facts and Opinions

Opinions are not just shadows of facts; in fact, they are judgments and conclusions. Opinions can be the result of careful and sophisticated thinking in areas for which factual investigation is inadequate or ill-suited.

While it is good to think of the world so neatly divided into matters of fact and matters of opinion, it is not always so clinical in its precision. For instance, it is a fact that I prefer strawberry ice cream over cake. In other words, it might be a matter of fact that I am having a subjective experience.

While it is true that my ice cream preference can be experimentally indicated by observing my behavior and interviewing me, it cannot be independently verified by others beyond doubt. I might be faking it.

But we can all agree on the principle, whether the atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide or nitrogen as we can share the same methodology of inquiry, which gives us the answer. We can also agree on matters of value if the case for a particular view is logically convincing.

Fact vs opinion should not be positioned in opposition to each other, as they have supportive functions in our decision-making. In a rational framework, they are equally useful, now that is just opinions and not a fact.