What is a fact?

October 30, 2020

Yesterday during dinner two of my  sons had a debate. One was saying that his friend had the coronavirus disease because he had all the signs, the symptoms of the disease. The other son disagreed. He said "You cannot say that he has the corona disease until he gets tested. Then we will know whether he really has the corona or not." The first son was adamant: "I don't have to wait until he has the test. I see the signs and the symptoms.  That's good enough for me to avoid him."

I believe that for taking action, for how we behave, what we think, is a “fact”. We need to believe in something in order to be able to dedicate the energy to it.

In politics a perception is reality.  in order to decide how to vote,  people are not going to do research in depth, proven beyond any doubt what is right and what is wrong. They  assume,  conclude, have impressions that drive their decision. So, for decision making, for acting in real time, perceptions, beliefs, values are as good as a fact. Before any decision is taken you cannot conduct a scientific research to find out the real truth.

The real truth does not exist anyway. What one scientist proves, years later another scientist disproves and tells us another truth. Truth is not fixed.

This is especially important to realize in interpersonal relations, especially in a marriage. You might have a  belief that  drives how you react to your spouse. You do not  really behave according to some absolute not to be questioned truth, proven facts, but according to continuous string of prejudices which are driven by past experiences, fears, hopes, influence we got from our parents, from the outside world, and especially today from TV and the media. They fill our head with opinions, which we take for a fact and drive us how we behave.

With the elections coming up and fake news feeding much of the media noise, one wonders how to act. It makes the importance of free journalism imperative so one can compare “facts” and make his own judgement. And I strongly support an organization, News Literacy Project, composed of eminent journalists teaching young people how to read news intelligently and filter questionable “facts.”

Do not believe everything you think (It is bumper sticker I saw somewhere). Because what you think might be based on influences you did not filter.  And if in doubt, get second and third opinion. Opinions from people you trust, that do not have their own hidden agenda on the subject.

Learning from others, respecting their “facts” enables us to get closer to “the truth” that we need for that moment in order to act.

Just thinking,

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes