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Memories of the 28th Century

Fact Versus Opinion, What's the difference?

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
I wonder whether one needs the same level of confidence for speculations, opinions, beliefs, prejudices, etc. as for facts. It has been my understanding for as long as I remember that it was fine to opine as one wanted to, regardless of actual fact, but when one wants to assert something as fact, then one must have evidence and logic.

For example, several months ago I opined that there was a good chance that the 2016 presidential election might come out like the 1860 election in which a small, new party elected a president, while the established parties did poorly. That was based on my opinion that the major U.S. political parties were busily destroying themselves and had been doing so for decades. That opinion was based on decades of observations and following the news closely enough to have a good idea what was going on without getting lost in the details. I can't prove my speculative opinion, and I don't want to, but it is a relevant observational framework in which I can look at new pieces of news, like today's story that Trump is talking third party

Then there are opinions that are based on prejudicial opinions, racism for one. Racism is based on the mistaken that there are several races of humans, when in fact there is only the human race; although in past times there may have been additional races. As someone pointed out today, having a single answer to questions like that makes discussion easier.

Yet another sort of opinion is scientific speculation, and this is a little different from shooting from the hip, because it is expected by someone that there will be scientific knowledge coming from this eventually. For example, the matter of whether there are intelligent aliens. There are many, many reasons for thinking that they should exist, but until they are definitely detected it is all speculation, even though it may turn out that "foo fighters" were alien craft, or that there actually are alien artifacts on Earth. But that is all speculation at this time.

Even the most scientific and logical sets of facts probably started out as observations that someone wondered about to the point where he felt compelled to look into the matter and turn those observations into an opinion or a speculation or something of that ilk. And eventually it was researched and analyzed to the point where it became fact. So was the observation or the opinion subject to the same demands of evidence and logic, as were necessary when one started to call it fact?

There is another, thornier, branch to this discussion. What about religious truth? Religion usually gets a special dispensation when it comes to facts, logic, truth, and other things of that sort. I am willing to allow this special treatment for religion with the understanding that religious truth is not truth in the sense of something proven true by facts and logic. It isn't the we are accepting the religious truth, but it has a special place within a religion and should be understood as something particular to that religion, rather than being universally true. I don't know if this is how others view that matter, but I am curious as to how others do. I sometimes will refer to something being a religious belief for me or for someone else. I say that not because there is anything involving the Gods or other religious beliefs involved, but because it is a firmly held belief that has not logical backing. I accept this kind of thinking in myself for matters of personal preference and tastes. For example, I don't like shellfish; although I sometimes eat them, so I might refer to this a religious matter. I wish that others only thought this way in matters of personal taste.

I looked for relevant pages online, but there aren't many, at least not many that I readily found. The first link, below, is interesting and works on the question. I think the author and I are in general agreement.

What do you think?

The Fact/Opinion Distinction
A humorous take on it.
This book might be interesting.

Updated 02-18-2016 at 05:26 PM by PeterL