Facts vs. Opinions

Often I find when talking with people they conflate their feelings on something with the facts of a situation. I have spoken of this previously in my post Hearts and Minds but I would like to look at this from a slightly different angle.

Where previously I talked about using logical vs. emotional decision making, now I wish to talk about changing a stance that may come from an emotional response to a situation when there are facts that may be contrary to that emotional response. A book I’m currently reading  The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom talks about the mind as an elephant and its rider. The elephant represents the automatic systems in our brain and the rider represents our conscious control. The brain makes many snap judgments based on conscious and unconscious queues we gather. It can make decisions on things that we ma not consciously register.

For example, you may decide that you do not like a new person you have met. You may decide that you do not like their mannerisms or attitude. You consciously decide it is because of their behavior or decisions. However, your subconscious mind may register that your new acquaintance reminds you of someone in your past that you disliked and your conscious mind is justifying the decision that your subconscious has made.

We should all strive to recognize when we are responding emotionally to a situation in which there are facts that may be contrary to how we feel. We should recognize that we might need to reconsider our stance based on the information at hand. Too many people, when confronted with facts that contradict their opinion shut down rather than honestly evaluate the evidence and their stance. We need to recognize that while we have an opinion on a subject, we should review that opinion to see how it matches up with the facts. An opinion that runs contrary to the facts should not be one that people want to hold.

The difference between facts and opinions is that facts are true regardless of your belief on the matter. Opinions can change based on new information whether it be other opinions or the introduction of new facts.

As Humanists we should be willing to change our opinions based on new information. Too many times, people are so invested in their opinion that new facts that run contrary to their opinion are ignored rather than critically evaluated. We should not feel embarrassed to change our opinions on a matter if new facts come out. Changing our outlook based on new information is an ongoing process called personal growth. Not changing opinions in light of new evidence leads to stagnation and a refusal to adapt in light of new information.

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