13 November 2020

1.2. Distinguish between facts, beliefs, preferences, and opinions.

1: Fact/Matter of fact/Truth: Truth is an observable phenomenon that can be independently verified. Not more, not less. In science, truth is always provisional, based on the weight of the available evidence. Truth and fact are synonyms. An observation that is accepted as a scientific truth or a scientific fact today may be modified or discarded tomorrow (National Center for Science Education 2016).

Facts are independent of your knowledge of them, your beliefs, your preferences, and your opinions. 

"The moon revolves around earth."
"You may die of a CoViD infection."
"The 2021 flooding in Europe was caused by heavy rainfall/a poorly designed flood warning system/poor preparation by town planners/climate change."

In the last example, note the diversity in causes, reflecting the progression from proximate to ultimate causes. 

2: Belief: A belief is a feeling that something exists or is true. The origin of a belief may stem from a combination of facts, misinformation, disinformation, and/or preferences.

"I believe God created man."
"I believe climate change is caused by unicorns."
"I believe CoViD is a hoax."

3: Preference: A preference is a favoured choice. The origin of a preference may be known or not -- operant conditioning (reward and/or punishment), observation, indoctrination, delusion. Values are preferences.

"I like chocolate cake. I don't like Black Forest cake." 
"I prefer a fixed-rate mortgage over a variable rate, because it gives me greater peace of mind."
"Honesty is important to me. I don't know why."

4: Opinion: An opinion is a judgement based on beliefs and preferences.

"In my opinion A Moveable Feast is the best book ever written."
"Socialism is superior to both Communism and Capitalism."
"In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government should tax gasoline."

(In my life I have learned three things: First, people do not like to stick to facts, they like to stick to whatever it is they believe. Second, people judge and choose even if they know nothing or only parts of the story. And last, people have two standards, one which they apply to themselves, family, and friends, and another that they apply to everybody else.)