Facts and Opinions

I’m not talking about technology. Basic science is (or at least it was – I have been told this is no longer true, but then I wouldn’t know what to call the real thing) the study of measurable facts using the scientific method. If you want a bit more on that definition, download from my web site the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook (click under book chapter on the right side of the blog).

Real science has become fairly rare lately, but the point is it’s all about facts and learning to understand facts. Now the interesting thing about this is that real facts never change. For example, the weight per unit of pure water at sea level at a certain temperature would be a fact of nature that doesn’t change.

The interesting thing about basic science is that it is very much more reliable than people. Science is not about people. Science is about facts. People are a great muddle, because they more or less must rely on their brains to tell them what’s real and what to do about it. The result is not very factual, because the brain operates on sensory receptors that input data. The data could be considered factual, maybe, but then the data are filtered through all the unknown instincts, and the memories of a lifetime and evaluated to make a world view. World views are not facts. They are opinions, and they are always wrong in one way or another.

So, a good scientist is in constant conflict between the world view he has built and any good data that come to hand. That’s why peer review and publication is important to the scientific community, because discussion is important.

A really good scientist is ready to change his world view in the face of good facts. The Dalai Lama is a wonderful model for this kind of growth and development. So are good scientists. There is not a person born who hasn’t made a mistake, including all scientists, and one of the most admirable qualities of both the Dalai Lama and a good scientist is that they bring their mistakes to the community and share them for the benefit of the community. So we all can learn and grow our world views clearer and closer toward reality.

That’s why rejoicing over someone else’s mistake is not useful. The point is to use the facts to benefit human-kind, which requires benefiting the whole earth ecosystem, because anything that harms the ecosystem (this is discussed by a Rabi in upcoming Bare Bones Biology 119) harms human-kind. And certainly, continuing to try desperately to prove that human opinion is more powerful than good factual data – that not only looks foolish, it is foolish. If the house is burning down, the best thing is to know and react wisely. The person I admire is the one who uses good information to benefit the whole of life – and that requires sharing and listening on both sides.

And the thing about facts is – they don’t change. So it doesn’t matter what anyone believes, the measurable facts are what they are. If you think they are different – sooner or later they will come around and prove you are wrong.

The best way to handle this is to evaluate the facts, get more facts about the same question, evaluate them some more, do some agonizing over your own world view. That is necessary, and it takes time. And then adjust your world view to fit the facts.

But first make sure they really are facts and not just someone else’s opinion.

Recommended References

Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook


Richard Muller: ‘Humans Are Almost Entirely The Cause’ Of Climate Change http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/29/richard-muller-climate-change-humans-koch_n_1715887.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

Upaya 04

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