I Got Into a Little Trouble the Other Day

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By Roy Snell
roy.snell@corporatecompliance.org

I tweeted, “Watching shows about ancient aliens and Bigfoot are a lot like watching the news. People share three facts out of 25 available facts on a topic and come to a completely inaccurate and biased conclusion. The only difference is that the Bigfoot and ancient alien folks are nice.”

I knew it may aggravate someone, but the guy I “caught the attention of” really came out of left field. A guy, who has done documentaries on subjects relating to Bigfoot and folklore, replied, “Thank you. I read apparently four or five facts in your tweet (depending on how you count the breakdown on the Bigfoot vs alien mishmash). One sounds valid. I want to send appreciation for the item calling the Bigfoot researchers nice.”

I looked for four or five facts in my tweet. The potential candidates were:

“People share three facts out of 25 available facts”

“come to a completely inaccurate and biased conclusion”

“Bigfoot and ancient alien folks are nice.”

I couldn’t find four or five things that could even be considered a fact. None of these are facts, in my opinion. They are opinions… in my opinion. The first one is an estimate at best. If this guy, who really helps support my Bigfoot-guys-are-nice theory, is serious, then he doesn’t know what a fact is. Wikipedia says, “A fact is a statement that is consistent with objective reality or can be proven with evidence.” He is mixing opinions, estimates, guesses, assessments, approximations, feelings, etc. with “objective reality or can be proven with evidence.”

Why is this interesting? I think this interesting because we deal with people all the time who make bad choices. I have tried to understand where people, who do wrong, go wrong. However, it never occurred to me that they don’t know the difference between a fact and an opinion. Why do I want to know where they go wrong? You can’t help people who occasionally go off the rails unless you understand the cause of their derailment. If it’s because they think opinions are facts, then the best way to help them is to teach them the difference between an opinion and a fact.

Specifically, I would teach them that the bigger the risk is, related to a decision you make, the more important it is that you find and use facts rather than feelings, opinions, guesses, estimates, etc. The more I think about this, the more I am convinced it is happening all around us. I would have never thought to teach people the difference between an opinion, fact, estimate, guess, assessment, theory, notion, belief, etc. If you want people to make better choices, maybe it’s a good idea to slip in a little training about what a fact is. And in the infamous words of Bill Murray, “That is an opinion, Jack.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I love this, Roy! One of my best mentors often stated, “That’s not a fact…it’s a feeling/opinion. If we all reacted based on feelings/opinions, we’d be going a dozen different directions.”

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