Vivek's blog: Fact is opinion. Isn't it?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fact is opinion. Isn't it?

My partner, Janet, enjoys telling me that in a postmodern framework, there is no objective truth.

If that's the case, then we are truly living in a postmodern world, at least politically. Never before has reality been so divergent depending on one's political point of view.

Take the United States as a case study. Unending strife between Republicans and Democrats is nothing new, but the field of disagreement has moved to the arena of fact rather than opinion or philosophy.

In general, Democrats believe that there is scientific evidence of global climate change caused by humans. Republicans, looking at the same numbers, dispute this conclusion. Similarly (to stereotype crudely), Democrats believe that there is evidence that humans evolved from an apelike ancestor. Again, Republicans dispute this. This occurs despite the fact that a liberal or conservative view of government has, theoretically, nothing to do with conclusions about biology or climatology.

What's more, political belief systems increasingly appear to control people's perception of history. Many conservatives believe that a link was proven between Saddam Hussein and the events of September 11. Many liberals believe that vote recounts demonstrate that Al Gore defeated George W Bush in Florida during the 2000 election.

Although this trend may be disturbing, it shouldn't be surprising. From a young age, I quickly learned that point of view colors reality to a frightening degree. If you're a sports fan, think about how what team you support alters your view of events. What's clearly out of bounds to one team's supporter definitely clipped the line to the other team's supporter. An obvious rule violation to one is well within the spirit of the game to one's counterpart.

So next time you are 100% clear on the facts, and your opponent seems to be ignoring them in favor of other facts you've completely discounted, pause a second. You might just get at some form of objective truth.

How modernist of me.

(Image courtesy chibart, Flickr Creative Commons)