Facts, Opinions and Truth

Paul and Jimmy were (almost certainly still are) two excellent humanities teachers. I observed many of their lessons. They taught the children the difference between facts and opinions.

They would ask questions like, ‘Was Oliver Cromwell a good man?’. Answers were required to be: ‘I think Cromwell was/wasn’t a good man because… for example…’

This extended to, ‘I think our town should/shouldn’t have another supermarket because… for example…’ or ‘I think they should/shouldn’t build Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station because… for example…’

Across the Atlantic…

Donald tweets ‘He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!’

Barack talks about ‘truth decay’ and misinformation where ‘facts don’t matter’ and ‘falsehoods had already circled the globe by the time truth got out of the gates.’

Closer to home… Boris calls Scottish devolution a ‘disaster north of the border’.

Facts, opinions, truth…?

We’re used to conspiracy theories – the death of Princess Di, the 9/11 twin tower attacks… we become suspicious of ‘truth’.

Yesterday we heard of another successful Covid vaccine with clinical trials, 95% effective, scientific facts…

Yesterday we went for a walk on the Carlton Marshes nature reserve. An elderly gentleman was looking through his binoculars. He had seen marsh harriers. He said that barn owls and short-eared owls were flying over the marshes. A wildlife warden told us about otters that lived in the dykes…

We saw no marsh harriers, owls or otters, but were happy to believe the gents we talked to…

Faith is often discussed in facts/truth/opinion terms…

…Musing on Pilate who, at Jesus’ trial, famously asked, ‘What is truth?’ Jesus had already said ‘I am the truth’, and ‘the truth will set you free.’

And St Paul’s words: ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist…’

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