When doing your research, making your action plans, implementing your goals, using your feedback, and figuring out how to live your life in general, it is essential that you consistently separate fact from opinion.
You may think this is particularly true in today’s world of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and garbage information from the internet, but the challenge of distinguishing fact from opinion is as old as the first argument.
Scientific Fact vs. Opinion
Scientific facts are the easiest to identify because they can be proven in a lab. They are demonstrable. The rate of acceleration due to gravity on earth is roughly 9.8 m/s2. That means objects of different weight (disregarding air friction) fall at the same speed. A two-pound ball of steel and a ten-pound ball of steel dropped from a height of 100 yards will hit the ground at the same time. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself and see. If you get a different result, you’ll make the news!
Scientific opinions are also easy to identify because scientists take care not to call them facts. They are instead “theories” and “hypotheses.” For scientists, until something is demonstrable, it remains an opinion. A thousand instances of evidence alone cannot make something a scientific fact, which is why they’re called the Theory of Evolution and the Theory of Relativity.
Layman Fact vs. Opinion
In everyday language, a fact is something everyone agrees on, which means it’s pretty much always based on previous experience, rather than something you can demonstrate. For example:
- The run rises in the east.
- The sky is blue.
- What goes up must come down.
- Everybody dies.
An opinion is a statement that another person can argue against with evidence.
Fact: Not everyone likes every movie.
Opinion: Horror movies are better than other movies.
Fact: Wars kill a lot of
Opinion: Wars are the result of pointless posturing by old people at the expense of young people.
Remember, no matter how much you personally agree with an opinion, that doesn’t make it a fact. If an evidence-backed argument can be made against it, it’s an opinion.
Fact vs. Opinion in Research
Once you see how very difficult it is to call something a “fact,” as either a scientist or layman, it becomes clear that having “only facts” in your research is both impossible and undesirable. Most of the information we work with is opinion. Good research won’t yield you a lot of facts, but hopefully it will gather up helpful, educated, informed opinions.
There is no “fact” about the “best way” to start your own business, only expert perspectives and good advice. Even medical advice is based almost completely on the opinions of the day. Sports medicine experts today say you should protect your joints during high-impact activities, work on strengthening your core, and eat your vitamins. These all seem pretty good ideas, and I would endorse them myself, but they’re not facts.