What exactly, is a fact?

This is my first post, so of course I want to make it count. I want to begin with a link and go from there. It is a video taken by NASA of an alleged UFO flying over hurricane Irene.


I would like you to watch this short 2 minute video before reading further. Feel free to make your own assessment of it before you move on. I’ll come back to it further along in this post, but for now lets discuss another matter.

In college I had a nickname: devil’s advocate. I gained this nickname for my rare and sometimes annoying ability to obsessively see the other side to any issue. I was and still am to much an extent open to all kinds of ideas. To do this, you need the ability to step outside of yourself and your own wants or goals, and look at what other people need want or think. Constantly doing this forces you to second guess everything you think or believe, and I frankly like it.

I recently saw a comic on subnormality titled “If the news media was a person.” In one panel, the conversation between the “media” and his girlfriend goes like this:

Girlfriend: “Such a lovely blue sky, don’t you think?”

Media: “Yes, it’s lovely and blue. On the other hand, it might not be lovely or blue for that matter.”

Girlfriend: “What? What in God’s name are you talking about?”

Media: I mean, it’s important to look at both sides of every issue, that’s all.”

Girlfriend: “Riiight, but not every issue has two sides. It’s not even an issue. It’s a fact! The sky is blue, right?

Media: “Well, there are some people who might believe there isn’t, is all I’m saying.”

Girlfriend: “Yeah, but you can find some people who might believe almost anything!”

Media: “Well there you go.”

Girlfriend: “Okay, are you just screwing with me?”

Media: “What do you mean?”

While that comic certainly applies to the news media, that person is also very much me, and I have no problem admitting it. It doesn’t really matter to me if it annoys people, because of course it annoys people. That’s the point. People are always annoyed when you point out the box they’ve put themselves and their ideas in. The real question is where is the value in doing this all the time? To get the answer to that, let’s go back to our video.

About that video, I’m willing to venture a guess. I’m willing to guess that the gut reaction for 70-80 percent of the people who saw the video was something along these lines:

“Oh, that UFO’s totally been edited in. The video’s clearly a fake, and even if the UFO is really on the video, it doesn’t look like anything extraordinary. Debris floats in our atmosphere all the time. Remember Occam’s razor? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s far more likely a meteorite, or a glitch on the camera, or one of a million different things. UFO, psh.”

Also in that video is hurricane Irene, so what if just for fun, we tried that same approach to the hurricane?

“Oh, that hurricane’s totally been edited in. The video is clearly a fake, and even if that storm is on the video, it doesn’t look like anything big. At best it’s just a little high winds, certainly not a hurricane. Remember Occam’s razor? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Hurricanes are pretty rare compared to thunderstorms. It’s probably a thunderstorm, or one of a million different things. Hurricane, psh. What a bunch of hype.

If we acknowledge that technology has gotten to the point where any video can basically be faked, what proof do we have that either the UFO or hurricane Irene were real? The answer is, unless you saw either happen in front of your eyes in real-time, you don’t have proof, and even then, it’s proof only to you and the others who experience it. If my friend said he experienced either a hurricane or a close encounter, I have equal evidence for either existing, although which one are more people ready to believe first?

On the subject of Occam’s razor, again recognize who gets to decide what’s extraordinary? UFO’s for example, are pretty frequent, yet we still recognize them as “extraordinary claims.” In 1952, for example, there were widespread UFO sightings near the White House, so many so that the U.S. almost gave a “shootdown order”

Understand that I am not advocating for UFO’s here, nor am I denying the existence of hurricane Irene. I’m the devil’s advocate after all. I’m usually too mentally fluid to have strong beliefs of my own. Sometimes that’s problematic, but it also leaves me access to different knowledge and experiences I otherwise would not have had. It’s like how Odin sacrificed one of his eyes so he could see the world.

What I am saying is that the idea of a fact or “empirical evidence” is a myth. There is a certain saying I use to describe myself. “I know much and I know nothing.” That is to say, I have learned all kinds of interesting information, yet I have no idea how trustworthy most of that information, or the informers are.

When people choose a belief system, it’s not because of a cold hard look at the facts. At best, it’s a cold hard look at perceived facts. Most people arbitrarily choose information to be true based on their values and screen everything else out as false and misleading. People don’t choose a belief system because it seems the most logical. They choose a belief system because it seems the most trustworthy, or because it serves their psychological needs, or because society has told them what belief systems are acceptable and which aren’t.

Let’s look again at the “fact” that the sky is blue. To most people this might seem as a fact, but to the blind and colorblind, it’s hearsay. There is no personal proof, and even a scientific test would make them doubt because they simply can’t experience blue. Society, it its infinite wisdom of course tells these people their experience is wrong. Of course the sky is blue, just because you can’t see it doesn’t change that “fact.” Simply because there are more of us who see than who don’t see, the sky is blue. That’s hardly factual at all, wouldn’t you say?

Information does not rule the world. Rhetoric does. How information is spun and interpreted is far more powerful than basic information itself. Since every institution that creates “knowledge” is composed of humans, and since humans are inherently untrustworthy, (let’s not forget that the most powerful people use misinformation to maintain their power) therefore all knowledge is untrustworthy and we are left making arbitrary decisions. Nothing we know is ever 100 percent reliable.

This worldview is not without its downsides. For one thing, it is very hard, perhaps impossible, to live a life without trusting anyone or anything. Sometimes we are left relying on our gut on who to trust, and sometimes even a gut instinct fails. It can also lead you to being scammed, if you buy in. Remember, having an open mind is not the same as being gullible. Always hear all ideas, and buy into an idea or cause as rarely as you can get away with. It will save you time and stress.

Finally, the reason I have brought all this up is because I will be using this blog to discuss some likely controversial ideas. I can’t say enough that just because I write on them doesn’t mean I necessarily believe it. I will say there is so much out there that fascinates me, and I hope it fascinates all of you too.

Until next time, take it easy and keep your mind open.

  1. moulee said:

    nice one man…. its all in the perception right???? and perception changes from person to person…

    • Thanks, at least that’s my perception. 🙂

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