10 May 2011

What is a fact? What is true? It's a Blog Off

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What's the difference between a fact and a truth?"


When we figured out the topic of this Blog Off last week I was pretty psyched up to have a deep discussion. I love delving into the deeper meanings of rhetoric and nobody can debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin better than me.

But as I thought about it and as I figured out what I wanted to say I kept coming up short.

When I was a younger man I believed with every fiber of my being that the world was governed by a series of universal truths that could be counted on as a way to determine how the world works. These universal truths came from the natural world.

Truths such as the theory of evolution, the theory of gravity, atomic theory and the laws of thermodynamics undergirded everything and could be relied upon as a compass to use to get through anything. I lived for years in this Aristotelian idyll.

But as I grew older and experienced more I started to stumble over truths and events that didn't jibe with my A is A worldview. Why did my friend Woody die so horribly? Why do my fellow Floridians vote into office politicians who will sell out our future? Why do so many of my friends continue to act against their best interests? And most recently, why did my ex-boss do a swan dive off the tallest bridge he could find and why did he blame me? The Universal Truths I hold onto don't apply in these cases.

Now that I'm a middle-aged man I'm coming to see that there is a difference between facts and truths, something I couldn't have seen when I was 25. It's true that Woody died 12 years ago but it doesn't  mean anything other than the fact that every life has an expiration date. It's a fact that people will elect politicians who appeal to their baser instincts. It's true that Carl is dead but despite his feeble attempts to drag me down with him, it doesn't mean I did anything wrong.

There's a difference between facts and truths and the more I think about it the deeper the divide between the two grows. It's easier to believe in universals but the older I get the less I believe in them.

As the day goes on, the rest of the participants in today's Blog Off will appear miraculously at the end of this post. Keep checking back and check out everybody's postss. You can follow along in Twitter as well, just look for the hashtag #LetsBlogOff. If you'd like more information about about the Blog Off or if you'd like to see the results of previous Blog Offs, you can find the main website here.


  1. I do think there’s a right and wrong to human relationships and also a true and false to knowledge in the Universe. Human relationships are clouded by any number of things. We clearly do not always do the right for any number of reasons. Greed tends to trump a lot of good intentions. As for the true and false of things, I firmly believe every question has an answer, which is not to say that man is destined to find that answer, because he may not, but simply that the answer is there waiting to be found. As for why people do the things they do—hell, I don’t even know why I do the things I do!

  2. Those are some horrible experiences; I am so sorry to hear of them.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Those of us who make it to middle-age usually have had to tweak - or overhaul - what we knew as fact in our younger days. Thanks for a great topic.


Talk to me!