Facts Are Stubborn Things

From The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey:

Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are— or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms. When other people disagree with us, we immediately think something is wrong with them. But, as the demonstration shows, sincere, clearheaded people see things differently, each looking through the unique lens of experience.

This does not mean that there are no facts. In the demonstration, two individuals who initially have been influenced by different conditioning pictures look at the third picture together. They are now both looking at the same identical facts— black lines and white spaces— and they would both acknowledge these as facts. But each person’s interpretation of these facts represents prior experiences, and the facts have no meaning whatsoever apart from the interpretation.

The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. [bold emphasis mine]

Indeed. That is who I decide to be: a person of integrity who takes responsibility for himself with a firm grasp of reality. It is not easy and Lord knows I fail probably more often than I’d care to admit. (Anger is a powerful drug.) If you have ever had a passionate discussion on politics or religion with someone, this difficulty should be apparent. As responsible adults we can overcome this. (You must if you wish to be an effective person by Covey’s lights.)
Continue reading “Facts Are Stubborn Things”

How to Disagree

I just read a great article that details disagreement that actually elevates a discussion’s participants far better than I have ever done. This is why I’m not a fan of rhetorical battle which on the DH scale is approximately DH3.5. It’s pretty and can convince those dazzled by eloquence or volume, but it’s not really substantive. Sophistry is what it is. And we are all guilty of it from time to time. That’s human.
For example, we cannot argue about matters of faith for reasons best given by example.
P1: The Bible is the Word of God.
P2: No it isn’t.
P1: I know God.
P2: So do I.
The second statements should be completely true for P2 who contradicts P1, but without evidence to back P2 up she/he hasn’t made a convincing argument for either one’s veracity. That’s why I try to be very picky about how and why I argue things about faith, the Bible, politics, etc. Evidence requires substance and empirical observation. I can make a convincing argument based on evidence that the Bible doesn’t refer to itself at least the Bible. That’s cut and dry like saying that John begins with “In the beginning, was the Word.”
What’s more interesting, is that I can make a convincing argument that the Bible and the Word of God are not the same things provided I define them well. Based on those definitions which are real empirical things, I can construct an argument that differentiates them. That is a subtle but very important difference from proving the statement: “The Bible is not the Word of God.” A faith assertion that is not subject to rational argument. Faith is not argued; it is confessed.