facts

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Discussion (30)¬

  1. E.A. Blair says:

    This could have been taken from the classrooms of my Catholic grade school

  2. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    What’s needed, a self anointed censor
    Progressive correct thoughts universal dispenser
    So all on earth know
    What does suck or blow
    Reality must be a blur

  3. Anonymous says:

    From my religious upbringing (what a waste of time!) I learned that The Truth is A Fact. I’m afraid that is not valid anymore.-

  4. Matt says:

    The history of theology since the enlightenment, summarised:

    Global atheist community: Why do you believe?
    Global theist community: We have absolutely no idea, in other words its ‘faith’. But you’re still stupid, closed-minded, bigoted scum.

  5. DocAtheist says:

    @Author, excellent work! So very succinct and perfectly on target!

  6. thor says:

    It will be a great thing for the red ink producers and the bible printers….red markers from top to bottom on every page!

  7. FreeFox says:

    I actually find myself agreeing with Mo here, of sorts. Hemingway supposedly said: “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you feel that it all happened to you and after which it all belongs to you.” Truth is a funny thing, but there is definitely more to it than facts. There’s something I learned as a confidence artist: It’s almost impossible to convince someone of a lie they don’t want to believe, no matter how manny convincing “facts” you present, while you can always convince people of a lie they want to believe. It’s almost, as if they already know, but chose to allow themselves to be swindled. (Conversely, best way to seduce someone is to tell them the truths about themselves they most lie about – and show you’re still interested in them. Nothing seems to be as much of an aphrodisiac as being accepted for your darkest secrets.) Maybe the function of a good story is to package the facts so that the mind is willing to accept them as truth. Of course, it can do the same with lies, and too often does.

  8. hotrats says:

    The idea of a ‘fact’ is a modern one, dependent on consensual vocabulary, reason and verifiability; until you have that, reality is literally inexplicable, and might as well be magical and supernatural for all the sense you can make of it, among the other clumsy guesses and fallacious assumptions that litter the narrow and winding road toward the scientific method.

    That was the case when the Bible and Koran were set down; the nearest they had to a ‘fact’ was anything you could persuade people to believe. There was no frame of reference for establishing the truth of a religious claim, apart from mythology, fanatical assertion, and threats.

    There was no other ground on which to stand; you cannot appeal to reason without first agreeing what it means to be reasonable, which relions have never been able to do. If you are claiming to have the exclusive truth about reality, that consensus is out of the question. Religions do not survive by being reasonable, but by insisting that the definition of reason is their exclusive property.

  9. E.T. says:

    Is truth absolute or is it relative? I think it has to be both, as non-sensible as that sounds.

  10. Friendly Extremist says:

    Very good strip indeed.

    I want to say something for the sake of reason and truth:

    The fact that someone identifies as an atheist doesn’t make them any smarter. To be clear, I don’t mean to defend religion at all. However, I’ve seen many atheists whose behaviour is no different than that of a religious person, when it comes to discerning between truth and fantasy. I would argue that humans are naturally inclined to believe those things that are more palatable or that best match their prearranged beliefs. The average human being doesn’t question their ideas that often, maybe because they have a lot to worry about on a daily basis and that’s the easiest way to get through.

    I also hate the mind satisfaction that religion provides, but that doesn’t mean that the average atheist is an intellectual, fact-checking scientist, as some people may suggest. There are lots of people out there who say “you’re stupid because you believe in God” while at the same time they think “I believe this or that because someone told me, I didn’t bother checking its veracity”.

    My fellow beings, don’t be intellectually lazy! Whether or not you are religious, try to make sure that every single thing you’re told is backed by solid evidence. Don’t satisfy your minds in a religion-like ritual by telling you “this is true because a very smart guy told me so”.

    I hope I didn’t get too passionate about this. Cheers, J&Moers! 🙂

  11. Friendly Extremist, all very well as a goal and theory, but I simply don’t have the time or capacity to determine truth for myself. I’m just not good enough at math. I must rely on those who have spent their lives studying it, with the exception of theologians who have spent their lives studying a subject based on an absurd and obviously false premise.

    Even subjects where the conclusions seem very counter intuitive, such as theoretical physics, I must rely on the smart people who have done the work, starting with observations and proceeding to testing hypothesis. Einstein was proven correct; mass warps space time; gravity deflects light. Fine. That’s now a fact. There really is radiation coming from a black hole. Stephen Hawking was correct. No way I’m going to test or verify this.

    I can accept that reality is not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we can know. (Not original to me, some scientist told me this while explaining that solid objects are mostly empty space.) I have a much harder time accepting that we humans are special, somehow outside of the normal order of things, and that this whole amazing affair was put together for our benefit, i.e. that some first cause invisible all powerful mind is paying attention when I masturbate or a nation commits genocide.

    It seems there is an actual reality, an actual truth, but I will never be able to understand and appreciate it. That’s okay with me. As long as we don’t go making shit up just to make ourselves feel better.

    Author, you continue to outdo yourself. This is one of your best. Again.

  12. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin, I think your scientist pinched it from Shakespeare!
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosopy”.

    F.E, I don’t identify as an atheist, I am an atheist.

  13. Cassandra says:

    I kind of agree with FreeFox. After all, fictional literature exists (partly) to hold up a mirror to reality, even though it’s usually/mostly factually untrue. This webcomic is a good example. Maybe the relation between facts and truth is like the relation between information and knowledge/wisdom: they’re not equivalent, rather one feeds into the other.

  14. Len says:

    Hotrats, I agree with your comment – especially the last sentence, but I’d adjust it slightly, as follows:
    Religions do not survive by being reasonable, but by insisting that the definition and use of reason is their exclusive property.

  15. Graham ASH-PORTER says:

    How come the truth is so divisive and hateful then Mo?

  16. Suffolk Blue says:

    If humanity were somehow rebooted tomorrow and ALL knowledge wiped from our consciousness, eventually the scientific facts we know now would re-emerge. The “great religions” would not.

  17. dr John de Wipper says:

    Blair:
    Ah, the things I was indoctrinated with there and then!

    One that stands out in my memory:
    God placed all those fossils, seemingly very old, in the earth only seeming so old just to test our faith.
    Being brought very convincibly to young impressionable children by the very same people that brought you the wonders of reading, writing, calulating.

  18. Deimos says:

    Dear mr blue, in your scenario I think you are right but…
    Something similar would emerge, as each scattered group of humans hit a certain point in their development – faith in something bigger emerges. Its one thing I’ve noticed in most of my favourite sci-fi books, obviously nobody agrees on the form of our future faith but its there.
    I’m unsure as to the exact point faith emerges, it is probably some point between the development of communication and the creation of board games. The odd thing about it is that I consider the group of happy humans who gather here
    as an extremely faithful group. Belief in fellow humans and oneself, maybe that is the religion of the post theist world.
    A non-prophet faith. I’ve just fixed my broadband after 36 hours offline so I’m super optimistic and unreasonably happy just now.

  19. pink squirrel says:

    alternate facts, alternate truth

  20. Someone says:

    I’m reminded of a line from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas when a cult leader is selling his religion on the radio:
    “They tell us that the Earth is billions of years old when in FACT, it’s 157 years old; FACT, and its age never changes.”

  21. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was simply a book of alphabetically-listed words without definitions. Now that words mean whatever one wants them to mean, we’d might as well revert to that format.
    Well, that is if it wasn’t for the fact that correct spelling only matters to language Nazis and insistence on the same is therefore oppression. Probably ableist, too.
    Burn all the dictionaries!

  22. micky says:

    A fact might be 1 + 1 = 2, this is also true. However 2 = 1 + 1, while true is not a fact, as 2 can also be 10 – 8, etc.

  23. jb says:

    A useful observation about “truth” from the author John Derbyshire:

    The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b. who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list.

  24. oldebabe says:

    JB: hear, hear…

  25. Vanity Unfair says:

    Acolyte of Sagan
    http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?page_id=7070&i=1
    Johnson did provide definitions. that is what took so much time.
    Sometimes he was wrong:
    Pastern: http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?page_id=7070&i=1462
    Sometimes he was ironic:
    Lexicographer: http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?page_id=7070&i=1195
    Sometimes I am not certain:
    Oats: http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?page_id=7070&i=1382
    Blackadder’s contributions were not included. You will search in vain for “contrafibularity.”
    We logophiles and bibliophiles would have it no other way.

  26. FreeFox says:

    I think the problem with the truth isn’t first and foremost its factuality, and not even bias from wishes and fears (although all of that matters, of course), but usefulness. From “is the earth a sphere” to “would it be bad if I killed my boss”, the truth is bloody complex. Technically the answer is a no to the former (it’s more a slightly uneven ellipsoid) and at best a that depends to the latter (beginning with your definition of goodness and ending in the unknowable repercussions down the centuries), but of course for most intents and purposes the answer is yes in both cases.

    While it helps in the long run to try to accumulate as much factual knowledge as possible, in most situations what we need are quick estimates rather than painstaking factual precicion. And the difference between a slow, correct and a quick and dirty answer can sometimes literally be the difference between survival and death. And that is where fables, myths, and stories come in – because often stories make ideas memorable and applicable to real life, in a way that much more scientific treatments do not.

    I mean, let’s take the adventures of Jesus and Mo on this site – they’re very obviously not factually correct, as no real world persons experienced those exact events. And yet… in many ways they describe true events, as there are many people who basically say and think similar things, and reading the strip every week is amusing for us, as it reminds us of those real world events. They boil very complex ideas and social realities down to their essence.

    And how do we know they are true, at least within the framework of our experiences? Because they are funny. Humor, after all, is mostly pain and truth.

  27. dr John de Wipper says:

    FF:
    From “is the earth a sphere” … , the truth is bloody complex. Technically the answer is a no to the former (it’s more a slightly uneven ellipsoid).
    …. depending on your degree of accuracy. Actually, there is no billiards bal (for any of the various que sports) that is closer to a true mathematical sphere than Earth is.

  28. HelperOne says:

    It is not billiards but it’s close.
    There is a link in the article to Mr. Plait’s study on billiard balls. It is more accurately a simplified list of factoids about Earth but it does mention billiard balls.

  29. Ah, Vanity Unfair beat me to it. “Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was simply a book of alphabetically-listed words without definitions.” Acolyte of Sagan, say what? Was that an earlier version? I’ve been reciting his definition of a network for years, because it’s so much fun and so opaque. “Network (n.) Anything reticulated or decussated at intervals with interstices between the intersections.” Dr. Johnson was my kind of helpful.

  30. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin, as I understand it, Johnson’s original book was a list of undefined words meant to promote some uniformity of spelling in place of the arbitrary manner which was inevitable without standard spellings, a system that many seem determined to use again; indeed, today Johnson would be just another language Nazi.
    Whether that publication was referred to as a dictionary I couldn’t say.

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