A primer on facts, beliefs, and alternative facts


Last night I had a nice conversation with my old friend, Dave. I was surprised he called. He said it was to give me a virtual hug because he thought I was probably upset by a querulous Facebook conversation with yet another friend.

I’m not sure we’ve ever chatted on the phone before, not least because our views are so far apart. We’re talking acres apart. Miles. Galaxies apart. But, the discussion was interesting and civil and we hung up later each knowing that the other is a good, if sadly misguided, person.

I’d love to bring Dave around to my way of thinking and vice versa, I’m sure.

trump-batonThis could maybe happen on the day that Donald Trump marches down Pennsylvania Avenue wearing nothing but go-go boots and pink panties, twirling flaming batons in each tiny hand.

Yeah. That far apart. Light years.

So I got to thinking about the difference between facts and beliefs, and just for fun, that delightful new concept introduced by the wiry, yet slippery Kellyanne Conway, “alternative facts.”

Allow me to explain in a most factual manner:


A fact is indisputable. Like the once popular saying I have a hard time giving up, “it is what it is.” Dave surprised me by mentioning that there is still a Flat Earth Movement, which means exactly what it sounds like. I thought that went out with the Medicis in Renaissance Italy. Apparently not. Sorry, guys. The earth is a sphere. Oh, it may not be a perfect sphere, but it sure is not flat. That’s a fact. It’s been proven any number of ways over the years and anyone who disputes it is a nut job. Sorry.

So, that is a good example of one proven scientific fact.

There are historic incidents that also are fact. We can prove they happened. Like the Holocaust, for instance, which we remembered in sorrow this past week. For those pea brains who think they can dispute that the Holocaust occurred, we still have survivors to testify to the fact, not to mention mountains of grim, heartbreaking evidence. It happened. Fact. End of story. And anyone who wants to ignore or forget it should be ashamed.

However – and talking with Dave last night brought this to mind a number of times  – beware of “alternative facts,” which are lies disguised as truths. More about that later. The point is, whether we’re talking about the fall of Saigon or what was said by the guys having coffee and donuts in the diner this morning, the truth of what was said and what happened is only as reliable as the source providing that information. Still with me? Good. If your information comes from an indisputably reliable, accurate, unbiased source, let’s call it fact.


A holier-than-thou VP from the amazing Rolling Stone magazine

I was reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer this morning and skimmed a story about Vice President Mike Pence addressing participants at the Pro Life Rally in Washington this week. That seems to me to be a perfect opening to discuss the difference between beliefs and facts.

It is my understanding that Pro Life proponents believe that life begins at conception and therefore, abortion is as unthinkable as killing a baby that was delivered at full term. I respect that and recommend that all people who believe this should not have abortions. How could they ever forgive themselves?

But here’s the issue. No one knows if that tiny collection of atoms or tissue or whatever eventually develops into a fetus is a person from the moment egg and sperm collide.


I don’t know.

You don’t know.

No. One. Knows.


That’s because there’s currently no evidence to prove that this is a fact. It’s a belief. And you can cry and light candles and feel 100% certain in your heart of hearts, but that doesn’t make it a fact. It makes it something you very strongly believe.

In this country, and in most of this world (thank goodness), people are free to believe all kinds of things. If you want to believe the earth is flat, knock yourself out with that. As long as you’re not going to hurt me or stop me from making a living or picket my house, etc., etc., you can believe that and I’ll believe the world is a sphere and smile at you when we cross paths in the produce aisle.

And until science or a heavenly visitation that EVERYBODY witnesses testifies that a fetus becomes a feeling, thinking, viable human entity at conception or at five days or at three months or whatever – it’s all conjecture, folks. And conjecture = belief. Not fact. And fact, as you may remember from above, is information that comes from an indisputably reliable, accurate, unbiased source.

In the meantime, let’s respect each other’s beliefs. May they be honorable and true. But don’t ask me to live according to yours and I won’t force you to accept mine. Live and let live.

Oh – and I almost forgot – is this insistence on forcing their beliefs on others a self-righteous excuse to stop helping poor women on Medicare from getting reproductive healthcare using “their” tax dollars? Okay. Then let’s do this: my taxes can be designated to help out poor women who can’t afford reproductive care, and yours can go toward building that wall protecting us from Mexico, or maybe investigating nonexistent voter fraud, or even vetting potential immigrants from dicey countries. Fair enough? Good.

Alternative facts

Are lies. And they’re all over the place. Watch out for blatantly “fake news” on the internet. Be especially wary of biased news from just about every source.

Either she didn’t use a stylist, or that stylist hates her. Photo from US Weekly.

Count on the White House to lie for the next four years. Sad, right? And scary. Trump might actually mean well and have some worthwhile ideas. But he may be mentally ill and certainly isn’t afraid of a bald-faced lie. In fact, if anyone calls him on a lie, he just puffs himself up even bigger and shouts and points fingers at everyone else and generally makes a foolish spectacle of himself. The people around him are no better. I’d like to see Steve Bannon, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan marching behind Trump in their pink panties (and that’s just for starters).

I’d add Kellyanne Conway, but she already bought the outfit to be the drum major. Meow. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

So there you have it. To recap:

Fact = indisputable

Belief = varies by individual

Alternative Fact = just a lie

And be careful out there.



2 thoughts on “A primer on facts, beliefs, and alternative facts

  1. Excellent article, Kate. Why can’t people get these basic concepts??? Thanks for clarifying –In your entertaining, intelligent way!!

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