{Adapted from a Facebook conversation}

In subjects where it applies, I prefer the use of reason. It proves itself to be correct much, much more often than not. No matter how much BS is out there, with reasoning skills, good information is discernible from bad. It isn’t infallible, but it’s not arbitrary opinion. Any reasonable person will always get 4 when adding 2 + 2, no matter who wants it to be otherwise.

Obviously most things aren’t that simple, and not all facts are known, but the odds are eternally in favor of people who research and think rather than react and opinionize. So if one is capable of sound thought, having a better handle on reality than those around them is really not that hard — and worth the effort to oneself and those around them.

If you learn the right tools, how to think is irrelevant to what you think. That is why it is unbiased. That is freedom, not conditioning. It means a student CAN disagree with their teacher if there is reason, and a good teacher will be proud of that, so long as it shows better understanding and not merely an improvement in rhetoric. The only reason and time education doesn’t work better than ignorance is because this is not taught.

We are not all educated, not in the real sense. But we CAN educate ourselves if we don’t buy the line “no one can really know” because that is kinda ridiculous given what we’ve achieved thus far as a heavy-brained species. You don’t split the atom or walk on the moon by arbitrary thinking and opinions.

We are all exposed to conditioning, but few people are learned in any subject and even fewer in many subjects. I make a point of educating myself in any subject I touch and have made a lifestyle out of it. I know it annoys some people (most people cherish it), but it’s not bragging to claim knowledge on so many subjects, so long as I am honestly familiar. Maybe this is hubris, but I’d rather have that then society’s imposed shame about it.

Reasoning skills are why some people are less biased and some are far less opinionated. That is why some people tend to be right about most things and others just stumble about and stomp their feet when someone who does know about a subject speaks up and contradicts them. It’s no different from learning carpentry — some people can be taught or educate themselves to build something right and others build sloppy work that just falls apart. Maybe because they don’t care or are in denial that there might be better and worse ways to do something? In most things, there are people who know and people who don’t — and then have the choice of leaning and joining that crowd (not always agreeing, mind you) … or throwing pies.

The problem is that opinions about things that don’t affect us right in front of us aren’t shown to be true or false so easily. But that doesn’t mean you can’t know. It means you CAN’T know unless you know HOW to know (epistemology). It’s not rocket science, but it’s not what just anyone can do if they don’t teach themselves what good thinking is, just like any other skill. This is why scams work on some people and not others, why some people buy bad arguments and some call them out.

But you have to almost force yourself to believe no one can know better than anyone else for it to even seem true. It’s a cop out. It’s lazy. Maybe it hides an inferiority complex when around people who have a few more IQ points or a college degree. But anyone can learn to draw conclusions from facts rather than invent facts based on opinions. Anyone can learn to tell the difference between being misled and being given facts that can be tested for oneself or verified within reason.

It’s sometimes hard work. And it isn’t being taught. But saying someone can’t know is like saying no one can really be better at sports — it’s an excuse not to try or train. And saying the whole world is rigged preventing anyone from being able to find truth makes ignorance incurable (while some of us are ironically labeled duped because we actually are curing ours). It’s heart-breaking to see so many people in that position these days …

We have may different ways of (subjectively) knowing and trusting — and that’s fine really — but you can’t argue or find the truth together with intuition. Personal truth is, well, PERSONAL and doesn’t prove anything, while what we can reasonably know or discern with reason DOES. It’s not perfect, but it trumps an individual’s “personal” beliefs because anyone can replicate the truth of an argument or verify a fact. “Verifying” something by looking inward has only personal value since anyone can be right or wrong as hell and not have any external way of knowing.

When you set up a belief so that it can’t be wrong or disproven, then you can’t say it is right either or expect others to. Facts and arguments can be wrong, and therefore can be right (Falsifiability). When you can’t be shown to be wrong (or right), you have nothing to say to anyone who disagrees and they have nothing they can say to you.

This may not matter in personal matters that by nature are subjective, but what offends my sensibilities is the rejection of facts and reason in general simply because it may not be perfect. People’s beliefs about vaccinations, for example, are an opinion that can cost lives. Keeping only your own council still affects others with nothing they can do or say about it.

Sometime “intuition” or “common sense” — in the way some people use the term — is really a sort of gambling with the truth. There is far less gambling when you use more objective tools, where any two people can measure something and get a damn close or even exact answer.

I am confident in most things I have studied in the formal fields of various subjects because it is senseless to doubt things that, if they were wrong, would be instantly challenged by peers. Outside of such circles, we live in a world where anyone can blog about a subject they have NOT studied or are not qualified to even talk about and the masses will believe. Every voice gets an audience, qualified or not, because the audience has no ability to discern.

Oh, will they believe! All someone has to do is make them “feel” like it’s truth by all sorts of logical and psychological tricks. And these tricks are known, talked about by the ancient philosophers and on rare occasion taught today.

Others of us know the trustworthiness of a source because we know how the process of good research works, and not to weigh anything too heavily or lightly.

Reason — used well — allows us to not NEED to “touch” something personally to know it. We don’t have to travel to Africa personally to know it’s most certainly there. We know how far stars are apart, and how much the continents shift each year, even before we had satellites and spaceships. Truth proves itself (or falsehood disprove) as new tools are applied to old observations.

It means we can know amazing things with a certainty that if someone else DOES check it out for themselves, they will get the same answer every time. Again, it’s done by people who are not perfect, but the tools basically are — at least in those things they can be applied to.