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Facts and Meanings

April 18, 2007

I think the watermark is doubly ironicThis next section is entitled “We’ve Got Problems” or put another way, we’ve got serious impediments to our ability to see the world in a neutral light. Not only that, but I’ll be looking at some evidence that doesn’t line up with some people’s if not everyone’s beliefs.

I’ve been held up on writing the next couple articles because in doing research and finding primary sources I’ve run into a bit of a firestorm on the internet. What I’ve found is that it is very threatening to cite a fact without assigning it a meaning. Said a different way, every number, study, or graph is implied to have a deeper meaning that must fit with the cohesive whole. This seems to be a universal theme in human beings that deserves some self-examination.

Think of the stars in the sky. They are points of light distributed (almost) randomly with varying brightness and color. To the best of my knowledge they are not arranged in a particular fashion with regards to Earth yet we form constellations out of them. We form constellations by connecting the dots of all these stars, that’s implying meaning. Then we get this funky wireframe which we decide is a very Earthly shape, more meaning. Then we tell a story about that Earthly shape, then we link that story in with a whole mythology of stories to form a network of meaning. Then an American comes along and stamps the meaning with a (c) symbol meaning they can sue you for meaning something else with their meaning.

So what’s the meaning to all this meaning assigning? Well, that’s probably just perpetuating the cycle. Facts exist by themselves, whether we give them a meaning or not. The meanings that we give them also can’t change the facts. So no matter what you think of it, it’s a fact that humans assign meaning. Ponder that one for a while.

Does the line actually exist in the plot?  How about the equation?
Does the line actually exist in this plot? What about the equation?

Other things to ponder:
Are there multiple levels of meaning?

Can you agree on some meanings and not others?

What would a school be like if they only taught facts and not meanings?

Is implying observations reflect reality a meaning?

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Meanings bridge the gap between science and philosophy. Meanings are philosophical values that we assign to facts.

Further Comments: Ah, my little three circle interconnectedness diagram.  I meant well with that thing but it’s the last time you’ll ever see it I think.  The idea was to fill it in step by step.  So that people would have this great epiphany of the interconnectedness of everything.  I’d show the completed one but I think it got deleted in a harddrive format.  Microsoft trumps Ultimate Truth.

Something to note about Facts and Meanings: There are a nearly infinite number of facts.  There is a tiny tiny number of meanings that our brains will allow us to assign.  Therefore, working with our tiny, safe world of meanings limits the number of facts we need to consider down to only a grossly intimidating number whereas the total number of facts would make a person collapse in despair and die.  Survival mechanism.  Don’t think about it too much.  A pretty sure sign someone is going crazy or shifting worldviews (same thing from an outside perspective) is  that the facts they begin taking in and considering important starts growing or starts shifting.  Paranoid Schizophrenia is essentially when you start taking in too many “irrelevant” facts (like the arrangement of leaves on your front step) as important and start disregarding “important” facts (like what MSNBC says) as lies.  The way that we judge that this person has not found the Truth is that they become disfunctional.  The implicit assumption there is that knowing the truth will lead someone to be a functional individual.

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