Information, Knowledge, Opinion, and Fact

Oh, there’s so much noise, there’s so much noise of news and information floating through the atmosphere. There are so many varying points of view or angles on the infinite variety of concerns and perceptions one doesn’t know where the end is and what the evidence is. Not only doesn’t know where the end of it is but what most of it is about.

I’m referring to the amount of information being talked about either individually or in groups, whether they be in classes, over the media or on the street corner that is passing for knowledge.

I’m sure you know that there is a vast difference between information and knowledge, and as for wisdom, maybe we’ll get to that later. What I’d like to talk about is the difference and the consequences of mistaking information for knowledge.

Information is something about something or someone. It’s how you are informed about something; it doesn’t necessarily reflect any degree of knowledge for knowledge is in a completely different category of information.  For example, “Did you know that Mary was pregnant” that sentence is information. You do not know that Mary is pregnant. Somebody told you that she was but you don’t know it to be true. You may believe that the person who said to you ‘that Mary was pregnant’ was telling the truth. They may well have been but sure; how do you know?  You’d have to check on how they “knew” Mary was pregnant.  My point is; just because you hear something doesn’t mean you know anything.

You may not think this is important but I do. I believe it is essential to assume that much of what people hear is information taken as knowledge and confused as truth. Why? It is apparent that if I think “Mary IS pregnant” and then go about sharing that information or making decisions about it I could cause all sorts of problems.

Take the news, for instance. Consider how you receive information about the world about what is happening and the motives that create it. I was on the bus yesterday listening to two people talking about an old building we were passing and being torn down.  As I listened to the conversation, it sure sounded like this one person knew all about it. The other person, of course, is taking everything being said as the truth. The person talking seemed to know more about what was going on and even got into the details of who all owned the building, why it was being demolished and what the new owners were going to do with it. While listening I had a strong suspicion this person was really making up a story based on some information he had received or perceived and then in telling the story added a lot of opinions and imagination to the story. While the bus continued into town I thought about the person who was listening to this information and taking it to be accurate, which I could also have. I c0ught imagine myself going into another place telling other people about all I had heard and sharing it as if it were true.  And in doing so adding a few things about my opinions and additions, embellishing the original story.

As I considered everything that was happening between my short bus ride home, I thought about how stories are told and how information is passed on and taken for knowledge. If you haven’t come to my point that understanding and taking information as knowledge then I ask you to consider this.  Without considering the source and where it came from I ask you to consider once, twice, maybe even three times – when you hear something that has any great consequence, ask yourself if this person knows? Does this person have direct contact with the subject that they are talking about?  And if they don’t take it as an opinion and just another point of view with an emotional component to it and an agenda behind it.