Have you ever wanted to know something new about the world?
Maybe you wanted to know if ice cream was good for your body. (If it is, maybe your parents will let you have as much of it as you want.)
Or maybe you wanted to know what the best flavor of ice cream is. (Maybe they are all the best?)
There are a lot of big ideas in the world today. Both kids and adults have a lot of different questions and sometimes they have even more answers.
When trying to understand the world, one thing everyone should know is how to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion.
What is an objective (Fact) statement?
An object statement is information that can be proven true or false. It is either true or not true.
Some examples of these are:
n The sun is a star.
n The earth is a planet.
n Chocolate is the most popular flavor of ice cream.
All of these can be proven to be true or false with information. If things can be proven true or false, they are “falsifiable.”
Facts can be proven to be true. But they can also be proven to be false. No matter who is saying the statement, it is “objectively” true or false because it is not based on feelings.
As scientists learned more about the world, some of the things they thought were true were later proven to be false after new or better information was discovered.
One factual statement that has been proven to be false is:
n Cavities in teeth are caused by small tooth worms.
Scientists didn’t know what bacteria was when they thought worms were responsible for holes in teeth. While cavities may look like tiny tunnels, we know now they these are caused, in part, by bacteria.
As scientists learned more about how the world works, they realized they were wrong.
Another statement scientists learned was untrue is:
n The earth is the center of the universe.
The scientist Nicolaus Copernicus argued this statement was untrue about 500 years ago when he said the earth and all the other planets travel around the sun.
As scientists learned more about the universe — such as Galileo Galilei’s observations through the telescope of planets in orbit — they found more information that proved the earth is not the center of the universe.
The more scientists learned about the universe, people were able to understand even more about about the world around us. But there are still things scientists don’t know.
What is a subjective (opinion) statement?
A subjective statement is one that can not be proven true or false. It is an opinion.
An example of this is:
n Chocolate ice cream is the best flavor.
The statement that most people like chocolate ice cream is something we can prove by asking many people what their favorite ice cream is and recording their answers. But does that make chocolate ice cream the best flavor of ice cream?
“Best” is a word that when used on its own is not falsifiable. Instead of objective, it is subjective, meaning that it depends on what someone thinks. What is the “best” is an opinion.
Other people might disagree that chocolate is the best because they think strawberry ice cream is the “best.” Someone might say the “best” ice cream is one that has less sugar. Someone who likes to take pictures of their food might say the prettiest ice cream is the “best.”
Opinions can be based on facts, but that doesn’t mean they are true or false. Chocolate ice cream is the most popular ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it is the best to everyone.
Subjective statements aren’t right or wrong on their own. You can agree or disagree. And there can be lots of different ideas about what is the best and why.
Why does it matter?
Facts tell us about the world. This is important. Opinions tell us about what people think about the world. This is important too. But everyone should know the difference so that they know how to think for themselves.
People often try to treat their own opinion statements as truth statements because they want others to think they must agree with them. If you have a sister or brother who tells you that chocolate ice cream is the best, you can tell them that’s just their opinion. If they try to back up their opinion with the fact that chocolate ice cream is the most popular flavor, you can tell them that this may be true, but being the most popular doesn’t make chocolate the best.
Listen and see if you can find examples in your own life of facts and opinions. Some opinions you may agree with and others you may not, but you get to choose for yourself.
Now that you have an idea about what is objective (true or false) and subjective (opinion), see if you can correctly identify each.
Quiz yourself: Which of these statements are objective (true or false) and which are subjective (opinion)?
STATEMENT 1 Objective or subjective:
Dogs have a better sense of smell than humans.
Objective or subjective:
Dogs should not jump on people because it is rude.
STATEMENT 3 Objective or subjective:
The United States is the most beautiful country in the world.
STATEMENT 4 Objective or subjective:
The United States is a popular travel destination.
STATEMENT 5 Objective or subjective:
The Yankees are the best baseball team in the Major Leagues.
STATEMENT 6 Objective or subjective:
The Yankees have more World Series wins than any other team in the Major Leagues.
STATEMENT 7 Objective or subjective:
Reading can help you learn more about the world.
Objective or subjective:
Reading is fun.
STATEMENT 9 Objective or subjective:
President George Washington had nine siblings.
STATEMENT 10 Objective or subjective:
President George Washington was the worst president in history.
1: objective; 2: subjective; 3: subjective; 4: objective; 5: subjective; 6: objective; 7: objective; 8: subjective; 9: objective; 10: subjective