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True Facts - and not
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2014/03/04
7:02pm
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deaconB
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If one asserts that “facts” must be true, then what does a fact-checker do? Nice work, if you can get it

A friend of mine notes that “global warming”   is a scientific fact.   They stopped calling new discoveries as “laws”a century ago, and every known scientific law had been proven less than fully true.   These days, we develop theories, which even if they are widely acclaimed and non-controversial, are fair game for doctoral candidates to improve upon by stepwise refinement.

Thus, the Al Gore crowd sneers a “deniers” as being non-scientific, and those who point out the serious problems with the man-made climate change theories can laugh back, that “scientific facts” are assertions which are definitely wrong.

 

 

2014/03/05
3:45am
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Glenn
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I view true fact as a retronym, like acoustic guitar or black-and-white television — and maybe soon non-HD TV, maybe LDTV(?).

While once facts were all true our culture has developed the need to assert pointedly when that is the case. The simple word fact has come to mean only a statement of fact, ie. a declaration intended to be taken as true but whose actual truth is uncertain.

So when you hear true fact realize that we, like Dorothy, are not in black-and-white Kansas anymore.

2014/03/05
4:22am
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polistra
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Ditto on the retronym, but there’s a deeper dispute in science concerning Fact and Theory.  

 

Traditionally a Fact is a careful and quantitative observation of Nature.   For instance, a local temperature measured at a consistent time each day, using properly calibrated thermometers, with proper attention paid to baseline conditions and contaminants.  

 

Traditionally a Theory is a logical rule or a mathematical formula, offered as a way to relate a particular set of Facts.   If the Theory appears to work well on present Facts, you try to predict the next set of Facts.   If the predictions are in the right direction but slightly off, you try to adjust the formula.   If the predictions are bad, or if no adjustment works consistently, you discard the Theory and start over.

 

Modern pseudoscientists, such as the Gaian zealots, are remolding the meaning of Fact to mean “a Theory that lots of people believe.”   This enables them to silence dissent, because everyone says “You’re entitled to your own opinions but you’re not entitled to your own Facts.”

 

2014/03/05
7:24am
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Robert
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Plenty here. (Don’t mean there can’t be any more.)

2014/03/05
9:03pm
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deaconB
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Ditto on the retronym, but there’s a deeper dispute in science concerning Fact and Theory.  

 

Traditionally a Fact is a careful and quantitative observation of Nature.   For instance, a local temperature measured at a consistent time each day, using properly calibrated thermometers, with proper attention paid to baseline conditions and contaminants.  

 

Traditionally a Theory is a logical rule or a mathematical formula, offered as a way to relate a particular set of Facts.   If the Theory appears to work well on present Facts, you try to predict the next set of Facts.   If the predictions are in the right direction but slightly off, you try to adjust the formula.   If the predictions are bad, or if no adjustment works consistently, you discard the Theory and start over.

 

Modern pseudoscientists, such as the Gaian zealots, are remolding the meaning of Fact to mean “a Theory that lots of people believe.”   This enables them to silence dissent, because everyone says “You’re entitled to your own opinions but you’re not entitled to your own Facts.”

 

2014/03/08
12:51pm
Ayn Marx
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deaconB said
They stopped calling new discoveries as “laws”a century ago, and every known scientific law had been proven less than fully true.  

We speak of ‘models’ more than of ‘laws’; as for ‘proven less than true’ that is not so, as it ignores one of the most important thing a model includes: an estimate of where it’s valid and to within what degree of error, and any experiment designed to test the theory must take into account both that error and the observational error implicit in the equipment and recorder.

A ‘fact’ can’t be ‘true’, it can only be accurate to within some degree of error or not—statements of fact can be true or not, as Glenn observes elsewhere within these precincts…but to be good science, the full statement should be ‘When things are arranged such and so, this instrument should should be within _this_ range of values.

 

 

2014/03/09
3:18pm
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Bill Davis
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It’s been a few hundred years, but the “truth” meaning of “fact” is relatively new. We still see traces of the original meaning (“act or feat”) in expressions like “after the fact (incident/event.)”

As for “get your facts straight” and “fact-checking,” it seems to me we have an ellipsis of sorts. “Your facts” replaces “those statements which you claim to be facts/true” and the fact-checker is checking to see if the the claimed-to-be “facts” are indeed facts/true.

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