25 Facts About Facts
John Spacey, August 18, 2022
A fact is information that is certainly true. These are important to common understanding, debate, decision making, problem solving, design and work. The following are basic facts about facts.Facts are based on evidence.Facts can be deduced from other facts. Facts can change. For example, the demographics of a nation change with each passing day but can be captured at a point in time as a fact.Facts are open to challenge and validation. Any system that adopts information as unchallengeable wouldn't have the capacity to confirm facts.Facts are bound by scope. For example, it is a fact that water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this only applies to fresh water at a particular atmospheric pressure and there are other factors that limit the scope of this fact such as the mineral content of the fresh water. The scope of facts need not be universal. For example, "some Canadians speak French" is a fact.Historical occurrences are fact. For example, the date that someone was born.Generally speaking, future predictions aren't fact as the future is unknown and uncertain.Facts are often based on language.The nuances of language can make the difference between a fact and an opinion. Facts are sometimes but not always based on numbers. For example, the weight of a cubic foot of gold is a fact.Numbers do not necessarily constitute a fact. If a movie studio measures audience reactions to a film and states "80% of audiences were highly engaged" this is a measurement that doesn't meet the standard of fact. For example, the audience might have been saying they felt engaged just to be nice. Ironically, adding precision such as numbers to information can make it less valid as a fact. If you say "some people like onions" this is certainly factual as you just need two people who like onions to prove it. However, if you say "31% of people like onions" this would raise questions regarding who you asked and how you asked them. Another survey using similar methods may produce a different number creating doubt as to whether either specific number is a fact. A single study, experiment or data point doesn't typically constitute a fact. Ideally, the results of studies are independently reproduced and these results all peer reviewed.Facts need not be precise. For example, "gold is heavier than iron" is a certain fact that is nonetheless imprecise as it doesn't include the actual densities of the two metals.Social constructs can be facts. For example, the constitution of a nation is socially constructed but nonetheless exists as a fact. Elements of the human experience can be a fact. For example, "humans are known to cry."Elements of personal experience can be a fact but only at the scope of an individual. For example, "my toe hurts." Personal experience doesn't constitute a fact at any significant scope. For example, "I like the color blue therefore the color blue is good" is an opinion and not a fact.Facts can cover grey areas. For example, "Americans traditionally value freedom" is extremely vague but nonetheless could be reasonably viewed as factual.Multiple sources don't necessarily constitute a fact. It is common for sources to reference each other such that flawed information and analysis can be repeated by a large number of sources. Facts are uninfluenced by biases and free of fallacies. In some cases, biases and fallacies are extremely difficult to identify such that they may exist in rigorous studies that have been reproduced and peer reviewed. This is the core reason that information must be open to challenge and validation to be viewed as factual.Generally accepted scientific theories meet the highest standard of science and can be considered fact.Scientific laws are models for explaining relationships between variables. These are much narrower in scope than a theory. As with theories, scientific laws can be viewed as factual where they are generally accepted.Scientific theories and laws have a scope. In many cases, a theory or law isn't disproven but rather its scope changes as new discoveries are made.
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