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a four letter word that starts with "f"

 
steward
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Fact.


(this intro is compliments of a farmer in western washington who used to be a philosophy professor)


The idea is that when people use the word "fact" they are usually presenting their opinion as a fact. Or, they are attempting to call somebody's position a "fact" and then use the word "fact" to call them a fucking liar.


Here at permies.com, we encourage people to share their position, rather than state "the truth".

permies.com publishing standards

I posted a thread about how I don't like "citation needed" stuff, and later a thread popped up where somebody was upset about this.

We also have a thread about the many flavors of science which focuses on scientific debate vs. our approach which is more about sharing knowledge.

And then there is a thread about how I don't care for accusatory communication where the style of communication is that others are guilty until they can prove their innocence. I feel that communication here should focus on sharing knowledge rather than accusing the lovely people that come to permies.com.

 
gardener
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Come to think about it, it's almost never a universally accepted, well-established fact when someone will say that in an argument. It's almost always used as an aggressive statement to damage the other person's position, rather than to inform them. I agree.
John S
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87.32% of all statistics are made up on the spot. I know that for a fact.

Which reminds me, I once had someone I care about very much say during an argument, "don't use your facts and reasoning on me." Made me rethink how maybe I was using them as a weapon.
 
paul wheaton
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I think it is fair that somebody could say "my position is ..." followed by something about they came to this decision because of some research they read.

Some people read one study and they are then certain that this is now a fact that we can all build on. They might even come to that conclusion after reading a hundred studies that all agree. Only it turns out that they don't all exactly agree. Not really. I like what alan savory says about overgrazing. He says there are thousands of studies that address overgrazing, but not one that shows that overgrazing is even a problem, or how it is defined. But the fact (!) that there are thousands of studies trying to solve it makes many people think that it is a problem.

Further, far too many times we have seen people state that something is a fact because of hundreds of studies, only to learn later that they were a shill or simply mistaken.

This site is for the topics I want to talk about in the way I want to talk about them. I do not care for "facts", I like people to present their position - thus leaving room for other people to present alternative positions.
 
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At the very least, I think the whole concept of a "fact" has to be put into perspective.

In a recent article, one of science's leading popular spokesman relayed the following:

"Once an objective truth is established by these (scientific )methods, it is not later found to be false. We will not be revisiting the question of whether Earth is round; whether the sun is hot; whether humans and chimps share more than 98 percent identical DNA; or whether the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen." -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-degrasse-tyson/what-science-is-and-how-and-why-it-works_b_8595642.html

I can understand, for the purposes of model-building, wanting to consider certain things unchanging and immutable. In every example that Tyson alludes to, these can be said to be "facts"......**in the context of a snapshot in time**. I see no reason to believe, especially as there is evidence to the contrary in the form of a dynamic universe, that the earth will *always* be round, that the sun will *always* be hot, that humans and chimps.....yadda, yadda....you get the idea. And so yes, it mostly comes down to learning to accept that we offer "positions", most of which serve to give subjective meaning and structure to our own inner and outer worlds, and that we would be better served listening/reading with an open mind as to what is working for others.
 
paul wheaton
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or whether the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen.



I have read some stuff in the last decade that suggest that our overall quantity of oxygen in the air has been dropping. Especially in cities and anywhere fuels are being burned in large quantities. Normally oxygen is around 21% but it has been dropping in some areas to 19% or less.

My guess is that the drop in oxygen is going to be displaced by nitrogen. Thus .... 78% would not be "a truth" for these cases.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is far more famous than I am - does his fame make him right and I am a fucking liar? Or am I calling Neil deGrasse Tyson a fucking liar?


Earth is round;



spherical.



the sun is hot;



I think it is safe to say that the sun is hotter than "hot".


I actually think that Neil deGrasse Tyson will support me in saying that all of these "facts" are relative and should always be kept in context. That these are generalizations that on closer inspection could crumble without their context.

I challenge the statement you presented.

"Once an objective truth is established by these (scientific )methods, it is not later found to be false. We will not be revisiting the question of whether Earth is round; whether the sun is hot; whether humans and chimps share more than 98 percent identical DNA; or whether the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen." -- Neil deGrasse Tyson



Because he stated these things as if they are absolute fact. As examples of facts that we all agree on, and I shot down at least one with little effort. I think we cannot embrace "the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen" combined with the bit about "it is not later found to be false." --- I am pretty nervous about that considering that we are seeing stuff about our oxygen levels dropping. If an important scientist says it is an immutable fact, then it is possible that people will ignore the contradictory science.


 
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paul wheaton wrote:
My guess is that the drop in oxygen is going to be displaced by nitrogen.



Not CO2? http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/oxygen/modern_records.html
 
paul wheaton
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

paul wheaton wrote:
My guess is that the drop in oxygen is going to be displaced by nitrogen.



Not CO2? http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/oxygen/modern_records.html



Excellent point!

Where we consume large amounts of oxygen, we would expell large amounts of ... oxygen combined with something. It doesn't just disappear (at least not in these really huge quantities). And if all the growies on the planet were gone, then the oxygen would slowly disappear and be replaced with CO2. Although .... I would think that adding all of the C to the atmosphere would displace the nitrogen ....

Of course, if things did get that bad, we would not be breathing it, so Neil deGrasse Tyson would still be right.
 
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Two percent CO2 in the air might be a problem…
Hypercapnia – Carbon dioxide poisoning

I try to keep the following rule when using "facts" in argumemts:
Be able to prove every fact you are using.

Some examples:
"Air is 78% nitrogen" : requires some delicate distillation apparatus, but it would be possible in your average physics department.
"Earth is round" : would require to define the term "round" in this context. It's certainly not a sphere…
"The sun is hot" : context! In an cold matter experiment 1mK is hot!, while in particle physics it is just slightly warm. (temperatures)

Also knowing the "facts" that your opponent is aware of, might be helpful.
 
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Philosophers and theologians seek the truth.

Scientists seek a better working model than their current one.
 
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