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  1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Truth and Fact

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by thirdwind, Oct 27, 2013.

    Since ever discussion/debate involves using facts/truths to support a claim, I think we should take some time to really think about what fact and truth are. I'll start with some questions to kick off the discussion, and we can go from there. What is truth? What makes something true? Similarly, what is a fact? How can we show that something is a fact? Lastly, how are fact and truth linked?

    I think it's also important to mention the Munchhausen trilemma, which tries to address the question of knowing how something is true. When providing proof of truth, there are three options (taken from Wikipedia):

     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    Hmmm, you want to talk about truth and you cite a philosopher who proposed there could be no such thing? (I don't claim to know much about this philosophy so if I have gotten him wrong in my cursory look, by all means correct me.)

    If you want to start with the underlying premise that a real universe exists, we can have a discussion. If not, I'll be happy to bow out.

    I would define truth in a discussion such as this as the actual Universe. There is a reality out there. (If you want to propose, yes but it could be something akin to The Matrix, I say have a fun discussion but it's not of much use to anyone to ponder evidence-less natures of the Universe.)


    Given the premise a real Universe exists, then one need only look at how the human brain processes data it encounters through the senses to see what the problem is. All of us process that incoming information before it reaches our consciousness. Keeping that in mind, one can study the methodology of the scientific process and determine in which ways we get it right. What does one need for our critical thinking to arrive at the closest representation of the real Universe?

    Looking at success as an objective measure one is on the right track, the scientific process has been developed, refined (and can potentially always be improved) to arrive at the closest representation of the real Universe.

    By scientific process, I do not mean only formal research, rather it is an approach to interpreting the data that arrives via one's senses. Critical thinking and critical analysis are two other terms that can be applied.


    So right off the bat, the premise the OP starts with is the premise reality is what we believe it is. You can distort that to a circular argument by saying, I merely believe reality is out there. But that is akin to saying science is just another religion, a false analogy. It ignores the objective evidence of success.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Munchhausen was not a philosopher. This trilemma is simply named after him.

    I would also like to add that there is a whole branch of philosophy dedicated to truth. Just because there might be no objective truth doesn't mean we can't discuss it (plenty of philosophers have).

    By the way, does it matter if a "real" universe exists or not? If we as human beings all perceive the same things, is that not enough? Must there always be some external/objective truth we have to compare our perceptions to?
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    It's still a philosophical discussion, is it not?

    As an aside, out of curiosity, is he the same Munchhausen that has a syndrome named after him?

    I don't mean to diss philosophy, it's just something I haven't personally found much interest in. Not saying it doesn't have its uses.

    Because my underlying premise is that there is a real Universe and as I said, our brains do not observe that Universe like a camera. Rather, we observe it with an instrument (our brain) that distorts the data subconsciously. You have to start there and look at exactly how the brain gets it right and wrong if you want to arrive at a successful interpretation of the data that reaches your conscious brain.

    For example, the brain is preprogrammed to see patterns and faces. Before humans figured this out, superstitious conclusions predominated. If one performed a ritual and the year's crops were good, people believed the ritual caused the bounty. Pareidolia is another example. People thought they saw a face on Mars. A person who understands the brain is programmed to attend to faces would know to look at other angled images before believing such a pixel challenged image was really a being-sculpted structure.
     
  5. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Isn't the purpose of the scientific method not to prove a hypothesis, but to disprove it? Essentially, everything in our universe is an assumption. Truth what something is can never be proven 100% because you could run an infinite number of tests to disprove it. The only truth we know is what something is not.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    I'm not much for philosophical discussions, though I like philosophy in general. Most discussions end up with people just trying to show how much they know about different philosophers and talking circles around each other. That said, my personal thought is that truth is what we perceive, fact is what is. The old blind men and the elephant thing. It's like an eye witness at a trial - they (generally) speak the truth as they know it; the facts may be completely different.
     
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  7. Lewdog
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    I think the one ingredient that separates the two is acceptance. It's like the results of a science experiment. After a few times of getting the same results, people start to see it as a fact, but it doesn't become truth until the majority of the scientific body starts to believe it.
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    The purpose of the scientific process is to end up with the closest version of the real Universe in your conclusions. You are confusing a process issue referred to as "proving the null hypothesis". That's only a single aspect of an entire way of viewing the world.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    This is a reasonable definition of those words. It goes to show that how we define these words is critical in a discussion such as this one.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    Not exactly. It was true that cholera was the cause of the deadly London epidemic in the mid-1800s, and H-pylori is the cause of ~90-95% of all gastric ulcers. That the medical community was reluctant to accept the evidence did not change the truth.

    In medical research, yes there are standards for accepting paradigm shifts in knowledge. But majority acceptance is not what makes something true, even using shadowwalker's terminology. It's the evidence that changes truth, not consensus. Often consensus indicates the truth, but it does not define it.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    That's not always true. Pluto should be a planet, but majority ruled and that is no longer true.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    The evidence supports the conclusion Pluto is a Kuiper Belt Object, and not a planet. Again, it's the evidence not the majority vote. Science is not a democracy.

    Before we knew more about the Kuiper Belt, there was no evidence to suggest Pluto was anything other than a planet.

    As for the planetary society that votes on names and definitions of these planetary bodies, that's just nomenclature, no more, no less.

    BTW, I have deGrasse-Tyson's book on Pluto, autographed, and I've heard his talk on the subject more than once. I love that guy.
     
  13. Lewdog
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    Originally it was deemed a planet by the same group. There are still many very well educated scientist that still believe Pluto is a planet. That's just how things are. Facts are things that can be shown through a system, truth is when things are accepted by the majority.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    I don't want to drag this out, Lewdog. You are welcome to your own opinion and everyone reading this thread is welcome to theirs.

    We aren't talking about the same things. Evidence supports conclusions, not votes. People get it wrong, and right. In the long run, the evidence always wins out when people get it wrong. It just sometimes takes a while. The scientists in Dr Snow's day ignored his incredibly careful case that he built showing the famous Broad St pump was the source of the cholera outbreak. His colleagues declined to give up their erroneous belief that Miasma (bad air) was the cause. Snow, however, got city officials to remove the Broad St pump handle thus quelling the epidemic. That Snow's colleagues took 10 years more to recognize Snow was right did not change the 'truth' that he was.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson was one of the first to recognize and build a case that Pluto was a KBO, a whole new class of objects in our solar system. It's not the acceptance of that evidence, it's the existence of the evidence that changed the 'truth'.
     
  15. erebh
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    Fact: Before Columbus the world was flat
    Truth: It wasn't

    I watched a programme on the History Channel about King Tut only 2 days ago - you may have seen it. They said back in 1969 King Tut was killed by a deadly blow to the head; either a hammer of or he came off his horse rather awkwardly. This was 'proven' beyond doubt. This 'fact' came through x-raying the dudes skull on a super duper top of the range 1969 x-ray machine.

    Just last year they x-rayed the dude again and they said it was a tumour using new super duper 2012 x-ray machines. They also said in another 20 years with even more super duper x-ray equipment that they will probably have a better idea at how Old King Tut died.

    Maybe they'll decide the earth is triangular too.
     
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  16. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I think that is very true erebh, facts can change based on technology. Once facts change, in turn people's views can change, and the truth can change. It's a house of cards.
     
  17. Lewdog
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    You just made my point for me. A new classification was made, therefor changing the fact that Pluto was a planet. Then a vote was made, and the majority voted to make Pluto no longer a planet. So the truth is, Pluto is not a planet.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    [side note]A lot of the flat Earth/C.Columbus story is a myth.
    [/side note]
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    I didn't make your point, but for whatever reason, you cannot see mine: It's the evidence, not the planetary society vote.


    However, if it is your philosophy that truth is what the majority believe it to be, how about arguing that case?
     
  20. Lewdog
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    But you said yourself, that someone made it a fact by creating a new classification. So by doing so they created a new fact about Pluto, and then it was voted on to make it a truth.

    Think of it this way. The fact is the Earth revolves around the sun. Yet even after Aristarchus of Samos and Copernicus said so, it was still believed as a truth that the sun revolved around the Earth. It didn't become truth until the majority of the hierarchy of royalty and the churches said so.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    And how then is truth determined when opinions are divided? Why was Dr Snow's 'truth' not the truth while truth according to you would have been the false beliefs of his colleagues that Miasma caused cholera because the colleagues outnumbered Snow?

    If one is in the Middle East does the truth differ from that in the US where the majority of religious adherents differs?

    Can you define how majority opinion creates truth?
     
  22. Lewdog
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    Majority always rules. That's just how it is, and it will always be that way. When you have a sub-group who believes in a truth separate than the majority, today we call that brain washing. It is what it is. Truth doesn't always have to be based on fact.
     
  23. 123456789
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    When you believe in something 100% without understanding it 100%, it's no different from a religion.
     
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  24. Lewdog
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    I think you hit the nail on the head. The difference between belief and truth, is with truth their is a smidgen of fact to back you up.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    Not sure what you are talking about? :confused:

    Are you referring to the method of arriving at the truth, or the truth one arrives at using the method? Because with the latter, the reason science differs from religion is science is continually self correcting as new evidence accumulates, because science always accepts that facts are only the best conclusions we have at the moment, and because science provides successful results, cures for cancer, rovers on Mars, and so on. Superstition does not have a track record of success.
     
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