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Austin Williams

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What really separates opinion from fact?

Some opinions are more informed than others. Some facts are more specific than others. We can misinterpret a fact, and come to a different opinion from what the fact was trying to state or show. Is it still a fact that I know even if I misinterpret it? And can any opinion be completely separated from all facts?
Are facts and opinions completely different from one another?
And are your answers to these questions based on fact or opinion?
How do you know that what you think is fact isn't just your own biased and limited opinion?

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  • Jun 8 2013: As Pat Gilbert has stated many times, application.

    It is the very nature of life; if an action works, we repeat it; if it doesn't work, we stop doing it.

    That is how we determine truth. It is the basis of the scientific method.
    • Jun 9 2013: Ok, let's say you repeatedly talk about country music when you go on a date with a woman. If every woman you ever date isn't interested in country music, then you will probably think it's a fact that all women don't like country music. But you haven't talked to every woman in the world. So how do you know if you've gone through enough action to be able to call it a fact? How do you know if there isn't an exception apart from the actions you've gonee through?
      • Jun 9 2013: You could say that if you have absolutely no understanding of statistics and sampling theory.
        You would have to ask every woman "do you now and will you always hate country music?" to be able to say that all women hate country music. Even so that would be valid only during the time that all women in existence hated country music. As girls mature, someone might like country music after which your statement would be wrong.
        Since you are sampling only, you must calculate the likelihood that you are correct in your statement and the estimated error rate.
        That is why pollsters say this pole is accurate plus or minus 3% 18 times out of 20.
        • Jun 9 2013: How do you calculate likelihood? Is likelihood a fact? Likelihood isn't repeatable. How do you know if you have enough information? And if you know you don't have enough information, how do you know how much you're missing?
      • Jun 11 2013: It would still be a fact that those dated women were not interested in country music. Each experience would be a fact. Jumping to conclusions is another story, but if you jumped to the conclusion that every woman dislikes country music, it would be a fact that you concluded from your experiences. If you're wrong, then it would be a fact that you were wrong in your conclusion.
        • Jun 11 2013: Ok, let's say a study was done to see how many people are addicted to exercise. 1% of people are addicted to exercise (I looked this up https://twitter.com/FactHive/status/343594080426676224 ).
          Is that a fact? They didn't study every person on the planet, even if they studied a million people (I don't know how many people they actually studied). I wasn't studied for it. So is that jumping to conclusions, or could you call that a fact?
      • Jun 12 2013: It doesn't matter Austin. You are mistaking the facts with the conclusion. It is a fact that 1% of the interviewed were addicted to exercise. Whether we can extrapolate to the whole population is different. We give those things an interval of confidence based on a lot of statistical theory. Could those intervals be wrong? Sure. But there are facts behind the whole process anyway. You are mistaking the facts with the conclusions derived from the facts.
        • Jun 12 2013: Can you have a fact without concluding it as a fact?
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      Jun 10 2013: By "application" do you mean that in some cases a fact can be understood to be true without any detriment to the ultimate goal, and that it isn't until you start depending on that fact in contexts larger than the fact was concluded from, that you can no longer have complete trust in the validity of the fact.
      Example: When you are playing tennis, although it may seem like the ball goes right through your racket sometimes :), you can trust that the ball will follow Newton's laws every time it is hit. You become familiar with the balls reaction when it is hit and can use this information to benefit your playing ability. These observations can be trustworthy facts in the game of tennis, but in a more advanced application the effectiveness of these laws may be flawed. (I don't know a lot about physics, this is just a possible example)

      Another thing to think about is that when questioning a fact what exactly are we questioning? Are we questioning the actual root meaning of the fact or the definition of the language used to describe it? Language is extremely limiting to the expression and communication of the actual thoughts that go on in our minds?
      Example: Some people might say that it is a fact that all humans die, but some people might question this fact by questioning the definition of "death". Which, if you ask this question, then "death" has no completely factual definition because its current definition only pertains to the much simpler applications of the word where the ambiguity of the definition does not affect the situation and a new definition cannot be created because that knowledge is unkown.
      • Jun 12 2013: This is my opinion:

        First, let us specify the context. In the context of a society, the difference between opinion and fact is not well defined. Whether a statement is opinion or fact will depend on the specific context and the people involved. That context might be a political debate, or a scientific conference, or an internet conversation. Within any group, what is opinion and what is fact depends upon agreement. Often, people just agree that one person's fact is another person's opinion.

        The societal context is completely different from the personal context. Each one of us must decide for ourselves whether we consider a statement opinion or fact.

        I believe that everything we know is assigned a level of doubt/certainty. That level is sometimes conscious but most often it is unconscious. When you read a news article, watch a documentary, or read something here on TED, you consider the content and consider the source, and then decide how much to believe and how certain you consider it. If I tell you that my age is 63, you will probably assign that a high degree of certainty, but not 100%. If I tell you that the temperature of the sun's surface at noon today was 12,584.45 degrees Celsius, you would probably wonder about the source of that figure and assign it a very questionable level of certainty until you could verify it (I made it up). If I told you I know the answer to peace in the mid-East, you would probably think that it was not true at all.

        The difference between opinion and fact is basically a level of certainty.

        The way I establish certainty for a concept is by applying it and observing the results. As I stated previously, that is also the basis for the scientific method. If something works repeatedly, I consider it more and more certain. If it does not work the first time, I consider it very doubtful.

        I am not concerned about definitions very much. Language is a wonderful tool, and just a tool.
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          Jun 12 2013: I like the way you explained everything as having a level of certainty and that we have to judge for ourselves what is opinion and what is fact. I think that most of the time we do this without even thinking about it a whole lot. There are many things that I trust in as being facts because there is no proof against it, but that doesn't mean that things could not change and that, following the scientific method, conflicting evidence would prove otherwise.
          Language is a great tool and it's amazing how well we can use it as a tool to communicate.

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