Re: Facts - an attempted definition WAS: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Not In Our Name
Garold, Peter, Eric. (01)
Just came home from Java classes and picking up my grandson, Eric, rom
the city (Montreal). He is a first-year student at McGill University,
but wear a Harvard sweater proudly inscribed, "Harvard, the McGill of
America." He just finished a reading assignment in a democracy course -
guess what? - Plato's Republic. (02)
Funny how after bantering a bit about this, I step right into a couple
of emails with content so close to what we were chatting about during
the drive home. As I related some of this thinking to the objective of
Fleabyte, Eric was so nice to say that I am 20 years ahead of my time.
But with Plato's scribblings in mind I have the feeling that I am nearly
25 centuries behind. (03)
Wish the old man were still around to lend me a hand. (04)
Eric Armstrong wrote: (06)
> Astute observations, Garold. Especially in the context of a
> "wicked problem".
> A corrolary observation is that while "appeal to authority" is
> an invalid tool from the standpoint of rigidly precise logic, it
> is at the same time an *invaluable* tool in virtually every form
> of human endeavor.
> Top-level decision makers "listen to the experts". They have to.
> In new situations, they listen to several experts. The goal of the
> exercise is to gain the information and "gut feeling" necessary
> to decide which experts they will choose to trust.
> That's the way buildings get architected, the way plumbing is
> installed and, fundamentally, the way civilization is built.
> It is a big plus that present-day collaboration and purchasing
> tools are using "reputation systems" to expedite decision making.
> Despite its flaws, it's the only practical methodology available
> to solve the problem of "the amount of information I need to
> acquire in order to make an informed decision in each of my
> areas of concern".
> "Garold (Gary) L. Johnson" wrote:
>>Since we all operate in a state of insufficient information, identifying
>>anything as truly incontrovertible is not really possible. The best we can
>>do is to get to a place where our level of confidence in the proposition is
>>such that we are willing to treat is as "true" instead of fully qualifying
>>the proposition at all times. Any "fact" of merit is subject to being shown
>>to be less than totally correct as a result of further evidence.
>>Since the amount of information that we can get about the world by our own
>>observation is limited, we are also constrained, sooner or later, to have to
>>choose what source or sources of information we are going to accept as being
>>most nearly correct in any given case. It isn't pretty, but it is true.
>>This is why it is so important to be able to backtrack to sources if there
>>is a strong need to evaluate statements effectively. When some study is
>>reported, there are all sorts of issues that we need to examine before we
>>can say that the results are "facts" in this broader sense:
>>* Who did the study?
>>* What are their credentials in this area?
>>* Are there any conflicts of interest or hidden agendas here?
>>* Was the reporting correct, complete, and in context?
>>* . . .
>>The tools that we should develop should support asking these sorts of
>>Absolute certainty is not possible, but something approximating full
>>disclosure should be.