From Julia Shaw at Scientific American:
I’m a factual relativist. I abandoned the idea of facts and “the truth” some time last year. I wrote a whole science book, The Memory Illusion, almost never mentioning the terms fact and truth. Why? Because much like Santa Claus and unicorns, facts don’t actually exist. At least not in the way we commonly think of them.
We think of a fact as an irrefutable truth. According to the Oxford dictionary, a fact is “a thing that is known or proved to be true.” And where does proof come from? Science?
Well, let me tell you a secret about science; scientists don’t prove anything. What we do is collect evidence that supports or does not support our predictions. Sometimes we do things over and over again, in meaningfully different ways, and we get the same results, and then we call these findings facts.
If only scientists did indeed spend more time doing that instead of shoring up failing ideas to keep their jobs.
What Shaw has to say isn’t altogether dismissible. We’re all tired of people claiming to have the Facts vs. the Myths but that is hardly because facts do not exist. What is one to make of
So, it’s ok that society is post-fact. Facts are so last century. More.
By the way Shaw, how are those plans coming for the war on mathematics? Decimal points are examples of hierarchy and privilege, right? And percentages are examples of exclusion… one could go on, but then so could any homework challenged baby asshat looking for excuses.
See also: Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us NPR’s Adam Frank: I find the logic in Hoffman’s ideas both exciting and potentially appealing because of other philosophical biases I carry around in my head. (But he suspects the theory is ultimately wrong.)
Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth.
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