Reflections on Biblical and
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The Facts on Facts: Complexity Masquerading as Simplicity

Synonyms of “fact”: “Matters of Fact” (Hume), concepts (Kant), “universal manifold” (Kant), appearance, appearance of reality, phenomena, aboutness, testimony, instrument recording, empiric conclusions, induction, correspondence theory of truth, state of affairs, “what is” empirically, correspondence; Thomas Reid’s “self-evident”, Descartes “clear and distinct,” first principles (faith), “what is thought to be the case” vs. “what is the case,” common sense, common sense philosophy, induction, deduction (from other facts),  perceived reality, “what which is the case,” etc

All that follows here is not precise, that is, it may fall short of being “factual.”  My purpose is to show (1) the complexity of deriving and derived facts, (2) the wide range of “authorities” who establish or claim facts, (3) the wide range of certainty and uncertainty in facts of any nature, (4) the tenuous nature of all facts (except those of the Bible), (5) the necessity of facts to everyday life, and more.  There is some (much?) repetition, but facts need to be look at from various angles their various facets that may sparkle like those of a diamond or have their cracks exposed by the jewelers loop.

The reader will find some redundancy.  Is that not the nature of overlapping facts?

1.  Facts assume a necessarily formal logic (but are not true—see below).  (a) The law of noncontradiction states that a proposition cannot mean the opposite of what it says.  (b) There must be coherence or consistency with all other known relevant facts.  (c) One’s mind must be functioning properly at least to the extent of applying these parameters.  Language and communication have been shown to be highly complex in the 20th century.  Facts have a greater complexity because they claim or deny something about reality.

 

2.  Facts must be presented consistently with the rules of communication—a highly complex process.  This proposition includes commonality of definitions, grammar, syntax, context, and preferably, but not necessarily, a common language.

 

3.  Facts assume evidence which is based upon an agreed-upon authority (trustworthy person, written document, witness, testimony—there are a wide variety of kinds of testimony).  Of course this “authority” ranges from virtually and totally untrustworthy to one who has a lifetime of established credentials.  There is the shyster who goes from house to house selling his “authoritative stance” on some fly-by-night product vs. the investment house that has been established for decades or longer.

 

4.  Facts must have an interest for the person who learns or knows the fact.  One cannot know all the facts, only those that have some interest for him (for example, studying for exams).  See facts in everyday life following here for the hundreds of facts that we assume each day.

 

5.  Facts may or may not be accepted because of the subsequent consequences.  For example, if one accepts the facts of the Resurrection, then he is moving towards a faith commitment that would be greatly life-changing.  Or, to deny the facts of evolution would require a faith commitment of some organizing creator.  Thus, a fact may be rejected because it is inconsistent with one’s beliefs or would require such a radical change in thinking and behavior that one does not want it to be a fact.

 

6.  Facts are not truth because they may change upon finding new and better evidence. Thus, there are degrees of certainty.  But some facts seem extremely likely to be countered by new evidence.  At least such thinking occurred with natural science with Newton until Einstein to quantum theory to chaos theory to whatever is currently in vogue.

 

Scientific “laws” are inductive inferences from evidence that are artificial and not true.   For example, pure, distilled water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level, but when does this situation ever occur except in a laboratory.  The formula for the speed of a falling body in a vacuum is S=1/2gt2, but when has any object ever fallen naturally in a vacuum?  Saying that such laws are not true does not mean that they are not quite useful approximations (operationalism).

                                            

The great changes that can occur in science may be noted in the radical departure from Newtonian science to Einstein’s relativity to quantum theory to chaos theory to whatever is current!

 

All facts and scientific laws have great utility, even though they are not true.  We plan our waking and sleeping hours by our facts of past experience.  The great majority of the time, our plans work out: we get up on time, drive safely to work, use technology, and play sports. 

 

Degrees of certainty.  Although stated in this section, degrees of certainty should be noted separately.  There is a great range of certainty with various facts.  The fact that the sun will rise tomorrow is far more certain than the fact that I will not have a traffic accident tomorrow.  Even less certain is the fact of the weather for tomorrow.

 

One should be careful of "transferring" factuality.  That I am certain of tomorrow's sunrise does not translate to certainty about other events: the rise or fall of the stock market, my own physical health, the safety of my neighborhood, etc.  Each "fact" must be evaluated for its certainty.  It is one of the great lies of modernity that such facts as "the sun will rise tomorrow" can be translated into the "facts" of psychology, sociology, medicine, and politics.

 

Types of facts: historical, economic, everyday occurrences, political, hard scientific facts (physics, chemistry, mathematics), dubitable scientific facts (medical, sociology, psychology, politics), artistic, demographic, etc.  Their degree of certainty varies with both the category and the methods by which the facts are derived.

 

The process of arriving at a fact is virtually identical with that or arriving at a scientific hypothesis, that is, by the scientific method.  See all the comments in this section.

 

Empiricism is essentially the same as the scientific method, and therefore may establish facts, but not truth.  Empiricism is the process of making observations and then drawing inferences (conclusions) from those observations.  Empiricism, however, is no more valid that the premises (presuppositions) upon which it is based.

 

7.  The instantiation of any fact denies naturalism (evolution) and asserts God.  There can be no facts in a chance universe because there would never be enough stability for the incredible complexity stated above.  Some call this proposition The Transcendental Argument for God, i.e., there must be transcendent concepts at work for thought to occur.  Total chance is total irrationality.  There is something rather than nothing. 

 

The great mind that is common to every person, as the image of God, makes the establishment and use of facts seem simple, but modern linguistics demonstrates the considerable this considerable complexity that is common to every man.

 

8.  Fact-value gap.  Any fact that attempts to state that it is good or bad (moral or immoral, implies an ought) has moved beyond any attempt at objectivity.  Similar concepts include descriptive vs. evaluative statements or elimination of any reference to the spiritual realm, God, the supernatural, or revelation.  All facts have some inherent value of greater or lesser extent or they would never have come to exist.

 

9.  Facts come to exist for some purpose of an individual or group.  For example, the fact of the War for American Independence may be of interest to Americans, to scholars who study war, or the development of nations in a “wilderness.”  But, what interest does the bushman of Africa have in this war?  (Perhaps a few Americans will become interested in the facts of the bushman.  They are amazingly adept to live in their harsh environment.)

 

Facts of interest are a very small fraction of the whole of facts.  Facts have to be selected from the almost infinite manifold of cosmic material and human history. 

 

Facts have a considerable subjectivity.  From their defined characteristics, their influence on other facts, and moral or ought associations, personal choices are necessarily intimate to facts. 

                                

There are no “brute” or “raw” facts.  Objective facts do not exist because of this subjectivity throughout.  Totally objective facts would be identical with “truth.”

 

Many facts transcend worldviews, reflecting the common ground of all peoples.  While there are no objective facts, there are many that function objectively.  For example, pagans and Christians alike make considerable use of natural scientific laws.  The sun will rise tomorrow.  The internal combustion engine carries billions of people where they want to go.  Space travel is possible because of the use of many natural laws. 

 

There are no facts about which everyone agrees.  Heliocentricity (the sun as the center of the solar system) is often presented as absolutely certain.  But interestingly, there is considerable evidence to support to support geocentrism (the earth is the center of the solar system).  Death seems certain, but there are Bible-believing Christians and radical sects that believe that they will not face death by one means or another.  In the Bible, neither Enoch nor Elijah died—they were translated directly to heaven.

 

 

10.  No fact is isolated from any other; all facts are related to all others in the universe.  (a) The “fact” of the Civil War had many facts that contributed to the conflict, were secondary effects, or had long term consequences.  All those “facts” are related to an almost infinite number of other facts from time began to the future when time will end.  Chaos theory has demonstrated how small changes in one location can cause great changes elsewhere.  How do we not know that a sneeze on planet earth may not cause a nebula in a far off galaxy to explode?

 

11.  The only truly objective facts are those of Scripture.  The Bible exists outside the person, God-written and God-preserved over time.  Thus, only the facts of the Bible constitute truth.

 

12.  The same “fact” may be interpreted differently by belief in a different or different hermeneutic or worldview.  Perhaps the most common example is that of the “facts” of evolution.  Secular humanists interpret the fossil record differently than young earth creationists.  The latter interpret “days” of Genesis, Chapter 1, differently than those of old earth creationists or theistic evolutionists.

 

Different worldviews and hermeneutics even determine which facts are allowed to be facts.  Those of an old earth persuasion accept the “fact” of radioactive dating; those of a young earth persuasion believe that the assumptions of radioactive dating are false.  The historical facts of Jesus’ resurrection are subjected to falsifying standards that are not used on other facts of the same time period.

 

13.  Apparent fact vs. studied fact.  Physical objects appear to be solid, but physics describes them as being almost entirely space: electrons revolving around a tiny nucleus.  We drive our cars everywhere with apparent safety that is abruptly revealed in an accident.  All swans are white seems apparent until we learn of a type of black swan.  Houses were an apparently “safe” investment until the recent housing crash.  And on and on.

 

15.   The black swan is always lurking in the background.  The black swan is the exception to the fact.  A recent book was written with that exact title. (It would be worthwhile reading for more on the subject for exceptions to “facts.”) The black swan is a classic example of only seeing white swans and drawing the conclusion that “All swans are white.”  But there are black swans, particularly in Australia.

 

16.  Seek out and challenge the assumptions of a fact.  Do not just accept a fact, especially if it has great consequences.  A recent study found that the majority of serious airplane crashes had some warning from its instruments but were discounted as malfunction.  In other words, the instruments were doing their job, but humans were not! 

 

17.  Be very careful of personal bias in the acceptance of facts.  There are certain things that we want to be true.  We want our investments to be successful, so we “believe” in them until they are effectively worth nothing.  We believe the best about our children, even when the school has documented several instances of Johnny’s misbehavior.  We dislike a certain person, so we accept (and pass on to others) any bad gossip that we hear about him or her. 

 

18.  Belief in a fact is an act of faith; all facts are based upon faith.  The language of our modern (or post-modern, if you prefer) world has segregated peoples of “faith” from other kinds of discourse.  However, all ideas, concepts, and facts are based upon implicit and tacit, if not overt, presuppositions—positions of faith.  As I have discussed above, worldviews and biases enter into all facts.  Therefore, no fact is better than the faith upon which it stands or the logical process upon which it was conceived.

 

 

 


 

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