Facts are Ultra-High Definition Truths

The uncomfortable truth is that all truths have a degree of uncertainty or doubt; in fact even this fact is in doubt as I’m sure that Rene Descartes would disagree as he considered beyond doubt that he thought and therefore existed. However putting Rene to one side, pragmatically what I have said is a truth.  So whether a statement of truth is based upon observation, measurement or pure thought uncertainties are always present. But why is this?

Whatever the object is for which we are making our statement of truth we observe it and think about it at a certain scale, for example we may consider making a statement regarding something on a local, national scale, continental or even global scale. The problem is whatever scale we choose for our statement then we naturally ignore smaller scale details that over time may cause our statement to diverge from what really happens, in essence our truth becomes less true with time. It may also be that if we delve into the smaller scales of this object then our higher scale truth may be inconsistent with what we observe and in essence it becomes, less true. This is an important point because it means that truths have a shelf life and a context and have to be reassessed to confirm their truthfulness.

Another problem is that we just screw up when we observe or think about something and this is due to a long list of well understood quirks in the way we think, for example we tend to see what we want to see in data that is ambiguous or incomplete.  Don’t think you are immune to such quirks, they are part of being human and we all have them and they bias everything we do.

In a way all truths have a resolution with lesser truths becoming more and more blurred. So why does this matter? Well we base every action we take on analysing a load of statements or observations, so if we don’t pick the statement with the highest resolution of truth then we won’t take the best course of action, which is the best we can do in our highly complex world.

The ultra-high definition truths are those produced using a scientific approach and these are what we term ‘facts’. The reason this is true is that the whole idea of science is to reduce the errors we make in thinking and measurement and to understand the influences that make our truths uncertain. There are several ways that science achieves this high degree of resolution.

Firstly the measurements and thought processes used are based upon the application of consistent and well tried and tested tools, such as maths and logic which remove the bias caused by the quirks of thinking. The measurements are also carried out many times with a high degree of precision by people who are highly experienced in taking such measurements. To have some control over the blurring caused by scale experts tend to use complex statistics to give an indication of the range of error in their statements, but be aware that averaging things always contributes to blurring.

These measurements and the thinking are done by people who are highly trained and have vast knowledge and experience around the subject, that’s why they are called, ‘experts’. Finally these experts are part of a community that requires statements of truth to be continually questioned and reviewed by other experts.

There are lots of people around who now call themselves experts who aren’t. The way to identify a true expert is to ensure that they are associated with an institution that is part of the world-wide community of experts in the particular field.

These, ‘facts’ have a hard life because they are continually poked, prodded and dissected to improve their resolution. Nothing is ever accepted as an absolute fact for all time and the experts are fully aware of the blur surrounding a truth, even when most of us are unaware of any such blurring.

Finally experts are aware that every truth has a context and is not valid for all circumstances so often high resolution truths will specify the limits in which it is appropriate.

All of this means that experts can generally associate with a statement a level of confidence in its truthfulness. The irony is that it is science that has proven that all truths have a level of uncertainty, yet it is scientific truth that is coming under attack by those who believe that what they say is the absolute truth. Just because a bunch of uninformed people think something is true it does not make it true.

The job of decision makers is not to question the resolution of these truths, but to ensure they use the highest definition truth (the fact) that the relevant expert community can offer and to ensure that the correct rigour has been used in its development these facts. It is also important for the decision maker to understand from the experts the main sources of the blurring as this can have an impact upon their decision making.

Given all of this it seems crass for anyone to think that their truth is higher definition than the truth accepted by the majority of a community of experts, unless of course they are willing to submit their own argument to the same level of rigour, which inevitably they never are. This situation isn’t helped by a culture that bestows the idea that everyone’s opinion counts; the truth is it doesn’t and for the sake of truth it shouldn’t.

The obvious example is that the vast majority of expert observation, analysis and thinking regarding climate change suggest that it exists and is becoming more extreme with time and that makes it a fact; yes this may not be the case, but it is extremely unlikely to not be so. So Mr Trump if you would like to present to us your evidence and analysis to support the claim that climate change is a lie perpetuated by China then please do so, otherwise be a responsible human being and use the expert based facts to guide your decisions, which affect us all!

Finally I ask you all to stop supporting anyone who has the arrogance to believe they know better than our expert communities for this will just lead to catastrophically bad decisions that we will all pay for. Also I urge everyone to spend more time identifying high resolution facts from low resolution truths and to have the humility to realise that most of the time our own views are uniformed and of little importance because if we do not base our own decisions on the facts then we have anarchy.

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