What is the difference between a fact and a finding?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by wegs, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I was reading a science article earlier, whereby the author is claiming that he is providing the reader, ''facts.'' The comments that followed under the article, seemed to express much different opinions. Many stated ''Bob, I wouldn't consider these facts, they seem more like findings.'' And then he (the author) retracted, replying to the comments that he shouldn't have characterized his ''findings'' as ''facts.'' The article was mainly about human behavior, and how this particular human behavior that he was describing was considered to be evolutionary, and not behavior that had been culturally learned. (studies had proven) Seemed factual to me?

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    When it comes to science - when can we safely assume that something be considered a fact, as opposed to a finding?
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
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  3. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    If I find that all Swans are white, that doesn't necessarily make it a fact...
     
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  5. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    That makes sense, but the author of the article had used a few (what seemed to be) legitimate studies to back up his assertions. So basically, his finding the studies to be proof of what he was trying to prove, doesn't mean it is proof/factual?
     
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  7. Natters Registered Member

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    Good one.
     
  8. davidelkins Registered Senior Member

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    If you spot a white Swan that is an observation that can be utilized to form the hypothesis that 'All swans are white'. The hypothesis is then tested by going into the field to make more observations. If a non-white Swan is discovered, then the hypothesis is rejected. If all Swans discovered during observations are white, then the hypothesis is strengthened. A large number of observations of white Swans from many studies by many scientists over many years would build a convincing scientific literature. Just one or two observations by one scientist is not enough to warrant the title of 'fact' for the assertion 'All Swans are white'. DE
     
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    A 'fact' is an existing state of affairs. Very roughly it is what we think of as 'reality'. Truth and falsity don't apply to facts, they simply are (if they aren't, they aren't facts).

    A 'finding' is a stated result of a research inquiry. It can be either true or false. I think that 'conclusion' is usually used for the final result of a research inquiry, while 'finding' is more like 'lemma' in a proof, a preliminary and partial result.

    Certainly the intention of a scientific inquiry is to produce results that are true, that correspond to and correctly represent the facts of whatever it is that is under investigation. But since science is a human activity and is a matter of belief, it is always going to be an approximation to whatever the facts are. Science (or the product of science at least) is a system of human beliefs that attempts to model the facts of reality.

    The objection in the comment was a good one and the author responded appropriately.

    I'm inclined to give propositions, and the beliefs that they express, informal plausibility weights. They range from near zero (almost no chance of being true) to near one (almost certain to be true). I'm inclined to treat zero and one, infallible certainty of falsity or truth, as cognitive ideals that are probably never reached in real life. In other words, a scientist or a science writer calling a scientific conclusion a 'fact' is just posturing boastfully in my opinion. (Or else it's an unfortunate choice of words, as in this case you describe.)

    In science things like experimental verification and mathematical derivation from highly weighted theory can increase the weight that I think (and the scientific community as a whole typically thinks) a scientific proposition has. Personally, I'm especially persuaded by consilience. That's when very different lines of inquiry, based on different theoretical assumptions and employing different experimental/observational methods, arrive at the same results regarding the same thing. For example, paleontological examination of fossils and analysis of molecular genetic DNA sequencing data might point to the same phylogenetic history for a particular kind of organism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consilience

    Unfortunately, this tendency of mine to assign weights to propositions (a tendency that I think is shared by most people, including scientists) is informal, based on individuals' intuitive assessments of the likelihoods of things. That introduces a huge element of subjectivity into science. One of the more active research areas of contemporary epistemology is the attempt to formalize this kind of epistemological weighting process.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/formal-epistemology/
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    A finding can be made of many facts.
    Measure 100 tapeworms. T1= 22.9 cm is a fact. T2= 36.6 cm is a fact.... The average length of this 100 tapeworms is 28.7cm may be a fact. The longest tapeworm in this sample, T41 is 41.1cm is a fact.
    That tapeworms range from 19 to 41 cm. in length is a finding based on a sample of 100. You would need many, much larger samples, and from different sources, to make a general statement about the size of all tapeworms everywhere, but this finding is a start.
     
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  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Indeed, the FAA might release a finding that a pilot was at fault for an accident, but that does not make it fact.
    Climatologists might release a finding that human activity is the major cause for global warming, but that does not make it fact.
     
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  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The simplest and easiest way to define the word "finding" is: a discovery. No assumption is made about its veracity.
     
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  13. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    This is very helpful - the author of the article led his readers to believing that his research alone was enough to state that his ''findings'' were ''facts.'' The good news is that he retracted his statement, in a humble way, when it was pointed out to him by other readers in the comment section.
     
  14. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Now, this example seems confusing. If the FAA release a finding that a pilot was at fault, then he/she would be at fault. What would turn that finding into a fact, then? It seems factual.

    This example makes sense. The first one though, can you explain?
     
  15. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    But, your finding was based on actual experimentation. Why wouldn't the range be considered factual and not merely a finding? Not trying to be obtuse, this is something I'd like to better understand.

    So law of large numbers can move a finding into a fact.

    Can something be a finding and a fact?
     
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Heh. This was just on a courtroom TV show called Bull. The FAA-equivalent Report found the pilot at fault due to negligence.
    But it was not a fact; it was a judgment. And the court was not required to take it as gospel.

    And it was wrong.
     
  17. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    They usually are. In fact, anything that's presented as a finding that's not based on measurements, or a survey, or observations of some kind isn't a finding at all, but an opinion.
    The range - within that sample - is factual. But it's not enough to make a factual statement about all tapeworms everywhere. (The longest one I've personally seen was well over a meter.)
    So, there might be a whole lot of facts about a whole lot of subjects, but they don't necessarily add up to a factual conclusion about the entire of class of entities under study.
    The writer of your article can present a series of facts that were recorded during his study and let you draw a conclusion. What he can't do is present his own conclusion as a fact.
    Scientific research is fussy and tedious. It takes a pile of little facts - measurements, usually - to make a finding and several findings to make a theory, which then has to be tested, usually through one or more experiments devised especially, and preferably by different teams, attempting to show up exceptions and contradictions, before it's an accepted theory. And even then, it has years of challenges to survive before it's generally stated as a fact.
    Think climate change. How many ice-cores, how many wind-speed measurements, how many rainfall comparisons; how many findings in how many lonely fields stations; how many computer models and simulations, symposia and conferences, add up to the one really big, freaking FACT?
    It depends on the question. A big question needs many findings to verify it; a little one may get by on a single study....
    No, on second thoughts, I don't think it can, because every study has a potential bias or blind-spot or inadequate sample source. Every finding requires independent corroboration.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
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  18. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Bolded by me. That's what he did, actually. Which is why that reader commented that it was really ''just a'' finding. Okay, this has been most helpful, thanks!
     
  19. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Ta any time.
     
  20. The God Valued Senior Member

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    Couple of posters have already stated that fact is non falsifiable, the truth.

    Findings can be falsified.

    A finding can be a fact but not all findings are facts.

    For example a decomposed body was found on beach side and preliminarily investigation shows that it is of xyz.

    Now there are two findings/observations in this. The first one is a fact, but the later one need not be a fact.
     
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  21. river

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    The difference ; between the two .
     
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    This is not a sentence.
     
  23. river

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    Fact is what it is , plain and simple .

    Finding is about the attitude towards the fact .
     

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