Friday, June 05, 2009

Facts and Theories

What causes us to accept something we do not observe as fact? Why do some people have so much faith in something? What causes someone to cling tightly to a belief?

It amazes me how some people suddenly become experts in some area simply because they heard a rumor somewhere from someone who heard it somewhere else. This phenomenon is a strange one. I hear them proclaim it with complete confidence--as if they directly observed many facts supporting the claim, and none contradicting. But, many times, the fact is, they never did.

It seems that they so dearly want this fact to be true, that they end up ignoring all evidence that contradicts it. They build up a model of the world, but then, instead of constantly revising, they freeze it.

In science, we have the scientific method:
  1. Observe.
  2. Make a theory.
  3. Create a test.
  4. Go back to 1!
Just because we make a theory does not mean it is correct. We need to keep considering new evidence and use that to revise our theory. We need to consider our theory in the context of how much evidence we have for its correctness.

When people present their theories they should make sure that they are presenting them as theories and not as facts. Just because you think X is Y doesn't make it so. If you want to tell me a theory, tell me that it's your theory and the evidence you have. If you have a fact, tell me it as a fact, don't give me your interpretation.

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