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Distinguishing Facts from Opinions

Distinguishing Facts from Opinions

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Distinguishing Facts from Opinions

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  1. Distinguishing Facts from Opinions Chapter 12 This tutorial will help you separate facts from opinions.

  2. When people speak of a "fact" they typically mean either: a true statement ("The Eiffel Tower is in Paris") a verified or proven statement ("Planets exist in other solar systems") a true statement that is verified or can be verified by established methods of proof ("President Ulysses S. Grant really is buried in Grant's Tomb)"

  3. The term "opinion" is also used in various senses. For our • purposes, the two most relevant senses are: • a. a claim that someone believes to be true • ("In Dr. Andrews' opinion, the operation was a success") • a claim that someone believes to be true without • conclusive proof or evidence • ("Capital punishment should be abolished")

  4. "Abraham Lincoln was a greater president than Ronald Reagan.""Planets exist in other solar systems." As these distinctions make clear, in some senses "facts" and "opinions" are mutually exclusive, and in other senses they are not. Thus, it is a "fact" that Lincoln was a greater president than Ronald Reagan in the sense that this is (in our opinion!) a true statement. Yet it is not a fact in either of the two other senses identified. It is neither a proven statement nor an objectively verifiable statement. Similarly, it is an "opinion" that planets exist in other solar systems in the sense that some people do in fact believe this. Yet it is not an opinion in the sense that it is believed without conclusive evidence or proof, for scientists have now observed many such planets through powerful telescopes.

  5. As critical thinkers, we should be aware of these different senses of "fact" and "opinion." Even more important, however, is the ability to recognize and distinguish three kinds of statements:Verified facts: true statements that have been amply verified or documented. ("The Earth revolves around the sun.")Verifiable factual statements: statements that haven't been verified or falsified beyond a reasonable doubt, but conceivably could be. ("There is intelligent life in outer space.")Matters of opinion: statements that cannot be objectively verified or falsified. ("Human cloning should be banned." "Tom Cruise is sexier than Brad Pitt." "Beach vacations are better than mountain vacations.")

  6. Now let's practice what we've learned.For each of the following statements, say whether it is:(a) a verified fact(b) a verifiable factual statement(c) a matter of opinionIn some cases, you may need to do some quick research to decide if a statement is a verified fact.

  7. Is this a verified fact, a verifiable factual statement, or a matter of opinion? "Same-sex marriages should be legalized."

  8. This is a matter of opinion. Value judgments such as this may be true or false, based on good reasons or not based on good reasons. However, they cannot be objectively verified or falsified. "Same-sex marriages should be legalized."

  9. Is this a verified fact, a verifiable factual statement, or a matter of opinion? "The tallest mountain in the world is Mt. Everest."

  10. This is a verified fact. This statement has been amply verified by a variety of high-tech and low-tech techniques. Of course, it's conceivable that the statement is false. But the statement has been verified beyond a reasonable doubt, and this is sufficient for it to count as a verified fact. "The tallest mountain in the world is Mt. Everest."

  11. Is this a verified fact, a verifiable factual statement, or a matter of opinion? "It will rain or snow tomorrow in Cleveland."

  12. This is a verifiable factual statement. Although this statement hasn't yet been reliably verified or falsified, it certainly can be. "It will rain or snow tomorrow in Cleveland."

  13. Is this a verified fact, a verifiable factual statement, or a matter of opinion? "The Loch Ness monster does not exist."

  14. This is a verifiable factual statement. Although many extensive and sophisticated searches have been conducted at Loch Ness and have found no trace of the alleged monster, it cannot be said that the nonexistence of the monster has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, technology exists that could prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether the creature exists. Thus, this is a verifiable factual statement. "The Loch Ness monster does not exist."

  15. [This is the end of the tutorial] "Pepsi tastes better than Coke." This is a matter of opinion. Taste preferences are relative and vary from person to person. Thus, there is no objective matter of fact here that could be settled by established methods of inquiry or proof. X