Do facts have two sides?
There appears to be a belief that facts have two sides to them.
It makes the:
- marketing scientist in me smile
- public policy quant in me rage
- scientist in me flip the table
Jimmies status: rustled.
- Stories may have two sides
- Models may have two sides
- Ideologies have two sides
Facts do not have two sides.
And yet, there’s been a few folks coming out of the woodwork lately:
- Unskewed Polls in the Presidential Race
- And many, many others.
A fact is defined as something that actually happened, exists, or is reality.
We can experience facts first hand, or observe them though instrumentation. In analytics, there are multiple types of instrumentation that lay on a continuum from ‘sampled’ to ‘total’.
At the extreme edge of sampled is the survey. A researcher constructs a survey (an instrument) and randomly samples a population to generate observations. If the sample is truly random, the observations can be said to be representative of the entire population within a degree of certainty. That degree of certainty is expressed as a confidence interval associated with a confidence level. Although they contain an expression of confidence, they are facts.
At the other extreme edge are machine produced sensor and transactional data. At 06:33:21 a credit card registered to Jane Smythe was used to buy $11.44 from the Gulp-n-Blow located at 43.649899, -79.380722.
It’s a continuum though.
Take, for instance, how facts about a website are generated.
Both types of instrumentation generate facts.
Whether or not you find the facts useful depends on what it is that you want to understand, the argument that you want to make, or the ideology you’re trying to defend.
Likewise, if you’re generating an argument that the economy isn’t really all that good, I’m going to base my argument on the participation rate, and I’m going to ignore the unemployment rate. It’s a fact that the participation rate has fallen and the unemployment rate has fallen. The onus is on Jack to make his argument on the facts as presented. Attacking the instrumentation, in this case the BLS survey, is ineffective.
Instrumentation really matters. But a fact can’t be manipulated to have a different side once the instrumentation is settled. A fact actually happened. Facts don’t have to sides.
 Issues with cleaning and confidence intervals caused the claim that a particular bacteria uses Arsenic in its DNA is one such example. Facts can be refuted if the instrumentation falters.
I’m Christopher Berry
I’m at Authintic.