Scientific Facts – Do They Change?


Today I watched an episode of the BBC’s brilliant series “QI” called “Knowledge“. In it Stephen Fry made an astonishing claim:

Things we know – or think we know – will be untrue in a number of years’ time.

Jo Brand added this:

There’s no such thing as a fact.

In my opinion those are very misleading statements.

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4 thoughts on “Scientific Facts – Do They Change?

  1. I agree with the sentiment here. It is clear that something should only be stated as scientific fact to the public, once it has been verified, checked and peer-reviewed.

    However, I think the example you use confuses the issue. It’s not the case that we initially stated there is one moon, because we didn’t know about all the other debris orbiting the Earth i.e. because our scientific data was wrong. We did know all that debris was there, but it didn’t fall into the scientific definition of a moon at the time. If the scientific definition changes, the number of moons that meet that definition can change. We don’t need to add, change or edit any scientific knowledge to change a definition (although changes in knowledge may certainly trigger this change).

    Its important to realise the distinction between changing a scientific definition or scientific criteria and changing previously expressed facts based on updated scientific evidence. Even if the 2 are not always entirely decoupled.

    1. Well, firstly, Thank you for your observations and replying to the post.

      Though, I have my own observations about it, I would not take credit for something which I have not written.

      Since I had found it interesting, I had simply reblogged this from a post on this blog:

      So, I guess your comments are mainly directed to the original author! Extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused.

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