From last time, what is the fact there? We no longer have a simple fact that is a simple carbon content read off a simple list of elemental concentration values. We have results from a sequence of tests that were determined to be suspicious by the chemist who was performing the work. If the material was supposed to be through-hardened, there’s no need to worry about the exact position of the test. But if the material is carburized, we must remove the enriched carbon layer to know what base metal was used. At this point, I would say that we have moved from the reporting of a simple fact to the reporting of an opinion, which is based on interpretation of a series of facts that were determined by a special composition analysis process, rather than a standard composition analysis process.

When someone brings me a broken or corroded part for analysis, I try to do two things in fairly short order. First of all, I try to look at the part. I want to know its size, shape, color, mass and materials of construction, and then I want to know what happened to it. Does it look new? That’s an opinion. It may be new, and look old and vice versa. We don’t know until we get more background information. Does it look like something banged into it? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a feature is intentionally present, or if it happened accidentally. If you do not have a print and nobody to ask, how could you know?

Those determinations require judgements, and, thus, they are opinions. If we think a certain feature is present accidentally, we probably want to know when it happened. We can guess. The information then represents an opinion. If someone is able to find documentation that appears reliable and notes the damage, it might normally be considered a fact. But what if the failure happened because someone made a mistake? What if someone changed the documentation in an effort to avoid blame? The fact might look like a fact, but it might be wrong!

If these simple situations that appear to be facts morph so readily into opinions, it’s no surprise that people in the wider society can easily get into situations where they don’t agree with each other’s facts.