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1 March 2004 The flavors and colors of facts in wildlife science
Fred S. Guthery
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Because facts are the basis of knowledge in wildlife science, wildlife scientists should appreciate the nature and properties of facts. Facts and beliefs are phenomena of consensus best regarded as fuzzy sets in the universe of truth (i.e., in wildlife science, fact may be to some degree belief, and belief may be to some degree fact). Beliefs are culturally endemic, whereas facts are culturally pandemic. The wildlife scientist deals with facts of history, measurement, pattern, and conjecture. One or more of the following properties cheapen all such facts: contingency, relativity, ambiguity, speciousness, ambivalence, and evanescence. Specious facts (false “facts” that predict) arise when a passive variable is correlated with a driving variable or when ≥2 processes lead to identical outcomes (deductions). Specious facts probably are not uncommon in wildlife science. There is no foolproof method, such as Ockham's Razor or hypothetico-deductive experimentation, of winnowing the more reliable facts from the set of all facts in wildlife science. Wildlife scientists should regard facts as “the state of things as they are to some degree,” and should, accordingly, respond with skepticism to that which passes for knowledge.

Fred S. Guthery "The flavors and colors of facts in wildlife science," Wildlife Society Bulletin 32(1), 288-297, (1 March 2004).[288:CTFACO]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 March 2004

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hypothetico-deductive experiments
Ockham's razor
philosophy of science
wildlife science
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