There has been a lot of talk in the news about the term ‘alternative facts’. Some believe ‘alternative facts’ are nothing more than lies. They could be lies but they don’t have to be.
‘Alternative facts’ do exist in geometry. Some of us might remember being taught in elementary school that the sum of the angles in any triangle always add up to 180 degrees. We were taught that this is a fact. It isn’t. It is an alternative fact!
In Euclidian space the sum of the angles of a triangle all add up to 180 degrees but there are other kinds of spaces and associated geometries. There are alternative facts for the sum of the angles in a triangle:
Logically speaking, the assumption of a single parallel line is equivalent to the fact that angles in a triangle sum to 180°. Furthermore, if this is true of a single triangle, this is also true of all possible triangles. In the geometry of Gauss, Lobachevsky, and Bolyai, parallels are not unique. This is equivalent to the sum of angles in a triangle being less than 180°. And again, this condition holds for all triangles provided it is true for any one of them. Riemann’s spherical geometry completes a triad: no parallels and the angle sum is (always) more than 180°.
source: Non-Euclidean Geometrie, http://www.cut-the-knot.org/triangle/pythpar/Drama.shtml
‘What does all this have to do with the ‘real world?’, you may ask. Geometry helps a person understand that ‘alternative facts’ do exist. Any statement that conflicts with what is known to be true could be a lie or it could be an alternative fact. In geometry, this means knowing which type of space the person is working in; Euclidean or non-Euclidean. To determine the ‘truth’ of statement you have to know the basic context the statement was made within. This is important if you want to figure out if an ‘alternative fact’ is really a lie.
Brian Stelter reports on the responses to Kelleyanne Conway’s use of the term ‘Alternative fact’;
The presentation of “alternative facts” undermines the media’s reporting of reality in a way that decreases public trust in the media — and in facts.
The administration’s tactics in its first days, coupled with Conway’s invocation of “alternative facts,” has observers worried that one of the ways it will “fight back” is to simply deny that two plus two equals four.
“Alternative facts” is “a George Orwell phrase,” Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty said, referring to the science fiction novel “1984.”
“This brings us to ‘1984’ doublethink, where war is really peace, where famine is really plenty. That’s what’s happening here,” political historian Allan Lichtman said on CNN Sunday afternoon.
The phrase was a top trending topic on Twitter during the day. Some people made jokes while others took it very seriously.
“‘Alternative facts’ is a euphemism of propagandists and authoritarians. The new White House administration is full of both. Actual facts,” MTV’s Jamil Smith tweeted.
What is the basic context of the ‘alternative facts’ uttered about the President’s inauguration? Could it be an attempt at simple misdirection? Stelter writes; “The administration is likely not all that upset with the discussion it’s started among the press about the truth and its flaunting of it. The Trump aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out a fringe benefit of the administration’s media complaints: ‘By going out and doing this, it took images of people protesting off the TV.’”
Rather than rage against the term ‘alterative facts’ why doesn’t the media simply report on the numbers and leave it to the people to decide if they are being lied to?
In any case, we cannot say there are no such things as alternative facts. You can’t deal with lies by denying other realities.