How Facts and Truths Have a (Short) Half-Life

I loved reading the book ‘The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date‘ by Samuel Arbesman. It is a great reminder that whatever we believe is the truth today will probably not be the truth tomorrow – and that there are some rules about how those truths disappear and are replaced.

Facts change all the time . Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly . Meat used to be good for you , then bad to eat , then good again ; now it’s a matter of opinion

It turns out that facts , when viewed as a large body of knowledge , are just as predictable . Facts , in the aggregate , have half – lives : We can measure the amount of time for half of a subject’s knowledge to be overturned . There is science that explores the rates at which new facts are created , new technologies are developed , and even how facts spread . How knowledge changes can be understood scientifically

It is a great reminder that in our complex world, whatever we contemplate to be true is only relative to our time and situation, and that every truth is quite a relative statement. Those that stick to old-fashioned truth simply because it was the truth at the time it was identified as such and formalized may not have realized how relative that notion can be.