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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - From Fact to Evidence: the Cost and Casualties of a Shift from Facts to Evidence, with Focus on the Future of the Press, its Promise and Peril

30th November 2015, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Ted Gup (Emerson College and Boston College, USA)


Professor Ted Gup has made his living as a journalist and author of nonfiction works. In both roles, he now finds his task infinitely more complicated. Little now can be taken for granted or assumed. All is contested ground. Those complications lead him to ask a question: has there been some fundamental change that now confounds society, blurring the line between what we know to be true and what we wish to be true, that is between fact and evidence? He will be examining what he believes to be the evolving shift in public discourse from one based on facts to one based on evidence. Facts have long formed the foundation for discussion and negotiation, allowing for disagreement but ideally within the confines of interpretation and relative weighting of those facts. They have long provided the common ground for compromise, reconciliation and rapprochement. Evidence is that which is offered in support of argument, intended to persuade in the context of dispute. The two are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they synonymous. The difference between them is well worth exploring. In the absence
of facts – that is, some minimally agreed upon pool of findings, observations or conclusions - the common ground vanishes, and in its stead rises discord, incivility, polarization, the inability to govern, and paralysis – sadly, a description of more than one democracy today. Increasingly we seem bent on
ignoring disconfirming data and that which conflicts with core beliefs, be they political, historical, scientific, economic, or religious. Such a state threatens to undo the bonds of community and common interests. Professor Gup approaches this complex subject with great trepidation, but will attempt to offer up some case studies illustrative of the shift, as well as its costs and casualties, focusing on the future of the press, its promise and peril.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.