Monday, January 5, 2015

Subject: Facts vs Evidence

 Albert Einstein famously said,

“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother” [and get her to understand it, too.]

So, I'm going to try to explain the difference between "facts" and "evidence" to see if I understand it myself.

Evidence is presented in court to determine what the facts are, i.e., evidence is presented to let a jury decide if it is "a proven fact" that the defendant committed the crime for which he/she is accused.

Another source expresses this differently:
"Fact is a truth that can be proven. On the other hand evidence is something that is told by someone. It has to be accepted only on belief. There cannot be truth in all evidences.   This is the main difference between facts and evidence."
The copy of "The People's Law Dictionary" in my personal library contains these definitions:
FACT: n.  an actual thing or happening, which must be proved at trial by presentation of evidence and which is evaluated by the finder or fact (a jury in a jury trial, or by the judge if he/she sits without a jury).

EVIDENCE: n.   every type of proof legally presented at trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case.  It can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs, and depositions (testimony under oath taken before the trial).  It also includes so-called "circumstantial evidence" which is intended to create belief by showing surrounding circumstances which logically lead to a conclusion of fact.
So, it is totally absurd to say there is "no evidence" showing that Dr. Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001.  In the Amerithrax Investigative Summary report, the Department of Justice presented 92 pages summarizing the evidence against Dr. Ivins.  And they released thousands of pages of supplemental information.

A naysayer could argue that he or she does not accept or believe the evidence, and therefore, as far as they are concerned, it is not a proven fact that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.  But, they cannot logically say there is "no evidence" showing Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.

In court the prosecutor would present the evidence that Dr. Ivins had means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime.  The prosecutor would establish "as a fact" that Ivins had means, motive and opportunity.  And the prosecutor would ask the jury to conclude and confirm the fact that Ivins was the anthrax killer.

On the Internet, an Anthrax Truther can present "evidence" showing that his or her favorite suspect was actually the real anthrax killer.

However, as it says above (and below), "There cannot be truth in all evidences.   This is the main difference between facts and evidence."

One Anthrax Truther on this blog presents "evidence" arguing that "linguistics" within the anthrax documents show that his unnamed "suspect" is the anthrax killer.  He indicates that someday he may present "evidence" showing that his "suspect" had means, motive and opportunity.  But, for now, all he is willing to discuss is the "linguistics" in the documents.  As I see it, his linguistics "evidence" is easily challenged and disputed, so there is no "truth" in his "evidence."  It's something only he sees.

Another Anthrax Truther argues that a 2003 news report saying that Adnan el-Shukrijumah had gone to the United States via Mexico is "evidence" that el-Shukrijumah mailed the anthrax letters.  As further "evidence," he cites another news story which said el-Shukrijumah entered the U.S. "some time after September 1, 2001" as evidence that el-Shukrijumah was in New Jersey in September and October of 2001 mailing the anthrax letters.   As I see it, his "evidence" is so vague and lacking in detail that is no way to find any "truth" in his "evidence."  "The truth" is something only he sees in his "evidence."

The Department of Justice's case against Dr. Ivins, on the other hand, provides excellent evidence which shows that Ivins had means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime, plus they can have FBI agents testify that all other likely suspects can be eliminated for lack of means, motive and/or opportunity.

Unlike the two Anthrax Truthers mentioned above, the DOJ can show solid evidence to establish as a fact that Ivins had the means to commit the crime.   The DOJ can present scientists who can explain that they personally created powders identical to the attack powders using the same equipment Ivins had available in his lab.  The DOJ can also show that Ivins had the opportunity to commit the crime.  To establish that as a fact, they can present documents, time logs and testimony showing that Ivins had no alibi for the times when the mailings were done.  And the DOJ can show that Dr. Ivins had motive for committing the crime:  Though his emails and the testimony of witnesses, they can establish as a fact that:  (1) Dr. Ivins’s life’s work appeared destined for failure, absent an unexpected event.  (2) Dr. Ivins was being subjected to increasing public criticism for his work.  (3)  Dr. Ivins was feeling abandoned in his personal life.  A jury could reasonably conclude that Ivins expected the anthrax mailings to make him and his work important again.

The jury would watch and listen to the evidence being presented.  They would then listen and watch the defense present evidence for their side of the argument.  When done, the jury would decide, based upon all the evidence presented to them, if the case against Dr. Ivins was proven or not proven.  If they decided it was proven, it would become a "fact" that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.

Others can disagree with the "fact" that Ivins did it, but their disagreements would be of no value unless and until they could somehow present better evidence showing someone else did it.

That's my explanation of the difference between "facts" and "evidence."

Below are some sources I used in writing the comment above.

Facts and evidence are two words that are often used incorrectly. Even though they are often used interchangeably, they have entirely different meanings. A fact is something that can be proven but evidence is something that someone tells you or objects that can point to the facts. Evidence can be accepted only as a belief that something is a fact and in all cases this is not true.

There are two types of evidence – factual evidence and documented evidence.  In a trial, the court always relies on the documented evidence because facts are needed to prove that it is not true.
However, it is very easy to damage or destroy evidence. Therefore there is not a lot of strength in evidence and it is difficult to authenticate it. In contrast to evidence, a fact can be proven by any means and this is one of the main differences between the two words.

A fact cannot be destroyed or damaged. This is true of scientific facts that have been proven by multiple experiments. No matter how much you change the variables, the conclusion is fact. Facts are based on evidence, but evidence does not necessarily have to be true. It is also considered to be a reality about which a large number of people agree. Facts cannot be disputed.

Information that proves to be helpful in forming a conclusion is termed evidence, but it has to be either true or false. Evidence can be disputed, which is why it is presented in court. The lawyers for both sides present arguments and witnesses to prove or disprove the evidence that has been collected for the case.

It is the evidence that starts an investigation and fact develops from the conclusion of the investigation.

Click HERE for the source.


Facts and Evidence are two legal terms that are used with difference. They are generally understood as one and the same thing to an untrained litigant, but strictly speaking they are different.

Fact is a truth that can be proven. On the other hand evidence is something that is told by someone. It has to be accepted only on belief. There cannot be truth in all evidences. This is the main difference between facts and evidence.

Evidence is generally of two types, namely, documental evidence and factual evidence. The decision of the court is always based on documental evidence. You need to have factual evidence to disprove it.

On the main difference between facts and evidence is that evidence can be easily destroyed. This is because of the fact that evidence lacks strength and cannot be proved authentically. On the other hand a fact can be proved by all means. In fact the proven status has made the fact different from evidence.
On the other hand a fact cannot be destroyed at all for that matter. Scientific facts are all proved and hence can never be destroyed by any means. This is mainly due to the fact that fact is characterized by truth whereas evidence is characterized by falsehood.

Evidence is information helpful in forming judgment or a conclusion. Remember it is only information that can be either true or false. On the other hand a fact is a fundamental reality that has been agreed upon by a substantial strength of people.

Another important difference between facts and evidence is that facts cannot be disputed. On the other hand evidence can be disputed in the court. It all depends on the skill of the lawyer to dispute the evidence produced in the court. Fact is arrived at after investigation or experiment. Evidence begins an investigation.

Click HERE for the source. 



An objective consensus on a fundamental reality that has been agreed upon by a substantial number of people.


information used to establish facts in an investigation

information helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment

one or more reasons for believing that something is or is not true

Fact is that which is accepted by a large number of persons. Evidence is information provided by a few persons for accepting a certain fact.

Some evidences may become disputable at a later date. That which is never disputed becomes a fact.

Click HERE for the source.  



  1. "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") attempted a post to this thread last evening. Here it is in its entirety:
    FACT 1:

    Senator Daschle’ states his understanding in a 2013 book. In 2013, in his book discussing the anthrax mailings, he concludes: “To this day, authorities have not conclusively figured out who mailed those letters.”

    FACT 2:

    Senator Daschle's initial view on August 13, 2008 had been based on the US Attorney’s numerous false claims and mistaken premises outlines at an August 8, 2008 press conference and at a private briefing.

    FACT 3:

    Senator Leahy has said not too long ago that the case was not closed.


    Fact #1 is that Sen. Daschle stated "his understanding in a 2013 book" and Sen. Daschle has OPINIONS about the Amerithrax case. No one disputes those facts. But Sen. Daschle's OPINIONS are NOT FACTS.

    Fact #2 is NOT A FACT but just Dxer's FANTASIES about Sen. Daschle's thought processes.

    Fact #3 is that Sen. Daschle has an OPINION about the closing of the anthrax case. Anyone can have an opinion. Opinions mean NOTHING. This case IS closed. Sen. Daschle's OPINION can't change that.

    So, DXer's post is just about his misunderstanding of what facts are.


  2. "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") attempted a post to this blog which only said, "It is a fact that Tara O’Toole, the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department, says that the FBI did not establish that the anthrax came from USAMRIID but that it was merely the FBI’s “working hypothesis” and a “supposition.”

    If it were a fact, DXer should be able to cite and provide a link to the source. He didn't do so. Instead, it appears to be PURE HEARSAY. Someone supposedly HEARD her say that at a seminar in 2011.

    But, it's still just one person's OPINION. Therefore, it is OF NO VALUE in determining what is fact.

    The only way to intelligently resolve a debate is through an objective analysis of the facts and evidence.


  3. "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") just attempted another long, rambling post to this blog. Here it is in it's entirety:

    Ed, the video has long been linked on Lew's website. She says it was just the FBI's "working hypothesis" and its supposition. (See video starting at 2:34:05.)
    She says that there are other "active hypotheses."

    It is not hearsay as you claim. I have linked the video. She gives her answer on the stage while sitting along with Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Director at the time of the attacks and Senator Tom Daschle, who was one of the Senators who received the mail. Senator Daschle referred the question to her. (Someone from MIT, Jean G., asked the question).

    Note that Dr. O'Toole explains that NBACC does the science these days for the FBI. She explains that NBACC is under her purview and at the time was suggesting that the FBI pay for the NBACC's work on these issues.

    So I appreciate that the Homeland Security biodefense honcho and the Senator who received the anthrax have an opinion that differs than yours. But it is their opinion that merits weight. She urges that all members of Congress ask to receive a classified briefing on the anthrax threat.

    If you can't get the facts right about what she said when she is quoted and the linked video is provided, why do you think we should count on you to have a reliable opinion about whether a First Grader wrote the anthrax letter sent to Senator Daschle? Note that the program was sponsored by the Center for American Progress. Tom Daschle is the Chair of the CPA's Board of Directors and a Distinguished Senior Fellow there.

    I have corresponded with Dr. O'Toole extensively but rely only on the linked video. Indeed, I linked it several years ago and it was discussed on your blog. You just don't read things or view things that don't square with your First Grader theory.


    Of course, he once again provides no link (except to Lew's entire blog). And, I don't have the time to hunt for it. So, all I can say is that it appears that Tara O'Toole did express her opinion, and that her OPINION is still of NO VALUE here. Others in the DOJ and FBI who have a better knowledge and understanding of the evidence have a different OPINION.


    This blog isn't for arguing opinions. It's for examining facts and evidence to determine what is true.


  4. I had some spare time this afternoon, so I hunted for the link that DXer failed to provide for Tara O'Toole's controversial comments. The video is at this link:

    Or just click HERE.

    The video is 2 hours and 50 minutes long. Unfortunately, when the video on my computer reached the 2:29:36 mark, it just went into a wait state, as if 2 1/2 hours is the maximum allowable size for a video. Nothing I could do would cause the rest of the video to load and play.

    So, while I accept that Tara O'Toole said what DXer claims she said, I have no way to see the context. It would appear that such comments in that setting would be off topic and irresponsible, but it would certainly depend on the context.


  5. FWIW, I got onto my old computer this morning and tried viewing the Tara O'Toole question and answer there. It worked fine.

    The question asked was about a "national security breakdown" at USAMRIID when they allowed an employee to make powdered anthrax there.

    Tara O'Toole responded, "First of all, there are remaining questions as to whether or not the anthrax in the letters came from Ft. Detrick. That has not been proven conclusively. That is the working hypothesis. There are not a lot of other active hypotheses, but the National Academy report is the place to go for the more definitive analysis of the science behind the FBI's supposition."

    She's just taking the "science-line" and arguing that it has not been conclusively proven - to a scientific certainty - that the spores came from USAMRIID. It is "POSSIBLE" that some other unknown lab could have produced an IDENTICAL batch with IDENTICAL morphs. Therefore, we shouldn't go on a witch hunt to find people at USAMRIID who were responsible for ALLOWING Dr. Ivins to do what he did.

    I agree that there's no need for a "witch hunt." And, from a PURELY "scientific" point of view, I agree that it can be argued that the evidence that the attack powders came from USAMRIID is not "definitive" or "conclusive."

    However, from a law-enforcement point of view, I do not see any reasonable doubt that the spores came from USAMRIID or that Dr. Ivins made them.

    If others have doubts, I'm always available to examine the evidence to help them determine whether their doubts are "reasonable" or not.


  6. In another totally absurd attempted post, "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") just attempted to post this comment: 'There are no facts whatsoever indicating that a First Grader wrote the letters."

    He provides no explanation, of course. It's just another mindless statement of belief.

    What explanation does he have for the FACT that the writer apparently learned the proper way to draw the letters R and P between writing the Brokaw letter and addressing the Brokaw envelope?

    He won't address that FACT.

    Nor will he attempt to explain the FACT that the writing on the second letter was about half the size of the writing on the first letter. It's a FACT. What is his explanation for that FACT?

    And what about the FACT that the writer used no punctuation in the first letter mailed in September, but used punctuation in the second letter mailed in October? How does DXer rationalize that FACT?

    Isn't it a FACT that the anthrax letters were mailed at about the time students (including first graders) were just starting a new school year?

    Isn't it also a FACT that children just starting first grade are taught the correct way to draw characters of the alphabet? And isn't it a FACT that they are also taught to write smaller by making the use lined paper? And isn't it a FACT that are also taught about punctuation?

    Are those FACTS all just coincidences? What is DXer's alternative explanation for these FACTS?


  7. "DXer" (a.k.a. "Anonymous") just attempted another post. Here it is in its entirety:
    There are no facts whatsoever indicating that the Loch Ness Monster wrote the letters either.

    Do I really need to explain? Really? Why, Ed?

    Don't you have any common sense?

    Among grown-ups, it is a non-starter.


    In other words, DXer cannot argue against the facts and evidence. So, he just ridicules the hypothesis and says that no explanation is needed.

    Among grownups, that is "acting like an obnoxious 12-year-old."

    He demonstrates for the umpteenth time that he cannot participate in any kind of intelligent conversation. And that's why he's not allowed to post here.

    And there's probably no good reason to even show his posts when they say nothing of value.


  8. So, as man who's been around the block longer than I, let me bounce somethings I consider facts, see what you think-

    1-There's no evidence Sadam-Bin-Cheney was involved ;). Fact?
    2-The writer used a stencil to assist/write the letter. I've done it, did 2 more 'double blind' tests. Can't mimic, but can the same strike marks. Fact? Just opinion(s).
    3-All letters had a slope in the city state zip. Fact?
    4-The slope in the city state zip lead to it going through the DCBS twice. Fact?
    5-The Hamilton Disto Center was the only target engaged with both sets letters. Fact?

    Now the hard stuff (drumroll)
    1- To the Brokaw letter- The extra strike mark in the 2nd "A" in "All(A)h" is similar both strike marks in the "To"..Fact or Opinion? I'm going with opinion, but its worth a look. I hope you know where I'm going with that one. Stencils are a pain in the keister, but you learn....
    2- The "W" in "No(w)" is the exact same character as the "M" in A(M)erica. Not similar, the same. Photoshop it, I'm going fact. Supports the stencil, but its subjective enough to ask. There's bunch more just like that, I've made the "B" in "NBC" but the w/m is the easiest.
    3- There was very lethal agents lying around labs. See the Small Pox find at NIH. Fact? - no proof lyopholized B.a. was laying around. But hey, if lyopholized Small Pox was.....
    4- A vast majority of victims were in the mail service. Fact?

    And finally, (Drumroll)
    5- The primary target does not have to be the addressees. I mean, Conway got hit when Kennedy was killed....Fact?

    I have more, but lets see what think on those...its cool stuff too, the NYC Post was written before the Brokaw...why the writer shifted pens (and why I did)......the only DoD lab that worked with B.a. and B.s. in MD.....but, its either Ivins or a wide-left field answer (not a scientist).....but not a global conspiracy..not Sadam Bin Cheney...but lets see if I'm on the right path first.

    Let me know.....

  9. It's kind of difficult to follow what you are saying, but there is no evidence that any kind of stencil was used to write the letters.

    All the letters were mailed in Princeton, NJ, so they all went through the Hamilton Distribution Center in Trenton.

    Only one letter was delayed, and it wasn't because of the slope of the address - it was because the 1 in the zip code 20510 was read as a 2 by the scanning equipment which changed the zip to 20520.

    The letters were Xerox copies.

    The W in NOW and the M in America may look identical, but NONE of the other characters do. So the case for using a stencil is bogus.

    I can't make sense of much else of what you wrote, so I don't know how to respond.