The links: how facts, opinions and assumptions interact within Grasp-It
First of all, Grasp-It is a tool, not a machine. All the semantic structuring is done not by some black box or weird algorithm, but by humans, that is by us, or by you and us working together. Grasp-It makes all this very easy.
There are two main steps in the Grasp-It methodology:
1) All statements made on the topic to be structured are categorized as either fact, opinion, or assumption.
Grasp-It defines facts as statements that are verifiably true, such as “The total amount of ice of alpine glaciers has shrunk in the past 100 years.”.
An example of an opinion, yet a widely shared one, is that “increasing greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from human activity has caused most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century”. Another opinion, though a disputed one, is that “emission trading is the best approach to mitigate climate change”. Opinions are statements expressing a point of view which may or may not be shared by others. Reasons why people do not share a certain opinion may be because they assess the same facts differently, they pursue different goals, they base their own opinions on different assumptions, or simply because they have different value systems.
Opinions, in contrast to facts, are neither right nor wrong. And even if everyone agrees, an opinion does not suddenly become a fact.
Assumptions serve to “bridge” (rather than “close”) a knowledge gap, in other words they substitute for facts where the facts are (still) missing. One does not have to believe that an assumption is – or will become – true to use it.
We do not know whether or not Antarctica will melt in the next 50 years, so “Antarctica will not melt in the next 50 years” is only an assumption, but one that is essential, for example, to support the opinion that average sea levels will not rise by more than so many metres in that time period.
2) The semantic links how facts, opinions and assumptions interact are identified and highlighted.
A supports B
The “support” link is probably the most common and the most helpful within the Grasp-It semantic system. “A supports B” means “A is an argument in favour of B” . Only opinions and assumptions can be supported: facts do not need support as they are true in their own right. Of course, “supports” does not mean “proves right”. After all, opinions are by definition neither right nor wrong, and hence cannot be proven one way or the other.
For example: "Switching off the conveyor belt that drives the Gulf Stream would just cancel out the global warming in Europe" supports "A shutdown of the Gulf Stream will not cause a new European ice age."
A does not support B
This simply means “A is not an argument in favour of B”. Again, it does not mean “proves wrong”. Nor does it mean “contradicts”. After all, someone can firmly hold an opinion even when aware that there is a certain argument that does not support it, especially if there are other arguments which do.
For example: "The eventual decommissioning of nuclear power plants requires energy that is usually supplied by fossil sources" does not support "Nuclear fission power produces relatively low greenhouse gas emissions.".
A is the basis for B
The link “is the basis for” is similar to “supports”, but stronger, If A is a sufficient condition for B to be true (it may also be a necessary condition), then we say “A is the basis for B”.
For example: "There is no feasible way of technologically extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere once they were released into it" is the basis for "To tackle climate change we will have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.".
A contradicts B
Facts cannot contradict each other in the Grasp-It semantic system. If facts are contradictory this must mean that at least one of them is wrong and therefore no longer a fact. But opinions and assumptions can often contradict each other.
For example: "A 'cap and trade' scheme is the best way to limit greenhouse gas emissions." contradicts "A tax on greenhouse gas emissions is the best way to limit them.".
A is a detail of B
This means “A is an example of B” or rather “A is a specific case of B”.
For example: “Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for more than a century.” is what we call “a detail of” “Greenhouse gases are long-lived.”.