Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion
In general, an opinion is a subjective belief, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. An opinion may be supported by an argument, although people may draw opposing opinions from the same set of facts. Opinions rarely change without new arguments being presented...

. The word was coined from the Latin controversia, as a composite of controversus – "turned in an opposite direction," from contra – "against" – and vertere – to turn, or versus (see verse), hence, "to turn against."

Perennial areas of controversy include history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

. Other minor areas of controversy may include economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, finances, organisation, age
Age may refer to:* Age , an aspect of mathematical model theory* Age , an international peer-reviewed journal operated by Springer.* The Age, a daily newspaper published in Melbourne, Australia* Agé, a god* Åge, a given name...

, gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

, and race. Controversy in matters of theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 has traditionally been particularly heated, giving rise to the phrase odium theologicum
Odium theologicum
The Latin phrase Odium theologicum is the name originally given to the often intense anger and hatred generated by disputes over theology...

. Controversial issues are held as potentially divisive in a given society, because they can lead to tension and ill will, as a result they are often taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 to be discussed in the light of company in many cultures.
In the theory of law
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, a controversy differs from a legal case
Legal case
A legal case is a dispute between opposing parties resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case may be either civil or criminal...

; while legal cases include all suits, criminal
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 as well as civil, a controversy is a purely civil proceeding.

For example, the Case or Controversy Clause of Article Three of the United States Constitution
Article Three of the United States Constitution
Article Three of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. The judicial branch comprises the Supreme Court of the United States and lower courts as created by Congress.-Section 1: Federal courts:...

 (Section 2, Clause 1) states that "the judicial Power shall extend ... to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party". This clause has been deemed to impose a requirement that United States federal courts are not permitted to hear cases that do not pose an actual controversy—that is, an actual dispute between adverse parties which is capable of being resolved by the court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

. In addition to setting out the scope of the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary, it also prohibits courts from issuing advisory opinion
Advisory opinion
An advisory opinion is an opinion issued by a court that does not have the effect of adjudicating a specific legal case, but merely advises on the constitutionality or interpretation of a law. Some countries have procedures by which the executive or legislative branches may certify important...

s, or from hearing cases that are either unripe
In United States law, ripeness refers to the readiness of a case for litigation; "a claim is not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all." For example, if a law of ambiguous quality has been enacted but never...

, meaning that the controversy has not arisen yet, or moot
In American law, a matter is moot if further legal proceedings with regard to it can have no effect, or events have placed it beyond the reach of the law...

, meaning that the controversy has already been resolved.

Benford's law of controversy

Benford's law of controversy, as expressed by science-fiction author Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine...

 in 1980, states: Passion
Passion (emotion)
Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something....

 is inversely proportional to the amount of real (true) information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

In other words, the fewer facts are known to and agreed on by the participants, the more controversy there is, and the more is known the less controversy there is. Thus, for example, controversies in physics are limited to areas where experiments cannot be carried out yet, whereas Benford's Law implies that controversy is inherent to politics, where communities must frequently decide on courses of action based on insufficient information.
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