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There's an idiom in the English language called "Sacred cow" which means 'immunity from criticism or opposition'. I am not sure about the proper use of it in the contexts like these:

"I can't guarantee that this argument is a sacred cow, but in my opinion, the origin of humanity is Mars".

Or:

"If a person drinks and smokes a lot, he will become old very quickly, but this statement is not a sacred cow, sometimes you see the opposite situation, but very rarely".

The problem is that in the Russian language, you may use the idiom "the truth in its last instance/authority" (rus. "Истина в последней инстанции"). That's why the aforesaid sentences would look like:

"I can't guarantee that this argument is the truth in its last instance/authority, but in my opinion, the origin of humanity is Mars" - (rus. "Я не гарантирую истину в последней инстанции, но по-моему мнению, люди произошли с Марса")

"If a person drinks and smokes a lot, he will become old very quickly, but this statement is not the truth in its last instance/authority, sometimes you see the opposite situation, but very rarely" - (rus. "Если человек много пьет и курит, то он очень быстро состарится, но это утверждение не является истиной в последней инстанции, иногда можно увидеть обратную ситуацию, но это редкость").

So, the question is, how can I properly translate this "the truth in its last instance/authority" idiom, and is it completely comprehensible and useful in English too?

It's important to mention that I don't accept any compromises like saying "human" instead of "person" (in Russian, saying 'person' instead of 'human' sounds odd, not vice versa like in English) - yes, English speakers will understand the meaning, but that would sound funny and inappropriate. Same here, if the sentence "the truth in its last instance/authority" sounds unnatural, I need to know that for sure.

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  • Based on research in several dictionaries, I have not been able to find an argument referenced as a "sacred cow". Instead, it seems like "sacred cow" refers to an idea, concept, or person that everyone blindly supports without thinking or believes to be above scrutiny.
    – Kman3
    Jun 2 '21 at 21:57
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Your use of "sacred cow" isn't idiomatic.

A sacred cow is some principle that a person or group considers immune from criticism but unreasonably so.

It is almost always used to criticise the very opinion that the person considers to be a sacred cow!

The free market has become the sacred cow of conservative politicians, even as it plunges us into climate disaster.

You don't say that a statement is a "sacred cow". You could say

That smoking is harmful to health has become a sacred cow of the medical profession...

But you would then go on to explain why smoking has a number of health benefits.

I think the expression you want is "the final word"

I can't guarantee that this is my final word on the matter, but in my opinion, the origin of humanity is Mars

Or "not without exceptions"

If a person drinks and smokes a lot, he will become old very quickly, but this statement is not without exceptions; sometimes you see the opposite situation, but very rarely.

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“Sacred cow” is actually a critical statement. Its origin is British contempt for the Hindu belief in the divinity of bovines. A “sacred cow” is something that cannot be attacked because it is a matter of faith rather than reasoned argument.

I think the phrases that you are looking for are “not absolutely true” and “not necessarily true.” These two phrases have different meanings.

People who drink and smoke a lot become old very quickly, but this is not absolutely true because there are rare exceptions.

This is an assertion that something is usually true, but not always true.

In my opinion, life began on Mars, but this is not necessarily true.

The meaning here is that the statement can NOT be proved the way a mathematical theorem can be proved.

I do not know Russian at all so I may be missing some nuance, but “sacred cow” is not what you want.

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  • Yes, I found that suggestion of the Russian-English dictionary pretty doubtful too, but couldn't find any appropriate explanation nor analog. That's why I was thinking about idiomatic construction that may be used in this context if it's possible of course. For sure, I know how to rephrase the whole text in order to avoid using aforesaid Russian idiom (or its adaptation), but this won't be interesting, that's the point. Jun 2 '21 at 22:33
  • I think both my answer and that of James K give you decent options that will express your meaning in idiomatic English. Jun 3 '21 at 3:11

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