From what I remember of high school science (oh soooo many years ago), the basic premise underpinning the modern scientific method is that nothing can be proven. It can only be disproven. (Is disproven even a word?) In other words, you have a hypothesis, and you can find as many creative ways as possible to try to get that hypothesis to fail. But, no matter how many experiments you run, or creative ways to try to get your hypothesis to fail, you can only say that it “has not yet failed to be proven incorrect”. You can never, ever, fully declare that you have proven your hypothesis to be true. But if it passes the test of time, it can become a law.
In order to be a good scientist you need two things. And inquisitive mind. And a willingness to be wrong.
The inquisitive mind will allow you the energy to look into the far corners of the world to find things worth exploring. Or to see them in your everyday life. And to see the wonderful possibilities of creating new knowledge. To dive into a new area of exploration.
And with that exploration come errors. Well, perhaps not errors. Just hypotheses proven false. Good science is where scientists genuinely try to understand what has happened with their experiments. If they get an unexpected result, they are excited. Perhaps a little trepidatious… And not unusually, perhaps they are also disappointed. Ultimately though, they look upon it as a challenge – something more to understand. Another piece of a larger puzzle. Something that can help them refine their understanding of the greater picture into which their hypothesis fits. Or at the very least move onto a hypothesis that has more chance of being true.
Bad science, on the other hand, is typified when “unusual data” is dropped in favour of the hypothesis being maintained. Where the scientist is more interested in confirming assumptions and “proving” him/herself right to see that the evidence is pointing in another direction.
True science follows the evidence. And, leads to a point where hypotheses become theorems. And theorems become laws.
So where am I going with this? Well… I think many facets of our lives are guided by the same principles as science. Or, perhaps I should be more specific in saying they should be. Our choice of education. Our career paths. And, probably most important of all, our relationships.
As unromantic as it may seem, I think we enter a relationship with a hypothesis. “I think I could like that person” or “Betcha spending time with him / her would be fun” or even, “Whoa, hottie”. And through the experiments of time, we begin to disprove our hypothesis, or continue to test. Sometimes relationships fails tests early on. “Whoa, hottie” being one of the most notorious to fail quickly once the beer goggles have burned off in the light of the rising sun. But, all joking aside – it’s not unusual to find, very quickly at the beginning of a “relationship”, that you have made an incorrect hypothesis … and you can quickly move on to more fruitful experiments.
Those relationships that pass the easy, simple, uncomplicated experiments known as “first dates” become the fodder for more complicated experiments – where catalysts are introduced in order to see whether “reactions” will occur. (OK, quick reminder on the chemistry… a catalyst is something introduced to two substances that ideally make them react together more quickly or with more volatility or at all). What kinds of catalysts might we be speaking of? It could be as simple as a glass of wine. Or dinner. Or going shopping together. Or a weekend away, a vacation. Meeting family. Living together. But, undoubtedly, the strongest catalysts of all are kids. Whether borne of the relationship, or introduced from one or the other side of it.
Just as in good science, the essential component of good relationships (or careers, or other major life events) is having the mental fortitude to be willing to read the evidence truthfully and examine its implications with some semblance of unbiasedness. One must be willing to accept that your hypotheses are wrong. That, while disappointed initially, the tapestry of your own life will be the richer for having had the experience of a disproven hypothesis…
And through accepting that outcome, you have freed up your time and your attention to seek out a new hypotheses to test. One that, with an equally open attitude towards success and failure, may prove to be true… or more accurately, will continue to pass the ongoing tests of time and remain unproven as wrong.
Or maybe I’m full of shit. And relationships are based on magic, romance and the dust of pixies.
But if I am right, I’m happy. Very happy. To continue to not necessarily be right. But, more importantly, to not yet be proven wrong. And to feel as though I am on the path from hypothesis to theorem. And maybe even law. With eyes open. Notebook and pencil in hand. And catalysts galore.