What happens when what we see, read, or hear doesn’t match up with what we know? What happens when our sense of reality is challenged?
It's A Dead End Trail - Or is It?
Imagine, if you will…
You discover previously unknown or unconsidered evidence about something. You’re trying to follow the trail that's been revealed by this evidence, but somewhere along the way things happened that you don't understand, things that don't make sense.
You consider yourself to be open-minded, inquisitive, maybe even philosophical, so you pursue this new evidence to see where it goes.
But in following the evidence, it begins to make you uncomfortable as it seems to get further and further from your expectations of reality and eventually brings you to what you consider to be an impossible belief.
This just can’t be, there must be another explanation for this.
You can’t justify it anymore.
No matter how hard you look, you can’t find a suitable answer that aligns with what you know about reality.
To believe this new evidence would go against the convictions that you already hold. It would go against everything you’ve been taught.
This causes you to stop your pursuit because you don’t think that you can change your beliefs or your world view.
So what do you do?
The Element of Uncertainty
At this point of the investigation many people will usually do one of three things, or even some combination of them. They may draw a conclusion based solely on a gut feeling, they may double-down on already existing beliefs, or they may shift the burden of proof off of themselves and onto someone else.
None of these actions get us closer to the truth, they only protect the beliefs that we have already put in place.
Imagine if Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, or any number of other scientists took one of these routes.
Many of us have difficulty accepting flaws in our existing belief system and trust me, they are there.
Acknowledging a flaw creates uncertainty and we don’t like uncertainty because it makes us uncomfortable.
But the thing is, when we are certain of something then we stop looking for answers.
Uncertainty can move us to investigate the unknown and the unexpected, it can also leave us overwhelmed with doubt.
We all know less than we think we know and I’m pretty sure that on some level we are aware of that.
So, what if we approached our lives like a scientist would approach their research, not in the analytical sense, but in the experimental sense?
Be Like a Scientist
A scientist shouldn't concentrate on what they know, but on what they don't know.
After many experiments and observations they come up with theories. The scientist then tries to prove the theory wrong.
More experiments and more observations are used to further test those theories. Their quest for answers, for truth, never ends but they are always gaining more knowledge.
A scientist should ask questions.
Questions that help them adopt changes. Questions that examine alternative possibilities.
Questions that lead to developing new ideas. Questions that are asked in such a way, not to prove their theories but to disprove them.
A scientist should use any and all means necessary to try to understand deeper, to gain more and more insight.
A scientist should devise and conduct tests to challenge their "facts", not to confirm them. Their search for understanding doesn't end when they feel that they have all of the facts.
No, that's where the search really begins.
Can it honestly be called research if a scientist only looks for things to confirm their already existing beliefs?
If their research doesn't cause them to question their own "facts" or bring them to a place where they begin to question what they think they know…is it really research?
Abridgment (Stay Curious!)
Insert your own name in place of the word "scientist" in the paragraphs above.
Be like a scientist with your life.
Seek to discover, but don’t attach yourself to the results that you find.
Ask questions, don't make statements because it's not about finding the right answers so much, it's about asking the right questions.
Question and challenge your own ideas and understanding.
Explore and experiment with unknowns. Change the variables of the world that you interact with.
Be more committed to your curiosity than to your convictions.
Curiosity is, after all, the driving force behind science, and the great ones were relentlessly curious.
Live life like it's one big, grand, experiment. Stay curious and be like a scientist and you may be surprised at what you discover.
While following a trail of evidence there may be, at some point, a bridge. A bridge between the possible and the impossible, between analytical and experience, between acceptance and denial, between certainty and uncertainty, between what we think we know and everything else.
Cross that bridge.
To discover is not to believe in something, to discover is to be willing to let go of what we do believe.
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny …'" - Isaac Asimov
Pic by Coffee And A Map