Challenging our own assumptions

2, 4, 8. These numbers follow a rule. Can you tell me what the rule is I have in mind?

Veritasium is the creator behind this wonderful little video. I love browsing through his stuff because he challenges common ideas and comes up with (alternative) logical explanations. He’s a truth seeker and in my eyes, a scientist.

Like those who were interviewed in the video I too kept making the similar number patterns, and was dead sure I had the rule down. It wasn’t until halfway during the video when the lightbulb switched on. I realised my mistake – the rule was much more encompassing that what I originally thought. My thoughts were boxed, and I didn’t even notice it.

We do this everyday. We have an awful impression of someone, so whatever he does solidifies our contempt. His every move seems to confirm our initial judgement. The opposite can be true – we like someone so completely that everything he does we interpret under an angelic light; forming criticism is near impossible. Or, we have a belief in something so strong that nothing can sway our mind, even when blatant evidence points otherwise. That is the black swan analogy that Veritasium was speaking about – until the black swan appeared, rare as it was, everyone assumed that swans were white and only white.

black-swanThis is the approach to science – hypotheses become laws after countless experiments display a constant outcome using the same variables. But even armed with overwhelming supporting data, the scientist must question other possibilities:  whether he missed something in between, to make sure his experiment wasn’t merely a self-fulfilling prophesy. Thus I think is the desirable attitude to life. There are ideals and values that keep us going and make us who we are. While these are important and we should recognise their worth, it’s crucial that we keep analysing new information and make choices based on new data. Everything should be questionable. If something is true, it will stand the test of time, and the challenges of thought. If something is sacred and inherently so, it will remain sacred even after doubtful questioning and critical analysis. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, just because something is branded as “the way it has been and should be”.

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