Should we look for information that prove us right?

I was drinking a milo can and it tasted bitter. I was with a friend and asked him to taste it. He tasted and said it is spoiled, maybe because of not storing properly. I asked him how that can be possible, these cans are well preserved. To this he said:

‘I worked in a godown before, there is a certain way to maintain and store beverages. This happened because they put it in the sun for too long

‘I don’t think they‘ll put in the sun’ I said ‘In Male’ they bring it directly from customs to godown’

‘Then maybe they didn’t store it in a proper temperature’ He said

Then I thought ‘Yah, that could be possible

Everything we know as truth we came to know because someone told us it is true. It maybe our parents, teachers, doctors, or government officials. At a very young age, as soon as we begin to differentiate truth from falsehood people around us start telling us what they think is true and false. Parents tell things they know, teachers tell things they know, doctors, government officials, news papers, everyone start telling us what they know is true and what they know is false. From this moment onwards we create drawers in our mind, one for truth, one for false and start putting information in it. This is also the age we begin to learn how to lie. We learned that after eating ice cream and when the mother asks if we eat it, we can get away by telling her we didn’t eat it.

When we grow up, we begin to use our own senses to get information. We use our eyes to observe different things from the environment. We use our ears to receive sounds. Then in our head we process these information and make sense out of it. The problem is those things people told us that are true and false had created filters in our mind. Once we grew up we already put too many filters in front of our understanding. Because of this we are never able to receive information the way it exist in the outside world. Information goes through these filters and we receive only what is remaining.

At one time I received a call from a friend asking me to go for swimming on Friday. I didn’t like swimming but also I don’t want to say no, so I told him lets see. Friday came, around three o’clock he was calling me, I thought, man I don’t like swimming. And I’m too lazy to get up from the bed. So I didn’t answer the phone.

Later that evening I met him and he said he didn’t go swimming, instead he was planning to go to cinema to watch a movie I was waiting to watch. I thought ‘oh, damn’.

Why did I do that? It was because I pre-judge that he was calling to ask me if I wanted to go swimming.

How can we avoid this kind of things and stop making wrong choices? There is no switch we can turn off to stop it. But there are ways we can reduce these things.

It was used by Sherlock Holmes in his investigation to find mastermind criminals. We can also use it to solve our problems. The method is called Falsification. It sounds scary but its very simple.

In our daily lives after saying ‘ok this is the truth’ we stop there. We close the case. Because we found the truth. When someone don‘t agree with us we tell them hey its true because this happened, that news paper told us, these are the witnesses. We always tell them why we are right and why they are wrong. This way we prove our side is true.

Falsification tell us something different. When someone don‘t agree with us, instead of proving us right. We should try to prove us wrong. It tells us to cooperate with the person who disagree with us and together try to disprove us. This way if they cannot disprove us, then we are right.

When we search for information, we should always look for things we don’t agree. See if it can prove us wrong. We should trust what we know. We should put everything to test. Naturally when we see something we don’t agree, we automatically close it or move to something else. It happens, one of my friend who is a smoker, when he sees an article that tells how dangerous smoking is, he will close it straightaway. He cannot even listen to someone who talk bad things about smoking. Though it maybe difficult we should face disagreement and test those things we agree. We should let people comment or criticise.

A guy goes to a lake and see white swans. He goes to another lake and again found white swans. So he decided that all swans are white. Someone asked him to prove it. So he took this person to look for white swans and found many. This way he proved all swans are white. But the problem is If he thinks all swans are white then going out to look for more white swans will not help him to find a black swan. If he sees a black bird flying over his head he wont bother to look. Because he already thinks that it must be a crow or something. It would be better Instead of looking for more white swans if he look for a black swan. Sometimes when we agree on something, we keep looking for more information that will support our point of view. We ignore anything that dont agree with us. This habit will not help us finding truth. It will only confirm what we already agree. Much worse it might become difficult to let go of what we thought was true.

Another important technic is verifiability. Anything we agree is true or false must be verifiable. When we need to double check whether it is true or false, we must be able to trace back to it‘s actual existence or source. We should never say something is true or false if we cannot verify it. Let‘s say someone said there is a lake in the moon. First thing we should do is check whether it is verifiable. This claim is verifiable but to verify it we have to go to the moon. So it‘s a tough but verifiable one. Next thing we should check is how did the guy who said this came to know it. To check this simply ask him how did he know that there is a lake on the moon. To this if he say he saw it in a dream. Then it’s not verifiable. But if he says he checked from NASA, then it is verifiable. Anyone can check his validity.

It is simple to check vefiablity. Whenever someone says something ask ‘How did you know?‘ This simple question will let you find whether someone is telling something real or they are just making stuff up.

From time to time think about things you agree as true. Then ask yourself can I verify it. If you cannot verify then do not lable it as true or false. Instead you can say nutral or not true or not false. If you agree there was a ship called titanic, ask yourself how do I verify this information. Then you found a picture of this ship taken by a person and it was verified by let’s say BBC, then you can agree that titanic exist.

If you agree that there are Aliens living in mars. Again you go through the same process ask yourself can I verify this information. Then you found nothing from NASA or European space agency or Chinese space agency. But only nasa went to mars and you found that they haven’t check all the places. So you can say this claim is verifiable but it haven‘t been verified. We cannot say whether alien exist or not. We cannot say we agree or disagree that there are aliens on mars until it is verified. Until then we can only say it is not true and not false nutral.

If we follow these two methods we will be able to make better choices in everyday life.

 

Reference:

  • Logic of Scientific discovery by Karl popper
  • A scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Structures of Scientific Revolution by Thoman Khunn