Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Scientific Bias

I heard someone on the radio yesterday say, “That’s the scientific bias: If you don’t know what causes something, then it doesn’t exist.”

That is not the scientific bias. The scientific bias says no more and no less than, “If you don’t know why something is happening, then you should develop a hypothesis about why it’s happening and devise controlled experiments to test your hypothesis.”

This is not a bias; it is a model for separating plausible hypotheses from their opposite.

The unscientific bias, by contrast, says, “If I can’t clearly articulate my hypothesis, or testing my hypothesis would be difficult or impossible (because it depends on the existence of immaterial beings that cannot be detected by our senses or any instruments we may possess), then science must be wrong.”

You don’t have to be “scientific” or apply the scientific method to the problem you are hoping to solve.

Choosing not to follow this approach, however, does not vindicate your belief or highlight the shortcomings of a method you implicitly subscribe to every time you start your car, boot up your computer, or turn on your microwave.

It only shows that you have decided to eschew the truly scientific bias: rigor.

It Doesn’t Get Better, You Have to Make it Better

Commiserating with a friend about jobs a few years back, it turned out that while we both expressed dissatisfaction with our then current situations, we were also pessimistic about finding attractive alternatives. [Ironic aside: Neither one of us is at the job we had then. For my part, the gigs I’ve done since have been, in many ways, better. – Matt]

This struck me as ridiculous and I said,  “You have to tell yourself, ‘It is not possible that this is the best possible job for me. In fact, that idea is absurd. There has to be something better’.”

To this day I believe these words to be true. There is always a better situation that could be happening. And, frankly, this better situation will sometimes come to pass of itself; as if by magic or a miracle, things will “get better.”

But most of the time, you actually have to make things better. You have to do something different, something new, something better.

Are you in the best possible situation right now? The best possible relationship? The best possible house? The best possible job?

The answer, by definition, has to be, “No.” Even the best situation is, like everything else, at the mercy of entropic flux and subject to perpetual change. In other words, even the best situation could be better (free from the gnawing worm of transience, for example).

You can always make your situation better. This I accept, at least, as an article of faith.

That being said, there is no imperative that dictates, “You have to make it better.”

Perhaps, while not the best, your current situation is good enough and, frankly, you realize that wherever you are, you stand astride the threshold which separates “It could be better,” from, “It could be worse.” It’s up to you to choose the side from which you can draw the greatest inspiration or consolation.

If you want to make things better, work to make things better.

To be the best is naturally grand, and recognizing best-ness, acknowledging and admiring it, is commendable.

But make not of the best, or even the better, an idol. And do not, in your idolatry, become as a hungry ghost.

Remember: It could be worse.

What Is the Goal of Business?

The primary goal of any business, is to stay in business.

You need to bring in more money than you spend in order to stay in business (though, strictly speaking, you can stay in business by bringing in exactly as much as you spend).

In order to bring in any money at all, you need to sell a product or provide a service that other humans can afford and are willing, even eager, to pay for.

The individuals who start, own, or purchase businesses will have idiosyncratic goals that may or may not include perpetuating said businesses as businesses.

A society is not a business, nor is a government, but the goal of any society, or any particular governmental configuration, is to perpetuate itself as well.

To the extent that businesses rely on internal—sometimes consciously devised—cultural norms in order to teach and encourage the behaviors that will contribute to their perpetuation, they resemble societies (or sub-societies).

The means by way of which a society, or a government, perpetuates itself are not the same means by way of which a business perpetuates itself.

In general, I am glad that businesses do not possess tax authority or control armies, though they do gain access to these means through direct support of government officials and influence over governmental policies.

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