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September 24th, 2019
Whether we know it or not, we are constantly constructing hypotheses and testing them. Many of these are under the umbrella of a larger theory, a mental model of some aspect of the world that we have constructed throughout our life.
Examine the word a moment. It’s hypo- plus –thesis.
Hypo- means literally under, or below. It’s easy to grip this prefix when we think about the word hypothermia. Our temperature is below what it should be.
We can think of the word hypothesis in similar terms.
Under the umbrella of our model of the world, we construct little theories that need testing. Most likely, such little theories will not stand the scrutiny of testing, but if they do, then it rises to the level of a theory and becomes a robust part of our mental model.
The key is in the testing. Either it works as a valid way of looking at the world or it doesn’t. Fantasy and delusion enter the picture when we elevate a hypothesis to the level of theory without testing it, but merely on the validity of a warm fuzzy emotional connection. This is an easy way to develop a dangerous mindset. Dangerous not just to one’s self but potentially to other people. And many beliefs fall into this category.
Failing to test beliefs or willfully ignoring the results creates stagnation, and while this might be less of an emotional hassle in the short term, in the long run it is self-defeating for one simple reason: expanding our accurate understanding of reality increases our agency.
When we entertain beliefs that have little or no evidence of being an accurate depiction of reality, we are literally limiting ourselves as though we refuse to believe that there’s a bigger better playground to go to where we can make something happen.
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