All or Nothing . . . More than Nothing?

2017-04-20 – You’ve got a theory. Your theory is that I am wrong. You think you are right. You think I’m wrong. And vice versa. But couldn’t we both be right?

Nature or nurture. Church or state. Big government or big corporations or big labor. Life or choice. We’ve staked out positions that say that I am absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong. But that isn’t the way the world works.

The other day one of my Facebook friends posted an article that attributed substance addictions to social isolation. It read the evidence supporting the social-isolation hypothesis as repudiating the chemical-imbalance theory of addiction. Somehow these two theories are diametrically opposed to one another. One is 100% true. One is 100% false. If you choose the social-isolation hypothesis, you treat addiction with friendship—literally. If you choose the chemical imbalance theory, you treat addiction by controlling access to the addictive chemical.

But are these theories contradictory? I don’t see it. Couldn’t they simply be two factors contributing to addiction? Couldn’t there also be a third factor? Maybe a fourth? Why is it all or nothing?

On the same day, I posted an article on the cognitive benefits of working in a group. A friend of mine commented that committees are awful and pointed to the great works of art created by solitary geniuses. Is there really such an abyss between individuals and groups?

I don’t think so. Some individuals are prodigies, but most of us aren’t. Some groups are well-run, but most aren’t. It’s not one or the other. It’s finding what work best in a particular situation.

Also on my feed that day was a debate about why Hillary lost. The theory of the day was that she didn’t connect with millennials. Last week they said it was because she didn’t connect with the white working class. The week before they said it was because of Russian interference. Before that it was James Comey. Before that it was Julian Assange. A month before it was because of her emails. Before that it was her speeches to Goldman Sachs. And throughout it all was voter disenfranchisement.

And every one of these debaters proclaims their theory to be the only correct theory.

But you know what? Every single one of them could be right. If you could run a controlled experiment and change these factors one at a time, even by a little, chances are that every one of these would have altered the outcome. It was a close election. Not only was it close, but Hillary won the popular vote. You can’t get closer than that. So what makes these people think they have the only truth? That only one factor explains the outcome.

Imagine people debating the cause for the deliciousness of chocolate ice cream. One says it’s the chocolate. Another says, no, it’s the cream. Another says, no, it’s the eggs. Another says, no, it’s the sugar. But none of these on its own has the deliciousness of chocolate ice cream.

It is not a compromise to accept multiple theories, if an event truly has multiple causes.

It is a compromise—with the truth—to insist on a single cause when the reality is more complicated.

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
I say high, you say low
You say why and I say I don’t know, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Why why why why why why do you say goodbye goodbye, oh no?
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
You say yes (I say yes) I say no (But I may mean no)
You say stop (I can stay) and I say go go go (Till it’s time to go), oh
Oh…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s