on the value of a working hypothesis05 Nov 2016
two recent episodes of on being have discussed working hypotheses (heuristics) and they both made me realize the value in knowing how to use them.
it first came up in the leonard mlodinow episode. he said that, from a scientific standpoint, the value isn’t in that it’s right. in fact, most hypotheses turn out to be wrong. the value is that the hypothesis allows you to test assumptions. in the end, the hypothesis will likely be discarded or upgraded, but the truths learned remain.
then in the mary karr episode, karr explained how she challenges atheists to pray everyday. she believes that their lives would get better (assuming they were praying genuinely) just because they would be thinking concretely about what they want to happen to them. just like mlodinow, the value is in the thinking and learning that happens regardless of whether God responds in some directly attributable way.
for me, this connects to why it feels better to me to live with hope and work towards justice. even if hope is just a working hypothesis, the value i gain from living with hope is real. and, i know plenty of people who live life with no hope and the damage it does to them and those around them is palpable.
and to take it just a tiny step further, now that I’ve read (in the book resilience) about how much of an impact thinking can have on the brain, i think a strong enough working hypothesis could have neurological impacts in some pretty profound ways.