Jun 20 2016 Published by under Life

We humans have this annoying, and almost always incorrect, tendency to consider things in binary terms. You're right or you're wrong. Things are black or they're white. You agree or you disagree. You're female or you're male. Cats are good, dogs are bad.

But life is almost never like that. Perhaps never.

We scientists in particular should understand that all things - ALL things - lie somewhere on a spectrum of possibilities. Hell, we wouldn't really be scientists if we didn't accept that. Sure, we talk in terms of hypotheses being right or wrong, but that "wrong" part generally encompasses a broad range - or spectrum - of possibilities. The "right" part often does too.

Yes, it's easy to point out things that lie on the far tails of the distributions. But it's all to easy to ignore the fact that there's one hell of a lot of stuff that falls in between.

Life is far richer and more interesting if we accept its non-binary nature. Perhaps we should be doing a better job of letting others know that.


7 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Sorry man but it's either accepted for publication, or not. Get out with that "accepted...pending revisions" VaporWare!

  • Luminiferous æther says:

    "Cats are good, dogs are bad."

    You got that the other way around.

  • potnia theron says:

    and please, let's stop saying "black and white". If you must, red and green work better and less loaded. Words matter.

  • drugmonkey says:

    That's insensitive to the color anomalous, Potnia.

  • banditokat says:

    I'm red green color blind. Please don't use that. Unless you want to mean everything is the same.
    Also, when are we going to do that list of things that bugs me again? That was a great blog.

    • becca says:

      Actually, I'm pretty sure red green is a better analogy for the perils of binarianism; some people see them as opposites and others see them as not different at all- sounds like female and male to me 😉
      Another option would be "the dress is yellow, or it's blue" 😉
      Though either of those doesn't set up a "spectrum" frame the way black/white does. (randomly thought- why does no one ever say "red vs white is misleading as everything is shades of pink?"). Instead, the other colors set up a "perspective" frame, which I think scientists are more likely to stay away from.

  • potnia theron says:

    crap crap crap. I'm massively insensitive to everything.

    Bandito: I'm sure there's a Chan4 site for that.