I want to address some points here brought up by my 22-year old niece, about dating. Before recently dumping her, her boyfriend made some interesting accusations about her behavior that she couldn’t quite understand. And I, as an older and wiser, objective adult, upon hearing them, couldn’t allay her confusion or fears with some platitudinous ‘Men are from Mars…’ bullshit to make her feel any better, because I couldn’t understand them, either.
As a scientist, much of how I view the world is couched in the same skepticism and vision I bring to my research. I won’t deny it. When things don’t start making sense, anyplace, I break everything down and analyze it not only in light of all the evidence, but also based on the theory at hand.
And when there is no actual theory at hand, I simply substitute the subject being discussed in its place. In this case, my niece was sure her boyfriend was cheating on her and the breakup was just a pre-emptive move to keep her from finding out.
So, this is what we want to go around trying to get to the heart of, to see if we can’t make some sense out of things.
Now, one thing to bring up is that when human behavior is involved, just about everything the world knows about science goes out the window. But I’m going to show that, if you hold to the scientific method, despite it, you’ll similarly come up with a lot of the same understandings and can build a theory that will likely still hold under scrutiny and replication.
So, these are the points he made about her that she wanted me to address.
- He felt like she “just wasn’t the person she was saying she was.”
- He said she couldn’t talk “in the right way” about her feelings.
- He also felt like she was getting upset with him more often than she was letting on.
- He felt like his gut was a stronger indicator of her actual honesty than she was.
- He felt, therefore, that she couldn’t completely be trusted.
- He, therefore, didn’t feel “safe” around her.
Even though none of that shit made any sense to me, my first take was, “Oh, the kid didn’t do anything wrong.” But, in this and any relationship, it’s your word against your partner’s. When there’s nothing concrete you can take to a third party and say, “Look at this shit,” like a soiled condom or a black eye or something, both parties will always have an equally substantial case. Which is why the legal grounds of irreconcilable differences exists. Because, otherwise, nothing would ever be resolved and legally bound contractual relationships (i.e. marriage) would go on indefinitely, when all one of them (or both) wants is for it to end, but can’t really prove that it should.
Also, these were some tidbits she told me about him:
- He didn’t want to listen to her talk too long about overly sensitive matters.
- He would address her motives for questioning him if it became too personal.
- He was open, but flippant and curt when discussing hanging out with his friends.
- He often felt accused by her.
- And he told her that if she objected to his hanging out with several of his ex-girlfriends whenever he wanted to, well, it was just her own insecurities.
Here, really, I found all of these points could be addressed in one fell swoop of analysis, objectification and theorization.
Let’s start like this:
In life, you’re always collecting data. That’s one way of looking at it. Scientists create hypotheses, collect data, build theories. And so do you. It’s how your view of the world is shaped. Even if you’re spoonfed that shit since childbirth, it still shapes who you become. And what we ultimately feel about it, scientists and laypeople, alike—what our gut tells us and may help us in a particular experiment—means absolutely nothing when it conflicts with actual evidence. That is, what we perceive with our own senses.
That’s why getting people to travel around is so important. The more you see of the world, the less of a small-minded prick you’re likely to stay.
So, what you’ve seen and heard—regarding people and relationships, often it’s all you’ve got. And regarding scientific theories, it’s all you’ve ever got.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t be theories, they’d be facts. Don’t let anyone ever fool you—science is not based on “facts.” It’s based on data the results of which have been repeated time and time again through experimentation and which fit the mathematical formulas that have been built around them. There are no “facts,” there are only phenomena that appear to happen over and over to people who know how to view them, often not with their own eyes but through a machine designed to capture those phenomena because the phenomena are either too small, too hidden from the naked eye or too far away.
So, how can you qualify any evidence in a relationship where two people are involved, if you really can’t zero in and technically qualify evidence in a single scientific experiment?
Well, evidence is the result of perceiving a behavior—atoms, cells, organelles, bugs, people. As in science, results are what get you your answers. Again: perception. And then the algebra or statistical analysis more or less verifies it. Barring that, it’s what someone tells you.
However, what someone tells you is never, ever going to be 100% the truth. Precisely because it is, in fact, what someone tells you. That’s inherent in information transmission; there is always going to be loss of the original message.
Remember, people can lie, but your senses cannot. Assuming you’re not high on betel nuts or anything like that, what you perceive is paramount.
Okay, so what you’ve got to do it start listening to the things they say, if the things you perceive them doing don’t point to any “wrongdoing” on their part.
And while you can’t necessarily do any math on it, you can do a thought experiment or two.
So, let’s do a little Cartesian Self experiment here: What would happen if we took all that scientists know about science and applied it to the most scientific individuals on Earth—scientists—and how they interact with other scientists in the realm of science, regarding science?
Simply put, in a relationship, as in the transmission of information, as in the transmission of information for the purpose of advancing scientific knowledge, if there is anything being omitted, accidentally or deliberately, red flags go up in the community and, most importantly, they are summarily attacked. And that person needs to be sussed out either as a charlatan, an extreme amateur, or as somebody who simply made a mistake.
This is where not being 22 comes in handy. The more time you’ve put in doing the research, the more of a sense you’ll get for the smell of bullshit. You can’t teach that.
But say a colleague of yours starts telling you things like, ‘I want to know about your research’. And then, after you begin discussing it, they say, ‘Just tell it to me without making it too long and don’t have it conflict with what I already believe based on my own research, and please just say it in this way because this is the way I’ve learned to write about it. Oh, my research? Why do you want to know? Oh, well, we set up some petri dishes and got out the microscopes and record our findings. It’s no big deal. Why? Are you paranoid? Do you feel your research might not be good enough? Is that why you’re asking me? I’m sorry, but if you don’t understand what I’m saying, there must be something wrong with you.’
Sounds crazy, right? You don’t have to be Svante Arrhenius to know that person is hiding something.
However, in real life, it’s trickier than that. As I said, it’s your word against theirs. They’ve got their community of friends and family to back them up, and you have yours. But in science—the field that has brought perhaps the greatest intellectual achievements of humankind to the fore and kept them there, the greatest medical benefits to society at large and basically consists of veritable and ersatz wizards, witches and alchemists, manipulators of matter and the elements and of the forces of nature—there’s no such thing. There’s only one community, and they’re all dedicated to the same purpose as everyone else: finding out the closest thing to reality that they possibly fucking can.
Bring a little science to it, and all becomes much clearer.
What you find is people like that—the boyfriend, in this case—become, in real life, someone who gets drummed out of the scientific community pretty quickly. They’re not a scientist. They’re a religious fundamentalist. They believe whatever they want to and choose whatever they want to justify it.
And they instantly can’t be trusted among the scientific community. Of life. Of which, again we are all reputed fellows—you, me, everyone. My scientific training doesn’t make me any more of an expert on your life than you. Not in how you perceive it, anyway.
But what they also might be, far more malignant and dangerous, is somebody trying to deceive, or get one or many to believe information that isn’t entirely the truth. You see posers like this all the time in academia. In the hard sciences, they get annihilated pretty quickly.
They’re not scientists. They’re Roger Ailes, former Chairman of Fox News. They’re saying: I have an agenda. Tell me something that substantiates my belief system and make it concise. Okay, go. You’re fired. Or: You’re hired! You can go on our propagandist television network and be an “analyst.”
And afterwards show me your breasts. Or I’ll assign you to Bill O’Reilly.
Otherwise, congratulations! You are a scientist of life.
And if you can’t do it, you don’t deserve to be a research fellow. Of life. You’re still in the fucking seventh grade. You’re a child sitting in a classroom, learning the basics, reading the Great Fucking Gatsby at a desk, raising your hand, still getting permission to go to the bathroom.
You can’t call yourself worthy of being a Life Scientist. And you certainly can’t call yourself worthy of being in an adult relationship.
And when we discuss it with other, objective reviewers (who haven’t already chosen sides on the matter and who don’t believe in a certain outcome without having seen or heard the evidence), though they won’t have the same foundation in the matter as you (unless they dated him, too), I guarantee you they’re going to say: ‘You know what? Based on what you say and all you’ve collected and hashed out and the way you’ve gone about explaining this, as crazy and almost pathological as it sounds, I believe you. And I don’t believe the other person, because what they said about you wasn’t based on the same intelligence, rigor and openness.’