We love theories — about the world, about ourselves, about the future, about the past.
Half of them are false and the other half can’t be proved right.
But that’s ok, we need theories, without them we’ll be lost.
Even with the wrong map you can still find the right places. Ask Christopher Columbus.
Theories are just mental models to interpret reality. Reality keeps proving us wrong but we insist. We need to get to the bottom of things, to find out the theory of everything, to understand reality and to discover the ultimate reason for us being here.
We need to answer all the whys with theories, models, and narratives. We need to fill the gap of the unknown with something, anything.
We know eating too much makes us fat. Why? We don’t know. Plenty of theories that have been proven wrong and new ones that will be wrong. But the fact remains.
It would be easier to know how to survive instead of trying to find out the meaning of it all.
Evolution, Global Warming, Relativity are examples of theories that, although are most likely true, there is no definitive proof for them. There is no such thing as proof. Not in the scientific sense anyway.
To have absolute proof of something means that we are absolutely sure, that there is no room for error and that our observations are objective, unbiased and accurate.
Now, this is clearly impossible, there are limits to human knowledge, we are not quite sure how our minds work, what is consciousness and how perception operates.
Anything we observe, we do it through our minds and there is no way to be sure that our minds a are good tool to measure reality.
For all we know, we could be in a simulation created by a future AI and being played by a teenager in his bedroom. (That is an interesting theory but, again, probably BS)
Besides, it’s impossible to know if we have all the information. Future discoveries can ruin any theory.
Up until the 19th century, zoologists came to the conclusion that the existence of black swans was impossible. They backed up with logical explanations as to why that was the case. All their observations at the time had been white swans but they fall into the classic fallacy: absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence. Then a black swan was discovered in Australia and the said theory was discarded.
How many current theories are destined to be discarded? Is there anything we know to be true today that will be true in a thousand years?
Evidence is all we’ve got
By observing reality we can gather evidence, when we have enough evidence, we can build models that allow us to predict the behavior of the world around us.
The more evidence we have the better models we can build, but evidence is not 100% proof. Every now and then, there is a new discovery that makes the current model obsolete.
We used to think the earth was flat, then new evidence came and we changed the model; now the earth is round. Is this definitive? Who knows? but this is the best model we currently have and we have to deal with it.
We can’t prove the existence of gravity but we have overwhelming evidence to guess that it’s probably true, at least according to our current models.
Apart from scientific theories, we all have our little theories about life for which there is very little evidence.
Some theories I believe are: low carb diet, fasting, meditation, and exercise are good for you. Now, although there is some evidence about these theories, we could be totally wrong about them.
So, this my theory: If you believe in your theory, then it works.
This is a combination of self-fulfilling prophecy and placebo effect (which are also unproven theories by the way)
My grandmother was a devout catholic. That was her theory to explain everything.
One day I asked her: ”What if God doesn’t exits? Would you regret one day having believed in something imaginary? To what She replied: ”No, God has already help me a lot navigating the harsh realities of life, so even if I was wrong it would have been worth it”
That answer reverberated in my head for years. I learned an important lesson that day.
If you believe in something that is the truth.
There is too much room for doubt, we need something solid we can hang on to. That’s why we make up stories and that’s why we believe in them. That’s what makes us humans.
Stories are just theories.
What theories do you have?
We all have theories about everything — success, happiness, social behavior, money, etc — and we believe in them even when there is no evidence.
Now, are all these theories serving you? Are they making you happy?
Chances are many of them are not, so, why not change them for better ones?
You believe people are evil. Change it to: Most people are inherently good.
You believe in scarcity? Change it to: Abundance.
You believe in fear? Change it to: Love
You believe life is suffering? Change it to: Life is a game and luckily I’m allowed to play.
If anything that you believe becomes your reality, you might as well believe life is wonderful, right?
Don’t let them prove you wrong