“Put the data you have gathered to beneficial use”

Dear President Trump,

I just checked and you all haven’t fixed the spell check for “positivity.” That’s probably a good thing, really, since it would be a cosmetic fix at best.

What I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how hard it seems to be for most of us to admit we were wrong about something. I’ve been reading interviews with people who voted for you and how despite being disappointed or troubled by certain of your actions, they say they stand firmly behind you and either want to give you more time or think you are doing great. Obviously I am coming at these interviews from a very different perspective and at some level would like to just shake them and show them the error of their ways. I’m sure that wouldn’t work well at all and that they’d just want to shake me and show me the error of my ways.

In considering the challenges I think most of us face in letting go of our beliefs and opinions, I’ve thought a lot about the gift of the scientific method. Of course it is not without its problems (humans frame the questions, execute the experiments and studies, interpret the data, and present and contextualize the information), but many of us use it to ground ourselves through careful observation, thoughtful hypothesis testing, and considered revisions based on data. We might believe something is true based on our personal experience and perhaps in our limited context, whatever it is really is true, but that doesn’t mean it is true with a capital “T”.

Although almost certainly happy coincidences, a couple of times at key moments in my life I’ve gotten messages from fortune cookies that say “put the data you have gathered to beneficial use.” Really. I have them and could show you if you want. I have one of them taped near my computer at work as a reminder since it is so easy to get carried away with what I think is or should be true. One of the very most useful things about the scientific method and science in general is that when done well, it keeps us humble. It reminds us that we don’t really know a lot of things but maybe if we are creative, diligent, and patient we can find out.

May you allow yourself to be curious instead of certain and may you benefit from this incredibly unscientific blessing that is just a tiny leap of faith that putting positivity out into the world matters.

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy and strong.
May your life unfold and intersect peacefully.

Tracy Simpson

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