Falsification in inquiry

draft…..

The gold standard in science is to falsify theories, to do our best to prove them wrong rather than confirming them.

There are two reasons for this.

First, we are very good at making something appear true to ourselves. If we want to, we can find proof and supporting evidence for just about anything.

More importantly, we can never confirm a theory, only falsify it. No amount of evidence can confirm a theory, because something can always turn up that falsifies it.

This is a good guideline for inquiry and self-inquiry as well.

I may have heard that there is no “I” here, or that time and space are only creations of the mental field, or that any belief is inherently false and creates suffering.

If I see this as true, it is easy for me to find evidence for this. I can look at tell myself there is no “I” here. I can explore the sense fields and indeed, yes, it seems that space and time are created by the mental field. I explore a belief, and true enough, it turned out to be not completely true and it did create suffering for me.

This is all fine, but if I want to go further, I need to take a more hard-nosed approach. I need to aim at falsifying these guidelines and pointers, wholeheartedly, honestly and actively.

What appears the most as an I? How does it appear in each sense field? What is it really made up of? Is it really true there is no I here? If I do my best at finding it, what do I find?

Is it true that space and time are creations of the mental field? Can I find it anywhere else? Can I find it in the other sense fields? If I do my best at finding them outside of the mental field, what do I find?

Is it true that no belief is really true? Which story seems the most undeniably true to me? What do I find when I explore this one, honestly?

There is a good and pragmatic reason for trying to falsify any guidelines and pointers we receive.

I know when I try to deceive myself. It feels off.

I know when I am looking for evidence only to support a view.

I know it is on shaky ground.

I know there is a good chance it is not really true.

And I know that the only remedy is to put it to the test in the most rigorous, honest and unsentimental way.

I know the only remedy is to risk safety for truth and honesty.

And the way to do this is to actively,  honestly and wholeheartedly try to disprove it.

It may seem risky and scary, but it is the only way to find more certainty, to be more honest with myself.

Of course, this gold standard in science is an ideal. In practice, it is often not followed or it is followed in a halfhearted way. Scientists aim at proving their theories, and do the falsification bit in the most minimal way they can get away with. They collect data that will have the most chance of supporting their theories, not the data that is most likely to prove it wrong.

That’s how it is for most of us in everyday life as well, and also in inquiry and self-inquiry. We spend most of our time looking for supporting evidence, not for what may prove it wrong. We want the comfort, not the unsentimental truth.

And right there is the invitation for us to go one step further. To risk it all and actively try to disprove our most cherished images, maps and guidelines.

At some point, the comfort in seeking supporting evidence starts to feel hollow. It is no longer as satisfying as before. And we may be ready for going the path of falsification, because we recognize that it can give us the freedom, trust, and truth we are really looking for.

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  • falsification in inquiry
    • in science, try to falsify theories (at least ideally, in practice often not, or only halfheartedly so)
    • so also in self-inquiry
    • go for what does not seem to fit, scrutinize it, explore it

– easy to try to find proof, confirm, make it appear true to ourselves
– and equally or more helpful to try to disprove it, actively, enthusiastically, honestly
– only truth will do
– our mind/body is a truth thermometer, finely tuned, we know when we try to deceive ourselves, or when we may deceive ourselves

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initial draft…..

The gold standard in science is aiming to falsify theories, rather than confirming them.

There are two reasons for this.

First, we are very good at making something appear true to ourselves. If we want to, we can find proof and supporting evidence for just about anything.

More importantly, we can never confirm a theory, only falsify it. No amount of evidence can confirm a theory, because something can always turn up that falsifies it.

This is a good guideline for inquiry and self-inquiry as well.

I may have heard that there is no “I” here, or that time and space are only creations of the mental field, or that any belief is inherently false and creates suffering.

If I see this as true, it is easy for me to find evidence for this. I can look at tell myself there is no “I” here. I can explore the sense fields and indeed, yes, it seems that space and time are created by the mental field. I explore a belief, and true enough, it turned out to be not completely true and it did create suffering for me.

This is all fine, but if we want to go further, we need to take a more hard-nosed approach. We need to aim at falsifying these guidelines and pointers, wholeheartedly, honestly and actively.

What appears the most as an I? How does it appear in each sense field? What is it really made up of? Is it really true there is no I here? If I do my best at finding it, what do I find?

Is it true that space and time are creations of the mental field? Can I find it anywhere else? Can I find it in the other sense fields? If I do my best at finding them outside of the mental field, what do I find?

Is it true that no belief is really true? Which story seems the most undeniably true to me? What do I find when I explore this one, honestly?

There is a good and pragmatic reason for trying to falsify any guidelines and pointers we receive.

We know when we try to deceive ourselves.

We know when we are only looking for evidence to support a view.

We know it is on shaky ground.

We know there is a good chance it is not really true.

And we know that the only remedy is to put it to the test in the most rigorous, honest and unsentimental way.

We know the only remedy is to risk safety for truth and honesty.

And the way to do this is to actively,  honestly and wholeheartedly try to disprove it.

It may seem risky and scary, but it is the only way to find more certainty, to be more honest with ourselves.

Of course, this gold standard in science is an ideal. In practice, it is often not followed, or it is followed in a halfhearted way. Scientists aim at proving their theories, and do the falsification bit in the most minimal way they can get away with. They collect data that will have the most chance of supporting their theories, not the data that is most likely to prove it wrong.

And that’s how it is for most of us in everyday life as well, and also in inquiry and self-inquiry. We spend most of our time looking for supporting evidence, not for what may prove it wrong. We want the comfort, not the unsentimental truth.

And right there is the invitation for us to go one step further. To risk it all and actively try to disprove our most cherished images, maps and guidelines.

At some point, the comfort in seeking supporting evidence starts to feel hollow. It is no longer as satisfying as before. And we may be ready for going the path of falsification, because we recognize that it can give us the freedom, trust, and truth we are really looking for.

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