Have you noticed, dear writers, how we often (unconsciously) look at the world through a lens that validates what we already think or feel? Social scientists call this a “confirmation bias”—the tendency for people to give “more weight to evidence that confirms their beliefs and undervalues evidence that could disprove it.”
This bias lurks everywhere, even among scientists—whom we celebrate for their supposed objectivity! But the most successful scientists have the courage to look for evidence that disproves
their theories. As Dr. David Langer said in a recent New York Times article
on the development of the Covid-19 vaccine, “The best scientists try to prove themselves wrong.”
And that’s just what Kati Kariko
did for more than three decades, as she experimented in lab after lab, determined to unlock the secrets of mRNA, even as other scientists in the field laughed at her ideas. The key to her success: always looking for what she didn’t
want to see. As Dr. Langer says, Dr. Kariko taught him that “one key to real scientific understanding is to design experiments that always tell you something, even if it is something you don’t want to hear.”
Today, as companies like Moderna and Pfizer churn out millions of doses of vaccine that will offer their recipients protection from the Coronavirus, we have Dr. Kariko to thank. It was her willingness to follow an unconventional path and her resolute searching and re-searching—looking again and again
—that hit upon a vital approach to our fight against Covid-19, a solution that would have otherwise remained hidden.
Dear writers, what lessons from Dr. Kariko might we apply to ourselves? Where in our lives might we explore what we don't know, rather than trying to prove ourselves right? For this prompt, reflect on an area of your own life that you could re-search (look at again, from a new angle!) in order to discover something new.
In need of more context and/or inspiration? Take a look at these standout excerpts by your fellow writers: Starlitskies and Yellow Sweater! I also encourage you to click on the link in each title to read the full piece.
Excerpt from "Down the Road” by Yellow Sweater:
“When I got to Chetzemoka Park I surrendered my efforts, cracking open the poetry book I had brought with me, So What, by Taha Muhammad Ali. After about forty pages, I emerged out of an arid Palestinian landscape: his gravely, honey-sweet voice, the bare-bones and ripe-melancholy of his heart, and into the lush Pacific-Northwest spring. I left my carefully chosen spot in the dappled shade of a Magnolia tree and ran down to the water, to the exposed expanse of ocean. I truly saw the blue, rough and wild and utterly indescribable in its individuality and its wholeness.”
Excerpt from “The Assembly of Art” by Starlitskies:
“The more you research the past and the more you live in the present, the future reveals it-self. There are patterns whittled down to the bones of history, like those you find in alter-nating floor tiles or the brown middle of a soft sunflower. And there is a quiet cadence to life that you begin to notice if you absolutely and truly belong to the moment.”