March 7, 2016

GOOD TASTE ALONE | Silver

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Sometimes, I tell people my favorite color is silver and they retort, “Silver is not a color. It’s just a metallic gray.” Then I tell them my favorite planet is Pluto just to yank their chain. (Do people still say “yank their chain”?) But my favorite color really is silver, whether it’s a “color” or not. In my head, I treat it as a color, and more importantly, I treat it as my favorite color. Of course, that could be construed as a very egocentric way to look at things, but at some point, everyone does have to decide what they believe… about colors. Favorite colors only. Please read no deeper meaning into this. Telling me silver isn’t a color is about as useful to me as telling me it’s not my favorite. That’s not information, really.

Of course, the definition of information probably varies from person to person more than the status of silver as a legitimate color (Although I’m sure there are people smarter than me, people studying something far more relevant than psychology and filmmaking, who could tell me exactly what information is.) It’s pretty widely accepted that information is true; otherwise, it’s some other kind of -ation. Speculation, maybe, or exaggeration. And of course everyone has a different perspective on the truth. So much so that the only conclusion I can draw is that information doesn’t exist. But that conclusion isn’t information–it’s speculation. Or something.

Which is why we sort of have to control for the extraneous factors of, you know, other people’s personal beliefs. We even have to control for our own. We have to decide what we believe, at least provisionally, because the second step is much harder: deciding how what we believe interacts with what everyone else believes. Maybe if humans weren’t social creatures, we wouldn’t care about the truth as much.

But we do, so we have science. But do we have science the way that those who helped create modern science had science? To me science is an inquiry. Of course, this is just what I believe, and someone else’s inquiry might prove me wrong. Which is good. I read an article about how important it is to be able to ignore things–to successfully regulate our attention. The article opened with something that my brother used to annoy me with countless times when I was younger: “DON’T think of a ______.” If someone says, “Don’t think of a red firetruck,” it’s going to be the only thing you can think about. It’s pretty simple to observe that this happens, and one can guess that it has something to do with the way we regulate attention. But people probably noticed that their attentions were not always fully under their control long before the field of psychology even existed. People observed the way apples fell from trees or the way lightning never seemed to strike in the same place twice. Idioms and old wive’s tales were born. And oftentimes, as the decades and centuries wore on, these folk beliefs were proven wrong.

But there’s a delight in believing something stupid and being proven wrong. It means you’re one step closer to believing something better, something that could improve the quality of life for those around you, your understanding of others or your perception of yourself. Silly superstitions and misunderstood observations open the door to avenues of thought you might never have considered.

So please allow skepticism not for “stupid questions,” but for answers. Any answers. Let all the questions be asked and all the conspiracies be entertained, and mistrust the “solutions,” not the queries. Scientific inquiry is one of the most valuable things we have as humans, but only as long as it doesn’t exempt itself from that inquiry. Truth should only be provisional. The moment science claims to have found an irrevocable fact is the moment it ceases to be science.

And that’s why you shouldn’t care if your favorite color is a color.

Sarah is a sophomore Psychology and Performing & Media Arts major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She likes to exist sometimes, but mostly just recite lines from The Office. Her favorite food is oatmeal raisin cookies dipped in curry sauce, and she can usually be found using the words “film” and “movie” interchangeably, highlighting her favorite words in the dictionary or trying to transcribe feral cat noises into the next groundbreaking Twitter trend. Good Taste Alone appears on Fridays this semester. She can be reached at sec262@cornell.edu.

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