Assumption

Who does the child look like?

A few days ago, I posted this photo of me with my friend’s son and asked “who he looks like”. Some of my close friends expressed their surprise for not telling them that I already have a kid.

I know the question was loaded to make them think that the kid is mine. I am also guilty of making assumption in my life that sometimes curtails my ability to understand a situation correctly. It made me take wrong route in academic life as well as personal life.

Assumption and academic life:

My first encounter with “assumption” that changed my life occurred in Hawaii – during my transition period from Physics to Environmental Engineering. Coming from science background, I don’t assume anything while solving an engineering and complex problem. I ended up not solving some because it was nearly impossible to solve those problems without simplifying those by correct assumptions.

Right assumption may simplify the problem to get a meaningful answer.  Our obsession for simplification sometimes changes the basis of the problem and we may found ourself solving a modified or entirely different problem.

Starting from scratch and going to the basic without too much assumptions should be the best way to go. Imagine Netwon would not have discovered the power of gravity or Einstein would not have realized the theory of relativity if they would have assumed what everyone had been assuming. The greatest scientific invention comes when one refuses to make blind assumptions.

Assumption should be our last resort to solve any problem. Because assumption is a biased opinion based on our previous experience that might not be perfect.

Assumption and social life:

Imagine your friend/partner/colleague acts in a manner that is very uncomfortable or socially unacceptable to you. What is our first reaction? More often than not, we start making assumption and start judging even before we listen to their complete story. Fight/misunderstanding rises and we get stuck with finding the answer about who is right and who is wrong.

There is not always an answer for every misunderstanding when the problem lies with our attitude of making assumption based on our life’s experience. Everything is okay when we are listening without making assumption. However, the moment we do, we stop listening and start judging. An example of wrong assumption and following events that change the heart of a father is told in this “$100 – a touching story

We blame everything on being overly judgmental or not listening. Little do we know that act of making assumption at each moment of any conversation is the origin of every misunderstanding or no understanding.

Blind assumption is the worst enemy of creative thinking and our understanding in establishing any relationship in science or social life.

Everyday our vision is blurred based on the assumption we make in daily life. It distorts our judgment. We end up landing on a place that is far from ideal.  And everything begins with an assumption.

What assumption have you made today? Was it helpful or not so helpful? Please share your story with us.

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10 responses to “Assumption

  1. I think its your best writting so far except how you mix-up assumption and presumtion. Assumption is very necessary in scientific and creative thinking. Presumtion is a strict “no no” . Also what you are talking about in social situations its presumtion [assuming blindly or thinking that something is true and proceeding on such without stopping to check somethings validity, whcih is what your “close” frinds did in presuming its your son, just how close are they?] Now contrast assumption [or a hypothesis which is subjected to change as per truth] with presumption.

    At any rate a very good article…

  2. Thanks, Manmohan bhai for the comment. I was not sure if presumption and assumption has different meaning. Assumption is also taken without verifying the fact that can be changed later. Sometimes, learning process requires us to be incredible stupid and start from basic without any assumption or presumption. Same can be told when we are listening to someone else story.

    Otherwise, Presumption should be the title. Thanks for this addition and correction.

  3. I agree. So many personal fights could be avoided and relationships could be saved, if assumptions were not there.

  4. I actually said the following, the previous post can be deleted as some part didnt come off to the reply. All I am saying is in a social situation you can use both, as you remark they are probably not different, but as your title said Assumption is the worst enemy of creative thinking and our understanding in establishing any relationship in science or social life , I thought its necessary to change that assumption with a presumption ….in any case this article of yours was more of a social nature….except a few ideas on science and academics. I felt the title is a too strong like saying assumption is the worst enemy to creative thinking. Theory of relativity just didn’t came out of plane stupid start, in fact the theory of relativity was there much before and it is called the Galilean theory of relativity. actually Einsteins special theory is different in the fact that the transformation laws change when one makes speed of light c to be the same constant in all inertial frames. this is basically hypothesis (a more stricter term for assumption in scientific methodology ) And this did not completely came from an assumption less mind or as you say a mind that starts with incredible stupidity. In fact Einsteins was a incredibly clever and mathematically intelligent mind, but in folklore its wrongly talked depicted. But his mind was capable of discerning the assumption or hypothesis making from a priori knowledge or dogmatic knowledge. I think that makes him the genius that he was.

    • Thanks for correcting me. I agree that this article is more appropriate towards social issue than scientific matter. I also learned about theory of relativity (historical prospective and Einstein’s contribution).

      Educated guesswork and genuine assumptions are sometimes key to unravel mystery of some complex process, that otherwise difficult to deal with. I don’t deny that (though my writing is not reflecting that). My original thought was to emphasize the importance of basic knowledge and simplistic idea. I believe that any model with very few assumption are very simple and sometimes most correct one.

      So here is my proposal: What do you write if you have to reflect the idea of making assumptions to deal with a problem and using basic theory to do the same? Only scientific prospective! You may write one in your blog about it and I will have a follow-up post linking to your post or you can write directly here as a guest post.

  5. (Educated guesswork and genuine assumptions are sometimes key to unravel mystery of some complex process, that otherwise difficult to deal with. ) This is very rightly said. My quot keys are not working, along with many other keys…so using (). About theory of relativity, I have read Einsteins account for his own theory. Lucid and marked by a distinguished style and a characteristic classic tone… I have also read his biography which is mainly historical, and some other texts which make it clear abt some basic ideas of relativity. I despise it greatly how after 100 years of his great works and our understanding of the ideas in simple and clear ways still these stuff cant be taught in high school or say college physics. But you will see seemingly nonsensical history and geography stuff that is beyond the comprehension of the outstanding guy are taught and given emphasis. Actually I suspect Physics and all basic science will always suffer , because o the way advance research in these fields are done. You know, more than culture shock the shock that really shook me was the attitude of the international community is towards the way Physics is done and the importance of education in the field is concerned. To them its a PhD… postdoc….faculty…tenure…all career steps. But no where the importance of the future of science and why education plays a central role in the progress of science, as much as technology does, even more, is appreciated. So if someone wishes to do the same he has to do that in his own risk. The system is defined in a very simplistic way rather than a simple way. and in an opportunistic way. The system is not going to be changed even if its changeable. Because the old folks want the young folks for productivity not for vision. period. Well I have the habit of tunneling through such barriers, if I dont set an example for the electron how is it really going to gather the courage to tunnel. So i am stopping here tonight. May be tomorrow I will try to think about the problem you have set for me….

    • Thanks for thinking and adding onto it. But no hurry!

      Rest of the comments are on a OFF topic, that is discussion for another day or need to be addressed in separate posting. I think you wrote about it in some of your writing (or we talked about it a while ago). In one word, I AGREE what you are trying to point. The way science is done is not helping the cause of science anymore or to the extent it should have been. Policy makers, teachers and everyone are somewhat responsible for that.

  6. Here is what I promised
    How assumption and basic theory can be used to solve a problem
    We have a basic problem at hand. The problem is amenable to a solution based on basic theory. Its quite straight forward. We have a method of attacking the problem. We apply the method to find a solution. eg solve a quadratic equation, solving a trajectory problem using either classical mechanics or relativity theory. There are basic theory for solving a problem and the scope of such theory is quite well defined. On the other hand while solving a problem where there is a basic theory but some of the parameters could be missing so as to get a specific solution we may need to make an assumption to get at a specific answer. eg in quantum mechanics which gives rise to differential equations and boundary conditions one may encounter a situation where one has to assume a part of the solution and then reach a specific solution. If the solution is physical and consistent our assumption is valid or else (as you remark we change our assumption a bit more, this assumption although will need a lot of smart thinking) Now this also occurs in experimental research where one assumes (or hypothesize) a process and inputs values already known for part of the process or a particular variable in the process. Then as a whole one solves the problem and may reach at one or more than one solutions. One may also find a bunch of process whose solution is quite different from the one in question. Our assumption is invalid for such processes and therefore leads to answer that are not physical. We may not even reach a solution where there is any physical significance. So you see assumption could be very valuable in real world science. The last example I gave you directly cuts into my research. Sometimes it takes months or year to form a valid assumption. Assumption is not wishful thinking by the way. Thats the point I have been trying to get at.

    • Thanks for detail explanation with example. I see you point. Assumption is another way to solve a problem. Art of making assumption is as difficult to practice as basic science. You are rightly point out different prospective of assumption making.

      Here you are talking about assumption that is not proved yet (will be proven later) and the assumption is most likely unique or never thought before. The assumption I am trying to point out here is the things that is being widely accepted (not outside box) without proper investigation. Relying too much on those will not improve science or anything else that matter, because it is biased or a choice that may not be universally correct.

      Either way, I believe it is not easy to just simply say assumption is bad without explaining the context. Thanks for rectifying this shortcoming in this article.

  7. Pingback: Bad listener: A google inside us | Step 2 more

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