Love and Compatibility

About two weeks ago, I had a discussion about love with my friend Tara about love, and it’s launched me into considering it a bit more lately.  Then today in my blogroll, I saw this article pop up from Psychology today, which threw a wrench into my thoughts to say the least.  If you don’t want to click on the link, it’s entitled “The Truth About Compatibility.”

The main point of the article is that we tend to give compatibility too high of a place in our priorities for finding love.  Here are a few quotes that I found especially enlightening:

“There is no such thing as a compatible couple. All couples disagree about the same things: money, sex, kids, time. So, it’s really about how you manage your differences. If there is chemistry, then the whole courtship is about convincing yourself and others that you are compatible. But, really, you create compatibility. And then, eventually, maybe in 25 years, you will become soul mates.” —Diane Sollee, founder and director, Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education

“People might agonize and think, Do we have the same likes and dislikes? But people are not aware of how powerful self-fulfilling prophecies are. We have expectations in a relationship, and we tend to make them come true. The most satisfied couples are those with overly rosy views of each other.” —Lisa Diamond, assistant professor of psychology and gender studies, University of Utah.

These are both very interesting takes, and put that way, I can’t help but think that they are probably right.  I mean, what are the chances that someone will agree with you on everything, and yet not share most of your faults as well?  What’s more is the question, do you really want someone 100% compatible?  When I really examine the question, I realize that having 100% compatibility would be undesirable.

A relationship should be a non-zero sum situation.  Each side should be able to augment the other.  As one person from the article put it:

“People assume compatibility as a baseline requirement, then want more. “I want him to fit in with my family and do all the things I love to do—and he should be sexy, and he should take me out to cool places.” I think you can have an even more fulfilling relationship if you respect each other’s worlds, and learn a little bit from each other. I always think of the phrase, “You’ve met your match.” You really do want someone who challenges and spars with you.” —Nancy Slotnick, dating coach, founder of cablight.com

Challenge is the right word.  Sparing can conjur negative images, but I think it’s apt too.   You become better at something by overcoming.  I think a ‘Significant Someone’ would be there to help you along, press you, and face hurdles with you.  Compatibility no doubt plays an important part, especially in the early stages, and perhaps in a different emphasis that what we usually give it.  Over-all, though, perhaps there are more important things.

Love is truly complicated.

What is Scientific Skepticism?

I’ve been a scientific skeptic for over nine months now, and I’ve discovered that most people don’t really know what this means. So, I’m going to attempt to explain it.

You can boil down the concept of scientific skepticism down to one single concept: we know things based on empirical evidence. But what does that mean? It means that the only evidence acceptable in support of something is that evidence that is available to everyone and can be verified by anyone.

When looking at the phrase ’scientific skepticism’ it’s important to focus on the first word. A scientific skeptic uses science and the scientific method to verify or discover new evidence.

There are many famous scientific skeptics you probably already know about. Here is a short list: Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Penn & Teller, and even the Mythbusters crew.

Using the scientific method, there are several things already know. We understand the effects of gravity (but are still working on how it works), the concepts of thermal-dynamics, the workings of the atom, evolutionary biology.

The things that there isn’t empirical evidence for are the things that the skeptic rejects. Examples of these things include: homeopathy, psychic readings, telepathy, and faith healing.

Sometimes the question arises about things everyone feels that they know, but we don’t really have evidence for. There is a scene in the movie, Contact, that illustrates this. The main character is asked to ‘prove’ that she loved her father. The point is that this was something she knew was true, but couldn’t really prove.

But is this a proper application of the skeptic epistemology?

There are several ways I’ve approached this problem. The first goes something like this. Personally, she has a lot of evidence for the fact that she loves her father. She has no problem knowing beyond all doubt that it is a simple fact. However, getting proof to this fact demonstrable and verifiable to a third person would be a bit more difficult. Some say that it would be possible for her to be hooked up to an MRI or EEG machine and readings of her brain to be taken. Or perhaps measurements of her body chemistry and how it reacts to thoughts of her father. In the end, however, there is an important thing to note that makes all of this rather pointless. She’s not trying to get other people to believe that she loved her father. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else believes. If she were to take on the task of trying to get other people to believe, perhaps then it would be necessary to provide such evidence.

When approaching a new idea, a skeptic will take a neutral stance and then look at the evidence. If the evidence contradicts the idea, then the idea is wrong, or incomplete. If the evidence is not enough to render a judgement either way, the skeptic will withhold judgement. This is an extremely important point. Skeptics are more tied to the method of knowledge discovery than to the knowledge itself. If contradictory evidence appears, the original idea is discarded and the search for a new one begins, one that fits with the evidence. Sometimes such new ideas are easily located, others may forever be out of our reach.