As a scientist who spends a lot of time looking at data, I sometimes feel that we venture into an area where we are in danger of over-interpreting our results. On the one hand, it is a perfectly natural and human characteristic; to speculate and even use imagination to try and gain a deeper understanding of the complex world around us.
Frequently, however–in my realm of science–such over-interpretation can often be premature, and even detrimental if one gets locked into a specific mindset–an “idee fixe”–at too early a stage. Especially since our initial ideas so frequently turn out to be wrong.
Consider a simple hypothesis posed as one sets out to
dispel prove test one’s idea. In my field, we usually need to gather a fair bit of data from casting a wide net of experiments before we can actually see a cohesive picture emerging. So initially, this requires some patience and the ability to suspend–at least temporarily–one’s speculations and over-interpretations until enough information is out there on the table to propose a model.
Sometimes, it is necessary to stop and say: “It is what it is”–otherwise, over-interpretation can lead us to the following type of scenario as this brilliant sketch by Eric Idle and John Cleese illustrates.
Idle: “Jarrow United came of age in a European sense with an almost Proustian display of modern existentialist football, virtually annihilating, by midfield argument, the surely obsolescent defensive philosophy of Signor Alberto Franfrino.”
Cleese: “Well, I hit the ball first time and it went in the back of the net.”