On a previous thread, we got onto a digression about measurement. We split into camps between those who believe that one can know things without being able to quantify them, and those who tend to think that is impossible.
I realized we were really getting down to basics. We were touching upon a profound dichotomy in the human family.
There is left and right. There is Democrat and Republican. There is the believer, and the atheist. There is the tremendous gulf that sometimes opens between the way black and white Americans perceive a thing (say, the O.J. Simpson verdict).
But is there any bigger cognitive divide, any greater contrast in belief systems, than that between people who think the only things that matter are those that can be quantified, and those who see that as an extremely limited way of perceiving the world?
During that earlier exchange, Doug asked, “How do you know something is improved if you can’t measure it?” And he’s serious. And he thinks all logic and understanding and wisdom are entirely on his side in asserting that. In fact; he probably would say he knows it. And many folks who would be classified as an S on a Myers Briggs scale would agree, emphatically.
And yet to me, it’s practically nonsensical. Sure, there are judgments to which measurement is essential. If I look at a beaker of liquid water — neither icing over nor bubbling and steaming away — I don’t know what its temperature is, although I know it’s between 32 F and 212 F, without a thermometer. (Of course, unless I’m going to bathe in it, or develop film with it — an anachronistic activity in which I no longer engage — I don’t much care.)
With most things that matter, the things that tend to interest me, if one does not know without measuring, what has one spent one’s time on Earth doing?