It Appears That

As a scientist, educator, and child developmentalist, I would like to have every statement that I make be preceded by the words, “It appears that.” In my work with children, adults, and families, I attempt to use these words often, or at least to state things in such a way as to imply that “it appears that,” rather than stating things as fact. Stating ideas as fact, unfortunately, is what is generally done, and it tragically leads people to many dead ends and often to harmful interventions and negative results.

“It appears that” is synonymous with “intuitively,” “plausibly,” “possibly,” “supposedly,” “most likely,” and “probably.” My criterion for making a statement is that I have personally observed and objectively evaluated the effects, results, or outcomes numerous times. As a clinician/scientist I attempt to question everything, and when I feel I have sufficient data, I qualify my opinion with, “It appears that.”

When I was a child, my father, a physiatrist (a physician/M.D. specializing in rehabilitation) and a pioneer in human development, would use me as a sounding board and invite me to challenge the new concepts and methodologies he and his teams would investigate or develop. He actually valued input that was just based on naïve natural questioning and founded upon a premise of, “Does this make sense?” I suspect not many ten-year-olds back in the 50s, or today for that matter, had a relationship with their fathers that was built largely on discussions of neuroplasticity, brain injury, and human potential. My father gave me many gifts; but one of the most important was an understanding that there are very few “truths,” and that to move the science and knowledge base forward you need to challenge not only the status quo, but everything, no matter how strongly it appears to be true. He also helped me understand that formal research, when it comes to most things that affect people, is at best questionable. One can generally find research that can support either side of a hypothesis. Just because someone claims, “The research says,” or, “This is based on research,” it does not make it true. We can still only honestly say, “It appears that.”

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