There is no control group for the universe.

A couple years or so ago, I attended some kind of presentation on voluntary certification, probably put on by the economics department.

This post is not about economics.

This post is about the product of my irritation with some things that were said on the Q&A session at the end.  Someone had basically asked how we can “prove” that workers’ lives were benefited by companies paying them better wages and being held to more ethical standards.  Efficacy concerns aside, something about the question rubbed me the wrong way, primarily because of the notion that so abstract an impact cannot be deemed legitimate until it is measured in a way that a white-haired stranger in another country can recognize.  In retrospect, I think I better understand where the questioner was coming from, but my annoyance at the time led me to some conclusions that I still agree with.  Soon after the session was over, I trudged back to the co-ed dorm with a low-simmering anger, and since the copilot wasn’t in her room, I wrote a note for the complaint board.

“There is no control group for the universe,” it said, hastily written before being tacked onto the rest.

…which is to say, we cannot always test or prove how things would be different if you adjusted a single variable.  Control groups are wonderful things, and we’re able to learn a great deal through the isolation of variables, but it’s also necessary to confront the fact that such a method is not always practical or even possible.  And sometimes, that’s okay.

So I’m making this post for those who have been assaulted, disabled, sick, abused, or have experienced whatever else has been deemed a confounding variable in determining the “true” cause of the way they are.

There is no control group for the universe.

It might not be possible to isolate all variables enough to know what’s part of the “reason” and what isn’t.  You don’t need to construct an alternate universe version of yourself in order to be worthy of acceptance as the person you are.  You don’t need to pin down every why or how as if your existence is a problem to solve.  You are not a meteorologist tasked with the job of predicting yourself.

How things would be different if things were different is a question that is, most often, impossible to answer, and you are welcome to relieve yourself of that burden.

There is no control group for the universe.

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