Stories, Narratives, Facts

Salon has an excerpt from a new book by David McRaney, You Are Now Less Dumb. I think I’ll quote from the excerpt, just because (at the moment) I can.

The people who came before you invented science because your natural way of understanding and explaining what you experience is terrible. When you believe in something, you rarely seek out evidence to the contrary to see how it matches up with your assumptions. That’s the source of urban legends, folklore, superstitions, and all the rest. Skepticism is not your strong suit. In the background, while you crochet and golf and browse cat videos, people using science are fighting against your stupidity. No other human enterprise is fighting as hard, or at least not fighting and winning.

When you have zero evidence, every assumption is basically equal. You prefer to see causes rather than effects, signals in the noise, patterns in the randomness. You prefer easy-to-understand stories, and thus turn everything in life into a narrative so that complicated problems become easy. Scientists work to remove the narrative, to boil it away, leaving behind only the raw facts. Those data sit there naked and exposed so they can be reflected upon and rearranged by each new visitor.

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