The Story of Evolution
and the Evolution of Stories

Science as Story and Story Revision
23 January 2007

Evolution, science, and story: a starting place

"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection -- is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science"
... Christopher Schönborn, New York Times, 2005

" ... scientific statements are not either claims or approximations to "Truth," but provisional stories, reflecting human perspectives, that get progressively less wrong. Whatever practical usefulness the stories have derives from and needs always to be understood in light of their provisional character ... Scientific stories are written not to be believed but to be understood, made use of as appropriate, and revised "
... Paul Grobstein, Science As Story Telling and Story Revision, 2005

Science as process ... of Story Telling and Story Revision

Linear scienceSeriously loopy science
  
  
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth



Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision: repeated making of observations, interpreting and summarizing observations, making new observations, making new summaries ... individually and collectively

Science as skepticism, a style of inquiry that can be used for anything, one which everybody is equipped to to/can get better at/be further empowered by, and contribute to - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

Science as practical tool, continually being adapted and therefore
  • should be expected to keep evolving rather than to get it "right"
  • is as much about creation as about discovery (multiple possible summaries)
  • the crack is a feature rather than a bug; both "objective" and "subjective play essential roles
  • differences among people are an asset to the process rather than a problem or an indication it isn't working

Matters arising

If "right" is understood as a unique/singular position, then "getting it less wrong" does not necessarily imply getting it "right" or even "more right".

Does science presume/depend on a long term aspiration to "Truth"?

Does scientific method depend on "sentience"? does science?
Try it out:
Distinguishing between forms of story telling: science, authority, belief

Which of the following two stories do you prefer?

  1. The earth is flat (Flat Earth Society)
  2. The earth is round


Because of ...

Relevant observations:

Is one or the other story true? Have there been others? Are there others? Will there be?


Which of the following two stories do you prefer?

  1. The sun goes around the earth
  2. The earth goes around the sun


Because of ...

Relevant observations

Is one or the other story true? Have their been others? Are there others? Will there be?


Scientific stories are frequently efforts to summarize the widest possible range of observations, always motivate new observations and hence new stories, should never be understood as "authoritative" or "believed in", do not compete with or invalidate other stories. Key issues about scientific stories
  • What observations do they summarize?
  • What new observations do they motivate?
  • Within what contexts are they useful?

Which of the following stories do you prefer?

  1. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of a previous and ongoing process of evolution consisting of random change and natural selection (differential reproductive success).
  2. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of repeated creative acts of a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  3. Existing life forms (including humans) are as they are because of an initial creative act with a supernatural being with a plan and intent?
  4. Other?


Because of ...

Relevant observations: Is one or another story "true"? Have there been others. Are there others? Will there be?

Science = open-ended transactional cyclic observations/interpretation/creation; being wrong and conflict an important part of it; give up ideology/"definiteness", replace with commitment to "summary of observations", "getting it less wrong", continuing meaningful story creation/sharing/revision/evolution

Evolution? (to be returned to) Literature? Life? .... "Ever since Darwin, we live in a world of stories"?




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