Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live - Issue 75: Story - Nautilus
Despite the verities of science, we feel compelled to tell stories that venture beyond the facts.
When we first see separate ideas, we feel obliged to find a relationship between the ideas to form a coherent picture. Once a possible relationship has been established, we feel the need to come up with an explanation.
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Stories are the primary way through which we make sense of our world. We explain ideas by telling stories.
Even science uses storytelling when they use data of the physical world to explain phenomena that cannot be reduced to physical facts, or when they extend incomplete data to draw general conclusions.
For example, knowing the atomic weight of carbon and oxygen cannot explain to us what life is.
When the brain pieces separate bits of an image together to form a coherent picture, it is known as pattern recognition. Once we recognize a pattern, it can spark a degree of pleasure, often described as that "a-ha" moment.
Science is about making up stories called hypotheses and testing them, then coming up with better stories. Once a story is complete, science goes to a lab to test it. While a story is useful, it can also be a problem if we run with an incomplete story. Our brains' reward for possible pattern-matching can overlook conflicting information as it searches for patterns, not identical inputs.
We earn a dopamine reward every time we understand something - even if the explanation is defective. This may result in misinterpreting data.
Good science = precise data - possible interpretations.
Good science is a humble recognition of the limits of what scientific data can say.
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