From: Ray Recchia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun 22 Dec 2002 - 01:44:04 GMT
The Science of Fiction
BY MARK CALDWELL
The mind makes sense of the world by telling itself
little stories, says one critic--and he's listening in.
- IN THE AFTERMATH
- of the hugely publicized hoax article planted last year by physicist Alan Sokal in the hapless cultural studies journal 'Social Text,' you might be forgiven for thinking scientists and humanities scholars had nothing to exchange but brickbats. The Literary Mind (Oxford University Press, 1996, $25.00) triumphantly proves otherwise. Mark Turner, its author, is a professor of English at the University of Maryland who has also served a careful apprenticeship in cognitive and neural science, and his double competence empowers him to step confidently in both fields. "The everyday mind," Turner argues, "is essentially literary." Literary modes, he believes--specifically story and parable--are the basic structures of all human knowledge. They may even be physically detectable, in the neural wiring of our brains.
From 'The Best American Science and Nature Writing:
2001', 'Introduction: Life is a Narrative' by Edward O. Wilson pp. xv-xvi
"Science, like the rest of culture, is based on the manufacture of
narrative. That is entirely natural, and in a profound sense is a
Darwinian necessity. We all live by narrative, every day and every minute
of our lives. Narrative is the human way of working through a chaotic and
unforgiving world bent on reducing our bodies to malodorous catabolic
molecules. It delays the surrender of our personal atoms and compounds back
to the environment the assembly of more humans, and ants.
"By narrative we take the best stock we can of the world and our
predicament in it. What we see and recreate is seldom the blinding literal
truth. Instead, we perceive and respond to our surroundings in narrow ways
that most benefit our organismic selves. The narrative genius of Homo
sapiens is an accommodation to the inherent inability of the three pounds
of our sensory system and brain to process more than a minute fraction of
the information the environment pours into them. In order to keep the
organism alive, that fraction must be intensely and accurately selective.
The stories we tell ourselves and others are our survival manuals.
"With new tools and models, neuroscientists are drawing close to an
understanding of the conscious mind as narrative generator.They view it as
an adaptive flood of scenarios created continuously by the working brain.
Whether set in the past, present or future, whether fictive or reality
based, the free-running constructions are our only simulacrum of the world
outside the brain. They are everything we will ever possess as individuals.
And, minute by minute they determine whether we live or die.
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