3. “There is no reason why we cannot link facts and theories across disciplines and create a common groundwork of explanation.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
his book The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan
Gottschall does exactly what is suggested in the quotation when trying to find an answer to the question, why
do humans need story?
Referring, among other things, to the data
generated from experiments on split brain patients, which is fascinating in
itself, Gottschall weaves an argument to support the explanation that
fiction-making is an evolutionary adaptation which gives humans at least four
advantages over other species:
1/ It engages our imaginations to construct
world in which to rehearse real life dramas within the safety net of our own
minds – we can risk danger in our fantasy lives that we wouldn’t dare to risk
in our ordinary lives, but this toughens us up for eventualities in the real
2/The storytelling mind is an identifiable
neural network in the brain which helps (though can often mislead) us to make
sense of the chaos of information that constantly bombards our perceptions –
our brain is hardwired to seek patterns in random data and to describe them as
a way of navigating our environment.
3/ The fictions we engage with reinforce
common values that we hold dear to our social and individual well being – most
of the stories we enjoy are to do with justice prevailing over injustice, as we
understand it in our culture.
4/ Make-believe has the power to strengthen
social bonds and promote in-group harmony – this is a legacy of the oral
tradition when people would gather around a storyteller, enthralled by the
dynamics of the narrative being recounted.
Okay, but this doesn’t really tell us how we
make fictions. This explanation is where
the ‘facts and theories’ of the H & N Sciences come into play in
Gotschall’s argument. He refers us to the
work of Michael
Gazzaniga (it’s a long but fascinating article, so be patient!) whose work
with split brain patients yielded a theory about ‘the left brain interpreter’,
which Gottschall explains in terms of ‘the Sherlock Holmes’ syndrome’: our strange
capacity to ‘reason backwards’ (or 'deduce') from the mass of information transmitted through
our perception to the brain which orders it to give an orderly description of
cause and effect of how things happen.
However, there is a down side to this: while the inner storyteller
doesn’t like uncertainty, chance and randomness, it craves order and
meaning. In other words, if the
storytelling mind cannot find meaning in the world, it will impose meaning
through fabrication, lies or invention: in short, it will make up a story...