Friday, 2 February 2018

Why Do We Tell Stories?

Why do we tell stories?

It's a fair question and I guess the answer is clear enough from our evolutionary biology. Once our species grasped the idea that the future is real, that the fat lion under the shady tree will tomorrow be hungry and we might be its prey, then we needed a way of conveying the idea of what might be done about that fact, especially to our children, in a form they would accept and remember. A story.

JBP (link below) has shown clearly that the idea that the future is part of reality was selective in evolutionary terms, that our distant ancestors who planned for the future were more likely to nurture children to adulthood. So telling stories about that is clearly also selective in evolutionary terms. We express ideas in stories – such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A child who hears and understands that story, who acts the principle out in reality, is literally more likely to survive to adulthood than a child who does not.

Stories are thus demonstrated to be selective in evolutionary terms, and brain functionality follows trends that are selective. We likely evolved to accept the premise of a story and act it out in reality. True stories clearly lead to better results than false stories, and when evolutionary pressure was high this would have become a dominant trait. Societies who tell true stories, that acted out improve life for everyone, succeed, while societies that tell false stories break against reality, they fracture, fragment and collapse, often with great loss of life. But there are always survivors, and evolution favours 'good enough' solutions. Survivors of failed communities, built on false stories, will still reproduce. The trait of accepting a story as true and acting its premise out regardless of how it resolves itself in reality is a good enough solution.

As a species, we literally evolved to accept stories as true and act them out in reality. Results of this vary, but those who have a feel for or who tend to analyse a story for factual accuracy and imagine forward before acting it out in reality, are apt to be more successful. As a consequence, there are more people who have a feel for the truth of a story than not... but the trait to uncritically accept any story will always be part of the whole of a given society and part of the brain functionality of the individual.

The tendency to compare the consequences of a story acted out in reality, say stories in history, with a currently prevalent story and imagine the story forward to its consequences should become dominant over time. Fact checking, comparison with the known consequence of similar stories recorded in history, critically analyzing a story and rejecting or accepting it accordingly is also selective – those who do this would literally be more likely to produce children who survive to adulthood and perpetuate the trait. I say 'would' here because we now effectively live in a human version of Mouse Utopia (link below), a situation where practically all individuals might well survive to reproductive age regardless of what survival strategies they are taught and adopt.

With this in mind, it might be as well to now take a look at what is frequently called 'the sacred narrative of the left' and dig into the foundations of that collective story to see for yourself what veracity the story might contain.

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