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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Scientific Theories are Really Stories in Disguise

Sound like a weird thing to say? What could be farther from the emotional content of a story than a dry scientific theory? Yet if you look at any such theory closely, you will see the elements of a story.

Most of the phenomena we see around us are just events or facts. Scientists attempt to make sense of those events and facts by placing them in a context by creating a theory that explains them. The theory contains background, arguments, timelines, and sometimes characters, whether animal, mineral or human. So do stories. When a scientist describes a theory, he or she describes it in terms of the event being discussed, what happened, and what the conclusion is.

Whether you agree or disagree with the theory, this is the most common way to describe and explain them.

For instance, the Big Bang Theory doesn’t just say that something exploded to make the universe. It first describes the situation, the existence of the universe. Then it asks what the inciting incident was that brought it into being. It asks how far we can go back and what happened at each point along that timeline, which is the plot line. It raises the tension as we go further back in time until we reach the unknowable instant just after the point that set off the bang. It then describes the way the bang grew the universe until it reached the universe we see today. Note that the theory contains nothing about that unknowable instant before the bang. There is no evidence to support a conclusion about that moment so nothing is said in the theory. If evidence surfaces, that evidence will be taken into account and the theory may change.

Virtually all major theories follow this pattern. Yes, some of them are expressed in mathematical notation and may have no real words associated with them. However, they still have these elements.

Here’s why it works so well to craft theories in this format. The peculiar characteristic of a theory is that it works from a viewable result and postulates the cause by following evidence it finds along the way. If the evidence changes, the theory can change as well, either in major or minor ways. This is not a flaw in the theory but is greater knowledge requiring a slightly different formulation.

Making the theory a story adds in crucial elements that clarify and entice the reader. By using story techniques, we can better understand how the theory holds together, what facts exist and what inferences hold those facts together. Both are clearly noted.

Next time you read a scientific theory, read it like a story. You’ll be surprised at how effective the technique is.



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