So says Washington & Jefferson College lit prof Jonathan Gottschall at The Edge :
There’s a big question about what it is that makes people people. What is it that most sets our species apart from every other species? That’s the debate that I’ve been involved in lately.
When we call the species homo sapiens that’s an argument in the debate. It’s an argument that it is our sapience, our wisdom, our intelligence, or our big brains that most sets our species apart. Other scientists, other philosophers have pointed out that, no, a lot of the time we’re really not behaving all that rationally and reasonably. It’s our upright posture that sets us apart, or it’s our opposable thumb that allows us to do this incredible tool use, or it’s our cultural sophistication, or it’s the sophistication of language, and so on and so forth. I’m not arguing against any of those things, I’m just arguing that one thing of equal stature has typically been left off of this list, and that’s the way that people live their lives inside stories. More.
He aims to turn storytelling into a science:
You have this division, and you have all this area in between the sciences and the humanities that no one is colonizing. There are all these questions in the borderlands between these disciplines that are rich and relatively unexplored. One of them is storytelling and it’s one of these questions that humanities people aren’t going to be able to figure out on their own because they don’t have a scientific toolkit that will help them gradually, painstakingly narrow down the field of competing ideas. The science people don’t really see these questions about storytelling as in their jurisdiction: “This belongs to someone else, this is the humanities’ territory, we don’t know anything about it.”
What is needed is fusion—people bringing together methods, ideas, approaches from scholarship and from the sciences to try to answer some of these questions about storytelling. Humans are addicted to stories, and they play an enormous role in human life and yet we know very, very little about this subject. There’s an important growth area here for new understanding. More.
Prediction: He won’t turn storytelling into a science, but he will turn it into a big fat bore.
Next up the spout: The “science” of standup comedy.
For why anyone would feel the need to do this, see The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (human evolution)
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