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But A Story Is A Story Is A Story!

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on July 11, 2002 15:04:23 UTC

Hi Aurino,

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Aurino: I still maintain you need to learn a thing or two about logic from a good programmer :-)
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Strange, I always thought I was a fairly good programmer! Maybe I am not; give me an idea of what you have on your mind!

****
Aurino: As to everything being "just a story", it sounds to me like someone walking into a movie theater and, upon seeing half the audience crying (all women, by the way), walks in front of the screen and starts yelling, "what a bunch of fools, don't you realize this is just a story?"
****

Yes, I can see how you might think that; however, that is not the issue I have in mind. When I say everything is just a story I am talking about the issue of belief. Belief involves being convinced that something is "true". Now a truth has one outstanding characteristic: if something is really true you will never discover that it is not true! I hope you are intelligent enough to comprehend that no competent scientist should ever succumb to "belief" as to do so is a violation of the central ethics of science (he should always maintain in mind the possibility that he is wrong). On the other hand one must allow for the possibility that truth does exist (whether or not we can achieve it being clearly beside the point), it is thus the scientistís purpose to find rules which make that truth coherent or understandable. The fact that any decent scientistís thought should be directed to that particular abstract idea seems to be beyond the comprehension of most scientists (at least it is beyond the comprehension of any I have ever met)!

I got into physics because it seemed to me to be the only field which lived up to my ideal (well, mathematics does but it seemed to have little to do with reality). I was very impressed with physics until I got to graduate school. At that point it seemed to me that much of what I was being taught was based on belief in what came before; that the "story" they were telling me was true! Which brings up the question, "how does one know what is true?" That is exactly what brought me to where I am.

When I say everything is just a story, what I mean is that all explanations of anything are nothing more than mental constructs designed to "explain" what you know. The "truth" of these explanations is not only not provable but is actually meaningless. The absolute best you can do is to defend the internal consistency of your story. Given that, the next issue is, how useful is that story? So what you guys should be talking about is the usefulness of your stories, not their "truth". The internal consistency issue only has meaning against that usefulness! It is certainly unimportant if it serves no purpose and most people know that!

So, everything is just a story and the stories only have import in so far as they lead you to decisions which you will be pleased with in the future; happiness with the results of living up to your own ideals is the only reward out there worth achieving.

And so, as you said, "life goes on as it always has and always will". But only idiots argue about what is "true"!

Have fun -- Dick

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