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Source: (consider it) Thread: Fact and fantasy
SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
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Prompted by a book I have just started reading, called’The Story of Science’ which is about how History made Science and vice versa, and was connected with a TV series (which I didn’t see), I would be imterested to hear what you think about the following.
Since our species evolved with language, it seems that stories were told, using the infinite imagination that came with it. These stories seem to have been of strong survival use, since it helped keep groups together.
Such stories, of skill, of bravery, of dangers encountered and overcome have changed according to life at the time of their telling, and I wouldnn’t be surprised if, at the end of – what is it? – five billion years or so when – the last humans who have remained on Earthand know they are doomed, they ask a story-teller to take their minds off whatever they are facing for a few moments. Okay, that’s a bit too far off to worry about just now, but where would we be without stories?
That is why I have been thinking about fact and fantasy. I wonder how you decide what is fact and what is not when you are reading, i.e. when it is not clear and obvious? Perhaps the verbs discern, or discriminate would be better than decide. The verb choose does not apply because I cannot imagine anyone here choosing to think, for instance, that gravity is fiction!!

My own way of looking at the distinction is that of a sceptic atheist of course, but I will as always look forward to reading your views.

I hope this is the right place to put this.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Jay-Emm
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I think What If's are vital questions in science, engineering (and ethics). Being able to sustain that fantastic universe for a decent time (long enough for things to follow) is important.

Similarly in many social/economic/political areas being able to project a fantastic universe for a decent time has obvious individual benefits (though at others expense).

So I think that's two evolutionary pushes to towards story telling

The first thing is of course the presentation. This is of course imperfect (Lord of the rings has an elaborate back story for the text, Vanity Fair has familiar names). The narrators voice helps (does he know too much?), being 'realistic' helps (though of course reality is at it's most interesting when it apparently isn't).

*to avoid any issues with more modern cases

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Jay-Emm
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Oh, and hence the big one is multiple (independent, traceable&reputable) sources (again not perfect), and peer input.
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cliffdweller
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The interesting thing, though, being that it all comes down to source of authority. All of us need to make that decision-- to choose what we will hold to be fact and what we will hold to be fantasy. And we do so based on our source of authority-- what we hold to be a reliable arbiter of truth. And yet the decision that something-- whether it be the scientific method or a sacred book or a particular news source-- is authoritative is, itself, an act of faith.

If you press that reality too far, you end up with cynicism and nihilism-- which may have a sort of intellectual honesty, but it is also no way to live-- "psychologically intolerable" as someone (Wm James?) once said. So we are left with holding on to our sources of authority, but hopefully somewhat more tentatively, more humbly, than our past more naive selves might have done.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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mr cheesy
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Are you asking what basis the Christian has for rejecting non-logical ideas - on the understanding that if one believes in a deity, one must also allow for the possibility of fairies?

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arse

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Brenda Clough
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Oh honey. We can talk. I have been dancing on the edge of fantasy and fact all my life; I have just written a slew of books essentially revolving around this theme.

I marched last week at the March for Science, even though I am not a scientist. But I write science fiction, and we know and take our responsibility seriously. We imagine it. Then they build it. Before Robert Goddard there was H.G. Wells. We shine the light, into the future. When writer Robert Heinlein (one of the deans of the genre) died, they had a memorial service for him at NASA Greenbelt even though none of the rocket scientists there knew the man. But he was their father nonetheless; all of those guys went into science because they read Rocket Ship Galileo or Space Cadet.

Another way to look at it: the graphic novel writer Alan Moore said once that all war is a failure of the imagination. If you can't envision peace or a road to peace, then out come the swords. We think it and believe it and pray for it, and only then can it become real. All we are saying is give peace a chance.

[ 30. April 2017, 16:21: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Garden Hermit
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Just remember that real Experts always start with the phrase 'I'm not an expert..' before they express an opinion. This shows that they realise how little they know about their chosen 'expert' subject.
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hatless

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Where would we be without stories! I agree with you about their importance. Beowulf comes to mind, bonding people in the great hall, affirming courage and manly leadership. Batman is quite a similar tale.

We have several very popular stories right now. One is that we are bad people for damaging the once beautiful environment, and we will have to pay. Quite apart from the science of climate change (which I accept) this story shapes the way we approach this question, often in quite a doom-mongering manner.

Then there's the story about bad lifestyles. We're all going to die young because of salt, sugar, fat, lack of exercise, stress, alcohol, tablets, smoking, etc. It's a story about lack of self-control and over-indulgence. An individualist version of the first one.

There are stories about being taken over by the EU, global companies, cyber espionage, capitalism, cultural memes, conspiracies, etc. I suppose this is another group that are also monsters in the dark stories.

There are other stories. The ugly duckling is one I often mention. Death and resurrection, David and Goliath (= Independence Day), the Prodigal Son, The Hungry Caterpillar, Anne Franck, the little boy who put his finger in the leaking dyke, Pinocchio - these are all influential stories.

I think the interesting question comes when you recognise that whatever the facts about education, prisons, hospitals, armies, pollution, diet, etc. its the stories that direct our attention to this or that aspect of the issues connected with them. It's the stories that make us ask if we're poisoning the planet. Science can tell us the answer, but we only ask because of a sort of religious guilt, and we find it hard to take practical steps to address climate change because of the paralysing effect of guilt.

And the big stories that have all the traction tend to be dark and negative. Stories which show the weak collaborating to overcome monsters (Three Little Pigs is sort of about this), are less popular. No one celebrates the effect of hundreds of small scale actions, like foodbanks, vaccinations, charity grants, friendly conversations with neighbours.

--------------------
My crazy theology in novel form

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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Many thanks for the above posts. I will respond asap.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Jay-Emm:
I think What If's are vital questions in science, engineering (and ethics). Being able to sustain that fantastic universe for a decent time (long enough for things to follow) is important.

Ah, yes, I had forgotten that point.
quote:
]Similarly in many social/economic/political areas being able to project a fantastic universe for a decent time has obvious individual benefits (though at others expense).

So I think that's two evolutionary pushes to towards story telling

But those who think of that sort of ‘what if’ situation are well aware that it is a fiction,aren’t they?
quote:
The first thing is of course the presentation. This is of course imperfect (Lord of the rings has an elaborate back story for the text, Vanity Fair has familiar names). The narrators voice helps (does he know too much?), being 'realistic' helps (though of course reality is at it's most interesting when it apparently isn't).

*to avoid any issues with more modern cases

Another prompt for this subject was a book of Jeffrey Archer short stories. The last one was about an artist named Friedrich Bloch’ and a family in Germany. I knew the name Bloch referred to an artist, and for a short while there, I had to go to wikipedia to see if the story was factual!!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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agingjb
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For any narrative we can ask (among other things):

Is it true? Do we believe it? Does the author believe it? Does the author intend it to be believed?

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Refraction Villanelles

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
The interesting thing, though, being that it all comes down to source of authority. All of us need to make that decision-- to choose what we will hold to be fact and what we will hold to be fantasy. And we do so based on our source of authority-- what we hold to be a reliable arbiter of truth.

I think my arbiter has always been, Is this TRUE?' particularly when young and now I think I rely on what I have learnt and of course on the experience of a long life. But that arbiter of truth idea is aninteresting point and I will make a note and see if or how much I apply that to stories I hear and read.
quote:
And yet the decision that something-- whether it be the scientific method or a sacred book or a particular news source-- is authoritative is, itself, an act of faith.

If you press that reality too far, you end up with cynicism and nihilism-- which may have a sort of intellectual honesty, but it is also no way to live-- "psychologically intolerable" as someone (Wm James?) once said. So we are left with holding on to our sources of authority, but hopefully somewhat more tentatively, more humbly, than our past more naive selves might have done.

I'm not sure I would say it is an act of faith; if there is reliable and consistent objective evidence, I will rely on that, but keep a weather eye open just in case!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Are you asking what basis the Christian has for rejecting non-logical ideas - on the understanding that if one believes in a deity, one must also allow for the possibility of fairies?

Actually, I did not put the OP that way because that would have been me wearing my noticeably atheist hat which I am not wearing at the moment because I did not want to confine the discussion to a right/wrong point.

[ 30. April 2017, 17:54: Message edited by: SusanDoris ]

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I think my arbiter has always been, Is this TRUE?' particularly when young and now I think I rely on what I have learnt and of course on the experience of a long life. But that arbiter of truth idea is an interesting point and I will make a note and see if or how much I apply that to stories I hear and read.

Of course I think most educated people want to make sure that they are only believing true things. The hard part is, how to tell? What do we accept, what do we reject, and what do we hold in abeyance? On what grounds?

Virtually everything we know is based on trust. I trust the scientists have done their experiments right, and the journals have done their peer review and due diligence. But I don't know that. I couldn't even check up on it, because I don't have the requisite background. So I take it on trust. And so on with everything I know that's not part of my immediate experience. So the final question becomes, whom to trust? We are often betrayed by people we thought we could trust. Scientific findings turn out to have been faked. Nutrition information we relied on turns out to have been fabricated by one particular industry to sell more of their product. And so on.

It's truly a thorny question.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Oh honey. We can talk. I have been dancing on the edge of fantasy and fact all my life; I have just written a slew of books essentially revolving around this theme.

I marched last week at the March for Science, even though I am not a scientist. But I write science fiction, and we know and take our responsibility seriously. We imagine it. Then they build it. Before Robert Goddard there was H.G. Wells. We shine the light, into the future. When writer Robert Heinlein (one of the deans of the genre) died, they had a memorial service for him at NASA Greenbelt even though none of the rocket scientists there knew the man. But he was their father nonetheless; all of those guys went into science because they read Rocket Ship Galileo or Space Cadet.

Another way to look at it: the graphic novel writer Alan Moore said once that all war is a failure of the imagination. If you can't envision peace or a road to peace, then out come the swords. We think it and believe it and pray for it, and only then can it become real. All we are saying is give peace a chance.

What a lovely post. thank you very much. I have never read a lot of science fiction , but the ones I have read have all added new perspectives to my thinking.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Garden Hermit:
Just remember that real Experts always start with the phrase 'I'm not an expert..' before they express an opinion. This shows that they realise how little they know about their chosen 'expert' subject.

It is certainly true that the older I have become, the more I know I don't know!!

--------------------
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Jay-Emm
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
But those who think of that sort of ‘what if’ situation are well aware that it is a fiction,aren’t they?

I was thinking of them aware of it in both cases. One to actually get a better handle on reality (what if they left 10 minutes ago, where would they be), one to distort it (a bad child did it and runned away).

It was more musing on the survival uses of similar skills.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
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quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Where would we be without stories! I agree with you about their importance. Beowulf comes to mind, bonding people in the great hall, affirming courage and manly leadership. Batman is quite a similar tale.

Somebody said to me recently (on another forum) that because I am an atheist, I reject fantasy! Well, I didn’t bother to reply! I have been a bookworm all my life and the worst thing about sight loss was getting used to the idea of not being able to continue that way. One of the reasons this forum is such a boon is that there is always something interesting for Synthetic Dave to read to me!
quote:
We have several very popular stories right now. One is that we are bad people for damaging the once beautiful environment, and we will have to pay. Quite apart from the science of climate change (which I accept) this story shapes the way we approach this question, often in quite a doom-mongering manner.

Then there's the story about bad lifestyles. We're all going to die young because of salt, sugar, fat, lack of exercise, stress, alcohol, tablets, smoking, etc. It's a story about lack of self-control and over-indulgence. An individualist version of the first one.

All too true! But as one of the catch phrases of an ancient radio show said many long years ago, It’s being so cheerful as keeps us going!’
quote:
There are stories about being taken over by the EU, global companies, cyber espionage, capitalism, cultural memes, conspiracies, etc. I suppose this is another group that are also monsters in the dark stories.
I must say, although I am an optimist, I do find it quite difficult to be optimistic about a better future outside the EU, but I hope my granddaughters and their partners will at least vote in order to help maintain a reasonable democracy.
quote:
There are other stories. The ugly duckling is one I often mention. Death and resurrection, David and Goliath (= Independence Day), the Prodigal Son, The Hungry Caterpillar, Anne Franck, the little boy who put his finger in the leaking dyke, Pinocchio - these are all influential stories.
From what I hear of young people’s lesure activities and interests, I wonder whether they are also hearing all the stories of childhood that have stood the test of time.
quote:
I think the interesting question comes when you recognise that whatever the facts about education, prisons, hospitals, armies, pollution, diet, etc. its the stories that direct our attention to this or that aspect of the issues connected with them. It's the stories that make us ask if we're poisoning the planet. Science can tell us the answer, but we only ask because of a sort of religious guilt, and we find it hard to take practical steps to address climate change because of the paralysing effect of guilt.
I do so agree here.
quote:
And the big stories that have all the traction tend to be dark and negative. Stories which show the weak collaborating to overcome monsters (Three Little Pigs is sort of about this), are less popular. No one celebrates the effect of hundreds of small scale actions, like foodbanks, vaccinations, charity grants, friendly conversations with neighbours.
Thank you for that interesting post.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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Shutting down computer now - back tomorrow.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Brenda Clough
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We need stories for different things. This is particularly obvious in other people; we have a president these days for whom nothing can be his fault. And therefore, when something bad happens, he is forced to construct a story about how someone else was to blame. You might get away with this once or twice, but when it happens every week it is clearly a crutch for some grave injury in him. But he cannot seem to help it.

One of the most basic and useful things that stories can do for you is, you can try it out. It is free, it is private, you can do it over and over. No, do not marry that person just yet! Instead, first, imagine what it would be like married to him. Would he be a good father? Would he change the oil in your car? Would he cook, or insist that you cook? This is tons cheaper than divorce. What would it be like, if I added a front porch to my house? Before I spend the money, I should tell myself a couple stories about it. What about snow? What about the delivery man? What about groceries?

You can see children learning to do this, even pets. I have watched dogs think seriously, about jumping up onto the sofa, revolving all the pros and cons.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I think my arbiter has always been, Is this TRUE?' particularly when young and now I think I rely on what I have learnt and of course on the experience of a long life. But that arbiter of truth idea is an interesting point and I will make a note and see if or how much I apply that to stories I hear and read.

Of course I think most educated people want to make sure that they are only believing true things. The hard part is, how to tell? What do we accept, what do we reject, and what do we hold in abeyance? On what grounds?
For myself, on a straightforward basis, I would say that any story or information which included anything supernatural being assumed or stated as true would be fiction; however, on stories such as those about vaccines, I would refer to people with a proven track record of cutting through such false stories, people like Dr ben Goldacre for instance.
quote:
Virtually everything we know is based on trust. I trust the scientists have done their experiments right, and the journals have done their peer review and due diligence. But I don't know that. I couldn't even check up on it, because I don't have the requisite background. So I take it on trust. And so on with everything I know that's not part of my immediate experience.
Yes, I agree, but that trust is mostly justified, because the background of tried and tested evidence points that way.
quote:
So the final question becomes, whom to trust? We are often betrayed by people we thought we could trust. Scientific findings turn out to have been faked. Nutrition information we relied on turns out to have been fabricated by one particular industry to sell more of their product. And so on.
Agreed, but perhaps we are on firmer ground these days with more information, and this is where good journalists come into their own, I think. The ones who leave no stone unturned in their search for the facts behind all the stories are invaluable and we , the general public, are fortunate that they have that persistence in their characters.
quote:
It's truly a thorny question.
I don’t know if anyone here has read Terry Pratchett’s book, ‘Nation’, but the western-educated girl who spends time with an island tribe, learns their ways and language, and when she is about to leave. She, havving learnt that, there are some things she must do, as an accepted , if honorary, member of the tribe conforms to their conventions. She knows she must (a) tell her story in short episodes, and (b) accept that the wise man will re-tell it with embellishments. That is the way of things and will be remembered by all in that colourful version, not the simple, factual one that she told. An excellent allegory, I think.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
For myself, on a straightforward basis, I would say that any story or information which included anything supernatural being assumed or stated as true would be fiction; however, on stories such as those about vaccines, I would refer to people with a proven track record of cutting through such false stories, people like Dr ben Goldacre for instance.

Well, OK, but this fails to really get to grips with the complexities of truth - which cuts across boundaries of fact vs fantasy.

It seems to me that there are different kinds of truth (as you perhaps indicate when alluding to Terry Pratchett) and one doesn't simply class those things written by Goldacre or some other "top journalist" as reliable fact whereas those things written by Dostoevsky or Jane Austen as fantasy.

I think it is unlikely that we'd take Goldacre particularly seriously if he was talking about the complexities of forgiveness and guilt as discussed in Crime and Punishment. Equally, I don't think we should take Terry Pratchett particularly seriously if he wrote about the risks of consuming Raw Milk.

But equally, it seems dismissive to reject Dostoevsky or even Pratchett as being mere fiction just because they reference deities.

Surely you've got better categories of truth than that, Susan.

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arse

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Penny S
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# 14768

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hatless:
quote:
Stories which show the weak collaborating to overcome monsters (Three Little Pigs is sort of about this), are less popular. No one celebrates the effect of hundreds of small scale actions, like foodbanks, vaccinations, charity grants, friendly conversations with neighbours.
There was a stream of such stories in British film, once upon a time. "Passport to Pimlico", "The Titfield Thunderbolt", "Whisky Galore", "The Maggie" and "Barnacle Bill" come to mind. (With some help from Wikipedia.)
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Sparrow
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# 2458

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The story that seems to come into my mind most frequently nowadays when I look at current affairs is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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mr cheesy

I'm thinking ... I have copied your post on to a document. Back later!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Sparrow:
The story that seems to come into my mind most frequently nowadays when I look at current affairs is "The Emperor's New Clothes".

total agreement from me there!!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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wabale
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

It seems to me that there are different kinds of truth (as you perhaps indicate when alluding to Terry Pratchett) and one doesn't simply class those things written by Goldacre or some other "top journalist" as reliable fact whereas those things written by Dostoevsky or Jane Austen as fantasy.

Relying on a particular author or guru is just one, I think, of the many shortcuts we use to make sense of the world. Basically we can’t function as human beings without relying on prejudice, and relying on a particular trusted person can work, up to a point. This is not so much a problem in everyday living, where we gradually learn about truth from experience, but becomes a real problem when we’ve read more than one book about a subject relating to the wider world: at this point we run into the danger that other people will regard us as an expert, or the even greater danger where we actually start believing ourselves to be an expert on a subject.

One particular guru I discovered accidentally is Christopher Booker. He writes a column for ‘The Daily Telegraph’. I was intrigued by the title of a book he wrote, ‘The Seven Basic Plots - why we tell stories’. I had come across the basic idea before, but what I found interesting was the way he was able to support it with examples from around the world, not just the Western tradition. During the run-up to the Brexit vote a friend who doesn’t share my internationalist and federalist sensibilities persuaded me to read ‘The Great Deception – The Secret History of the European Union’ (co-authored, I discovered, by Christopher Booker). Booker provides just enough acknowledgement of his opponents’ viewpoints to sound balanced and authoritative, meanwhile weaving a convincing tale. His writing in ‘The Telegraph’ on the subject of climate change is, however, another matter: his creative use of graphs using just the timescales that appear to bolster his arguments won’t disguise the facts that science is revealing about climate change.
As I say, I ran into Booker’s highly imaginative and entertaining ‘7 Plots’ by accident. The book I was trying to find was Christopher Derrick’s book (written in 1969) ‘Reader’s Report on the writing of novels - a publisher’s reader examines the pitfalls facing the aspiring novelist’. Unlike Booker’s this was too much truth: his detailed description of the 21 plots he kept having to read gave pause for thought.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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I wouldn't say my thinking has done a great deal, [Smile] but...
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
For myself, on a straightforward basis, I would say that any story or information which included anything supernatural being assumed or stated as true are basically fiction; however, on stories such as those about vaccines, I would refer to people with a proven track record of cutting through such false stories, people like Dr ben Goldacre for instance.

Well, OK, but this fails to really get to grips with the complexities of truth - which cuts across boundaries of fact vs fantasy.
What do you think are these 'cmplexities'? There are of course subjective truths, probably an infinite number of them and objective ones. The latter, as Science says, are never 100% proved, but enough so that the pedantic qualification that there must always be an element of doubt can remain dormant.
Unfortunately, I think you are right about there being so many complexities to truth! As soon as one tries to pin it down, one thinks, 'Ah, but what about...' However, the supposed truths that cause dissension and conflict need constant attention and countering.
quote:
It seems to me that there are different kinds of truth (as you perhaps indicate when alluding to Terry Pratchett) and one doesn't simply class those things written by Goldacre or some other "top journalist" as reliable fact whereas those things written by Dostoevsky or Jane Austen as fantasy.
I think the difference is when the writer claims that what they have written is truth, not just for them but for all. All stories tell us something about the human condition and about ourselves, that is if we choose to consider them in that way.
quote:
I think it is unlikely that we'd take Goldacre particularly seriously if he was talking about the complexities of forgiveness and guilt as discussed in Crime and Punishment. Equally, I don't think we should take Terry Pratchett particularly seriously if he wrote about the risks of consuming Raw Milk. But equally, it seems dismissive to reject Dostoevsky or even Pratchett as being mere fiction just because they reference deities.
 True, but then we would know that we were not asking either for an expert or professional opinion in those topics! On the other hand, since both are (or sadly, no longer are) we would probably not reject their opinions out of hand.
quote:
Surely you've got better categories of truth than that, Susan.
Well, I started to try and categorise truths, but no, it doesn't work! If I cansay there is a connection between what I see as true and the objective evidence for it, then that is where I am, I think.
I have boundless admiration for people who write stories, even the bad ones!, since I know that I absolutely could not do it myself. Our lives are enriched by stories.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
What do you think are these 'cmplexities'? There are of course subjective truths, probably an infinite number of them and objective ones. The latter, as Science says, are never 100% proved, but enough so that the pedantic qualification that there must always be an element of doubt can remain dormant.
Unfortunately, I think you are right about there being so many complexities to truth! As soon as one tries to pin it down, one thinks, 'Ah, but what about...' However, the supposed truths that cause dissension and conflict need constant attention and countering.

I think it is fairly obvious there are different kinds of truth. There is a scientific truth, there is a mathematical truth. But alongside those "pure" truths (even ignoring for the moment the philosophy of science about knowledge) there are many other kinds of truth.

Something can be entirely made up but be true - I'd consider much of Terry Pratchett to be true on various levels, albeit in the context of a fantastical world. There are things which are figuratively true. There are things which are emotionally true. There are things which are helpful ways to look at issues.

The binary division between "truth" and "false" is clearly not a helpful one in the real world, and simply cutting off things that reference deities as being "fictional" or "fantasy" seems like a very arbitrary way to avoid truths.

[ 01. May 2017, 11:56: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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arse

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Boogie

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# 13538

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The present political climate makes me realise just how subjective truth can be. I read some opinions and wonder if I saw the same speach/rally/event as the person writing.

Are any truths absolute or are they all relative?

I tend to be a very practical person and usually ask 'does it work?' If it does it will do for me.

That's why I find God annoying - she's far to elusive for my liking.

I agree about Terry Pratchett's books being full of truth. I love the way science doesn't exist on Discworld - all is magic and alchemy with little grumbling imps driving all 'machines'.


[Smile]

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Brenda Clough
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
The present political climate makes me realise just how subjective truth can be. I read some opinions and wonder if I saw the same speach/rally/event as the person writing.

Are any truths absolute or are they all relative?


In fact, everything is indeed relative. A brief tour through quantum physics theory reveals that even at the subatomic level, things are actually not real. What we see and feel and know is entirely filtered through our own perceptions. There is nothing we can do about it; there is no other way for us to perceive and we have never seen more than a very slender slice of what is.

I am totally cool with this. God has a -far- better imagination than I do, and it thrills me. Show me fun stuff, God! I'll write about it, and the boffins will go and figure out how it works, and then we'll all jump up and down with joy at the unutterable coolness of it all.

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cliffdweller
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# 13338

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
The interesting thing, though, being that it all comes down to source of authority. All of us need to make that decision-- to choose what we will hold to be fact and what we will hold to be fantasy. And we do so based on our source of authority-- what we hold to be a reliable arbiter of truth.

I think my arbiter has always been, Is this TRUE?' particularly when young and now I think I rely on what I have learnt and of course on the experience of a long life. But that arbiter of truth idea is aninteresting point and I will make a note and see if or how much I apply that to stories I hear and read.
quote:
And yet the decision that something-- whether it be the scientific method or a sacred book or a particular news source-- is authoritative is, itself, an act of faith.

If you press that reality too far, you end up with cynicism and nihilism-- which may have a sort of intellectual honesty, but it is also no way to live-- "psychologically intolerable" as someone (Wm James?) once said. So we are left with holding on to our sources of authority, but hopefully somewhat more tentatively, more humbly, than our past more naive selves might have done.

I'm not sure I would say it is an act of faith; if there is reliable and consistent objective evidence, I will rely on that, but keep a weather eye open just in case!

This is the way everyone talks about their source of authority-- but really, all you've said is "this is my source of authority".

For you the source of authority is the scientific method: a particular and orderly sequence of observable experimental processes that allow one to test out various theses for determining "is it true". fwiw, I think that is an excellent source of authority-- but it is still, no matter how reasonable-- an act of faith to conclude that it is reliable and authoritative-- that the results are "true". There are whole categories of people who, either implicitly or explicitly, would challenge that assumption-- fundamentalist believers of many religions, yes, but also nihilists of various sorts. They would point out that our choice to pick "science" as a source of authority is just as arbitrary as choosing a sacred text or the alignment of the planetary bodies.

The interesting thing, though, is how difficult it is for us to speak about sources of authority. Very quickly we end up saying something like what you just said, "I just ask what's TRUE" without stepping back to address why we think this body of evidence (science, text, whatever) points to truth. When we do that we start to sound like fundamentalists.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
The present political climate makes me realise just how subjective truth can be. I read some opinions and wonder if I saw the same speach/rally/event as the person writing.

Are any truths absolute or are they all relative?

I tend to be a very practical person and usually ask 'does it work?' If it does it will do for me.

That's why I find God annoying - she's far to elusive for my liking.

I agree about Terry Pratchett's books being full of truth. I love the way science doesn't exist on Discworld - all is magic and alchemy with little grumbling imps driving all 'machines'.


[Smile]

I think this is good. Approaching science as a means of arriving at truth seems weird to me; I would say that science works pragmatically - or not. But it's not trying to describe reality or truth. Of course, you can construct a philosophical approach to reality or truth based on science.

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the main fear that flat-earthers face is sphere itself.

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Boogie

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# 13538

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I love your sig [Big Grin]

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I think it is fairly obvious there are different kinds of truth. There is a scientific truth, there is a mathematical truth. But alongside those "pure" truths (even ignoring for the moment the philosophy of science about knowledge) there are many other kinds of truth.

Yes, but almost all are open to challenge and known to be thus open. The scientific and mathematical truths are constantly being expanded and improved and most people would agree that such extended knowledge is a good thing. The philosophical truths are more subjective and could well be the cause of disagreement, but people who engage in controversy here are generally motivated by a desire for increased knowledge and a better understanding of truth; or perhaps a clearer distinction between objective and subjective truths; also what it is that makes humans think and behave the way they do.
quote:
Something can be entirely made up but be true - I'd consider much of Terry Pratchett to be true on various levels, albeit in the context of a fantastical world. There are things which are figuratively true. There are things which are emotionally true. There are things which are helpful ways to look at issues.

The binary division between "truth" and "false" is clearly not a helpful one in the real world, and simply cutting off things that reference deities as being "fictional" or "fantasy" seems like a very arbitrary way to avoid truths.

I agree, but there is one exception to the 'mostly all' mentioned in first sentence. For me, it is as near totally true as it is possible to be \that all deities are invented by humans. That is, however, a bit like an elephant in the room here, so I’m ignoring itfor the moment.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
the [boffins will go and figure out how it works, and then we'll all jump up and down with joy at the unutterable coolness of it all.

My (younger) son has been here this afternoon and added spotisfy to my alexa, so I think that can be described as really cool!!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
Yes, but almost all are open to challenge and known to be thus open. The scientific and mathematical truths are constantly being expanded and improved and most people would agree that such extended knowledge is a good thing. The philosophical truths are more subjective and could well be the cause of disagreement, but people who engage in controversy here are generally motivated by a desire for increased knowledge and a better understanding of truth; or perhaps a clearer distinction between objective and subjective truths; also what it is that makes humans think and behave the way they do.

I think truth is subjective - it can't help but be, we experience "the truth" in different ways.

In my view, if you relegate philosophical truth to "not very good because they're not science" then you're missing out on a whole category of truth and useful stuff.


quote:
I agree, but there is one exception to the 'mostly all' mentioned in first sentence. For me, it is as near totally true as it is possible to be \that all deities are invented by humans. That is, however, a bit like an elephant in the room here, so I’m ignoring itfor the moment.
I think you are wrong - but even if you are right, I say that there might be useful things about believing in fake or false ideas.

Even if the deists are wrong and there is no god, then there might be useful and truthful things about believing that there is.

And that's the difference here: you've arbitarily decided that This Can't be True - because you can't touch it - And is Therefore Useless.

I'm saying truth is a much more complicated and slippery thing than that.

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arse

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
fwiw, I think that is an excellent source of authority-- but it is still, no matter how reasonable-- an act of faith to conclude that it is reliable and authoritative-- that the results are "true".[QB]

Looking back on my life, I know that one of the things that has helped me bounce back from and get through difficulties has been an ability to perceive my situation with a detached perspective; not always of course but generally speaking. I see what you mean when you say that there is an element of faith involved because we have to rely on, rather than personally checking, the associated .scientific results.
quote:
[QB]There are whole categories of people who, either implicitly or explicitly, would challenge that assumption-- fundamentalist believers of many religions, yes, but also nihilists of various sorts. They would point out that our choice to pick "science" as a source of authority is just as arbitrary as choosing a sacred text or the alignment of the planetary bodies.

The choice might be arbitrary, but the reliability would be very one-sided!
quote:
The interesting thing, though, is how difficult it is for us to speak about sources of authority. Very quickly we end up saying something like what you just said, "I just ask what's TRUE" without stepping back to address why we think this body of evidence (science, text, whatever) points to truth. When we do that we start to sound like fundamentalists.
As I said earlier, I think the ‘source of authority’ idea is very interesting and it is going to be running through my mind through all I do this week.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
Yes, but almost all are open to challenge and known to be thus open. The scientific and mathematical truths are constantly being expanded and improved and most people would agree that such extended knowledge is a good thing. The philosophical truths are more subjective and could well be the cause of disagreement, but people who engage in controversy here are generally motivated by a desire for increased knowledge and a better understanding of truth; or perhaps a clearer distinction between objective and subjective truths; also what it is that makes humans think and behave the way they do.

I think truth is subjective - it can't help but be, we experience "the truth" in different ways.

In my view, if you relegate philosophical truth to "not very good because they're not science" then you're missing out on a whole category of truth and useful stuff.

I can see I have to back-track a bit here! I used the phrase ‘’philosophical truths’, but now I come to think of it, I am not sure I could define a philosophical truth. Google didn’t help! I suppose it is an idea which is generally taken to be true?!
quote:
quote:
I agree, but there is one exception to the 'mostly all' mentioned in first sentence. For me, it is as near totally true as it is possible to be \that all deities are invented by humans. That is, however, a bit like an elephant in the room here, so I’m ignoring itfor the moment.
I think you are wrong - but even if you are right, I say that there might be useful things about believing in fake or false ideas.
Can you give an example? I can't think of one.
quote:
Even if the deists are wrong and there is no god, then there might be useful and truthful things about believing that there is.
It might well be useful to understand why others believe them, but I cannot think of an example here either.
quote:
And that's the difference here: you've arbitarily decided that This Can't be True - because you can't touch it - And is Therefore Useless.
My belief just evaporated and no facts have appeared to make me change my mind.
quote:
I'm saying truth is a much more complicated and slippery thing than that.
The more I read in this thread, the more I think I might have to agree with you on this.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I can see I have to back-track a bit here! I used the phrase ‘’philosophical truths’, but now I come to think of it, I am not sure I could define a philosophical truth. Google didn’t help! I suppose it is an idea which is generally taken to be true?!

No, I'd say it is an idea which has some resonance for individuals and is held to be generally helpful. But then I understand these things experientially, so helpful/not helpful seems to me to be a better category than truth/false.


quote:
quote:
I think you are wrong - but even if you are right, I say that there might be useful things about believing in fake or false ideas.
Can you give an example? I can't think of one.
Well there any number of examples if you think hard enough about it. In science we teach children increasing approximations as they get older. The first iterations that they learn are by necessity false, the point isn't that they're true but that they're a useful starting point for learning.

Or in another example: let's say that Dawkins is right and that the soul doesn't exist and that the individual human life is no more important than an ant's life. Do you think that means Mr Dawkins therefore doesn't care about his family? Surely it makes sense for him to behave as if the soul existed and as if he really is an individual (and his children etc are) than to persist with the "truth" that they don't.

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pimple

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There are so many ways of telling the truth. In poetry, we are always told by our teachers to "show, don't tell" And I think it was Emily Dickson who wrote "tell the truth, but tell it slant."

Phillip Pullman (I hope I've spelt his name correctly) was being somewhat disingenuous, I think, with his loud caveat that

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ" was fiction, for goodness sake. I found it very unsatisfactory because of (a) its implausibility and (b) its lack of subtlety.

Reginald Hill (who wrote the Dalziel and Pascoe detective stories) had a far more sensible approach to fiction. One of his longer novels offended some Christians. His reply was that he wasn't attempting literal historical veracity. But, if the cap fitted in one or too awkward places...."in other words, just because I made it all up doesn't mean it isn't true.

I love reading bible stories, even the ones that hurt. But while some authors like Isaiah can be regarded as competent poets, many of the more prophetic writers, in both old and new testaments, believe in "Tell - not show". the delicious irony being that the only convincing evidence for a transcendent God is the way somebody or something continually show us, through these stories, things the literal prophets either don't see, or try to cover up.

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In other words, just because I made it all up, doesn't mean it isn't true (Reginald Hill)

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Brenda Clough
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You can't demand of the form what it cannot supply. The concept of showing (versus telling) is fairly modern. Certainly when the OT was being written it was unknown. Literary demands fall in and out of fashion over time; there was a period when original work was decidedly deplored, and if you were a really good ancient Greek dramatist or Mesopotamian poet you were working with the good old myths that everybody always wrote about. Only a second-rater would, good god, write something new.

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Gramps49
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I believe it was the psychologist, Alfred Adler that claimed we all have our own fictions by which we individually order our lives. The question is how effective we are operating with our fictions. An atheist may think a belief in a god is fantasy but for a Christian that belief has helped the believer to order his or her life. Most of the times people with that particular fiction have highly functional lives. Conversely, the psalmist calls those who say there is no god fools; yet there are many highly functional nonbelievers.

I have learned that often times a person will interpret facts based on his or her perspective. It is quite possible to "prove" the earth is square if you assume certain prepositions. I had an astrophysicist do this once in a lecture after an hour of argument and counter-argument, he finally wrote on the board "April 1, 1974." and said "April Fools." The key to the whole argument he was making was the first assumption.

I also had a good friend that could get you to believe anything. He would start out with a proposition one could commonly accept, then he would make another proposition that was just slightly off, and so on until you would find yourself believing black the new white.

As long as your fiction works for you, who am I to challenge it. As long as my fiction works for me, who are you to challenge me?

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Martin60
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I want ALL my little fictions (WHAT an album!) challenged, preferably by kinder, wiser, smarter people. Which happens here more than anywhere.

In the past year my small minded little fictions about reality have been challenged by the magisterial super-physics cosmology of Alan Guth. All that's left is Jesus and the unexpected appeal of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:

As long as your fiction works for you, who am I to challenge it. As long as my fiction works for me, who are you to challenge me?

What works for you could be very harmful for others - see president trump.

You can be very effective and destroy the planet - see the human race.

This is why our fictions need to work within a moral framework and an attitude of humility - see Jesus.

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Boogie

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Cross posted with Martin60, but I think we said the same thing?

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by pimple:
There are so many ways of telling the truth. In poetry, we are always told by our teachers to "show, don't tell" And I think it was Emily Dickson who wrote "tell the truth, but tell it slant."

Phillip Pullman (I hope I've spelt his name correctly) was being somewhat disingenuous, I think, with his loud caveat that

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ" was fiction, for goodness sake. I found it very unsatisfactory because of (a) its implausibility and (b) its lack of subtlety.

Yes, I agree about the Philip Pullman book, I thought it was very disappointing. I read it because he'd written it, but I don't think it worked.

When I was young, it was often said that whether one accepted the Bible stories or not, it was an important work of literature as so many of our words and phrases come from it. They were of course referring to the King James' version. I don't think I've heard that said for a long time. I would not, of course, say that the Bible should be treated as literal truth! [Smile]

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Posts: 2947 | From: UK | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged
SusanDoris

Incurable Optimist
# 12618

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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
I believe it was the psychologist, Alfred Adler that claimed we all have our own fictions by which we individually order our lives. The question is how effective we are operating with our fictions. An atheist may think a belief in a god is fantasy but for a Christian that belief has helped the believer to order his or her life. Most of the times people with that particular fiction have highly functional lives. Conversely, the psalmist calls those who say there is no god fools; yet there are many highly functional nonbelievers.

I hope I’m one of them!!
That is an interesting point though, and I’m going to think about whether or not I have an individual hfiction by which I order my life. I don’t think there is… …

The God/god/s and other supernatural ideas are the fantasy, not the people who believe them. And that sentence is not quite right. Hmmm..
It is easily understandable why belief in God is so widespread, and that is because of history and cultures, I think.
quote:
As long as your fiction works for you, who am I to challenge it. As long as my fiction works for me, who are you to challenge me?
I would say, though, that the important point is to know whether or not it is a fiction.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

Posts: 2947 | From: UK | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged
ThunderBunk

Stone cold idiot
# 15579

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We all have narratives. That narrative can come from anywhere, including science, but it's still a narrative. Belief in one's own objectivity is the most insidious and dangerous narrative, because it's transparent to its subject. But it distorts that subject's picture of the world as much as any other.

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

Foolish, potentially deranged witterings

Posts: 2147 | From: Norwich | Registered: Apr 2010  |  IP: Logged
Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
We all have narratives. That narrative can come from anywhere, including science, but it's still a narrative. Belief in one's own objectivity is the most insidious and dangerous narrative, because it's transparent to its subject. But it distorts that subject's picture of the world as much as any other.

I'd mostly agree.

A narrative isn't a fact or a fiction. It's a way of organising and linking and interpreting the facts.

And it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the trueness of the facts implies the rightness of the narrative.

The success of the scientific method in developing understanding that leads to technology which increases the ability of humans to control aspects of the environment seems like a fact. But that fact is consistent with a range of different narratives about where the human race is and which direction it should take from here. That one of those narratives emphasises science doesn't imply that it's better than the alternatives.

That some groups of people have had bad experiences in the past seems like a fact. But that fact is consistent with a range of narratives, from "we know what it feels like to be bullied so we're going to make very sure that we never bully anyone" to "we're victims so anything we do is OK"

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3065 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged



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