by PhilipJ on 11 April 2006
For those who want to embrace the scientific method in their analysis of literary works, it wasn’t good to see the article start with this made up statistic:
“Almost 99.999% of literary hypotheses aren’t tested in that way [using the scientific method],” says Gottschall, and as a result “there is no progress of knowledge because nothing can be wrong.”
I guess I also still don’t know what kind of progress the literary darwinists are looking for, because as long as there are new works to analyze, and old pieces to analyze in a new light (for example, through darwinian eyes), what else is there? I’ve already argued against consensus-reached definitions of what a piece is “truly about”. Individuality in art is important to me.
So while I didn’t love the interview, there is one particularly interesting question posed:
Is human nature somehow made more fitâ€”or biologically resilientâ€”by way of storytelling?
This is one of the really big questions right now. Although yet to be tested scientifically, there are two camps of thinking on this. One, the human capacity to tell fictional narrative was designed into us for a specific reason; it enhanced our fitness and helped us leave behind more offspring. The second is that storytelling has no function whatsoever; it’s just a side effect of human intelligence, an evolutionary byproduct. The human capacity for narrative is universal among human cultures, however, so most people think it has to have a function. But the jury is still out.
Are humans somehow better adapted to their environment having the ability to tell stories? I can think of lots of reasons why storytelling is a useful tool: we teach morals and ethics through stories. Whether this makes us better adapted to our environment, well, I’ll have to agree—the jury is still out.