Science vs Story Telling: How Do You Know What’s Actually Real?

[Special thanks to Jaline Williams for assisting with some of the research for this post.]
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Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time (seriously, sometimes it *actually* starts with “once upon a time”) our country, the United States, was a rich, powerful nation!  We lead the world in science, technology, and social development.  However, one day, our people believed that they were “entitled” – that the world owed them something, and that they could get lots of free benefits by voting the right people into office.  Our country has steadily declined into a welfare state ever since.  (Your news, fair and balanced.)

And that’s the story of our economic woes.  The end!

If you live in the US, you’ve probably heard that story a number of times.  All of our economic problems can be blamed on the poor – and of course the solution is to give the rich more money!

80 richest people

I’m sure it’s because 3,500,000,000 people are all just too lazy and don’t want to work.

Stories of this sort usually have an agenda in mind.  They’re often times appealing to adults for the same reason they’re appealing to children; they make big, complex problems seem simple, easy to grasp, and usually have some sort of built-in solution that goes along with them.  In this story, the problems we face are caused by the poor who don’t want to work, and the solution is to simply stop helping them.

When we actually examine the cause of homelessness, we’ll find that it is not, in fact, caused by a massive wave of people – by the millions – all collectively deciding at around the same time “I shouldn’t have to work!” – then quitting their jobs, sitting on the couch, arms folded, and sitting there until they’re finally evicted.  Homelessness is a multifaceted issue with numerous direct and indirect causes, from the extremely complex matter of the 2008 housing bubble and economic meltdown, to naturally emergent economic properties like gentrification, to the simple facts like the cost of living going up while minimum income hasn’t kept pace.

People often want answers to complex issues, but don’t want to spend the time studying or researching what the causes actually are.  So why listen to science when you can settle for a good story?

Another story is how life came about.  You know the one; in the beginning, there was nothing.  Then god said “Let their be light”, and there was light, and he saw that it was good.  Then on the 4th day, he created the sun and moon.  Which is really amazing!  Because if the sun was created on the 4th day… how were there 4 days???  To be clear, Genesis 1:16 of the King James Version states “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night“. Apparently the authors of this chapter weren’t aware that the moon doesn’t produce it’s own light.

Of course, the diversity of life on earth is extremely well documented and thoroughly understood, with a considerable number of observable examples that fit perfectly with the theory.

Stories like The Magical Sky Wizard – who tosses hurricanes at homosexuals – often have plot holes and logical inconsistencies.  That’s how you know they’re just stories; reality is consistent, while fiction doesn’t have to be.  For some even simpler examples: why does Superman stand there and let the bullets bounce of his chest, but ducks when they throw the gun at him?  If Batman really were a billionaire, why can’t he fix the economy of Gotham City and get rid of crime?  Fans of these stories usually come up with explanations, but that’s what fans generally tend to do.  They like remaining true to their fiction, and they don’t want their story ruined.

At this point, you might have a sense of how stories (we’ll interchangeably call them “narratives”) differ from a scientific theory.  Lets explore further so we have a more articulated understanding of exactly how they differ from one another.

Science

The following is borrowed from AronRa, in his series “Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism”.

—– —– —– —– —– —–
A fact is any element of verifiably accurate data. “Verifiably accurate” means it can still be shown to be true even to those who don’t want to believe it. Facts alone do not make “evidence” until they collectively prove one scenario over any other (some facts may be strong enough to do this).

Evidence is when factual circumstances which are accounted for, and indicative of one particular explanation over any other. Gather enough evidence together, and you’ve got proof.

Proof, then, is an overwhelming preponderance of physical and logical evidence showing – beyond contention – the accuracy of particular position. (100% absolute proof exists only in mathematics)
—– —– —– —– —– —–

Let’s play with these for a moment.

Say you’re accused of killing Mr. Neckbeard. A knife was found in Mr. Neckbeard’s back early on the morning of June 10th. The knife belonged to you. The first thing the judge and prosecuting attorney do is congratulate you, and celebrate into the wee hours of the morning! We HATE neckbeards!!!

… but ok seriously, it’s a fact that the knife belonged to you, and it’s a fact he was found dead with it in his back. But those do not make “evidence”, because remember, evidence must be indicative of one particular explanation over any other! There’s not enough evidence to convict you (or amount to proof) of any wrong doing.

Even if we had eye-witness accounts and testimonies from a bunch of other people that you hated Neckbeard, that still does not prove anything. Facts and evidence are not enough – we need an overwhelming preponderance of physical and logical evidence, and that, we don’t have.

However, you can still be convicted for murder. Here’s why.

Narratives

You and I do not understand or experience life through a system based only on facts, evidence, and proof. No one does. We also do not experience life only through our senses and thoughts. We need some way to tie it all together; who we are, who everyone else is, where we stand, what’s happening to us, why it’s happening, what’s happened to us before and what’s likely to happen in the future – all of this is done by a method of internal “story-telling”. This includes the inner voice in our minds that dictates the world that happens around us, and our understanding of that world, put together in a story-format.  In psychology, this is closely related to the concept of “schema“.

Many different people may go through the same tragedy; some come out as heroes, others come out as survivors, and others come out as victims. The difference is the narrative each of them writes for themselves, and the way they caste themselves in that story.

We make stories not jumale dangerst for us; we make them for everyone around us. And those stories are occasionally rewritten, based on what we experience and how we feel at any given time. I remember sitting at the table in the community room at my old building, and someone from my floor walked by and looked in my grocery bag. After she left, another friend comes over and says “She was nosey!” I said “She was just curious.” We’ve clearly written two different stories about what just happened.

In the theoretical courtroom that didn’t have enough evidence to convict you, the jurors have their own story where you’re guilty. A good lawyer knows that he doesn’t have to PROVE anything to a jury; he only has to CONVINCE a jury! This means (usually) starting off on a strong groundwork of facts and evidence, but then playing and building on created or pre-existing narratives with emotional appeals.  How surprising is it when an all-white jury finds a black man guilty?

Because narratives are how we view the world, it is indeed possible to have one that’s closely in line with the facts.  Narratives are not automatically wrong.  But because they often incorporate story-telling elements, like assigning motivations to the behavior of others that is often unverified by science (this group of people really only want this / do that / believe such-and-such because ____ ), they usually do end up with conclusions that are not concordant with the facts or evidence, and are sometimes in complete contradiction.

This is what separates 4th Wavers from other websites focused on feminism and social justice.  4th Wavers does not rely on narratives.   I may sometimes use narratives to counter other narratives, if only to show that an alternative story is possible, but most of what you find here is checked against other sources and thoroughly challenged before it goes up.  After it goes up, the comments section is left open so that the content is subject to ongoing public review.  That’s how science works.

In fact, as a way of *proving* we do not have an agenda, and are not committed to any sort of narrative, I will not only change the material in a post if someone points out the errors, I will give them a shout out for having caught the error.  That’s how science works!

Occasionally I have an idea for a topic, and begin working, but I can’t find enough evidence to back what I had in mind, and have to abandon the idea.  In fact, right around somewhere in here, I was going to add that “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” meme.  But, after doing some very brief research (it’s one of the first results that comes up), it turns out that this ain’t legit.  It’s important to check *everything*, because if I don’t, someone else will, and I’ll end up having to give them credit somewhere in the post.  That’s how science works!

Summed up, the differences are:

Science Narratives
You can test each part of a claim to see if it’s true. Usually cannot test parts – or any – of a claim. When you are able to test parts, they disprove the original claim.
If a claim is tested and it fails, science changes so the untrue part is corrected. If a claim is tested and it fails, the results are ignored or dismissed, and the narrative continues unchanged.
Is consistent – all the facts fit together and are mutually supportive. Unknowns are admitted. Is not consistent – the claims often contradict one another, and unknowns are filled in with more unfounded claims.
You are strongly encouraged to question and challenge claims, and can reap huge rewards for a successful challenge. You are strongly discouraged from questioning or challenging claims, and will be ostracized or attacked for doing so.

Want to find out quickly which of these a person falls into?  During a discussion, just ask this simple question:

“What would change your mind?”

If the answer is “evidence!” – then you’re probably dealing with an intellectually honest skeptic who relies on factual verification.  Bonus points if they can go into details, and tell you exactly what kind of evidence.

If the answer is “nothing” – then you’re probably dealing with someone who’s bought into the narrative, believes what they’re told, and isn’t interested in facts.  In short, this is what separates 3rd Wavers from 4th Wavers.

An apologist is often someone who is very highly skilled at dressing up narratives to sound like science.  Lets take a look at an example of this in the form of flat earth “theory”.  You may have heard of these folks.

What’s really awesome about this is that all the observations explained round-earth theory can also be explained by the flat earth theory! The shadow cast on the moon by a round earth could also be made by a flat disk. The sun appears to go “around the earth” only because it’s small, hovers around the disk in a circle like fashion, and simply disappears into the distance. And how do you explain gravity? Well, there is no gravity – the flat disk of earth is simply moving through space at 9.8 meters per second (Update 3/28/16 – this should read “the earth is accelerating through space at 9.8 meters per second.  Thanks to Memento Mori for catching the error!) And all the photos we have of a round earth?   Those are actually all part of a money making conspiracy by – you guessed it – rich, powerful, white men, in faraway offices, telling us all what to believe (sound familiar?)

This makes for a really interesting puzzle to solve. Each of the flat-earthers explanations actually do explain every observation equally well as the round earth explanations. Each and every “Then how do you explain” question has an answer that sounds entirely plausible, and may even come off as quite convincing, especially if explained by a practiced orator using skilled rhetoric and perfectly delivered emotional appeals.

So what’s the answer then? How can we determine if Flat-Earthism is science, or narrative?  Look back to the chart from earlier.  The “facts” put forth by narratives are inconsistent, and not mutually supportive.  Each explanation that flat-earth theory gives only addresses observation immediately presented. Explanations do not mutually help each other explain the entire concept the way science does, and falter when scrutinized more closely and compared with other evidence. Let’s take a look and compare them.

Flat Earth Model

Observation Explanation
Gravity The earth is moving through space, creating the illusion of gravity
Sunsets The sun is actually only 32 miles across, and disappears into the distance
Photos of Earth This is a government cover up so NASA has an excuse to draw money
Seasons The tiny ball of sun is sometimes closer and sometimes further away
Falling off the edge There is a giant ice wall which holds the waters onto the disk and keeps things from falling off.

 

When more closely scrutinized and compared with other evidence: gravity can be seen not just when an apple falls from a tree, but because the ground moves up at an infinitesimally short distance to meet the apple. A sun 32 miles across cannot create or maintain an internal nuclear fusion reaction, plus solar eclipses would be impossible to explain. An outright contradiction in this model can be seen on the Flat Earth wiki page concerning stars: http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/tiki/tikiindex.php?page=The+Stars

—– —–
Each star in a cluster is attracted to one another through gravitational vectors.
—– —–

We’re not supposed to have gravity, remember? If we did, the earth would pull itself into a ball. It’s why all planetary bodies are spherical.

Pointing out these inconsistencies may causes frustration on the part of someone who’s bought into the narrative. Rather than be corrected because “Oh, I didn’t consider that” in the search for the truth, they’re being contradicted in the deal they’ve already bought and paid for. Explanations start becoming more and more divergent – “Well, stars have gravity, but our planet doesn’t!” … because physical laws don’t apply when we don’t want them to.

Can you draw some parallels here to 3rd Wave Feminism?

Now lets compare to science.

Astrophysics Model

Observation Explanation
Gravity This is an inherent property of matter which is equally below us at any point on the planet, because the earth is round
Sunsets As the round earth revolves around the sun, it also rotates. We can go into space and watch this happen.
Photos of Earth It looks round because the goddam planet is round!
Seasons Earth tilts on its axis
Falling off the edge There is no edge. Gravity pulls everyone towards the center of a spherical earth

These are all consistent with each other, mutually support the same conclusion, and fits perfectly with other evidence. Also, each explanation is independently verifiable; the cause and effect do not rely on each other (circular reasoning). We don’t say gravity is real because the planet is round, and the planet is round because gravity is real. Both the roundness of the planet and the force of gravity can be tested and confirmed on their own merits.

Now lets consider the parallels within Feminist Theory.

Third Waver Model

Observation Explanation
Most CEOs are men We live in a patriarchy where men are given power just because they’re men, and women are kept away from that power
Men are paid more yearly Men devalue women, and express this by intentionally paying them less
Women aren’t found in male dominated fields, especially congress Men hate women and keep them out of these fields by sending them invalidating messages
Men like looking at swimsuit calendars and scantily clad women Because men see women as objects
Rape is everywhere on college campuses Because of male privilege given to men by the patriarchy creates rape culture

Each explanation answers only the surface observation, and as a whole, causes numerous inconsistencies.  If men are in power, and are oppressive against women, they wouldn’t continually pass and enforce laws that specifically improve things for women.

Black vs Male

The exact same data that illustrates disadvantages for blacks, somehow indicates privilege for men.

Rape is not everywhere on college campuses.  http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5176 <— From the Bureau of Justice Statistics: college women experience less rape than non-college women between ages of 18 to 24.  How much less?  6.1 per 1,000.  That’s roughly 0.6%.  To put that in perspective, the 1 in 5 claim is an exaggeration of about 35 times what it really is.  So this is just false.

If rape culture (the idea that society thinks rape is permissible) were real, why did the conviction of rape carry the death penalty until 1977?  Why is rape the only crime where you’re guilty until proven innocent – and also where you can never be innocent?

If women were paid less than men, why don’t companies hire only women?  The answer may be that men hate women so much, that companies hire men anyway, even if they cost more, and are willing to spend billions.  But if this were true, why are there such stringent sexual harassment laws everywhere in the work place?  Why are women given legislation, like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 which clearly benefits only women?  (Done by an all-male congress, which is patriarchy, remember?)  Why would we see clear data where women earn more than men?  How do some women manage to succeed in male dominated fields if they’re kept out?  Did they leave the glass ceiling open, and the women crawled through when no one was looking?  Whether she wins or not, how the hell is Hillary Clinton doing so well in the presidential race?

Now lets try science again.

Fourth Waver Model

Observation Explanation
Most CEOs are men Men have greater social pressure to succeed, and are willing to take more risks
Men are paid more yearly Statistically men work longer hours, call in sick less often, and choose work that is harder, as confirmed by over 50 peer reviewed studies on the subject
Women aren’t found in male dominated fields, especially congress This is by personal choice; women choose not to take jobs in the fishing industry, where fatalities are 60 times higher than the national average. There’s nothing stopping them from applying.
Men like looking at swimsuit calendars and scantily clad women Because they’re straight, heterosexual men. Gee, imagine that. I’m lesbian and I like it too (but for some reason it’s not objectifying when I do it).
Rape is everywhere on college campuses This is simply not true.   Besides the statistics seen earlier (science), if 1 in 5 women were raped every year, then in 20 years, everyone should have been raped.

(Update 4/3/16: Anthony Stalter points out that the original study didn’t say 1 in 5 per year – after looking at the claim again, it appears to more accurately be “1 in 5 during their time in college” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/survey-more-than-1-in-5-female-undergrads-at-top-schools-suffer-sexual-attacks/2015/09/19/c6c80be2-5e29-11e5-b38e-06883aacba64_story.html – thanks for keeping an eye out, and helping us improve!)

The answers in the above chart are consistent with each other, consistent with independently verifiable evidence (the cause and result don’t rely on each other for support), and mutually help explain what we see.

How To Build Your Own Narrative

This lesson wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t show you how to create your very own made-up bullsh*t so you can raise money for some inane “social justice” cause, or so you can just troll your conspiracy theorist friends.  It’s easy to do!  In fact, its so easy, that it might feel like you’re missing something.

Start with a plot, and keep it simple; people are poor and want hand outs because they just don’t want to work / god is real and you only deny him because you love your sins / men hate women and oppress them because they want privilege.  It only needs to sound vaguely agreeable, like it *might* somehow be true, and then just build around that with emotional pleading, and repeat the same basic lines again and again.  People will eventually start to believe it’s true.  Remember, the facts don’t have to add up – they only have to explain the surface of what’s being observed at the moment.  Most people don’t like to think too hard, nor do they like to do their own research.  But if someone does start asking questions, just create more narrative right on the spot, and claim it’s either divinely inspired, or that you have some special insight (and don’t worry, consistency isn’t important, so you can always change your answers later).

If people start questioning too much, or scrutinizing your claim by asking for evidence, shout them down with insults, suggest they have sinister motives, and most important of all, don’t forget to be triggered!  End the discussion by claiming you need a safe space, and encourage everyone to leave with you.  That way your ideas can’t be challenged at all.

changing feminist narrative

Whoever made this, you are a fracking genius. Thank you.

If you still need help getting started, just borrow a format from a narrative already established.  There’s plenty to choose from!

Take for example: http://www.bustle.com/articles/132243-8-appearance-based-compliments-that-are-actually-insults

Okay, so here are 5-sexist-comments-towards-men-that-you-should-avoid (not going to bother actually inserting a bunch of annoying gifs).

“You look good”.

[man-rolling-eyes.gif]

This is sexist because it assumes that men look bad. Because men look bad, they are judged by their appearance. We should judge everyone based on the content of their character.  Why do women insist on objectifying men?  It’s perhaps because they were raised that way.  We can teach women to value men for something besides how they look.

“What’s your favorite colour?”

[black-person-reaction.gif]

Colour has long been a point of contention in human history. Entire wars have been fought over colour; the Civil War [hyperlinks to more drivel] was fought over this very thing, and millions of men died in that war.  Think before you mention something to your man that might be so hurtful.

“What do you do? / What’s your job?”

[man-wtf-reaction-face.gif]

Unemployment has been unbearable since 2008, when the economy crashed, and a number of people lost their homes. Men who had previously worked for decades at companies to keep their families fed and housed, were now on assistance and seeking shelter.  Women can be good allies by remaining sensitive to what matters most for men.

“Excuse me, do you know where _____ is?”

[gif-of-some-guy-giving-directions.gif]

Men are often told they have a better ‘sense of direction’ – and men have had to suffer from this stereotype for decades. This awful, classist notion, began in the 50s, when men first started being used this way, and men have had to bare the burden of this expectation until this very day.  Remember: men are people too!  Don’t view them as walking compasses.

“Hello”.

[Some-snide-condescending-gif-to-go-with-the-rest-of-these.gif]

Saying hello to a man can be sexist. It violates a man’s personal space, and can make him feel unsafe. Moreover, the word itself even begins with “Hell” – a place of eternal torment. How would you feel if someone said this to you just for who you are?  Would you like it if someone greeted you this way?  Always remember to respect the spaces of others, and don’t say hello unless you have permission.  Consent benefits everyone!

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Finally, here’s another fantastic job at constructing a narrative using the exact same techniques that 3rd Wavers use every day.

Try making up your own narrative in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Science vs Story Telling: How Do You Know What’s Actually Real?

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  3. There is a mistake here at the Flatearther-Section.

    It says “Well, there is no gravity – the flat disk of earth is simply moving through space at 9.8 meters per second.”
    It shouldn’t be “moving through space at 9.8 meters per second” but “accelerating through space at 9.8 meters per second per second”.
    If the earth-disc would just move at 9.8 meters per second, so would we, which would mean that we would feel basically no gravity at all (like in a car you’re not dragged to the back anymore because you have the exact same speed as the vehicle you’re sitting in… which is why we need seatbelts because otherwise you might fly through the front window if you break strong enough or even crash).

    Which makes a flatearth notion even more ridiculous because that would mean that we would travel faster than the speed of light after 354 day (353.7… days to be more exact), so within nearly a year you would get from “no speed at all” to “speed of light” for the earth…
    which would mean that since the millenium we would have speed up by over 16 times the speed of light -.-

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok, seriously good work here. I am so happy I found your blog.

    One little issue, the 1 in 5 statistic. While there are glaring inconsistencies and failing logic in the methodology and within the survey from which that stat is derived; you make the assertion that if it were true that 1 in 5 were raped every year all would be raped within 20 years. The claim they make isn’t 1 in 5 per year. They make the claim that 1 in 5 college aged women have been sexually assaulted sometime in their life (with a very liberal definition of sexual assault). This is then further misrepresented as 1 in 5 women are raped in college among other misrepresentation.

    Again, great work though looking forward to reading more.

    Like

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