Passport to the 21st Century
John Seely Brown, Steve Denning, 
Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak: 
Some of the world's leading thinkers
explore the role of storytelling in the world

 I Introduction to storytelling I John Seely Brown on science I Steve Denning on change I Katalina Groh on video
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling

Two modes of knowing: abstract and narrative
    a. Scientific triumphalism
Science's claim to know it all

    A great deal of our knowledge obviously comes from the triumphs of science. And we should be duly grateful for these contributions to our understanding and well-being.
    Despite these accomplishments, most of the great scientists throughout history have recognized that science is not the only way in which we learn about and understand the world. 
    During the last two hundred years ago, less subtle thinkers have emerged, claiming that science has a monopoly on knowledge. This view might be called scientific triumphalism.
    We quote some of these claims below

August Comte

Auguste Comte (1798-1857) presented the following chain of reasoning:

"1. Philosophy leads us to prefer science as the highest form of inquiry by getting us to develop theories of truth and rationality that force us to justify our knowledge claims by the rigorous standards of logical reasoning, which, in turn, reveal the inadequacies in our taken-for-granted habits of thought.
2. But once we start to do science, we realize that these philosophical theories are themselves impediments to further inquiry, as they encourage us to rush to conclusions about the whole on the basis of knowing only a few of the parts. This tendency towards premature totalization is the result of trying to let reason do the work of empirical investigation.
3. What this shows is that a mode of thought that persuades us of the value of science in the first place need not itself be of service to science, once we have been so persuaded. In fact, such a mode of thought may even be an obstacle and should be suspended, as it has outlived its usefulness."
   From Steve Fuller, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History For Our Times, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000, page 281.

Colin Blakemore

   "The human brain is a machine which alone accounts for all our actions, our most private thoughts, our beliefs. It creates the state of consciousness and the sense of self. It makes the mind."
   From Colin Blakemore, The Mind Machine, (BBC, London 1988) 

Peter Atkins

   "Although poets may aspire to understanding, their talents area more akin to entertaining self-deception. They may be able to emphasize delights in the world, but they are deluded if they and their admirers believe that their identification of the delights and their use of poignant language are enough for comprehension. Philosophers too, I am afraid, have contributed to the understanding little more than poets... They have not contributed much that is novel until after novelty has been discovered by scientists... While poetry titillates and theology obfuscates, science liberates."
     From Peter Atkins, The Limitless Power of Science, in Nature's Imagination, ed. John Cornwell, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995.

Richard Dawkins

   "The individual organism ... is not fundamental to life, but something that emerges when genes, which at the beginning of evolution were separate, warring entities, gang together in co-operative groups as "selfish co-operators". The individual organism is not exactly an illusion. It is too concrete for that. But it is a secondary, derived phenomenon, cobbled together as a consequence of the actions of fundamentally separate, even warring agents. ... Perhaps the subjective "I", the person that I feel myself to be, is the same kind of semi-illusion... The subjective feeling of "somebody in there" may be a cobbled, emergent, semi-illusion analogous to the individual body emerging in evolution from the uneasy cooperation of genes."
     From Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, (Penguin, London, 1998) p 308.

Books and videos on storytelling 
*** In Good Company : How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work
by Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak (February 2001) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
(February 2000) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
by Stephen Denning (October 2000) Butterworth-Heinemann 
*** The Art of Possibility, a video with Ben and Ros Zander : Groh Publications (February 2001)
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