Gottschall thinks we can escape what he calls the magic of stories by knowing that they’re stories. Such an escape however would require some sort of final story about stories, an ultimate story like say that of the Catholic Church in its doctrinal statements, or the Fundamentalist’s Bible or the much sought after Theory of Everything in Physics. But these ultimate stories are just more of the same, that is, hopeless attempts to evade the hideous necessity of language through yet more language. Nevertheless Gottschall wants us to have hope, to think that he and we can discern better from worse stories. According to him, the solution is at hand, “We need more reason in the world.”
Where is such reason to be found? Gottschall thinks he knows: “Above all, we need to double down on our commitment to science because science is for standing up to stories.” Has he never heard of epistemology, that centuries-old failed attempt to identify better and worse scientific stories? In other words, his buck-passing solution to what he calls “a pandemic of conspiratorial thinking” has no credibility whatsoever. There is no vaccine (or anti-venom) that can cure us. His book is just another catalogue of useless, largely pornographic, anecdotes about QAnon, Trump, Hitler, Stalin and the various other nutcases who have committed atrocities.
I take the publication of this book as helpful in only one respect – evidence that the the quality editorial staff at Basic Books has deteriorated markedly over recent years.
Oof, that’s a shame. I read Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal several years ago and found it interesting, or so I thought. I don’t have it anymore, so evidently, it wasn’t quite interesting enough for me to keep.
(BlackOxford Mind is a collection of the author’s Goodreads reviews, published concomitantly in blog form. Frequently updated and consistently fun to read. You should give it a look-see.)