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Posts Tagged ‘scientific method’

Urban legends are a curious bunch. Most of them are easily dismissed as the product of an overzealous imagination. The more interesting ones are those that border on true, or better still back up some long running suspicion we’ve always had. One that hit the jackpot a while back was the story of the mom who left a McHappy meal burger on her shelf and noticed that it didn’t rot even 6 months later. Aaha, cried the blogosphere and media in unison. Something  is wrong with fast food. A collection of heart rending pieces on the moral bankruptcy of our times followed.

One gentleman didn’t quite believe the popular narrative. He decided to test it against his alternate theory that the happy meal burger was so small that it dried up before it could go bad (also the theory suggested by mcdonalds, not that anyone was listening). He was right on the money. Unfortunately, people were too busy buying the popular narrative to question it.

What is it about our times that we like stories that confirm our own internal narratives regardless of their, to borrow a term from Stephen Colbert, truthiness? Why do human beings and societies tend to organize reality around simple narratives (sometimes to the point of selectively ignoring facts), and rarely question the narrative? On the latter I have no answer, on the former I blame the 24hr news cycle and the perverse incentives that result from chasing ratings/readership. But then again, that claim is part of the popular narrative…

(We hasten to add, dear reader, that at this blog, we make no representations about truth. If what we are about to say fits into the image of us we would like to present to you, we run with it. And that’s about it.)

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