Becker on Bohm on the important role of stories in science

Tyler Matta writes:

During your talk last week, you spoke about the role of stories in scientific theory. On page 104 of What Is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, Adam Becker talks about stories and scientific theory in relation to alternative conceptions of quantum theory, particularly between Bohm’s pilot-wave interpretation and Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation:

The picture of the world that comes along with a physical theory is an important component of that theory. Two theories that are identical in their predictions can have wildly different pictures of the world… and those pictures, in turn, determine a lot about the daily practice of science… The story that comes along with a scientific theory influences the experiments that scientists choose to perform, the way new evidence is evaluated, and ultimately, guides the search for new theories as well.

Anyways, I just wanted to share the passage as I think Becker has done a nice job of connecting the two.

A lot of things came up in my talk, but at the beginning I did discuss how in science we learn from stories. For researchers, stories for scientists are not just a way for us to vividly convey our findings to others. Stories also frame our understanding of the world. I discussed the idea of stories being anomalous and immutable (see second link above for more on this); the above Becker quote is interesting in that it captures the importance of story-like structures in our understanding as well as in our communication.

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