The Power of Storytelling

As a retired scientist who is currently spending a lot of time telling stories in various venues,
I am finding more and more that stories have incredible power to create a mirror for people that they are actually willing to look at. If you confront someone about their beliefs, a defensive battle may begin, but if you can develop a story that entertains and also inform, they can often step outside of that personal defensive barrier and actually see another point of view. There is some pretty convincing science behind this tendency, and I’m also curious to see if other people have similar experience.


As a guy who’s pounded his head against the willful strategic lying that is part and parcel of the climate science denying mindset,
I’d be interested in what you have to say.

How do we create a story that defends the need for honesty, if we are to have a civil society?

How do we get people to care about this planet Earth that created us and sustains our life support system?

How do we broach the subject that our future requires us to think in terms of less and investing in the nurturing of natural systems?

You raise some interesting, and frankly vexing, questions. I left the oil industry after 20 years, partly because I was frustrated with the messaging - as you say, the wilful disinfiormation. I need to spend some time thinking about the specific questions you raised. But my immediate thoughts are a story I just made up and a book I am currently reading.

In the story, a group of creatures discover a beautiful river and decide to settle there to grow and raise their families. After a time, some junk comes floating down the river, some they decide to look for the source. They travel for many miles and finally find an abandoned settlment with junk strewn all about, so they settle in again, half a mile upsteam. Their numbers grow. Once again, they begin to see junk floating down the river, even more than before. Once again they go upstream and find another settlement. They move half a mile further and find another, so they move a mile more. The next time they move, they find three settlements.

The book, “A Forest Journey” by John Perlin, is about the history of wood use in the world, and it details, over and over again, the way the people around the globe have felt the awe and power of seemingly endless woodlands, then proceeded to systematically destroy them out of greed. A cautionary take for sure.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that either of these stories will change anyone’s mind, but it’s a place to start. I’ll keep thinking about the questions you raised, and look forward to more discussion.

Archeologists could show you places where this has happened

Yes, a lesson from history. Yet in this story, the river is a circle (a two-dimensional sphere?), so they are only finding their own messes over and over again.


Along those lines, I’m a firm believer in using analogies to get a point across. They’re really little stories, but take the edge out of what’s being discussed. You tell someone Drump is a miserable immoral moron and your audience will, well, we know what they’ll do. But you tell them a story about a baseball coach who regularly bets against his own team, cheats with the players wives, etc, and they’ll agree wholeheartedly when you ask if the “coach” should be fired.

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Unless that story is total fiction as most analogies and allegories are.
You cannot use an analogy to accuse someone in a court of law.

Analogies and allegories are illustrative of a concept or behavior and can be used to offer an imaginary example.

The court of public opinion is still strong. It kept Jim Crow and the oppression of women in place for a long time. Then it was used to make abortion and gay marriage legal. So they had to invent terms like “cancel culture” to fight it.

Oh, I agree with you on the impact this newly invented term “cancel culture” carries.

But is it a legal term?


By Mark Carey

When I decided to write the first article (Cancel Culture is Illegal At Work!) I knowingly anticipated immediate judgment and backlash. In essence, I knew I was going to be canceled. That was the point. I was inviting debate about the entitlement mentality – to cancel others at will.

What I knew to be true was the lack of legal substance to the argument in favor of cancel culture being used and defended at work. How could there be. In order for any legitimate social/political argument to arise to future public policy and statutory initiation, there would need to be a foundation based on prior legal precedent.

The interesting part is that the term claims freedom of speech, even as the term itself advances restriction of free speech… :exploding_head:

No. But that’s not what the OP is about, or what I’m saying.

I’m sorry, you are correct in context of the OP.

I got carried away with my imagination… :star_struck:

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OP? Is this from another thread? Please define.

Short for “Opening Post” and the description of the topic .

We all have active imaginations and often stray into tangently related subjects.

This example of speech freedom is one of the features I like about CFI.
But as moderator, I will now need to restrain my enthusiasm :face_with_monocle:

Terms arise in response to encapsulation, and diminuation, based on stories we tell about things that are happening in the world. We need to make sense, and so we give it a name, but the name means what the hearer wants it to mean. Cancel culture? Where did the term originate? Is it based on a culture, or on mob rule? Isn’t it just the modern term for piling on? Nothing new under the sun, methinks.

I believe it is an attempt to cancel the actual history of the US and replace it with a “laundered” version.

There you go. Just take a story pill and YOU can be a storytellers, too.


I’d hoped to bring it back to the OP, but instead my path bifurcated.

Dec 1, 2021 #GTV #GreenTV #GreenTVcom

John Perlin is the author of four books: A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology; A Forest Journey: A History of Trees and Civilization; From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity; and Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy. Perlin taught physics at University of California, Santa Barbara. He lives in Santa Barbara

Here I though I was going to hear him talk about story telling, instead he introduces me to someone I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t familiar with, Eunice Newton Foote, who apparently beat John Tyndall by a couple years, showing that CO2 acted as Atmospheric Insulation.

Eunice Foote’s experiments in the 1850s demonstrated the ability of atmospheric water vapor and carbon dioxide to affect solar heating, foreshadowing John Tyndall’s later experiments that described the workings of Earth’s greenhouse effect. Despite her remarkable insight into the influence that higher carbon dioxide levels in the past would have had on Earth’s temperature, Foote went unnoticed in the history of climate science until recently.

“An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature”

Foote’s story takes place about a century before the women mentioned above. Foote was an amateur scientist—known as a natural philosopher in that era—who in the 1850s conducted some of the first experiments exploring the influence of different atmospheric gases on the “heat of the sun’s rays.”


  • American Eunice Foote was an amateur scientist from the mid-1800s whose experiments foreshadowed the discovery of Earth’s greenhouse effect.
  • Her experiments comparing the temperature within cylinders filled with different gases revealed the ability of water vapor and carbonic acid gas (carbon dioxide) to raise temperature.
  • The studies inspired her to hypothesize that Earth would have been much warmer in the past if its carbon dioxide levels were higher.
  • Foote did not present her own work at an 1856 meeting American Association for the Advancement of Science, relying on a male colleague to read her paper for her.

We’ll have to get back to the Story Telling later.

Thank you for the information, and I beg to differ. That is a story, and an important one to be told. I’m going to put it out there on Facebook for Women’s History Month.

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