Telling a story

Geoff Bagley (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 22:59:24 GMT

Tonight,(Monday, 17.3.97) I have been to a lecture by Anna Grayson at the
British Geological Survey HQ, Keyworth, Notts. This was a contribution to
SET97, a British Association iniative to raise the profile of science with
the general public.

Anna Grayson is a geologist turned journalist, particularly on radio. She
appeared in the press a lot a year ago for revealing what was then thought
to be a possibly new and unusually blue coloured mineral that she had
brought in Morocco. She also appeared on BBC TV's Frost Programme to
provide a scientific explanation for the Hindu Ganeesha statues that drank
milk.(Reading between the lines on her comments on religion, one would get
the impression that she would not own any particular religious belief
herself.) Yesterday evening a programme of hers was broadcast on BBC tv on
the geological history of the UK.

Her subject tonight was the public understanding of science. During the
course of the lecture she referred to an article in Nature in the 1970's
(no ref given) where Shelly's poem 'Ozymandius' was rewritten as a
scientific paper. (For those uncultured like myself, the poem is referring
to sphynx-like statues) The point she was making was that the language used
determines whether ideas are likely to be understood and retained. The poem
was more likely to be understood and remembered by the public at large
than a dry dusty paper. She made the point that to communicate, one needed
a story with a strong narrative that used vivid, imaginative words. She
illustrated this with a picture of crowd surrounding a story teller in
Marrakesh and said that the crowd came back again and again.

Is it possible to view the Genesis accounts as stories with a strong
narrative portraying truth with vivid imaginative words?

Geoff Bagley

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