Plot and the correlation-causality continuum
|Plot operates on a continuum between correlation and causation|
I'll get back to Little Red Riding Hood, but it's worth pausing to think about factual story examples as well. When scientists observe a phenomenon in the world, they speculate about possible causes. Before they assert or test a hypothesis, and long before they develop a theory, they imagine plausible explanations. Sometimes they publish them in cases of urgent environmental or social need. For example, scientists observed a massive dying off of bees. They speculated about causes, renamed the phenomenon colony collapse disorder, and indicated their best hypothesis about the cause: combinations of agricultural pesticides and fungicides. But in that literature, as in all rigorous academic literature, you'll find that this isn't the end of the story, because there are other possible causes and it's not just one class of pesticide that's implicated. Even with probable causality, there remains some uncertainty (and some angry folks in the agricultural industry). Scientists even have some pretty funny jokes about their own struggles to determine causal linkages.
The act of traveling back and forth along this continuum fascinates us about a story. The complexity inherent in determining whether two events correlate or relate causally to one another keeps us coming back to stories. Sometimes it keeps us coming back to the same stories, over and over again. It is one of the key reasons why we enjoy re-watching and re-reading; we understand the meaning differently this time not because the story has changed but because we have moved into a new way of inferring meaning from the complex constellation of correlation and causation that is a single story.
2. Woodsman kills the wolf.
2. Red leaves the path to pick some flowers.