M I Mayfield's "On Handling the Data" (short story, science fiction, free): A sobering look at human reaction to "facts" from "experts"
Fact sheet.First published: Astounding Science Fiction, September, 1959.
Download full text (from Project Gutenberg).
Very beautiful story. And very much near the top on my all time best stories. Makes a light reading, but raises both smiles & thought provoking issues.
Story summary.Story is in the form of a bunch of some half dozen letters from Jonathan Wellington Wells to Dr Robert Von Engen - letters spread over the period of a year. Jonathan is a graduate student of biology; Robert is a well known mathematician. Robert has written some papers, hypothesizing similarities in the way brain & computers process data; that's what got Jonathan talking to him.
Gist of Jonathan's letters is: hard laboratory data he obtains empirically & with a lot of care tends to be self-conflicting, except when he has been clued to expect a certain kind of result. Through the story, he runs through issues, brainwashing, & social conciliation we all go through when "growing up".