Thursday, September 2, 2010

Creation, Science, and Story

In the 2006 blockbuster V for Vendetta, there is a fascinating conversation between the protagonist V and the witty inspector Finch. 
Finch: "you have information for us?"
V: "No you already have the information, all the names and dates are inside your head. What you want, what you really need is a story."
Finch: "A story can be true or false."
V: I leave such judgments to you Inspector."
What is interesting about this quote is that it relates to the creation vs. evolution debate.  Science gives people facts, "information," etc.  Unfortunately, what science does not do very well, or at all, is tell stories.  Scientists sometimes tell stories, but all that science, as science can give us, are facts.  For an example of a scientist trying to tell a story, see Stephen Hawking's new book "The Grand Design" and this article about it.  The article states,
God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book. In "The Grand Design," co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.  "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking writes.
 Scientists often extrapolate their facts and create stories, but at that point, they have ceased to do "science," and have engaged in the human process of telling stories.  The only question at that point, is how compelling are their stories?  As Jim West responds to this article in his recent post, he writes,
It’s sad when scientists pretend to know things they don’t, and can’t. Hawking should concentrate his efforts on things he actually knows about instead of dabbling in the field of theology where he is an inept and immobile dilettante. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a used car from the guy much less a theory of beginnings.
 Now perhaps West is a little harsh in his criticism of Hawking.  It is inevitable that scientists, as they are human (at least most of them I presume), that they will engage in storytelling.  Yet, I would agree with the sentiment of West that the theology (or lack thereof) of scientists is lacking.  More importantly, I think it is important to understand when a scientist crosses the line between doing science (finding facts) and connecting those facts with a story.  

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