Science and fairy tales.
Science and fairy tales - by P.K.Odendaal - January 2013
I have written a lot lately about reality and meta-physics, and debunking the false aura of gullibility surrounding science. I need to place these in a multi-dimensional perspective and place it in its most realistic domain.
As starters, I wish to emphasize that science and fiction is the same thing, and therefore we have this strong genre of science-fiction - simply because there is a fine line or no line between the two. It is really difficult to place these two in different domains or different stages of reality. The one is no more real or fantastical than the other, but history has blinded our eyes to the most basic agreement between the two. We have just too many times been fooled into thinking that science is real and fiction unreal or imaginary.
Although I know these statements to be true, I cannot do justice to the discussion without relying heavily on the work of G.K. Chesterton. I will be quoting profusely from his work: 'Orthodoxy' in this article. In his work, some arguments may seem to me, trained in science, to have gone overboard as he lets us realize that fiction is indeed more real than science. He has a very strong point.
Quoting from Chesterton: 'The things I believed most then (in my childhood), and the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them, other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism is abnormally wrong. Fairy land is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. I knew the magic beanstalk before I had tasted beans; I was sure of the Man in the Moon before I was certain of the moon. Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass.
But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. There is the lesson of "Cinderella", which is the same as that of the Magnificat - exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast"; that a thing must be loved before it is lovable. There is the terrible allegory of the "Sleeping Beauty", which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to sleep.
There are certain sequences, which are, in the true sense of the world, reasonable. Such are mathematical and logical sequences. We in fairy land, who are the most reasonable of all creatures, admit that reason and that necessity. For instance: if the Ugly sisters are older than Cinderella, it is, in an iron and awful sense, necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly sisters. There is no getting out of it. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. That is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it.
But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened - dawn and death and so on - as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairy land; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail.
These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton's nose, Newton's nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairytales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions.
We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. But believe that a beanstalk climbed up the Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.'
End of Chesterton quotes.
There are many more arguments for this side of the coin, but the point I wish to make is that science and fiction are based on the same sort of fantasy' - a domain as unreal as reality. We will not progress in our argument of the meaning of life whilst we have elevated the domain of science above the domain of fiction or any other domain, like meta-physics.
Our outlook on science and fiction is really as warped as space-time is, and that is why certain scientists can gain ascendency of the 'scientific method' over the other domains, based on the purely speculative. The 'scientific method' is no more scientific than the rationality of fairy land.