Science and Literature: Strange Bedfellows?

Something I’ve been thinking about lately: what do science and literature have in common? On the face of it, nothing. One is dedicated to making stuff up; the other is all about not making stuff up. I would have abandoned the question, or probably wouldn’t have asked it at all, if it weren’t for the fact that these two fields have been the intellectual passions of my life. Am I a splintered human being, or is there something that unites them?

Science is fundamentally a list of rules, like a lengthy version of the Ten Commandments. However, these rules dictate, down to the most minute of scales, how our universe IS. And as boring or unintuitive as each rule may be, their interplay and repercussions are stunning. I think scientists are drawn to the field because they appreciate this beauty and because they want to uncover a new, equally beautiful truth that has never been known before. Maybe every scientist is Moses; certainly there are some who think they are.

Moses Complex aside, I believe that fiction tugs on authors for the same reason that science lures scientists. And in some ways, the fields serve the same purpose. I know, I know – pipe down, you scientists. It’s true. Good literature should put us inside thoughts and situations we haven’t imagined and provide perspectives that reality doesn’t afford. In doing so, it should reveal its own beautiful truths. Why? Because we don’t always see truth through truth; sometimes it takes fiction to make us understand.

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