“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” — Simone Weil
If I can be so bold, here’s my (admittedly far less poetic) version: “False science in fiction is romantic and heroic; false science in life is tedious, contradictory, and hollow. Real science in fiction is devoid of humanity; real science in life is full of marvels, discoveries, and creativity.”
I thought of the Weil quote today after our class. The first part of the class was the last discussion of astrology, in which we read something by a professional astrologer, which was as impenetrable to non-initiates as any bit of technobabble. In the second, unscripted part of the class we talked about the new exoplanet discovery, Gliese 581g (which I’ve promised I’ll write about later, so stay tuned). The difference between the false science of astrology and the real science of astronomy was never clearer to me as we talked: strip away the technical language of astrology, and you’re left with a few scraps of geocentric cosmology and inconsistent premises. Strip away the technical language of astronomy, however, and you have the joy and wonder of discovering a new world that might be similar enough to Earth to harbor life. How can the vague promises of an improved love life compare to the marvels of discovering a relatively tiny object in all the vastness of space that might be the first planet beyond our Solar System capable of sustaining life?