So why are so many people anti-science these days?
Everyone from climate-change deniers, evolutionary skeptics, creationists, to the anti-vaccine crowd, has really pushed their agendas in the last decade. Far more than ever before, and with surprising success. At the roots of this success is a dash of religious fundamentalism, resistance to change, a poor educational system, and just plain ignorance—but deep down, it’s driven by fear. Fear of progress.
Fear of the future, which is the greatest unknown, even to science. It is that unknown that we science fiction writers delve into. Not only to tell a good story, but to wrest something out of the void and thus learn more about ourselves.
When I was a child, science was a wondrous thing. It fueled my imagination, and revealed answers no holy book or moronic politician ever could. Fundamental concepts and evidence weren’t questioned, at least not by educated people. Best of all, science never claimed to be able to explain everything. Such objective, pragmatic reasoning has stuck with me all my life. Now it influences my writing.
But how does one sell books about interstellar voyages, centered on hope and progress, when the zeitgeist is bloated with anti-science doom and gloom?
Though I’m not loading my stories with any pro-science subtext, my work isn’t filled with idiots who love to pilot starships but deny the existence of gravity, either. That’s how these people present themselves. That’s no different than someone polluting the Earth with fossil fuels but refusing to accept human-made climate change—in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. No different than trying so say dinosaurs coexisted with humans just to make paleontology fit Bronze Age mythology. There’s a real disconnect between reason and responsibility here. At the heart of that is something greater than fear: greed.
So we have ignorance, fear, and greed. Strong themes in any genre, but science fiction has always been the literature of ideas. It has allowed us to imagine better worlds, and warned us of terrifying ones. Science fiction has shown us where these urges have been overcome—such as Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek—as well as settings where they are amplified—such as George Orwell’s 1984. But fiction is fiction, right? Escapism, food for thought, whatever you want to glean from it—fiction isn’t made to change the world; its primary purpose is to entertain. I’m not using my stories as a platform to advocate anything. I never will.
But I will inundate them with characters who fight against ignorance, fear, and greed. Within, and without. Stories that show what ignorance, fear, and greed can do—and what heroes and heroines can do to stop it by using their brains more often than violence. Books that reach into that void to discover, to learn, and ultimately, to share. We are still a young species, with so much potential. If my fiction inspires even a single reader to look beyond our primitive instincts and seek something better, then I’ll consider myself fortunate.
I for one will continue writing what I want. To hell with these anti-science morons. But science alone won’t save us; neither will science fiction stories. Maybe, though, by showing readers what is possible when science uplifts the best that humanity has to offer, us sci-fi authors can make a small difference.