“The Martian” is out in theaters, and I went to see it on opening night, which in Macon, Georgia on a school night means I felt like I was screening a Clint Eastwood film at President Obama’s White House: surrounded by empty chairs.
I liked the movie. It was almost as good as the book, which—if you’re a science geek like me—was worth every one of its 386 pages (I binge-read it in two days during my beach vacation last summer). What I liked most is that although it was a fiction story, it wasn’t “science fiction.”
As a genre, science fiction creates a world (or a human nature) that differs from our own past or present in some significant way. “The Martian” deals with science fact. If America spent a trillion dollars or so to fund 5 Mars missions, we’d have its story without resorting to anything like warp drive or anti-gravity devices that we see in so many movies.
Having to “science your way” off Mars is one thing, but the Left thinks we can science our way out of social problems they have no business calling “science” when they really mean “science fiction.”
Science is based on solid principles of hypotheses, experiments, observations, and conclusions. But lately, science has been used to justify everything from wealth redistribution to removal of religious symbols in public places.
Liberal elites in government, academia (who should know better) and the press seem to always get their “science” and their “fiction” mixed up in real life. They claim they can “science their way” out of strictly human problems. One example is climate change. Supporters of radical and socially destabilizing change in our society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cite “science” as the source of their recommendations, predicting imminent doom if we don’t listen to them.
Science can’t make decisions on morality or philosophy, just like science can’t decide whether NASA should try to save a man stranded 34 million miles away from Earth in “The Martian.” Those are human decisions.
Radicals from decades past cried “population explosion,” citing the works of Thomas Robert Malthus from the late 18th century as their “science” along with all kinds of catastrophic predictions. Yet none of those catastrophes have happened. There is no shortage of poor, hungry people in the world, but that’s almost always a function of incompetent or corrupt officials governing them, who allow (or actively cause, in the case of North Korea) people to starve.
In other words, it’s a human problem, not a science problem.
It’s not “science” to call for the deindustrialization of America (or the world) because of some mathematical model based on speculative data. That’s more science fiction—a world differing significantly from reality.
When Bill Nye (dubiously “the science guy”) used his celebrity to launch a tirade against pro-life arguments, arguing that science justifies abortion, he spoke a fiction—a world where science governs man instead of mankind using science for its own purposes. In Nye’s world, he is God and sets the moral measure of mankind. Science is simply his crutch.
Science can no more justify abortion or disprove God than Star Trek can justify abolishing money (because in that world, money is no longer used—but they also have warp drive which Einstein said was impossible). The belief that “science” can somehow unite mankind under one peaceful banner to sing “Kumbaya” is not only fiction, it’s also dangerous.
A hallmark of science is attention to detail, and avoidance of mixing up fact with opinion and wishful thinking. In “The Martian,” either astronaut Watney makes it off Mars, or he dies. Science actually had nothing to do with the outcome–it was a human choice for him to try to survive.
Similarly, when a baby dies in gestation from natural causes, that’s an outcome, not a choice.
But it’s not “science” when an abortionist kills him or her– science has nothing to do with that choice. When our planet’s climate changes, it’s not our choice any more than we can make a solar flare happen, or cause a hurricane. But it’s not “science” to cry that the Earth is dying and we have to destroy our own lives to save it. That’s a choice.
I do wish that liberals who claim “science” would stop writing their own science fiction and calling it fact. It’s giving real science a bad name.