Stuart Firestein : On Facts

“As I began to think about it, I realized that, contrary to popular view, scientists don’t really care that much about facts. We recognize that facts are the most unreliable part of the whole operation. They don’t last, they’re always under revision. Whatever fact you seemed to have uncovered is likely to be revised by the next generation. That’s the difference between science and many other endeavors.  Science revels in revision. For science, revision is a victory. In religion, or astrology, or any other belief system, revision is a kind of defeat. You were supposed to have known the answer to this. But the joy of science is that it’s about revision.”


Adventure Stories and the Drama of Latin

The word Romance finds it roots in the word Roman. A Roman story to the Medievals was an adventure story, chivalric, preferably with dragons. It was a blessed misunderstanding that these Christians saw venturing as the point of a Roman tale, for to Aeneas his adventure was a grand, perhaps unavoidable, pain in the neck. In the ancient world, evil is a natural element; to the Christian it is an affront to creation.

For the Christian the great adventurer is Jesus Christ. We celebrate his advents annually. And the purpose of his adventure was to redeem the bride, which is why Romance has become our term for love stories: it’s always about the girl.

It is a wonderful misreading for Christians to see Aeneas braving the trials so that he may redeem his bride, but I do not begrudge the Romans their heritage. Those Romans could tell a story.

.   .   .

“Quantus est deorum erga nos amor”

“How great is the love of the gods to us.”

Part of the fun of Latin sentences is the drama built into each one. The sentence above shifts the subject of the sentence, amor, to the end so that to the hearer is left in the dark until its conclusion. The sentence would have been heard: How great is of the gods to us Love.

This idea is expressed biblically in 1 John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”

The Vulgate renders this: “Videte qualem caritatem dedit nobis Pater ut filii Dei nominemur” which falls out this way: “See what manner of charity he gave to us the Father that the sons of God we are called” which is a nice little surprise, but the Vulgate adds a “et sumus” at the end (not found in the Greek) which is “and we are.”

We are called the sons of God and we are. That’s drama.