pullman and stories

B74e23e6-b4a2-11e7-bd81-0feeb2b41cb44Michael Saler at the TLS:

Once upon a time science seemed destined to replace religion as the source of all explanations. Today, however, “story” has become the master metaphor that we use to interpret experience, including the mysteries of God and Nature. This recourse to story-talk is everywhere, uniting the two cultures, the arts and sciences. It is thus not surprising to find the astrophysicist Sean Carroll endorsing Muriel Rukeyser’s line of poetry, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms”. Carroll used it to support his own brief for the “poetic naturalism” of science: “That is absolutely correct. There is more to the world than what happens; there are the ways we make sense of it by telling its story”.

This cultural turn from metaphysics to metafictions helps to explain why so many readers, young and older, have greeted Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage as if it were the Second Coming. A forthright atheist, Pullman has made the secular balm of stories one of his principal themes, finding in them the “capacity to enchant, to excite, to move, to inspire”. This holds true for “science stories” as well, assuaging our fear that science repudiates wonder for analysis, prescriptive morals for descriptive accuracy. Pullman insists that scientific narratives can be as marvellous as fairy tales, and as ethical as a chivalric quest. The key is that “we have to behave honestly towards them and to the process of doing science in the first place”.

more here.