Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Philosophy or Sophism?

This is a big question in SF, believe it or not, but not one that people know about. It's between those who think we know almost everything about the universe, and those who are aware of how little we actually know.

The physics of Star Trek are laughed at by most Hard SF followers. Transporters, faster than light travel etc are seen as things beyond reality as they like their SF to be grounded in knowledge and science. They are Sophists, people who say that they have the answers.

The rest of us are philosophers, asking questions and theorising, aware of how little we know and that in the future our precious understanding will be seen as little more than desperate attempts to comprehend the world around us.

350 years ago, Newton proposed many theories about the universe, only a few of which are still regarded as true today, mainly because of the advance in experimantation equipment and space travel. That does not mean that he was a dunderhead, he came up with theories that laid the foundation of modern physics and is rightly valued as a giant in the field. It does mean that our knowledge has changed and our understanding of the universe is different and more coherent, but still not complete.

The point is, physics has advanced in those three and a half centuries and who can tell that human understanding of physics won't be totally different in another three centuries?

Those of us who write 'dreaming SF', follow in the footsteps of Verne and Wells, writers who dared to look beyond the technology of their time and imagine a different future. Those who don't are more like Asimov and Clarke, welded to what is known and, like many followers, miss the dreams that their idols wrote about, such as robots and satellites.

So I philosophise in my writing, aware that I know very little, asking questions that may never have an answer in my lifetime.

I dare to dream.


Ted Cross said...

I'm with you on this. And I'm writing a sci-fi set in 2138, so I get to prove it!

I trust scientists, but only to a degree and only within the context of the very near future. The smartest people in the world keep telling us things that are impossible, only to have those things become reality. I always like to say that two centuries from now, scientists and doctors and such will look back at today as if we are living in the dark ages.

Martin Willoughby said...

A friend of mine is stuck in this rut of only writing what is known...unless it comes to talking animals.

KLo said...

Writing IS my philosophy ;-)

Socrates: "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing."