The Wonder of Science

A couple weeks ago author Joe Hill invented the Mulder Score, a tongue-in-cheek ranking that shows where you fall on the skeptics to believer scale. Two points for a yes, one for a maybe, and zero for a no in the following areas: horoscopes, ghosts, auras, telekinesis, telepathy, fortune-telling, Bigfoot, Nessie, UFOs, and souls. What amazed me most about the whole project were the high scores of some of the commentors.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there are still people who believe in Nessie.

I score a 2: maybe for ghosts, maybe for souls. I used to believe in ghosts, but living for a short time in Gettysburg, PA — where a thriving “Ghost Tour” industry takes advantage of gullible tourists — tempered my views somewhat. True, I once heard what sounded like a raving voice coming out of the rows of corn on the battlefield (and like a true horror dunce convinced my then-boyfriend-now-husband to go toward it), but I’m still not convinced. I only know what I seemed to be hearing where I stood; I don’t know what else was going on elsewhere across the fields that night. (Yes, it was night; yes, we were walking, not driving; no, we didn’t even own cell phones at the time. Now that’s scary.)

Speculative fiction author Kat Howard responded to Joe Hill in a post where she laments the lowness of her score: “I appreciate logic and reason and knowledge, and I am grateful for modern science and technology. But I long for wonders, for the miraculous, for the bright flash of magic.”

Hm…wonders, the miraculous, the bright flash of magic. Like this?

Or this?

The skin of a cucumber magnified 800 times, revealing sharp points and toxic cucurbuiticin-filled globules.

What about Einstein’s General and Special Theories of Relativity or quantum physics’ Many Worlds theory? Giant tube worms living beside deep sea vents, where nothing was supposed to be able to survive? Dinosaurs evolving into birds — that’s astounding. Dinosaurs themselves are astounding and awesome and amazing. Ever stood under one of their skeletons and just tried, for a moment or so, to imagine this thing flesh and blood in front of you?

Of course you have.

So my question is: Why is science viewed as dry, dull, logical, staid, and boring stuff? Why does magic get all the wonder and awe, while science gets dumped with history to languish in textbooks? Is it because of the textbooks? Is it because science says No, there’s no possibility that Nessie is real, but hey, here’s a fish with feet, isn’t that awesome? Do people not find frogfish to be peculiarly wonderful?

Anyway, I may have a low Mulder score, but this in no way affects a) my imagination, b) my sense of awe and wonder, and c) my occasional wish that I could use the Force to flip the light switch. (Sadly, it does affect my ability to be spooked by a horror novel or movie; that I’m sad about this probably says a lot about me.) A lot of science is weirder than anything I could imagine anyway. As for the sense of awe accompanying the miraculous, Nessie has nothing on the wild sea turtles I’ve actually seen, cavorting on the bottom of the ocean below me.

To regret that reality somehow isn’t wonderful enough seems to be missing the point: Reality is richer and deeper than most of us can begin to imagine. Reality is badass and awesome, and sometimes miraculous. That’s enough for me.

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