For my birthday last year I received Brave New World A gift, a miserable classic by Aldous Huxley. Because you are not every year Evening Gerrard Reeve can read over the Christmas holidays, so I started here. Twenty percent of the publication consists of introductions, articles, and critical reflections on how predictions could or may not have been fulfilled in business at the time (First Edition 1932) at the present time. The book begins with a tour of the central London hatchery and conditioning center, capitalized on the front page, just as Big Brother watches you in the first page capitals of Orwell. 1984 status. As if the writers already knew their business would end in the upper cabinets of history.
Literally translating “hatching” is a place where eggs can be hatched, for example, chickens. But in Brave New World, it is people who bear fruit: embryos in bottles. With IVF treatments, we are now closer to predicting at the time than the reality of 1932. But during the tour, the director of the breeding plant proudly tells when they arrive at the management department: “88 cubic meters of map indexes! Updated every day! It’s great that Huxley discovers that we will give birth to babies in bottles, but no computer can store those 88 cubic meters in a box of one cubic decimeter. The development of science is unpredictable.
Despite these kinds of anachronisms, it is sometimes a chilling book. It brought me to the idea that art – in this case literature – could do something that disgraces the world: letting go of bits of truth. Huxley did not have to worry about the laws of nature with his visions for the future; The only relevant fact is the truth of the story. The most important condition for a story is credibility. The interesting thing is that since there are so many unexpected details in the story, what is real comes very difficult. Or even more true: In the land of superstitions the one truth is king.
Fake news times
I’ve also experienced such a feeling in A man in good shoesA collection of short stories by Rob Van Essen. His stories chose a different path of the absurd: they begin with all plausibility, then leave the realistic streak. In the story JOS days Van Essen describes how a figure I hides while walking down a balcony, spoken of by a woman in whom she gets to know her brother, who died young. He goes home with her, and it turns out that it fits seamlessly into her memories, and also knows just like that on the ground they grew up together. Slowly it gets derailed, but not the truth of the story. The reader is left with questions about who you are and how your life relates to all other life forms in the world. Questions about which I wouldn’t readily read an article or non-fiction book, but are nice remnants of a book that walks with the truth, or in the case of this story: A Walk with the Truth.
Would it hurt if the ship of science, with the sometimes difficult-to-steer course where all hands are often on deck to arrange funds to allow it to stay on board, agrees on that approach as well? Take on a topic like climate change. There is broad consensus in science about the urgency of the problem, but society does not yet have a climate for change. How do you overcome skepticism when you already have a scientific fact by your side? A question that arises often in times of fake news. The answer may be that you must dare to give up the truth – radically or surreptitiously – and then let it rise like a phoenix from the ashes of futility.
Jan Beoving is a mathematician and comedian. In his column he plays with natural sciences and language.