Why I write what I write

February 19, 2013

 

In my first blog I explained why I came to write (anything at all) and what sort of direction that initial writing took, but I suppose it behoves me now to say something about why I write as I do. 

A cursory examination of some of my titles – particularly (but not only) the science fiction ones – shows a mind preoccupied with predominantly two things: i) problems stemming from Humankind’s treatment of the planet and ii) possible futures that Humankind is creating, often unwittingly, for itself. 

Now these are not exceptional or out of the ordinary preoccupations these days, but they have an added urgency for me because I have five grandchildren (so far) and I am concerned for them and their ilk that we (Humanity) address these things with some urgency and put things right before too long. Equally, whilst nearly all septuagenarians realise that – ceteris paribus – they are fast approaching the Biblical three score years and ten or, if they are lucky, “by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (The Bible, Psalm 90, verse 10) it is still too damn close for comfort even in the fullest version. And, as the odds on me becoming an octogenarian have recently been foreshortened or stacked against me, at least, I’ll make no apology for focusing on these areas and, if necessary, being blunt and argumentative too. 

Some, then, have seen an anti-science agenda in my writing, but I plead absolutely not guilty to that charge. For me, science is absorbing, fascinating, brilliant and vitally necessary for correcting so much of the mess we are in. No, what concerns me about science is as follows: firstly, the context within which and from out of which much of it is done; that is, the corporate control* and direction of most scientific research – or the sociology of science, if you will. And, secondly, there is the all-pervading and under-pinning narrative of science – what Margaret Atwood calls its mythos.°  This is a narrative that can be summarised by the very words with which I open my novel Our Second Selves; ergo – ‘Everything that is at all possible to do should by all possible means be done.’ 

Science, in order to be science as such, is seen by most of its practitioners then as a contextually-free mode of enquiry and discovery (untrammelled enquiry) about anything and everything, going wherever and however it will. And therein lays the problem of much contemporary science, as I see it: no moral compass at all. And if you think I am exaggerating the so-called moral neutrality (or amorality) of science then just consider this piece of recent headline-grabbing (though hastily retracted) news: that Prof. George Church of Harvard University is looking for a woman to help him re-introduce the 30,000 year extinct species of Neanderthal.

Now science – whichever discipline – needs to be methodologically free of any extraneous taint or bias in its mundane but vitally important business of experimentation, observation, testing, discovery, etc, in order to be science at all, but that does not mean that it is entirely exempt from social and moral considerations from the get go or any responsibility for what might become of its consequences and applications. It is also the view of a growing list of scientists no less (from the mid-twentieth century onwards) actually calling for moratoria on aspects of their disciplines or even outright bans sometimes for fear of where things might be heading. So I am not alone in this at all or anti-science either – not in that company! 

So I would regard my attitude to science as being a healthy sceptic rather than an outright Luddite and its time factors and the above concerns that tend to make me focus on the more worrying and pressing aspects of it all.
 

 

 

*

 

 

 

* Much of it for military/political purposes as well as for industrial/commercial uses.

 

° M. Atwood, In Other Worlds, Virago, 2012, pp 54-55

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