About Me

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I live on the ocean, write women's fiction, love to read so much that it's an addiction rather than a hobby (I read an average of a book a day). I live on the wet west coast so it's a good thing that I like to walk in the rain.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Quote of the Day

How do you know that the planet Mars isn't carried around by an angel?

J.B.S. Haldane

My scientist friends hate this quote but I love it. I love the way it challenges me to see the world in a way that isn't scientific, but magical. So much of the world we live in today is governed by science, by fact, by evidence - we read the newspaper, we see the scientific journals, we learn something new every day about medicine and the universe. But so much of it, even with all this information, we still have to take on faith.

Okay, I believe that there are millions of bedbugs in my bed, that a cockroach can live as much as a week without its head, that a great white shark weighing 24,000 pounds was once caught. I believe that hearts and lungs and livers and kidneys can be transplanted and people can still live after the transplant. I believe that the images I see on TV are from halfway around the planet. And I believe that there is a Space Station and that people live on it. I believe that the police found $1 million in an apartment right next door to a friend of mine.

But all of these things are beliefs of mine, because I don't really know. I can't really know. It's no surprise to me that there are people who still don't believe in the moon landing because there is so much information out there, so many facts, that many of us can only believe that which we see with our own eyes.

We are inundated with facts, with information, and it's hard to distinguish between story and fact. Much of what we see in movies, we read in fiction, is echoed in media that is supposed to be truth. How do we decide?

I think - like I choose to do with Haldane - we mostly pick the story we like the best. Yes, I know that Mars isn't really carried around by an angel, but that's the story I like so that's what I remember.

Stories are real to us. Humans love stories, we believe stories, we revel in them. So whatever my scientist friends say, I'm happy to have Haldane's quote on my desk. It entertains me, makes me think creatively rather than practically, and as a writer, that's crucial.



Eileen said...

Here is a fun science fact- did you know more people are killed every year in vending machine accidents than in shark attacks? Makes me a bit more leery when approaching the Diet Coke machine.

Kate Austin said...

No, I didn't know that - but now you've told me, it's going to be stuck in my head forever... And I'll use it some day in a book.