Pluck to the scientists

No matter how good the news, there seems a scientist awaiting an opportunity to cast a dark shadow over the moment, to predict the imminent demise of the entire human race.

There are moments when it is tempting to turn to Irish writer Flann O’Brien’s character Sergeant Pluck for some surrealistic diversion.  In The Third Policeman, Pluck throws interesting light on conventional scientific wisdom:

The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who nearly are half people and half bicycles.

All of which sounds complete nonsense, and it is, if you accept the rules of conventional scientific wisdom However, if you don’t accept that scientists know everything there is to be known, and that there are things that scientific method will never explain, then there is sense in the point that Flann O’Brien (real name Brian Nolan) made when he was writing  to a friend:

When you get to the end of this book you realize that my hero or main character (he’s a heel and a killer) has been dead throughout the book and that all the queer ghastly things which have been happening to him are happening in a sort of hell which he earned for the killing … It is made clear that this sort of thing goes on for ever … When you are writing about the world of the dead – and the damned – where none of the rules and laws (not even the law of gravity) holds good, there is any amount of scope for back-chat and funny crack.

Who says the rules and laws of science are infallible? Scientists now have put themselves in the place the Church occupied in medieval times, infallible authorities on the nature of the world.

Perhaps there is a call to be more like the absurd Flann O’Brien than the rational scientists. Perhaps our own definitions of reality might be a far remove from the atomic theory of Sergeant Pluck, though be as nonsensical as anything he might have suggested, but perhaps they might also challenge a culture which says that the only reality is that which is defined by a small self-perpetuating elite.

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