Sure and 'tis all in the hermeneutics.
The Never-Ending War Between Science and Humanism...
|Spock and Bones, seemingly on the |
verge of a passionate embrace
Consider the irony in The Game of Spock and Bones. In the 19th century, it was the medical doctor who was the paradigm for the skeptical materialist. Because he achieved success by treating the human body as being like a machine, the doctor often fell into the trap of believing that the human being was a machine.
I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:
Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,
He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night
His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.
-- W.B.Yeats, "The Indian Upon God"
The Joni Mitchell StrategyActual scientists are likely to appreciate humanism -- Pierre Duhem was also an artist -- but science fanboys, whether practitioners or peanut gallery, are likely to regard humanism as inept attempts to do science. Just as the artists of the Renaissance and later thought the medievals had been trying and failing to imitate Greco-Roman architecture and sculpture, monocular science-fans see every question as a scientific question. But it might could be that the Other is trying to do something else than what you are interested in. A more realistic approach for the writer is that laid out by the inimitable James Chastek at Just Thomism:
In a famous passage in De Anima, Aristotle will describe the role of the one who studies life as having to account for both (what we would call) the ‘mechanical’ aspects of life and those that are less so: anger, says Aristotle, can be considered either as a “boiling of blood around the heart” or “as a desire for revenge”. Clearly, if one was trying to develop drugs to treat anger, he would have to account for it in the same sort of way as the first account; if one were trying to deal with anger in a legal or moral way, they would have to account for anger more in the second way. Aristotle, however, says that the goal of the natural philosopher is to know life in both ways.That is, portray people in your World as having multiple legitimate points of view. Isn't diversity supposed to be good?
-- James Chastek, "What is the thomist account of ‘uniquely human’ traits?"
Chastek once said of a grape: "One and the same grape. The farmer, the connoisseur, the chemist, the poet and the broker all have an exact knowledge of what it is. How would it be desirable, necessary, or even conceivable to know even grapes by a single universal method or system?"But even Dietrich lived in a World in which others -- Herr Manfred, Max Schweitzer, the miller and his wife, Gregor the mason, Lawrence the smith, et al. -- approached matters from different viewpoints. The challenge is to present their points of view with empathy and not turn them into spokes-heads for Right and Wrong ways. No one is a villain in his own eyes, as Heinlein remarked.
To this end, I tried to portray the Krenken in Eifelheim as riven with factions, with Krenken of different races and nationalities, different occupations (crew, scientists, tourists) and different religious commitments. They react to their shipwreck in different ways: despair, hope, anger, cluelessness, and while they share a common cultural disposition toward swift anger and strict hierarchy, they are not determined toward either of these things. (Yes, even pseudo-insectile aliens have free will.) While Dietrich (and the reader) cannot at first see these distinctions, lost as they are in the strangeness of the Other, they gradually become more and more clear. Similarly, there are enough clues in the story to identify the village homosexual and the murderer of Max -- because not all 14th century Swabian peasants are alike, either.
|From Here to Eternity|
|Actual hero of LOTR|
It may also be that the author presents characters from other reference frames not as they are but as he thinks they must be. Hence, they tend to be cookie cutter stereotypes. Writers who majored in English Lit. might not portray scientists realistically unless they have hobnobbed with scientists. Atheist writers might not portray religious characters realistically (or even have any in their story!). Democrats might not characterize Republicans, nor Republicans Democrats as they are, but only as they think they are. In one otherwise highly-regarded novel of the future, conservatives have gained power and imposed a religious tyranny because of course that's what Those People would do. Now, the most bitterly anti-religious guys I met were political conservatives and the most liberal activists were also religiously committed. So life is not nearly all that simple. (TOF is old enough to remember when the Democratic Party was called "the secular arm of the Catholic Church." Yikes!)
One of the things I tried to do in the Firestar series was to counter the tendency to show people who were "wrong with respect to A" as being necessarily "wrong with respect to B, C, and D" as well. And vice versa, too. The good guys must show right-thinking on all the hot-button issues of today, which is why we find women from ancient cultures portrayed as feisty, stand-up gals from the modern age. And one way of designating the good-guys is to show them as "sensitive 90s kinds of guys in touch with their inner feminine." But if the bad guy need not be all bad, the good guy need not be all good.
At what point do you realize that you are writing about Adolph Hitler?
Recall that Citizen Kane began his career as an ardent reformer. Well-portrayed people are always a mixed bag. Welles made a movie about Kane, not about tycoons. TOF tried to write about Dietrich and the Kratzer and Hans and Manfred, not about medieval priests and aliens and knights. We read about Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin, not about Hobbits -- because not all Hobbits are the same.