‘Prometheus’ and the boundaries of science

In his online column, New York Times science writer James Gorman gives his humble scientific opinion on the Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller Prometheus, which opened in theaters last Friday.

It’s “creationism for geeks,” he says, the type that science-fiction writers and scientists have long indulged in.

He’s quick to point out that this type of creationism fits right in with Darwinian thought.

It does not run counter to the idea of the process of evolution; it just sets the beginning of the whole business somewhere and some time other than the Earth.

But that’s exactly where science becomes science fiction — the point at which our “science” requires us to posit imaginary events in order to tell a good story.

On film, Scott gets to take us on a journey through his interpretation of life’s beginnings. It’s a journey that is necessarily dark and dangerous. Journeys of light and goodness just don’t sell as many tickets. As the film’s tagline boasts, “The search for our beginning could lead to our end.” More intriguing than, say, “The search for our beginning could lead to greater understanding of our reason for existing in the first place.” Thankfully, life is not all about box-office receipts.


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