People often ask me what my hobby is. I have always hated that question cos I hate the word hobby. It immediately conjures up pictures of wild wood shavings and the smell of glue and my desperately failed carving of a sparrow in woodwork at school and my not-much-less of a failed dove-tailed joint for which Woody Birch, the woodwork teacher, generously awarded me a 6 in the end of term exams.
However it has recently occurred to me, in fact 10 minutes ago, that I might just be able to answer the question in future. Could it be that science is a hobby of mine - or is it just an interest? Ah, hobby'll do.
I suppose I got entranced by science through the NASA space programme in the 60s. Following the Gemini and subsequent Apollo missions and trying to work out what it was all about. Why were they putting a seismograph on the moon, what was all this about a laser reflector to measure the distance between Earth and Moon exactly? I avidly read my Tomorrow's World Annual and had a load of astronomy books.
And I just kept on reading this kind of thing: Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Penrose, Sagan, Hawking, Dawkins, etc, etc.
These days they often - but, annoyingly, not always - have a section in decent bookshops called 'popular science'. I love browsing around there.
I have to admit I am still struggling with relativity; quantum physics is basically "huh?" but evolution, for example, now makes wonderful, elegant sense to me thanks to Richard Dawkins.
The strange thing is that the science of my youth, which seemed so clear and bright, has now become something which many people feel the need to attack or at least find boring and my-brain-hurts-Brian complicated. I find if I mention something I have been reading about in these kind of books, I get rolly-eye reactions, as if to say, 'it's not science, it's sigh-ence.'
Ok, it is complicated but so what? I am trying, for about the 20th time, to read 'The Emperor's New Mind' by Roger Penrose and a lot of it is still way above my head and always will be but each time I read it I find something new that clicks into place thanks to reading other books on the same sort of subject. This stuff makes me sit and think, ponder, consider, contemplate... to try and get some sort of better grasp of the subject, try to understand the experiments and what they reveal - and in the background there is always the knowledge that research is going on and that nature's secrets will slowly be further unravelled.
This is why I am constantly shocked by the slow insidious creep of stuff like creationism or 'Intelligent' Design and biblical literalism back into mainstream dialogue. It seems to be rampant in the US at the moment and unfortunately what is rampant over there seems to end up becoming rampant over here, viz. McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, hire and fire, etc.
'Teach creationism as an alternative to natural selection and evolution...' WHAT???
'Use the bible as a reference text for science...' WHA-HA-HAT?????????
I remember how dumbfounded I was the first time I met someone who believed that the bible (the Christian bible, Old Testament, New Testament, eye-for-an-eye, turn-the-other-cheek, etc) was literally true; that every word was the inerrant word of god. This was a woman I had worked with for a few months whom I had considered quite normal.
I was totally shocked, and funnily enough, so was she that I didn't think the same!
Taken to its extreme, this sort of thing just says, 'don't think, don't ponder, etc; if there is something we can't work out, god did it; if you don't understand, god doesn't want you to understand.'
Oh, and all this 'inerrant word of god' cobblers... which words are they which are supposed to be so inerrant? The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Hellenistic Greek. And when I say written, I mean written... by hand, each copy. Each copy, yes each and every copy, written by hand by some educated/half-educated/who-knows-how-educated slave or monk etc. This is why there are schools of textual critics who spend their lives discussing variations in the various copies of the copies. And then the Hebrew and Greek gets translated into Latin and subsequently English and then the text is edited, revised, abridged...
Among other things, I work as a translator and when I think of some of the mistakes I have made... even in texts where I was being extra careful... ouch!
So which of these copied, garbled, misspelled, mistranslated, edited and revised words are the inerrant ones?
Rant over, ta very much!