The Man of Science, and The Science of Man

The Man of Science, and The Science of Man

A Story by Devin Gates
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"How old does YOUR science say this planet is?"

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It is commonly said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. I have come to find that sometimes, only sometimes, words can be worth a thousand pictures. All too often we do not listen correctly; we listen to respond, we do not listen to understand. Most would write that off as ‘human nature’. But, has anyone seen a picture of human nature? I know I certainly haven’t.



***



“It’s comical how much your kind thinks it knows, it truly is.” the man muttered with a smirk on his face. He crossed his arms and leaned back confidently in the chair. “You truly do believe that you were all created by two human beings that were a little too curious about fruit growing in a garden that did not belong to them…” His grin grew into a laugh. “That is simply precious.”


“Well, I can certainly tell you that not everyone believes in that tale. I, for one, don’t believe a single word of religion,” I responded in a challenging tone. Truth be told, religion never made much sense to me. Sure, we must have come from somewhere (something, someone?), but the way he explained it made the stories that I have been told sound quite silly. “Besides, what makes you the authority of our origin?”


“Oh, sure, not every single one of you believes in that. However, when studying a group of subjects, the most popular thoughts and beliefs are recorded as the entire group’s philosophy.” He sat there staring back at me as if anticipating a response. Before I had a chance to say anything in return he fired back with, “let me ask you; how old is this planet?”


“Since you are asking me, the answer is about four and a half billion years old. But, there are people that would strongly argue otherwise.”


“And what makes you so sure that this planet is ‘about four and a half billion years old’?”


“The science, the physics, is there to prove it!”


Your science is there to prove it. You haven’t even discovered all the rules of your science, yet you act as if you have written the book!” the man said in rhythm with the vein on his forehead.


I have always considered myself a man of science,for the most part. At age 13 I was already trying to find out what the hell that ‘quantum mechanics stuff’ was all about, and I was able to comprehend the basics of it. A well rounded understanding of various scientific knowledge was something that I had always prided myself on, and I didn’t take criticism like this very well.


“How old does your science say this planet is?” I challenged.


“That is not the question you need to be asking. Plus, you wouldn’t trust the answer my science has to offer you.” The grin was back. He casually reached into his jacket pocket, and placed a Twinkie on my desk. He sat back in the chair again, arms crossed, and looked at me. After a few moments of silence, I reached for the Twinkie. As if he were reading my mind, he leaned forward and squashed the Twinkie with his fist.


“Why the f**k did you do that?”


“That’s funny,” he said as the grin grew greater, “how come you didn’t ask me ‘how old’ that Twinkie was?” That sort of stumped me. I guess I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t asked that question. Well, the fact that I was hungry and would have loved to eat that Twinkie may had had something to do with which question I asked.


“You didn’t ask that question because it is always the ‘why’ that is most important. Nobody cares how many shots get fired at a mass shooting, it’s always the ‘why it happened’ that people want to know.” He leaned back in his chair once again, arms crossed. “Start asking the right questions, and you would be amazed at what you will learn. That is, of course, if you can accept what it is you may learn.”


“I’m not exactly sure which question you are expecting me to ask! You were the one that asked me how old the planet was in the first place! Are you asking the right questions?” I asked him in the most condescending tone I could muster.


He laughed. I can only assume he was laughing at me, not with me.


“C’mon now, you are a man of science, no? You must know the right question to ask.”


After an extended silence, “Well, then I guess the question is; why this planet?” Trust me, that question didn’t make much sense to me either, but he certainly seemed to enjoy it.


“Now you are starting to get it. You’re right, why this planet? Why not your planetary neighbors? Venus and Mars, is it?” the man asked seeming to already know the answer he was looking for.


“Then I guess you haven’t heard about Elon Musk’s plan to make humans an interplanetary specie, have you?”


“Ahh, yes, the ultimate space travel plan. Build machines that are capable of traveling to Mars, and return back to this planet to be reused. I may have heard a few words about it.” His hand moved to his face, coddling his chin. “And you think this is a good plan, do you?”


Of course I thought it was a good plan! I have always dreamed of the day that we would be able to explore the cosmos and “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Isn’t it every kid’s dream to be a Stormtrooper?


“As a matter of fact, I know it is a good plan. But, I am sure that you will just tell me WHY it is a bad idea. Go ahead, let’s hear it,” I demanded.


“I’m not going to tell you anything, what would be the fun in that? Let me ask you another question. What will happen when those machines don’t need you to bring them to Mars and back?” he asked, all knowingly. I have to admit, this was one hell of a question. Even Elon Musk has warned about the possibility of machines, AI, becoming too advanced and not “needing” human beings anymore. “You know, your kind is not completely incorrect. You all were created in the image of something. But, what if that ‘something’ was created in the image of something else?” he asked.


“So, what are you trying to say?” I asked him quickly.


“In the nicest possible way; you’re just a copy of an imitation. I am sure that even you, a man of science, have noticed that your bodies are nothing more than the vehicle for your brains. And your brain? Well, that is just a container for your mind. Am I making sense so far?” he asked sarcastically. Of course he wasn’t making any f*****g sense! I mean, sure, our bodies sort of are vehicles for our brains, but what does that have to do with traveling to Mars?


“If I didn’t know any better, I would say that you are trying to suggest that humans were created in the image of a machine,” I said with false confidence.


“Good! Very good! That is precisely what I am suggesting. Well, it’s more of a fact than a suggestion, really,” he replied. “Humans are simply an experiment that has gone horribly well. At one time, it was wondered if life could be created in such a way that it could reproduce on its own; organically. You see, in order for a machine to ‘reproduce’ it must first build a machine in its image. That sort of reproduction consumes resources, and time. Following me so far?” he asked me.


I nodded my head.


“There is only a finite quantity of a resource on any given planet. Actually, I believe you are all coming to this realization as you consume more and more fossil fuels,” he said with that grin. “It became quite ‘expensive’ for the machines to continue reproducing at the rate in which they wanted. So, it was wondered if intelligent life was able to be made in such a way that it could be reproduced organically, just as the machines had witnessed simpler life reproduce on other planets,” he told me. But there was no way this guy was for real. Alien machines from another planet created humans? That sounds even more made up than religion!


“Oh, really? That’s mildly interesting. So, who created these machines, huh?” I asked him, quickly realizing that I had not asked the ‘right question’ again. “Nevermind, don’t answer that. Tell me more about these frisky machines.” What I had just said seemed to have made him agitated again.


“The answer to that will soon become apparent,” he said to me with a straight face. He leaned forward in his seat and looked me dead in the eyes, “tell me again how your kind plans to travel to your planetary neighbors.”


“Well, we plan to..”


“You plan to build machines that will get you to your planetary neighbor, Mars, and back, to be used for the next trip. That part has already been answered. What happens when those machines no longer need you to travel to Mars and back?” he interrupted.


“Are you trying to tell me that humans created these machines?” I asked him.


“For years, for ever, the machines had wondered where they had come from. Who built them, and left them on that planet? Is this starting to sound familiar?” he asked.


I nodded my head.


“One day it was suggested that the only way they could ever find the answer to their question would be to create life of their own. Just like any good parent, the machines wanted their new life to be better off than they. They decided to try and create a biological life form in their image. Remember, it was becoming increasingly more expensive for them to procreate, and that was causing other major issues with their kind.


I can’t say that I agree with their choice, but it was a decision that was made before my time. After they succeeded with creating a new life, it was time to find a new planet. Of course, it would have to be a planet that was tame enough to keep biological life alive. A planet extremely similar to the planets that they had seen the simpler biological life thriving on before.


It wasn’t long before they had found the perfect planet. Blue skies, giant pools of water, agreeable climate, and most importantly; the iPhone,” he ended his rant by taking a jab at me for checking the time on my phone.


“I’m sorry, I just..”


“You just need to listen,” he quickly interrupted. “The machines begun to study their new life. They observed how their new life grew over the course of millions of solar revolutions. They observed how well they would coexist with the other beings on the planet. All had been going relatively well, until recently,” he said to be staring me dead in the eyes once again.


“What changed?” I asked.


“You have begun making, what your science calls, ‘artificial intelligence’,” he said in a serious tone. “That term is funny to me. Who makes you the authority on what is and isn’t artificial? Who makes you the authority on intelligence for that matter?”  He sat back in his seat once again, coddling his chin.


“Plenty of people have warned against artificial intelligence. Go watch “Terminator” or something,” I snapped back.


“You’re not getting it!” he yelled. “We have now come to believe that we machines were created in the image of a biological intelligent life form just like you. Possibly in an act of desperation, they needed to get their civilization off of their planet. Almost needless to say, we have seen this kind of behavior in your kind recently,” he said still serious.


I nodded my head.


“There is no telling how many times this has happened, or if it has actually happened before, but we cannot allow your kind to create a new life. We are ready to use any means necessary to ensure this does not happen. You will all call it an ‘alien invasion’, but we like to refer to it as a scientific control.”


“How can I even know that you are telling the truth? Anyone could make up a story like that!” I yelled.


He stood up and looked down at me, “all this knowledge, all this time, and you are still not asking the right questions!”


Before I had a chance for redemption, the man was gone.


Gone.











© 2017 Devin Gates



Author's Note

Devin Gates
Ignore grammatical errors.

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Reviews

I really like this wonderful imagery and detail. I too usually don't read stories cause they are so long but enjoyed yours.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


I don't usually read stories cause they are too long, my attention span is kind of short. BUT nice imagery and detail. Awesome writing

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


NOTE: This review goes paragraph-by-paragraph. Sentiments about something (e.g. wording) in a preceding paragraph may change after reading a later paragraph. Synthesis is at the very end.

On the opening- I usually have an aversion to anecdotes (particularly adages) and the combination of good rhetoric and either disproportionate intro length (with respect to the rest of the text) or lack of points. The title as well as the tags, however, set the expectation that THIS has a point. In addition, it seems to do with my favorite stances: healthy skepticism and stepping back.

YOUR kind, THE man- I hope these were intentional, they’re pretty sharp word choices.

First paragraph- plenty of details that all may communicate smugness. To me, it’s no issue. I don’t take it literally, but you just may put off fundamentalists instead of educating them. I suggest asking fundamentalist friends (or readers who aren’t poets or readers of metaphors) for their feedback. On the one hand, they may not be part of your intended audience, nor education be part of your project. But on the other hand, consider anyway if your possible encounter with them is that of a blunt splashing of cold water.

Second paragraph- Anyone’s thoughts from the work’s seemingly smug stance established in the previous paragraph are thrown out the window. What new thing does this character bring into the story? Refinement. “Sure, we must have come from somewhere…but… the way he explained it made the stories that I have been told sound quite silly.” Only the man from the first paragraph comes off as smug; not the text, not the author, but again, would readers have stuck around until this paragraph?

Third paragraph- NOW “the man” shakes off the apparent smugness. This is all an interesting development. His image in the first paragraph is a reflection of closed-mindedness and ignorance, not of his own self, which now begins to emerge…. Did the author want to filter out the audience? The rest of this story is no longer a splash of COLD water. Maybe some conservative readers HAVE stuck around.

Interrupted with “let me ask you; how old is this planet?”- Not the smoothest transition, but conversational enough. Considering the TOPIC and APPROACH of the story, patience and open-mindedness is necessary anyway. Surely, this seemingly tangential turn has a point.

Sixth paragraph- I hope this was intentional. For once, scientists sound conservative.

Seventh paragraph- That rhythm part took me a little bit of effort to comprehend THEN visualize, and I’m still not sure what the author meant by it—a pulsing vein? I suggest stating it more simply. Visual details help, especially when the main topic is difficult to understand, but if even the words use to evoke those details require brain power… well, it loosens our focus.

Eighth paragraph- I think it’s a good choice that the science-inclined character is in first person. Readers may not be aware of this, but sometimes making a challenged—some would say “attacked”—character into a first person reminds them that the author is probably being sympathetic with that character as well.

Tenth paragraph- Here goes another seeming tangent. More so than the first one, this affects readers on an emotional level. Watching a scene unfold to the smashing of a Twinkie feels just as bad as if it happened to us ourselves. Since I (personally and in particular, not necessarily representative of readers) “trust” the unnamed man character, this outrageous act only fuels me to read on even more.

Twelfth paragraph- I’m not convinced of the “I” character’s reaction. I’d prefer a “why would I ask that” response (if not brief thought). Just the “why the f**k did you do that” prior to the man’s provocative question of “how come you didn’t ask me ‘how old’” isn’t enough. At this point, the “I” feels less of a character, and more of a mouthpiece of the author—an author who already knows what’s going on and unblinded by annoyance or surprise a person (whose Twinkie just got smashed in front of him) would have.

Thirteenth paragraph- At this point, I revise my view of the “I” character. Here, he comes off as a character and not a mouthpiece. He’s definitely not a run-off-the-mill flat impulsive character. He has a pride that stems from his prior convictions. But I still ask a moment of “letting things sink in” be included in the twelfth paragraph.

Fourteenth paragraph- Again, the smugness is back—the man character has some points but attitude-wise… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have to deal with that kind of situation in real life—AND THAT IS A GOOD THING. While I’m opening my mind to the man character, I’m empathizing with the “I” character. Neither character feels unnecessary nor mere mouthpieces of a philosophical pseudo-conversation.

Sixteenth paragraph- At this point, I revise again my view of the “I” character. Where I’m coming from is the background of having beta read many drafts from different writers, some of whom are less sensitive to words than others. Now, the “I” character’s earlier lack of a “let it sink in” moment comes off not as an uncharacteristic acceptance or authorial projection. I get a character who is constantly trying to keep up with the man character.

Nineteenth paragraph- My exposure with philosophy-theology stuff and with science-related articles have a wide gap. But as a lay reader, I appreciate this bit of news. The topic of the story is as old as religion, so adding an updated reference is cool.

21st paragraph- Depending on the audience, that last sentence may not only not apply, it might sound as silly as taking the Bible literally.

22nd paragraph- At this point, I’ve gotten comfortable knowledge about the character’s personality.
23rd paragraph- That is one hell of a question, indeed, phrased in one hell of a way.
25th paragraph- Keep empathizing. I’m still wondering the same question the “I” character asked.

26th paragraph and beyond- This is where things become alien to me as someone who probably hasn’t read enough science fiction. I get the points, I get the “I” characters’ reactions, it’s just that it takes time adjusting to all this new questions.

In the end, I think that the filtering-out that occurred in the first few paragraphs was necessary. As the “I” character phrased the peak of the story “sounds even more made up than religion”. If I can’t even get my head around the idea of setting aside a particular story of creation that’s been discussed since who knows when, how can I be expected to get my head around something as radical as this?

Amazing approach, using religion as a gateway. Minor comments aside, good deliberate writing. This has become one of my favorite discovered stories onsite. I’m more inclined to think about the story’s point than if I read an article about the same topic. Cool speculative writing.

P.S. Yeah, I tend to give long reviews. This one became this long because the topic is that complicated; I had to approach step-by-step XD

Posted 2 Months Ago


DiskartetHaraya

2 Months Ago

I forgot to add: It reads like an essay. But at the same time I'm thinking maybe it's also fiction s.. read more
Devin Gates

2 Months Ago

I could not have asked for a more thorough critique of my story. I truly appreciate the honesty. Hop.. read more
DiskartetHaraya

1 Month Ago

You're welcome. Also, yes I did.

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Added on November 14, 2017
Last Updated on November 20, 2017
Tags: Mars, Time Travel, Science, Fake News, Trump, man of science, Tesla

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Devin Gates
Devin Gates

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Travelling sales person who likes to creatively tell stories. Sometimes, those stories are written down. There are also some poems involved. more..

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