Today's post, Savanna Poets was originally published on 18 March 2008. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):


Equations of physics aren't about strong emotions. They can inspire those emotions in the mind of a scientist, but the emotions are not as raw as the stories told about Jupiter (the god). And so it might seem that reducing Jupiter to a spinning ball of methane and ammonia takes away some of the poetry in those stories. But ultimately, we don't have to keep telling stories about Jupiter. It's not necessary for Jupiter to think and feel in order for us to tell stories, because we can always write stories with humans as its protagonists.

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:13 PM

I find this post incredibly inspiring, but I feel like it does not directly address one of the main reasons that people do not find scientific explanations emotionally satisfying. When we personify the cosmos, then the universe seems a lot less hostile, and we feel much more connected to it. A primitive man looks up at the sun and thinks, "There is the sun-god, the sky-father, watching over my people." And he is happy because the universe, while capricious, is not apathetic to his life. But a modern man looks up at the sun and thinks "There is a giant ball of gas that lacks any consciousness." And he is sad because man is alone in a vast and impersonal universe indifferent to his plight.

I also don't think that scientific stories are incompatible with human stories. I think the problem with the religions we have is that their views of the cosmos are outdated, not that religious or spiritual beliefs must inherently contradict scientific ones. As an exercise (because I want to be a writer), I frequently try to describe scientific theories to myself in personified, mythological terms, or I try to write myths which reflect our modern understandings of the universe. Consider the following creation myth, which is compatible with the big bang theory of the origin of the cosmos: In the beginning, there was the cosmic mother. She died giving birth to the universe, which burst forth from her womb in a fiery fury of pain. Etc.

And he is sad because man is alone in a vast and impersonal universe indifferent to his plight.

Option 1. Option 2.