A Bard, By Any Other Name . . .

       "Could Shakespeare give a theory of Shakespeare?"
—R.W. Emerson

Story-telling is a feature of all societies. If the world is to make sense, if we are to live together in families, cities, nations, if we are to do our daily work, if life is to be livable at all, we must tell each other stories. "How do you explain that?" someone asks, and in reply someone else tells him a story. In modern times, that is when the trouble starts. A doctor I knew used to say as he peered down one's throat, "I don't like the story," and whenever he said that one knew there were difficulties ahead.

For the last 500 years, scholars and scientists who "didn't like the story" have been discarding or revising a great many of them. The wonderful fiction of the Ptolemaic universe was one of the first to go, followed shortly after by King Arthur and his knights. Nor is the process about to stop. The biologist Julian Huxley said he did not need God in the laboratory, and even as I write scholars and scientists are changing stories as their research proceeds.

It can be an unsettling business when one of our favorite stories goes. The Einsteinian universe is a lonely place even if it is navigable by camera-bearing spaceprobes. It does not always comfort people to be told that the laboratory is a place of discovery. They may use the discoveries...

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