Friday, February 04, 2005

The fragility of human knowledge

It is difficult for a scientific skeptic like myself to get his mind around the minds of those fundamentalist Christians who seek to subvert the teaching of science in the public schools. It seems simply incomprehensible in this day and age that one might believe the Genesis account of creation to be literally true -- and evolution false.

I am grateful, therefore, to find in Irish writer Dermot Healy's fine novel A Goat's Song a perceptive and not unsympathetic portrait of Jonathan Adams, a salt-of-the-earth Protestant Ulsterman, father of one of the novel's principle characters.

Jonathan is an educated man, and a reader, but he has no time for fiction. "Fiction was the shameful stories prisoners made up to escape prison. It was created to obscure guilt. Fiction for him was irreligious, the act of imagination itself was a door opening onto the void."

Jonathan's reality is Scripture. The stories of the Bible are like a roll call of everything that existed in nature and in himself. Here was solid ground, safety, "simple, exact words" authored by the Creator himself.

There is more, much more, in Healy's book about Jonathan Adams and his culture that is deep, insightful, wise. And so fiction become fact -- and fact fiction.