Sons of Heaven: The Haunted (The Sons of Heaven Experiments Book 1)


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Something else is going on. What's more, no one interested in what religions are and how they begin can ignore them. While vast barriers may seem to stretch between a local, single-focus contention of pseudoscience and something like a world religion, the partitions are very thin. The world presents us with nearly insurmountable problems. A wide variety of solutions are offered, some of very limited worldview, some of portentous sweep. In the usual Darwinian natural selection of doctrines, some thrive for a time, while most quickly vanish.

The continuum stretching from ill-practised science, pseudo- science and superstition New Age or Old , all the way to respectable mystery religion, based on revelation, is indistinct. Everyone, it turns out, has relevant expertise. In certain passages of this book 1 will be critical of the excesses of theology, because at the extremes it is difficult to distinguish pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion.

Nevertheless, 1 want to acknowledge at the outset the prodigious diversity and complexity of religious thought and practice over the millennia; the growth of liberal religion and ecumenical fellowship during the last century; and the fact that - as in the Protestant Reformation, the rise of Reform Judaism, Vatican II, and the so-called higher criticism of the Bible - religion has fought with varying degrees of success its own excesses.

But in parallel to the many scientists who seem reluctant to debate or even publicly discuss pseudo- science, many proponents of mainstream religions are reluctant to take on extreme conservatives and fundamentalists. If the trend continues, eventually the field is theirs; they can win the debate by default. One religious leader writes to me of his longing for 'disciplined integrity' in religion: We have grown far too sentimental. Devotionalism and cheap psychology on one side, and arrogance and dogmatic intolerance on the other distort authentic religious life almost beyond recognition.

Sometimes I come close to despair, but then I live tenaciously and always with hope. Honest religion, more familiar than its critics with the distortions and absurdities perpetrated in its name, has an active interest in encouraging a healthy skepticism for its own purposes. There is the possibility for religion and science to forge a potent partnership against pseudo-science. Strangely, I think it would soon be engaged also in opposing pseudo-religion. The Most Precious Thing Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science.

Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one. False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved. A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observa- tion. Science gropes and staggers toward improved understand- ing. Proprietary feelings are of course offended when a scientific hypothesis is disproved, but such disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific enterprise.

Pseudoscience is just the opposite. Hypotheses are often framed precisely so they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated. Practitioners are defensive and wary. Sceptical scrutiny is opposed. When the pseudoscientific hypothesis fails to catch fire with scien- tists, conspiracies to suppress it are deduced.

Motor ability in healthy people is almost perfect. We rarely stumble and fall, except in young and old age. We can learn tasks such as riding a bicycle or skating or skipping, jumping rope or driving a car, and retain that mastery for the rest of our lives. Even if we've gone a decade without doing it, it comes back to us effortlessly. The precision and retention of our motor skills may, however, give us a false sense of confidence in our other talents. Our perceptions are fallible. We sometimes see what isn't there. We are prey to optical illusions. Occasionally we hallucinate.

We are error-prone. A most illuminating book called How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life, by Thomas Gilovich, shows how people systematically err in understanding numbers, in rejecting unpleasant evidence, in being influenced by the opinions of others. We're good in some things, but not in everything. Wisdom lies in understanding our limitations. That's where the stuffy sceptical rigour of science comes in. Perhaps the sharpest distinction between science and pseudo- science is that science has a far keener appreciation of human imperfections and fallibility than does pseudoscience or 'inerrant' revelation.

But if we are capable of a little courageous self- assessment, whatever rueful reflections they may engender, our chances improve enormously. If we teach only the findings and products of science - no matter how useful and even inspiring they may be - without communicat- ing its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience?

Both then are presented as unsupported assertion. In Russia and China, it used to be easy. Authoritative science was what the authorities taught. The distinc- tion between science and pseudoscience was made for you. No perplexities needed to be muddled through. But when profound political changes occurred and strictures on free thought were loosened, a host of confident or charismatic claims - especially those that told us what we wanted to hear - gained a vast following.

Every notion, however improbable, became authorita- tive. It is a supreme challenge for the popularizer of science to make clear the actual, tortuous history of its great discoveries and the misapprehensions and occasional stubborn refusal by its practi- tioners to change course. Many, perhaps most, science textbooks for budding scientists tread lightly here. It is enormously easier to present in an appealing way the wisdom distilled from centuries of patient and collective interrogation of Nature than to detail the messy distillation apparatus.

The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science. One asked the other to lift him up. But so beautiful was it in heaven that the man who looked in over the edge forgot everything, forgot his companion whom he had promised to help up and simply ran off into all the splendour of heaven. The crystallizing moment came when 1 first caught on that the stars are mighty suns, when it first dawned on me how staggeringly far away they must be to appear as mere points of light in the sky.

I'm not sure 1 even knew the meaning of the word 'science' then, but I wanted somehow to immerse myself in all that grandeur. I was gripped by the splendour of the Universe, transfixed by the prospect of understanding how things really work, of helping to uncover deep mysteries, of exploring new worlds - maybe even literally. It has been my good fortune to have had that dream in part fulfilled. For me, the romance of science remains as appealing and new as it was on that day, more than half a century ago, when I was shown the wonders of the World's Fair.

Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world. This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science. But there's another reason: science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the second sound bites now down to 10 seconds or less , lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

As 1 write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular and influential with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable. We've arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements - transportation, communications, and all other indus- tries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting - profoundly depend on science and technology.

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. A Candle in the Dark is the title of a courageous, largely Biblically based, book by Thomas Ady, published in London in 28 Science and Hope , attacking the witch-hunts then in progress as a scam 'to delude the people'.

Any illness or storm, anything out of the ordinary, was popularly attributed to witchcraft. Witches must exist, Ady quoted the 'witchmongers' as arguing, 'else how should these things be, or come to pass? Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death. Ady also warned of the danger that 'the Nations [will] perish for lack of knowledge'.

Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters.

Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir. There is much that science doesn't understand, many mysteries still to be resolved. In a Universe tens of billions of light years across and some ten or fifteen billion years old, this may be the case forever. We are constantly stumbling on surprises. Yet some New Age and religious writers assert that scientists believe that 'what they find is all there is'. Scientists may reject mystic revelations for which there is no evidence except somebody's say-so, but they hardly believe their knowledge of Nature to be complete.

Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It's just the best we have. Science by itself cannot advocate courses of human action, but it can certainly illuminate the possible consequences of alternative courses of action. The scientific way of thinking is at once imaginative and disciplined. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don't conform to our preconceptions.

It counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which best fit the facts. It urges on us a delicate balance between no-holds-barred openness to new ideas, however heretical, and the most rigorous sceptical scrutiny of everything - new ideas and established wisdom. This kind of thinking is also an essential tool for a democracy in an age of change. One of the reasons for its success is that science has built-in, error-correcting machinery at its very heart.

Some may consider this an overbroad characterization, but to me every time we exercise self-criticism, every time we test our ideas against the outside world, we are doing science. When we are self-indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hopes and facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition. Every time a scientific paper presents a bit of data, it's accompanied by an error bar - a quiet but insistent reminder that no knowledge is complete or perfect. It's a calibration of how much we trust what we think we know. If the error bars are small, the accuracy of our empirical knowledge is high; if the error bars are large, then so is the uncertainty in our knowledge.

Except in pure mathematics nothing is known for certain although much is certainly false.

Moreover, scientists are usually careful to characterize the veridical status of their attempts to understand the world - ranging from conjectures and hypotheses, which are highly tentative, all the way up to laws of Nature which are repeatedly and systemati- cally confirmed through many interrogations of how the world works. But even laws of Nature are not absolutely certain. There may be new circumstances never before examined - inside black holes, say, or within the electron, or close to the speed of light - where even our vaunted laws of Nature break down and, however valid they may be in ordinary circumstances, need correction.

Humans may crave absolute certainty; they may aspire to it; 30 Science and Hope they may pretend, as partisans of certain religions do, to have attained it. But the history of science - by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans - teaches that the most we can hope for is successive improvement in our understanding, learning from our mistakes, an asymptotic approach to the Universe, but with the proviso that absolute certainty will always elude us.

We will always be mired in error. The most each generation can hope for is to reduce the error bars a little, and to add to the body of data to which error bars apply. The error bar is a pervasive, visible self-assessment of the reliability of our knowledge.


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You often see error bars in public opinion polls 'an uncertainty of plus or minus three per cent', say. Imagine a society in which every speech in the Congressional Record, every television commercial, every sermon had an accompanying error bar or its equivalent. One of the great commandments of science is, 'Mistrust argu- ments from authority'. Scientists, being primates, and thus given to dominance hierarchies, of course do not always follow this commandment. Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.

This independence of science, its occasional unwillingness to accept conventional wisdom, makes it dangerous to doctrines less self-critical, or with pretensions to certitude. Because science carries us toward an understanding of how the world is, rather than how we would wish it to be, its findings may not in all cases be immediately comprehensible or satisfying. It may take a little work to restructure our mindsets.

Some of science is very simple. When it gets complicated, that's usually because the world is complicated - or because we're complicated. When we shy away from it because it seems too difficult or because we've been taught so poorly , we surrender the ability to take charge of our future. We are disenfranchised. Our self- confidence erodes.

But when we pass beyond the barrier, when the findings and methods of science get through to us, when we understand and put this knowledge to use, many feel deep satisfaction. I know personally, both from having science explained to me and from my attempts to explain it to others, how gratifying it is when we get it, when obscure terms suddenly take on meaning, when we grasp what all the fuss is about, when deep wonders are revealed. In its encounter with Nature, science invariably elicits a sense of reverence and awe.

The very act of understanding is a celebration of joining, merging, even if on a very modest scale, with the magnifi- cence of the Cosmos. And the cumulative worldwide build-up of knowledge over time converts science into something only a little short of a trans-national, trans-generational meta-mind. What we breathe is air, which is certainly matter, however thin. Despite usage to the contrary, there is no necessary implication in the word 'spiritual' that we are talking of anything other than matter including the matter of which the brain is made , or anything outside the realm of science.

On occasion, I will feel free to use the word. Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.

The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both. Science may be hard to understand. It may challenge cherished beliefs. When its products are placed at the disposal of politicians or industrialists, it may lead to weapons of mass destruction and grave threats to the environment. But one thing you have to say about it: it delivers the goods.

Not every branch of science can foretell the future - palaeontology can't - but many can and with stunning accuracy. If you want to know when the next eclipse of the Sun will be, you might try magicians or mystics, but you'll do much better with scientists. They 32 Science and Hope will tell you where on Earth to stand, when you have to be there, and whether it will be a partial eclipse, a total eclipse, or an annular eclipse.

They can routinely predict a solar eclipse, to the minute, a millennium in advance. You can go to the witch doctor to lift the spell that causes your pernicious anaemia, or you can take vitamin B,, If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate.

If you're interested in the sex of your unborn child, you can consult plumb-bob danglers all you want left-right, a boy; forward-back, a girl - or maybe it's the other way around , but they'll be right, on average, only one time in two. If you want real accuracy here, 99 per cent accuracy , try amniocentesis and sono- grams. Try science. Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy.

Think of how many people rely on these prophe- cies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? There isn't a religion on the planet that doesn't long for a comparable ability - precise, and repeatedly demonstrated before committed sceptics - to foretell future events. No other human institution comes close. Is this worshipping at the altar of science? Is this replacing one faith by another, equally arbitrary?

In my view, not at all. The directly observed success of science is the reason I advocate its use.

If something else worked better, 1 would advocate the something else. Does science insulate itself from philosophical criticism? Does it define itself as having a monopoly on the 'truth'? Think again of that eclipse a thousand years in the future. Compare as many doctrines as you can think of, note what predictions they make of the future, which ones are vague, which ones are precise, and which doctrines - every one of them subject to human fallibility - have error-correcting mechanisms built in.

Take account of the fact that not one of them is perfect. Then simply pick the one that in a fair comparison works best as opposed to feels best. If different doctrines are superior in quite separate and independent fields, we are of course free to choose several - but not if they contradict one another. Far from being idolatry, this is the means by which we can distinguish the false idols from the real thing. There are no forbidden questions in science, no matters too sensitive or delicate to be probed, no sacred truths. That openness to new ideas, combined with the most rigorous, sceptical scrutiny of all ideas, sifts the wheat from the chaff.

It makes no difference how smart, august or beloved you are. You must prove your case in the face of determined, expert criticism.

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Diversity and debate are valued. Opinions are encouraged to contend - substantively and in depth. The process of science may sound messy and disorderly. In a way, it is. If you examine science in its everyday aspect, of course you find that scientists run the gamut of human emotion, person- ality and character. But there's one facet that is really striking to the outsider, and that is the gauntlet of criticism considered acceptable or even desirable. There is much warm and inspired encouragement of apprentice scientists by their mentors. But the poor graduate student at his or her PhD orai exam is subjected to a withering crossfire of questions from the very professors who have the candidate's future in their grasp.

Naturally the students are nervous; who wouldn't be? True, they've prepared for it for years. But they understand that at this critical moment, they have to be able to answer searching questions posed by experts. So in preparing to defend their theses, they must practise a very useful habit of thought: they must anticipate questions.

They have to ask: where in my dissertation is there a weakness that someone else might find? I'd better identify it before they do. You sit in at contentious scientific meetings. You find university colloquia in which the speaker has hardly gotten thirty seconds into the talk before there are devastating questions and comments from the audience. You examine the conventions in which a written report is submitted to a scientific journal for possible publication, then is conveyed by the editor to anonymous referees whose job it is to ask: did the author do anything stupid?

Is there anything in here that is sufficiently interesting to be published? What are the deficiencies of this paper? Have the main results been found by anybody else? Is the argument adequate, or should the paper be resubmitted after the author has actually demon- strated what is here only speculated on? And it's anonymous: the 34 Science and Hope author doesn't know who the critics are.

This is the everyday expectation in the scientific community. Why do we put up with it? Do we like to be criticized? No, no scientist enjoys it. Every scientist feels a proprietary affection for his or her ideas and findings. Even so, you don't reply to critics, wait a minute; this is a really good idea; I'm very fond of it; it's done you no harm; please leave it alone. Instead, the hard but just rule is that if the ideas don't work, you must throw them away.

Don't waste neurons on what doesn't work. Devote those neurons to new ideas that better explain the data. The British physicist Michael Faraday warned of the powerful temptation to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in the favour of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them.

We receive as friendly that which agrees with [us], we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense. Valid criticism does you a favour. Some people consider science arrogant - especially when it purports to contradict beliefs of long standing or when it intro- duces bizarre concepts that seem contradictory to common sense; like an earthquake that rattles our faith in the very ground we're standing on, challenging our accustomed beliefs, shaking the doctrines we have grown to rely upon, can be profoundly disturb- ing.

Nevertheless, I maintain that science is part and parcel humility. Scientists do not seek to impose their needs and wants on Nature, but instead humbly interrogate Nature and take seriously what they find. We are aware that revered scientists have been wrong. We understand human imperfection. We insist on independent and - to the extent possible - quantitative verifica- tion of proposed tenets of belief.

We are constantly prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs. Three hundred years later we use Newtonian dynamics to predict those eclipses. Years after launch, billions of miles from Earth with only tiny corrections from Einstein , the spacecraft beautifully arrives at a predetermined point in the orbit of the target world, just as the world comes ambling by.

The accuracy is astonishing. Plainly, Newton knew what he was doing. But scientists have not been content to leave well enough alone. They have persistently sought chinks in the Newtonian armour. At high speeds and strong gravities, Newtonian physics breaks down. This is one of the great findings of Albert Einstein's Special and General Relativity, and is one of the reasons his memory is so greatly honoured.

Newtonian physics is valid over a wide range of conditions including those of everyday life. But in certain circum- stances highly unusual for human beings - we are not, after all, in the habit of travelling near light speed - it simply doesn't give the right answer; it does not conform to observations of Nature. Special and General Relativity are indistinguishable from Newto- nian physics in its realm of validity, but make very different predictions - predictions in excellent accord with observation - in those other regimes high speed, strong gravity. Newtonian physics turns out to be an approximation to the truth, good in circumstances with which we are routinely familiar, bad in others.

It is a splendid and justly celebrated accomplishment of the human mind, but it has its limitations. However, in accord with our understanding of human fallibility, heeding the counsel that we may asymptotically approach the truth but will never fully reach it, scientists are today investigating regimes in which General Relativity may break down.

For exam- ple, General Relativity predicts a startling phenomenon called gravitational waves. They have never been detected directly. But if they do not exist, there is something fundamentally wrong with General Relativity. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars whose flicker rates can now be measured to fifteen decimal places. Two very dense pulsars in orbit around each other are predicted to radiate copious quantities of gravitational waves, which will in time slightly alter the orbits and rotation periods of the two stars.

For all they knew, the results would be inconsistent with General Relativity and they would have over- turned one of the chief pillars of modern physics. Not only were they willing to challenge General Relativity, they were widely encouraged to do so. As it turns out, the observations of binary pulsars give a precise verification of the predictions of General Relativity, and for this Taylor and Hulse were co-recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

In diverse ways, many other physi- cists are testing General Relativity, for example by attempting directly to detect the elusive gravitational waves. They hope to strain the theory to the breaking point and discover whether a regime of Nature exists in which Einstein's great advance in understanding in turn begins to fray. These efforts will continue as long as there are scientists. General Relativity is certainly an inadequate description of Nature at the quantum level, but even if that were not the case, even if General Relativity were everywhere and forever valid, what better way of convincing ourselves of its validity than a concerted effort to discover its failings and limitations?

This is one of the reasons that the organized religions do not inspire me with confidence. Which leaders of the major faiths acknowledge that their beliefs might be incomplete or erroneous and establish institutes to uncover possible doctrinal deficiencies? Beyond the test of everyday living, who is systematically testing the circumstances in which traditional religious teachings may no longer apply? It is certainly conceivable that doctrines and ethics that may have worked fairly well in patriarchal or patristic or medieval times might be thoroughly invalid in the very different world we inhabit today.

What sermons even-handedly examine the God hypothesis? What rewards are religious sceptics given by the established religions - or, for that matter, social and economic sceptics by the society in which they swim? Science, Ann Druyan notes, is forever whispering in our ears, 'Remember, you're very new at this.

You might be mistaken. You've been wrong before. But what if it's simply made up by fallible humans? Miracles are attested, but what if they're instead some mix of charlatanry, unfamiliar states of consciousness, misapprehensions of natural phenomena and mental illness? No contemporary religion and no New Age belief seems to me to take sufficient account of the grandeur, magnifi- cence, subtlety and intricacy of the Universe revealed by science.

The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration. But of course 1 might be wrong. Read the following two paragraphs - not to understand the science described, but to get a feeling for the author's style of thinking.

He is facing anomalies, apparent paradoxes in physics; 'asymmetries' he calls them. What can we learn from them? It is known that Maxwell's electrodynamics - as usually understood at the present time - when applied to moving bodies, leads to asymmetries which do not appear to be inherent in the phenomena. Take, for example, the recipro- cal electrodynamic action of a magnet and a conductor.

The observable phenomenon here depends only on the relative motion of the conductor and the magnet, whereas the cus- tomary view draws a sharp distinction between the two cases in which either the one or the other of these bodies is in motion. For if the magnet is in motion and the conductor at rest, there arises in the neighbourhood of the magnet an electric field with a certain definite energy, producing a current at the places where parts of the conductor are situated.

But if the magnet is stationary and the conductor in motion, no electric field arises in the neighbourhood of the magnet. In the conductor, however, we find an electromotive force, to which in itself there is no corresponding energy, but which gives rise - assuming equality of relative motion in the two cases discussed - to electric currents of the same path and intensity as those produced by the electric forces in the former case. They suggest rather that, as has already been shown to the first order of small quantities, the same laws of electrodynamics and optics will be valid for all frames of reference for which the equations of mechanics hold good.

What is the author trying to tell us here? I'll try to explain the background later in this book. For now, we can perhaps recognize that the language is spare, technical, cautious, clear, and not a jot more complicated than it need be. You would not offhand guess from how it's phrased or from its unostentatious title, 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies' that this article represents the crucial arrival of the theory of Special Relativity into the world, the gateway to the triumphant announcement of the equivalence of mass and energy, the deflation of the conceit that our small world occupies some 'privileged reference frame' in the Universe, and in several different ways an epochal event in human history.

The opening words of Albert Einstein's paper are characteristic of the scientific report. It is refreshingly unselfserv- ing, circumspect, understated. Contrast its restrained tone with, say, the products of modern advertising, political speeches, authoritative theological pronouncements - or for that matter the blurb on the cover of this book. Notice how Einstein's paper begins by trying to make sense of experimental results. Wherever possible, scientists experiment.

Which experiments suggest themselves often depends on which theories currently prevail. Scientists are intent on testing those theories to the breaking point. They do not trust what is intuitively obvious. That the Earth is flat was once obvious. That heavy bodies fall faster than light ones was once obvious. That blood- sucking leeches cure most diseases was once obvious.

That some people are naturally and by divine decree slaves was once obvious. That there is such a place as the centre of the Universe, and that the Earth sits in that exalted spot was once obvious. The truth may be puzzling or counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held beliefs.

Experiment is how we get a handle on it. At a dinner many decades ago, the physicist Robert W. Wood was asked to respond to the toast, 'To physics and metaphysics'. By 'metaphysics', people then meant something like philosophy, or truths you could recognize just by thinking about them. They could also have included pseudoscience. Wood answered along these lines: the physicist has an idea. The more he thinks it through, the more sense it seems to make. He consults the scientific literature. The more he reads, the more promising the idea becomes.

Thus prepared, he goes to the laboratory and devises an experiment to test it. The experiment is painstaking. Many possibilities are checked. The accuracy of measurement is refined, the error bars reduced. He lets the chips fall where they may. He is devoted only to what the experiment teaches. At the end of all this work, through careful experimentation, the idea is found to be worthless.

So the physicist discards it, frees his mind from the clutter of error, and moves on to something else. The difference is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory. For me, there are four main reasons for a concerted effort to convey science - on radio and TV, in movies, newspapers, books, computer programs, theme parks and classrooms - to every citizen. In all uses of science, it is insufficient - indeed it is dangerous - to produce only a small, highly competent, well- rewarded priesthood of professionals.

Instead, some fundamental understanding of the findings and methods of science must be available on the broadest scale. It makes national economies and the global civilization run. Many nations understand this. It is why so many graduate students in science and engineering at American graduate schools - still the best in the world - are from other countries. The corollary, one that the United States sometimes fails to grasp, is that abandoning science is the road back into poverty and backwardness. Science alerts us to the perils introduced by our world-altering technologies, especially to the global environment on which our lives depend.

Science provides an essential early warning system. Science teaches us about the deepest issues of origins, natures and fates-of our species, of life, of our planet, of the Universe. For the first time in human history we are able to secure a real understanding of some of these matters. Every culture on Earth has addressed such issues and valued their importance.

All of us feel goosebumps when we approach these grand questions. In the long run, the greatest gift of science may be in teaching us, in ways no other human endeavour has been able, some- thing about our cosmic context, about where, when and who we are. The values of science and the values of democracy are concord- ant, in many cases indistinguishable. Science and democracy began - in their civilized incarnations - in the same time and place, Greece in the seventh and sixth centuries BC.

Science confers power on anyone who takes the trouble to learn it although too many have been systematically prevented from doing so. Science thrives on, indeed requires, the free exchange of ideas; its values are antithetical to secrecy. Science holds to no special vantage points or privileged positions. Both science and democracy encourage unconventional opinions and vigorous debate. Both demand adequate reason, coherent argument, rigorous standards of evidence and honesty. Science is a way to call the bluff of those who only pretend to knowledge. If we're true to its values, it can tell us when we're being lied to.

It provides a mid-course correction to our mistakes. The more widespread its language, rules and methods, the better chance we have of preserving what Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues had in mind. But democracy can also be subverted more thoroughly through the products of science than any pre-industrial demagogue ever dreamed.

Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires vigilance, dedication and cour- age. But if we don't practise these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along. An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on earth - scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children on television and radio and in movies, newspapers, magazines, comics and many books- might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity and consumerism.

We keep at it, and through constant repetition many of them finally get it. What kind of society could we create if, instead, we drummed into them science and a sense of hope? Floating on the wind. What do 1 resemble? Geophysicists have flat Earths, hollow Earths, Earths with wildly bobbing axes to contend with, rapidly rising and sinking continents, plus earthquake prophets. Botanists have plants whose passionate emotional lives can be monitored with lie detectors, anthropologists have surviving ape-men, zoologists have extant dinosaurs, and evolutionary biologists have Biblical literalists snapping at their flanks.

Archaeologists have ancient astronauts, forged runes and spurious statuary. Physicists have perpetual motion machines, an army of amateur relativity disprovers, and perhaps cold fusion. Chemists still have alchemy. Psychologists have much of psychoanalysis and almost all of parapsychology. Economists have long-range economic forecasting. Meteorologists, so far, have long-range weather forecasting, as in the sunspot-oriented Fanner's Alma- nac although long-term climate forecasting is another matter.

The pseudosciences sometimes intersect, compounding the confusion - as in telepathic searches for buried treasures from Atlantis, or astrological economic forecasting. But because I work mainly with planets, and because I've been interested in the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the pseudo- sciences that most often park themselves on my doorstep involve other worlds and what we have come so easily in our time to call 'aliens'.

In the chapters immediately following, I want to lay out two recent, somewhat related pseudoscientific doctrines. They share the possibility that human perceptual and cognitive imper- fections play a role in deceiving us on matters of great import. The first contends that a giant stone face from ages past is staring expressionlessly up at the sky from the sands of Mars.

The second maintains that alien beings from distant worlds visit the Earth with casual impunity. Even when summarized so baldly, isn't there a kind of thrill in contemplating these claims? What if such hoary science fiction ideas - resonant surely with deep human fears and longings - actually were coming to pass? Whose interest can fail to be aroused?

Immersed in such material, even the crassest cynic is stirred. Are we absolutely sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we can dismiss these claims? And if hardened debunkers can sense the appeal, what must those untutored in scientific scepti- cism, like Mr 'Buckley', feel? For most of history - before spacecraft, before telescopes, when we were still largely immersed in magical thinking - the Moon was an enigma. Almost no one thought of it as a world. What do we actually see when we look up at the Moon with the naked eye? We make out a configuration of irregular bright and dark markings - not a close representation of any familiar object.

But, almost irresistibly, our eyes connect the markings, emphasiz- ing some, ignoring others. We seek a pattern and we find one. In world myth and folklore, many images are seen: a woman weaving, stands of laurel trees, an elephant jumping off a cliff, a girl with a basket on her back, a rabbit, the lunar intestines spilled out on its surface after evisceration by an irritable flightless bird, a 44 The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars woman pounding tapa cloth, a four-eyed jaguar.

People of one culture have trouble understanding how such bizarre things could be seen by the people of another. The most common image is the Man in the Moon. Of course, it doesn't really look like a man. Its features are lopsided, warped, drooping. There's a beefsteak or something over the left eye. And what expression does that mouth convey? An 'O' of surprise?

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A hint of sadness, even lamentation? Doleful recognition of the travails of life on Earth? Certainly the face is too round. The ears are missing. Nevertheless, every time 1 look at it, 1 see a human face. World folklore depicts the Moon as something prosaic. In the pre-Apollo generation, children were told that the Moon was made of green that is, smelly cheese, and for some reason this was thought not marvellous but hilarious.

In children's books and editorial cartoons, the Man in the Moon is often drawn simply as a face set in a circle, not too different from the bland 'happy face' of a pair of dots and an upturned arc. Benignly, he looks down on the nocturnal frolics of animals and children, of the knife and the spoon. Consider again the two categories of terrain we recognize when we examine the Moon with the naked eye: the brighter forehead, cheeks and chin, and the darker eyes and mouth. Through a telescope, the bright features are revealed to be ancient cratered highlands, dating back, we now know from the radioactive dating of samples returned by the Apollo astronauts , to almost 4.

The dark features are somewhat younger flows of basaltic lava called maria singular, mare - both from the Latin word for ocean, although the Moon, we now know, is dry as a bone. The maria welled up in the first few hundred million years of lunar history, partly induced by the high-speed impact of enormous asteroids and comets. The right eye is Mare Imbrium, the beefsteak drooping over the left eye is the combination of Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquilitatis where Apollo 11 landed , and the off-centre open mouth is Mare Humorum.

No craters can be made out by ordinary, unaided human vision. It is a characteristic conceit of our species to put a human face on random cosmic violence.

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Humans, like other primates, are a gregarious lot. We enjoy one another's company. We're mammals and parental care of the young is essential for the continuance of the hereditary lines. The parent smiles at the child, the child smiles back, and a bond is forged or strengthened.

As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents and less likely to prosper. These days, nearly every infant is quick to identify a human face and to respond with a goony grin. As an inadvertent side effect, the pattern-recognition machin- ery in our brains is so efficient in extracting a face from a clutter of other detail that we sometimes see faces where there are none.

We assemble disconnected patches of light and dark and uncon- sciously try to see a face. The Man in the Moon is one result. Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup describes another. There are many other examples. We recognize that, rather than some supernatural agency or an otherwise undiscovered ancient civilization in New Hampshire, this is the product of erosion and collapse of a rock face. Anyway, it doesn't look much like a face anymore. Sometimes it's a reclining woman, as Mt Ixtaccihuatl in Mexico.

Sometimes it's other body parts, as the Grand Tetons in Wyoming - approached from the West, a pair of mountain peaks named by French explorers. Actually there are three. Sometimes it's changing patterns in the clouds. In late medieval and renaissance Spain, visions of the Virgin Mary were 'confirmed' by people seeing saints in cloud forms. While sailing out of Suva, Fiji, 1 once saw the head of a truly terrifying monster, jaws agape, set in a brooding storm cloud. There was a celebrated eggplant that closely resembled Richard M.

What shall we deduce from this fact? Divine or extraterrestrial intervention? Republican meddling in eggplant genetics? We recognize that there are large numbers of eggplants in the world and that, given enough of them, sooner or later we'll come upon one that looks like a human face, even a very particular human face. When the face is of a religious personage - as, for example, a tortilla purported to exhibit the face of Jesus - believers tend quickly to deduce the hand of God.

In an age more sceptical than most, they crave reassurance. Still, it seems unlikely that a miracle is being worked on so evanescent a medium. Considering how many tortillas have been pounded out since the beginning of the world, it would be surprising if a few didn't have at least vaguely familiar features. Some chestnut shoots show smiling faces.

Some corals look like hands. The ear fungus also unpleasantly called 'Jew's ear' indeed looks like an ear, and something rather like enormous eyes can be seen on the wings of certain moths. Some of this may not be mere coincidence; plants and animals that suggest a face may be less likely to be gobbled up by creatures with faces - or creatures who are afraid of predators with faces. A 'walking stick' is an insect spectacularly well disguised as a twig. Naturally, it tends to live on and around trees.

Its mimicry of the plant world saves it from birds and other predators, and is almost certainly the reason that its extraordinary form was slowly moulded by Darwinian natural selection. Such crossings of the boundaries between kingdoms of life are unnerving. Many instances of this sort are described and illustrated in a book called Natural Likeness by John Michell, a British enthusiast of the occult. He takes seriously the claims of Richard Shaver, who - as described below - played a role in the origin of the UFO excitement in America. Shaver cut open rocks on his Wisconsin farm and discovered, written in a pictographic language that only he could see, much less under- stand, a comprehensive history of the world.

Michell also accepts at face value the claims of the dramatist and surrealist theoretician Antonin Artaud, who, in part under the influence of peyote, saw in the patterns on the outsides of rocks erotic images, a man being tortured, ferocious animals and the like. Artaud concluded, and Michell agrees, that the patterns so apparent in the rocks were manufactured by an ancient civilization, rather than by Artaud's partly hallucinogen-induced altered state of con- sciousness.

When Artaud returned from Mexico to Europe, he was diagnosed as mad. Michell decries the 'materialist outlook' that greeted Artaud's patterns sceptically. Michell shows us a photograph of the Sun taken in X-ray light which looks vaguely like a face and informs us that 'followers of Gurdjieff see the face of their Master' in the solar corona. Innumerable faces in trees, mountains and boulders all over the world are inferred to be the product of ancient wisdom.

Perhaps some are: it's a good practical joke, as well as a tempting religious symbol, to pile stones so from afar they look like a giant face. The view that most of these forms are patterns natural to rock-forming processes and the bilateral symmetry of plants and animals, plus a little natural selection - all processed through the human-biased filter of our perception - Michell describes as 'materialism' and a 'nineteenth-century delusion'. Of the images he presents, Michell concludes that their mystery remains essentially untouched, a constant source of wonder, delight and speculation.

All we know for sure is that nature created them and at the same time gave us the apparatus to perceive them and minds to appreciate their endless fascination. For the greatest profit and enjoyment they should be viewed as nature intended, with the eye of innocence, unclouded by theories and preconceptions, with the manifold vision, innate in all of us, that enriches and dignifies human life, rather than with the cultivated single vision of the dull and opinionated.

Perhaps the most famous spurious claim of a portentous pattern involves the canals of Mars. First observed in , they were seemingly confirmed by a succession of dedicated professional astronomers peering through large telescopes all over the world. A network of single and double straight lines was reported, crisscrossing the Martian surface and with such uncanny geometrical regularity that they could only be of intelligent origin.

Evocative conclusions were drawn about a parched and dying planet populated by an older and wiser technical civilization dedicated to conservation of water resources. His faceted personality found expression in satire, verse narrative, ode, lyric, speculative drama, historical tragedy, confessional poetry, dramatic monologue, seriocomic epic, and voluminous correspondence, written in Spenserian stanzas , heroic couplets , blank verse , terza rima , ottava rima , and vigorous prose.

In his dynamism, sexuality, self-revelation, and demands for freedom for oppressed people everywhere, Byron captivated the Western mind and heart as few writers have, stamping upon 19th-century letters, arts, politics, even clothing styles, his image and name as the embodiment of Romanticism. Emotionally unstable, Catherine Byron raised her son in an atmosphere variously colored by her excessive tenderness, fierce temper, insensitivity, and pride. She was as likely to mock his lameness as to consult doctors about its correction.

From his Presbyterian nurse Byron developed a lifelong love for the Bible and an abiding fascination with the Calvinist doctrines of innate evil and predestined salvation. He also formed the first of those passionate attachments with other, chiefly younger, boys that he would enjoy throughout his life; before reaching his teen years he had been sexually initiated by his maid. There can be little doubt that he had strong bisexual tendencies, though relationships with women seem generally, but not always, to have satisfied his emotional needs more fully.

In the summer of he fell so deeply in love with his distant cousin, the beautiful-and engaged-Mary Chaworth of Annesley Hall, that he interrupted his education for a term to be near her. Early in he began an intimate correspondence with his half sister, Augusta, five years his senior. Intellectual pursuits interested him less than such London diversions as fencing and boxing lessons, the theater, demimondes, and gambling. Living extravagantly, he began to amass the debts that would bedevil him for years.

In Southwell, where his mother had moved in , he prepared his verses for publication. In November he distributed around Southwell his first book of poetry. Fugitive Pieces , printed at his expense and anonymously, collects the poems inspired by his early infatuations, friendships, and experiences at Harrow, Cambridge, and elsewhere.

When his literary adviser, the Reverend John Thomas Becher, a local minister, objected to the frank eroticism of certain lines, Byron suppressed the volume. A revised and expurgated selection of verses appeared in January as Poems on Various Occasions , in an edition of copies, also printed privately and anonymously. The new poems in this first public volume of his poetry are little more than schoolboy translations from the classics and imitations of such pre-Romantics as Thomas Gray , Thomas Chatterton , and Robert Burns , and of contemporaries including Walter Scott and Thomas Moore.

Missing were the original flashes of eroticism and satire that had enlivened poems in the private editions. In obviously autobiographical poems Byron experiments with personae, compounded of his true self and of fictive elements, which both disclose and disguise him. Groups of verses on a single subject show his understanding of the effectiveness of multiple points of view.

It was as a published poet that Byron returned to Cambridge in June The scornfully worded review had a beneficial effect. In March , two months after attaining his majority, he took his seat in the House of Lords. A Satire , was published anonymously in an edition of 1, copies. Inspired by the Dunciad of his idol, Pope, the poem, in heroic couplets, takes indiscriminate aim at most of the poets and playwrights of the moment, notably Walter Scott, Robert Southey , William Wordsworth , and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

His main target is the critics. The satire created a stir and found general favor with the reviewers. His admiration for Pope never wavered, nor did he ever totally abandon the heroic couplet and Augustan role of censor and moralist, as seen in Hints from Horace written , The Curse of Minerva written , and The Age of Bronze written Feeling revenged on the reviewers, Byron was anxious to realize a long-held dream of traveling abroad.

Though in debt, he gathered together sufficient resources to allow him to begin a tour of the eastern Mediterranean. Anxious to set down the myriad experiences the trip afforded him, Byron began an autobiographical poem in Ioannina, Greece, on October 31, , wherein he recorded the adventures and reflections of Childe Burun a combination of the archaic title for a youth of noble birth and an ancient form of his own surname ; he subsequently renamed the hero Harold.

Byron completed the first canto in Athens at the end of the year. Turning southward, he and Hobhouse journeyed through Missolonghi and rode into Athens on Christmas night They lodged at the foot of the Acropolis with Mrs. Tarsia Macri, widow of a Greek who had been British vice consul. Excursions in January to Cape Sounion, overlooking the islands of the Cyclades, and to Marathon, where the Athenians defeated the invading Persians in B. In March Byron and Hobhouse extended their tour into Turkey.

On March 28, in Smyrna, he completed the second canto of Childe Harold , incorporating his adventures in Albania and his thoughts on Greece. In July he traveled back to Athens, where he settled in the Capuchin monastery below the Acropolis. Here, he studied Italian and modern Greek, just as he would learn Armenian from monks in Venice six years later. Stirred to literary composition, he first produced explanatory notes for Childe Harold ; then, in February and March , he wrote two poems in heroic couplets.

Byron arrived at Sheerness, Kent, on July 14, two years and 12 days after his departure. Significantly, he would select as the epigraph for Childe Harold a passage from Le Cosmopolite, ou, le Citoyen du Monde , by Louis Charles Fougeret de Monbron, that, in part, compares the universe to a book of which one has read but the first page if he has seen only his own country.

Within three weeks of his return, Byron was plunged into a period of prolonged mourning. His mother died on August 2, before he set out for Newstead. Whatever her failings, she had loved her son, taken pride in his accomplishments, and managed Newstead economically in his absence. Then, in October, he learned of the death from consumption of John Edleston, the former choirboy at Trinity College. He also commemorated Edleston in additions to Childe Harold. During his political career he spoke but three times in the House of Lords, taking unpopular sides.

In his maiden speech on February 27 he defended stocking weavers in his home area of Nottinghamshire who had broken the improved weaving machinery, or frames, that deprived them of work and reduced them to near starvation; he opposed as cruel and unjust a government-sponsored bill that made frame breaking a capital offense. On April 21, he made a plea for Catholic emancipation, the most controversial issue of the day.

Dallas, his adviser in the publication of English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers. Dallas enthusiastically showed the poem to John Murray II, the respected publisher of Scott and Southey, who agreed to publish Byron, beginning a rich association between publisher and poet. An octavo edition of 3, copies at 12 shillings was on the market within two days.

In less than six months sales had reached 4, copies. Though he, too, speculated on such a relationship, Walter Scott, recognized that in Harold Byron had created a new and significant Romantic character type which reappeared in almost all his heroes.

Thorslev, Jr. Among their traits are romantic melancholy, guilt for secret sin, pride, defiance, restlessness, alienation, revenge, remorse, moodiness, and such noble virtues as honor, altruism, courage, and pure love for a gentle woman. Despite its outcome, his connection with Lady Caroline left him on friendly terms with her mother-in-law, the witty Elizabeth Milbanke Lamb, Lady Melbourne.

Through her, in September, he proposed marriage to her niece, Anne Isabella Annabella Milbanke, as a possible means of escaping the insistent Caroline. A year-old bluestocking, Annabella was widely read in literature and philosophy and showed a talent for mathematics. In June Byron began an affair with his year-old half sister, Augusta. In the midst of this relationship, Byron received a letter from Annabella Milbanke, who confessed her mistake in rejecting his proposal and cautiously sought to renew their friendship. Correspondence ensued. Through poetry he found relief from his involvement with Augusta and from an inconclusive flirtation in the autumn of with Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster.

Another burst of poetic creativity overlapped the success of The Bride of Abydos. On April 10, , amid rumors of the abdication and exile of the emperor Napoleon which in fact occurred the next day , Byron wrote and copied Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte. On the 16th, it was published anonymously. Since Harrow, Byron had had mixed feelings about Napoleon. He admired the titanic qualities of the brilliant strategist, dynamic soldier, and statesman, but he was repelled by his brutal conquest of Iberia and his perversion of liberal ideals. That ambivalence colors the poem.

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On April 15, Augusta gave birth to a little girl, Elizabeth Medora. There is no extant proof either way. Byron spent much of the summer of with Augusta, while continuing to correspond with Annabella. In a letter dated September 9, he made a tentative proposal of marriage; she promptly accepted it. In marriage Byron hoped to find a rational pattern of living and to reconcile the conflicts that plagued him.

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Toward his bride the groom was by turns tender and abusive. Throughout his life Byron was a fervent reader of the Bible and a lover of traditional songs and legends. As a champion of freedom, he may also have responded instinctively to the oppression long suffered by the Jewish people. Throughout financial problems and heavy drinking drove Byron into rages and fits of irrational behavior. When Annabella was in an advanced stage of pregnancy, he made her the scapegoat for his troubles. On December 10, , she gave birth to Augusta Ada Byron the first name was later dropped.

Early in the new year, increased money worries forced Byron to suggest that they move from their expensive Piccadilly Terrace address. He never saw them again. From Kirkby Mallory Lady Byron wrote affectionately to her husband in London, urging him to join her. Byron was shocked. On March 17 the terms for the legal separation were agreed upon. During the separation crisis, Byron had a casual liaison with Claire Jane Clairmont. That she was the stepdaughter of the philosopher William Godwin and the stepsister of Mary Godwin, with whom Percy Bysshe Shelley had eloped in , may have induced him to tolerate her determined advances, which he had no intention of encouraging.

Byron signed the final deed of separation on April 21, having decided to go abroad with the completion of this formality. On the 25th, they sailed from Dover bound for Ostend. Byron would never see England again. The party reached Geneva on May 25, Byron was unaware that waiting for him were Claire Clairmont, pregnant with his child, Shelley, and Mary Godwin. They passed the time agreeably by boating on Lake Leman and conversing at the Villa Diodati, which Byron had rented, with its commanding view of the lake and the Juras beyond. The poem, in turn, expresses deeper human understanding and advances more positive values than earlier works.

On July 4, three days after returning from his boat tour of Lake Leman, Byron completed the third canto of Childe Harold. Its framework is a poetic travelogue based on his journey from Dover to Waterloo, then along the Rhine and into Switzerland. Having failed to maintain a convincing distinction between himself and his hero in the previous cantos, Byron drops the pretense and speaks in his own right.

Harold becomes a shadowy presence who disappears in the middle of the canto, absorbed into the narrator. The new protagonist, a Hero of Sensibility, expresses the melancholy, passion, and alienation of the original Harold, as well as Byronic liberalism, sensitivity, and meditation. Four major themes inform the third canto. Byron recognized himself in the characters of both men. Byron despised wars of aggression waged for personal gain while championing as honorable those conflicts that defended freedom, such as the battles of Marathon and Morat and the French Revolution.

The pilgrim-poet temporarily experiences the thrill of a transcendental concept of nature, the fourth theme of the canto:. I live not in myself, but I become Portion of that around me; and to me, High mountains are a feeling The arrival of Hobhouse at the end of August coincided with the departure of Shelley, Mary, and Claire, who returned to England with the manuscripts of the third canto of Childe Harold, The Prisoner of Chillon , and the shorter poems; on January 12, , Claire gave birth to a daughter Byron named Clara Allegra.

The catharsis assumed a form new to him—blank-verse drama. He rewrote the third act during a trip to Rome the following May. In the first scene, proud and defiant, he revels in the supremacy of his will over the spirits he raises who are powerless over the inner self:. Within a week of publication, 7, copies of each volume had been sold.

Byron set out in mid-April to join Hobhouse in Rome. In Ferrara, his visit to the cell where the 16th-century poet Torquato Tasso had been confined for madness inspired an impassioned dramatic monologue, The Lament of Tasso. Here, he began to distill his memories of Rome into poetry. Composing rapidly, he had completed the first draft for stanzas of Childe Harold , Canto IV, by mid-July, but he revised and expanded the manuscript for the rest of the year.

Continuing the pilgrimage format of the earlier cantos, the framework for this longest of the sections is a spirited Italian journey from Venice through Arqua where Byron had seen the house and tomb of Petrarch and Ferrara city of Tasso and Ludovico Ariosto to Florence and on to Rome, the setting for half of the canto. The pilgrim-narrator of Canto IV focuses sharply on the contrast between the transience of mighty empires, exemplified by Venice and Rome, and the transcendence of great art over human limitations, change, and death.

Nature doth not die. Before he finished this canto, he had begun the spritely Beppo , with which he returned to satire and prepared the way for Don Juan. On August 29, he heard about the return of a supposedly deceased husband to his Venetian wife; she had meanwhile taken an amoroso , and then had to choose her husband, her lover, or solitary life on a pension. The demanding rhyme scheme of ottava rima—a b a b a c c—encourages comic rhymes.

Its couplet allows the stanza to end with a witty punch line, with a reversal in tone from high to low, or with a clever rhyme to surprise the reader. The seriocomic mood, colloquial style, and digressions of ottava rima, attracted Byron to this verse form as the medium for his witty version of the story of Venetian customs and light morals. By October 10, he had finished Beppo. The story Byron tells is slight. Beppo, a Venetian merchant, returns home during Carnival after years of Turkish captivity, to discover that his wife, Laura, has taken a count for her lover.

After the three pleasantly discuss the amatory triangle, the husband and wife reunite, and Beppo befriends the count. Banished is the soul-ravaged hero with his pride and pessimism, replaced by the poet-narrator—conversational, digressive, witty, observant, cynical. In this fresh, realistic voice he would create his comic masterpiece Don Juan. Early in June Byron moved into the Palazzo Mocenigo, with his daughter Allegra brought to Venice by the Shelley party in April , whom he had agreed to support and educate.

Here, too, he lodged his 14 servants, a menagerie, and a veritable harem. They urged that the manuscript be suppressed. Byron, exhausted by debauchery, cut and slashed in his personal life, getting rid of his harem. Now 19, she had been married for just over a year to a rich count of A strong mutual attraction quickly developed between Byron and Teresa. On July 15, , Murray, after some hesitation, cautiously published 1, copies of the first two cantos of Don Juan. By tacitly admitting, through anonymous publication, that Don Juan was disreputable, Murray intensified the outcry against the work.

The critics hit back with a fury virtually unprecedented, vilifying both poet and poem. In a pseudonymous Letter to the Right Hon. The stanzas teem with Byronic observations on liberty, tyranny, war, love, hypocrisy, cant, and much more. He experiences shipwreck, slavery, war, dissipation, and illness in his travels, gaining worldly wisdom and discretion as he goes. In February , while in residence at the Palazzo Guiccioli, Byron sent Murray, along with other works, the third and fourth cantos of Don Juan. Uncertain about the future of Don Juan , he expended a portion of his creative energy on a trio of historical tragedies based on political subjects and modeled on neoclassical principles: Marino Faliero , Sardanapalus , and The Two Foscari.

These blank-verse plays were, he maintained, closet dramas, not designed for the stage. Adaptations of Sardanapalus and Werner enjoyed great success on the 19th-century stage. Remorseful and repentant, he goes into exile accompanied by Adah and Enoch, without railing against an unjust God.

In September, amid the confusion of packing for his move to Pisa, Byron took up a poem he had begun in May and immediately set aside. This solemn, sycophantic eulogy in limping hexameters commemorates the death, burial, and supposed apotheosis of King George III. Through Japhet, the elect but troubled son of Noah, Byron questions the doctrine of predestination, which had disturbed him all his life. As in Cain, this drama asks why evil exists, since Jehovah is good.

They were joined in mid January by the flamboyant adventurer Edward John Trelawny. Byron had placed his daughter Allegra in a convent school in Bagnacavallo in March ; on April 20, she died there at the age of five, after a brief illness. Byron contributed to each of its four issues published in and He was also proceeding rapidly with Don Juan.

After the erotic seraglio scenes in the sixth canto, he began to exhibit a new gravity. In late September, the remnants of the Pisan Circle relocated to Genoa. Within a week of his arrival, Byron had completed the 10th canto of Don Juan , which carries the hero to England, and started the 11th, with its satire on the shallowness and hypocrisy of the English aristocracy.

John Hunt was prosecuted for libeling the late king; he remained the publisher of The Liberal but turned printing duties over to the less radical printer C.

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Byron responded by withdrawing from Murray and turning to John Hunt as his publisher. As the title suggests, Byron voices disillusionment with the modern era, his targets being both political and economic. In May he was elected to the London Greek Committee, recently formed to aid the struggling insurgents. After a reluctant farewell to Teresa, he made good on his offer of personal assistance to the patriots by sailing from Genoa on July 16, bound for Leghorn and Greece. He was accompanied by Pietro Gamba, Trelawny, and a considerable sum of money and medical supplies for the Greek cause; he also packed gold and scarlet uniforms and heroic helmets for their landing on Greek shores.

On August 3, they reached the island of Cephalonia, then under British protection. Byron did not immediately commit himself to any faction, preferring to wait for signs of unity in the Greek effort. In November Byron agreed to loan 4, pounds to the Greek fleet for its activation.

In March , John and H. On April 9, having been soaked by a heavy rain while out riding, Byron suffered fever and rheumatic pains. By the 12th he was seriously ill. Repeated bleedings further debilitated him.

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