Ian McEwan on science writers

"[I]f we understand science merely as a band of light moving through time, advancing on the darkness, and leaving ignorant darkness behind it, always at its best only in the incandescent present, we turn our backs on an epic tale of ingenuity propelled by curiosity."

- Ian McEwan, writing in the Guardian

In this article, McIwan pays homage to the great science writers of the past. All of these writers – Darwin musing about evolution, Voltaire criticizing the Brits for inoculating their children against smallpox, van Leeuwenhoek describing microscopic spirogyra – may be dead white males, but McEwan argues that their works serve as a roadmap to understand modern science. Even mistaken accounts are valuable, as "scientists who hurl themselves down blind alleys perform a service – they save everyone a great deal of trouble".

McEwan reserves a hefty ration of praise for a not-so-dead white male, Richard Dawkins, whose book The Selfish Gene, McEwan believes, stands at "the beginning of the golden age of science writing". According to the piece, Dawkins' public battle against religion is highly appropriate, as rational thought will always have its enemies, and we need to marshal and nourish a "living scientific literary tradition" to counter ignorance and totalitarian thinking.

You can read the rest of the article here.