Table of contents

Men in Black III

Some notes on men & science

You might laugh at me now, but the story suggests baseball is a good way to begin to learn what makes us human. There is a creature here, utterly benign, which considers all the possible things that occur. It barely distinguishes what really happens from everything that might happen. It views the universe as shifting probabilities. I believe this creature is the god to which science aspires, having abandoned nature. Inability to predict the future should be humbling. But scientific power seems necessary to our survival.

The alien is shocked that the ‘69 Mets could win it all. We might be surprised, because they were a losing team. He is surprised because everything is accidental. But human beings believe that things come into being for a reason, that we have a purpose. It would seem that political freedom, the opinion that we can learn what is good for us & act on it, is an illusion. It allows people to live without fear of the unpredictable.

Baseball shows us men who make every effort to succeed, to make something irrational into something rational. This points us to heroes who insist on taking chances, who do not live by probabilistic calculation. The other image of American heroism the story offers, which is not as funny, is the moon landing.

Surprisingly, the story suggests that manliness is essentially defensive. Heroes fight for causes & they see themselves as the cause of their victory. Manliness therefore is the defense of the human being as a being. The daring & scientific power of the Apollo missions is here seen only as a way to defend ourselves. Manliness can never abandon home, it would seem. Human beings find it difficult to understand causes which are not their causes.

The other part of manliness is not surprising, but it is ugly. The young, humorous man always wants to know why his elder frowns all the time. He learns in the end. It is because the price of manliness, therefore the price of defending the human being, is death. The youth had apparently never considered the problem mortality poses. Men as men are aware of the precariousness of human beings. This hardens them, so they may do what must be done. What is worth dying for is more important than what is worth living for, because necessity drives us.

This alien whom I have called the god of science, he persuades a man to sacrifice his life for the good of mankind. I believe this is a consequence of treating science as a man, a particular kind of human being, & an individual human being. Without this restraint, science might help monsters to destroy the human beings.

For fans of Will Smith, you have fights, you have comedy, you have it all