The current issue of the academic journal Science Fiction Studies includes a review of Karen Barad's book Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Sherryl Vint's review makes the book sound pretty interesting—one of Barad's goals, for which she finds evidence at the subatomic level, is to argue that non-human life has individual agency (i.e. sentience). Contrast that with Ted Kosmatka's recently-reviewed-here story "Divining Light," in which subatomic experiments seem to provide proof for a qualitative distinction between humans and non-humans. Alternately, compare Rudy Rucker's more radical panpsychic argument that "mind is a universally distributed quality." I don't think Barad would go to the level of rocks, though Plotinus probably would.
What really interested me, though, is the review's reference to the source of the title of Meeting the Universe Halfway. Alice Fulton's poem "Cascade Experiment," printed as an appendix in Barad's book, contains this compelling passage:
Because truths we don't suspect have a hard time
making themselves felt, as when thirteen species
of whiptail lizards, composed entirely of females
stay undiscovered due to bias
against such things existing,
we have to meet the universe halfway.
Nothing will unfold for us unless we move toward what
looks to us like nothing: faith is a cascade.
The poem is a wonderful combination of science and faith, and finds mystery in empiricism, just as great SF about religion does. It reminds me of the 14th-century mystical text The Cloud of Unknowing, the title of which offers perhaps the most famous illustration of apophatic theology. The Cloud considers God as wholly ineffable, indescribable, and possibly even incomprehensible. Nevertheless, the Cloud author urges his monastic audience to place the limitations of human experience beneath a "cloud of forgetting," and to "smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love" (ch. 6). Quantum physics is often compared to mysticism, as in Robert R. Chase's recent story "The Meme Theorist" (also reviewed here). Fulton's poem makes an eloquent and moving case for science that seeks the unknowable, the unbelievable, and the impossible.
Read Alice Fulton's poem "Cascade Experiment" here.
Read the Cloud of Unknowing here.