An Inclusive Litany


Nicholas Lemann interviews Vice President Al Gore for the New Yorker, July 31, 2000:
Gore gestured for another piece of paper, and when I gave one to him he bent over the coffee table again and began to draw another diagram.... This second drawing was made up of a circle with twenty little dots floating inside it, connected by wavy lines. "Now, let me come back to your question." He walked me through Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions, apologized for the overused word "paradigm," and explained that every so often an unusually creative scientist finds a new way to connect the dots of unexplained data.... "It appears in fractal theory. If you look at a map of the coastline of New Jersey, and then magnify that a thousand times, the basic design of the ins and outs of the coastline will be the same at every level of magnification. And they call that the self-sameness principle. I don't understand it. It's way beyond my depth. But I do believe there's something about our world that—" He began another long pause. "I'm searching for the right word here—that manifests that self-sameness principle in a lot of different ways. And when we find a brand-new understanding of the world that comes out of a powerful new discovery in science, it often allows us to look at social and political matters and find ways to connect the dots that haven't made sense before." I asked Gore where God fits into all of this. "Give me another piece of paper," he said.

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