Some fantasy literature near at hand, with sf at left: bedside reading.

It’s been said before: science fiction is a conjecture culture. Well, said before, if not in those precise words.

Science fiction is not science. It’s not often scientific even in spirit, for there is no experimentation, public testing, refutation, or even knowledge at the end of it! It is often little more than what cheerleaders are to sports: the rah-rah squad. But there is more to it. Science fiction writers look behind the obvious and offer up a wide series of alternative theories — conjectures — about reality, and then play with them in interesting ways (some more interesting than others), usually focusing on the human results, or on the transcendent.

As such, science fiction has what I think of as a generally salutary effect on the mind.

Except when it doesn’t, as in the case of the inspiration Paul Krugman’s took from Asimov’s Foundation series, to double down on his technocracy. That’s like taking the Bible as an excuse to kill witches or Jews.

And it shows the great danger of science fiction: scientism. That is the misuse of certain outward forms of science to replace religion and influence politics. It is often the worship of science as technique to make a better world — but actually making the world much worse.

Thankfully, this also is a central theme of science fiction: the opposition to scientism. It can be found in a wide diversity of dystopian nightmares and comedies and melodramas, the most obvious being Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and even in space opera, such as C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

So, science fiction can serve as the cure for the disease of which it is also, too often, the most obvious symptom.