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Life of Pi

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Science Theme

Don't get us wrong. The protagonist of Life of Pi loves science. Science, along with reason, helps us control and manipulate the world. It's how we survive in the world. But Pi points out that like religion, science has an element of faith in it. Unlike agnosticism, where the person doesn't commit to either faith or disbelief, the scientist often commits to a worldview of atheism and to the methods of his discipline. For the protagonist of Life of Pi, though, this isn't enough. We have to embrace the irrational and miraculous if we're to have a full picture of our universe. Science can explain the world up to a certain point, but its usefulness ends. According to Pi, when things get really hairy, religion has to step in with a good old-fashioned story.

Questions About Science

  1. What is it about the science of zoology that attracts Pi?
  2. Why might Pi name himself after a number? And an irrational one at that?
  3. Mr. and Mr. Kumar might seem like they have totally different belief systems. But Pi considers both to be "the prophets of his Indian youth" (1.20.2). How is Mr. Kumar the Muslim like a scientist? And, conversely, how is Mr. Kumar the biologist like a holy man?
  4. Fact One: Much of this novel sympathetically extends human consciousness and tries to imagine animal consciousness. Fact Two: Pi attributes spiritual calm and engagement to Richard Parker (see Themes: Spirituality 2.61.19). If spirituality extends to Richard Parker, can reason do the same? Does Richard Parker use a type of reason? Does Pi think that animals use something like science or reason to explain their world?

Chew on This

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