Study Guide

Timescape Science

By Gregory Benford


Timescape is sci-fi, so—surprise—science is kind of a big deal in it. Absent are the scientists of so much science fiction, though, with their white lab coats, chiseled chins, and haphazard experiments that result in humanity dwelling in underground vaults. Instead, we have people trying to balance their professional and personal lives, working at universities under the constraints of budgets and time, and trying to stick to the scientific method in the face of political reality. It might not seem as fascinating as creating a batch of mantis men because, you know, science, but wait and see.

Questions About Science

  1. Do you think the novel suggests science is the only source of knowledge worth exploring? If yes, why? If not, why not, and what other sources of knowledge do you think the novel values?
  2. Pick one of the scientists in Timescape written with a negative bent. Who is it and where do you see them being presented negatively? Does this character have any redeeming qualities? What does this suggest to you about the theme of science in the novel?
  3. Renfrew says that science is the only way for people to solve the problems caused by science (1.16-17). He calls this a truism. Do you think this really is a truism? If yes, why? If not, why not? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

Chew on This

In Timescape, science as a philosophy is the best resource people have devised for discovering the truth about the universe and our place in it. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily mean the scientist characters are all the best practitioners of the truth.

The goal of the novel is to show science in a realistic manner. As such, you can learn a lot about the scientific method by paying close attention to the stories of characters like Gordon.