Thursday, March 03, 2011

WHAT SCIENCE COMMUNICATES



Inanimate things communicate too. The aesthete may look at an inanimate object and take away one quality and the scientist may see something totally different – but equally as beautiful. Nevertheless, scientific thinking is not embraced by the general public in the same way as traditional beauty is.

This point was made loud and clear in a book, Science is Culture, by Adam Bly, which influenced my perspective on science and which clearly demonstrates why the path to scientific thinking needs to be embraced, venerated and inspired.

I was struck by an anecdote in the book. Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, told the story of a friend of his—an artist:

“[H] e’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with. … He’ll hold up a flower and say, ’Look how beautiful it is. …You see, I, as an artist, can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist … take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.’”

Feynman stresses that he can appreciate the beauty of a flower, too, but he sees “much more about the flower” than his artist friend. He goes on:

“I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty … the [fact that the] colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting … it means the insects can see the colors.”

Mr. Feynman concludes that “a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

Science does not currently have evangelists the way religions do. So we may have to work harder to grasp and appreciate the beauty within.

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