Thursday, March 03, 2011


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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