Science is Wonder-ful
Steve alerted us to the awesomeness of today’s XKCD:
While it seems obvious to me that science uncovers the beauty of the world – I mean, that’s what propelled me through a more than adecade of “higher” education in science – I’ve learned that a lot of people really do think that science takes the color from the world and eave greyness instead. I am reminded of this quote by Richard Feynman (a famous physicist and science communicator):
“I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, ‘Look how beautiful it is,’ and I’ll agree, I think. And he says, ‘You see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you, as a scientist, you take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.
And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is. But I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about the flower that he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty….
Also, the processes, the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that a scientific knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it can subtract.”
(See Feynman saying this here.)
I realize that in order to introduce some folks to science we must first reassure them that this will enrich, not diminish, the meaningful experiences of life. Many people find intense awe and wonder – emotions that some think reserved to religious experience – in discovering the world through science. I sure do. (I’m getting chills thinking about when I first learned about the genetic code; I walked around in an awed stupor for days.) The amazing ways that Nature works really is wonderful enough that we shouldn’t fear replacing any perceived “magical” experiences.
Anyway, thanks for so eloquently distilling all of this in your comic today, XKCD!