I thought this quote from Richard P. Fenman’s book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out was perfect for Earth Day. It celebrates the aesthetic appeal and art of nature while balancing it with the desire to understand the flower’s beautiful complexity from a scientific perspective.
“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, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.’
And I think he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too. Although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, I can appreciate the beauty of a flower.
At the same time I see much more about the flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have beauty.
I mean, it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter; there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure. 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 lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows 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.
— Richard P. Fenman, from the book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
The balance between art and science. A nice thought to celebrate this lovely Earth Day.