Is there a reason why the above rose leaf is so beautifully rimmed with water droplets? It depends on what we mean by reason.
Many words carry a number of definitions and and even greater amount of connotations.
If by reason we mean an understood cause, yes, there is a reason (a number of mechanisms, actually) that explain how the leaf and water came to look like that.
If by reason we mean a purpose for it, or even intent behind it . . . that’s another question.
Before answering a question, the critical thinker will frequently ask questions of the question. No, not to be a pain in the butt, but to clarify the inquiry so as to better understand and answer.
Imaginary, stupid poll: Do you like nature?
Imaginary results: Yes – 99%.
No – 1% (It contains snakes!)
2nd imaginary poll: Do like to learn about nature?
Imaginary results: Yes – 70% (particularly if I can by watching television)
No – 30% (Learning? That requires effort!)
3rd Imaginary poll: If science were described as a careful way to learn about nature, would you say science is a good thing?
Imaginary results: Yes – 50%
No – 50% (Science? Science is always bad because the people I know pronounce the word as if a snake were hissing.)
Keep science from becoming a bad word! Be sure to smile whenever you say it! Why? Because polls of your average American numbskull are important!
On a serious note, if you enjoy learning about nature, I suggest checking out these two excellent blog carnivals, recently posted:
Scientia Pro Publica 22
Carnival of Evolution #21: The Superstar Edition
To science! Seriously.
It is a drizzly, cold day in Florida today. My thoughts turn to the warmer and brighter. But the thoughts themselves aren’t that warm and bright. Nothing approaching the real thing. And it is probably a good thing.
Imagine if recollections were as vivid and pleasing as real-time experience . . . there would be a lot of people, like heroin addicts, reclining on couches and beds, lost in memory.
I have often lamented over the poor resolution of my memories. They pale considerably next to any old boring thing before me face right now. Maybe that’s a good thing.
While light is not a liquid, could one say it flows? It has a speed, after all. And it can bend in heavy gravitational fields.
But what would light flow within? Time? One the peculiar things about electromagnetic radiation (photons by another name) is that though we can time light, light itself cannot be said to experience time. Relatively tells us that accelerated to the speed of light, a clock will stop ticking. At the speed of light — no time.
What does it all mean? I wish I knew.
I’m allergic to nature. No, not all of it. Dust mites, some molds, and apparently to a yellow tree pollen I noticed yesterday had finely dusted our car. This morning I am sneezing and blowing my nose. What tree produced it? I don’t know. The few species of holly within 100 feet of the driveway (one photographed above)? The laurel or live oaks? The long-need pine? Hmmm. I don’t. Maybe I ought to find out. Then I could be more specific about my allergy to nature.
What is my Aesthetiopathy (TM)? My new get-rich scheme. It’s based on an ancient healing arts I just thought up. My first product will be tincture of orgasmically beautiful rose petal dew. You can use it to treat just about anything.
Leaves. From last growing season. Now there are twigs. Possibly dead twigs, due to all the frosts we’ve had this cold season.
Is it a miracle that every Spring leaves appear? A mystery? Or just something wonderful?
I can’t remember where, but yesterday I encountered the old canard, “Science can only answer ‘how’ questions. The ‘why’ questions are beyond its scope.” Rather than being philosophically profound, that attitude reflects a cognitive conceit. Or maybe a cognitive “myopia.”
Consider the above photograph of the backside of a hibiscus blossom (backside to potential pollinators and those that don’t reside in the depths of the bush, as some insects do). Science can certainly better answer the question “How do we find it beautiful?” than it can “Why is it beautiful?” The reason? Subjectivity. In why questions we find lurking a subjective stance. How is it meaningful . . . to me, the subject. Because science strives for objectivity, it shuns such subjectivity. Yet it can answer the subjective question more accurately than can religion or art, etc., so long as the perspective is specified and not assumed to be absolute.
How? Once the subject of the “why” is specified, science can roll up its sleeves and determine the “how” that subject perceives the phenomenon as it does.
Back to the hibiscus blossom. Simply asking “Why is the blossom beautiful?” is an unscientific question. Unrefined. “Why is the blossom considered beautiful by humans?” or “Why is the blossom attractive to bees?” — now these are questions science can more readily go about answering.
True, science is not as good at answering the relatively vague “why” questions. But in this case, the problem is not with science, but with the question.
Scientia Pro Publica Blog Carnival #20 has been posted. It might be worth sniffing. Or reading.
In his poem, Auguries of Innocence, William Blake wrote:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
I don’t know about a grain of sand, but there definitely is a world in a drop of rain water. Dust from far-away Africa, acidic by-products of industrial pollution, many species of bacteria . . . .
As observers of the universe, human beings are quite large. The smallest details are invisible to us. We’re also quite small. The most distant details are beyond us. Fortunately, the tools of science can help us gain an understanding of the universe. . . whether or not we label that understanding as poetry.