Monday, April 2, 2007

Science and Art

Today I was sitting in my biology class learning about the endocrine system, when I realized how beautiful the world is.

I realize that not everybody would find a lecture on the differences between protein- and lipid-based hormones in the human body to be a thing of beauty, but before you write me off as a total science geek, let me explain myself.

First of all, the new book I'm reading must have a lot to do with it. I've never been one to take a side in the art versus science debate, and Richard Dawkins is only giving me even more reason to sit on the fence. Science is art, and can be just as beautiful as the most profound poetry or sculpture.

So what? What's the big deal? Well, what I realized in my class today was just how beautiful and noble the pursuit of knowledge through science really is. Of course, I've always loved science and have long been in awe of the great strides forward it's achieved, but it hasn't been until recently that I've noticed just how mysterious can be, and how much passion it can evoke. I've always thought science was one thing, and art was another. I would read science books to learn more about the world, and would then read poetry, view paintings, or listen to music to understand how we humans relate to that world. But now I've found that science itself can evoke those same emotions as art.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, until today, art satisfied my desire for a certain feeling, and science satisfied my desire for a different feeling. They were both equally valid but were distinct, separate things, concerned with different ideals. In many ways that still holds true for me, but today I experienced science's ability to ask the same kinds of questions and address the same themes as art.

As my teacher was explaining the different cellular pathways different types of hormones take in the body, I was hit with a huge feeling of awe and wonder. How great it is that life is here on earth, with all of these marvellous ways of propagating itself, all these wondrous ways of being alive. Even more wondrous though, is the fact that it once wasn't here at all! That all of these things have evolved over billions of years of slow, methodical advance is one of the most beautiful, most poignant thoughts I've ever had.

That's it! That's why we're here, because billions of years ago a chemical reaction found out how to make copies of itself, and those copies slowly became more and more complex. And now we have all the life we see here on earth as the end result of that one little primordial replicator. Isn't that amazing? I sure think it is! In the same way singing Mozart's Requiem in concert yesterday made me appreciate the great achievements humanity is capable of, science has instilled in me an appreciation for the great achievements of life itself.

I know none of this is a new idea; I've felt similarly on several occasions. But there's something a little different this time. I guess I'm starting to realize that humanity, indeed all life, is the most beautiful work of art ever made, and that's something that will get me out of bed with a big smile on my face every morning.

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