Friday, April 2, 2010

Natural History Quote 4/2/10

"Scientists as work have the look of creatures following genetic instructions; they seem to be under the influence of a deeply placed human instinct. They are, despite their efforts at dignity, rather like young animals engaged in savage play. When they are near to an answer their hair stands on end, they sweat, they are awash in their own adrenalin. To grab the answer, and grab it first, is for them a more powerful drive than feeding or breeding or protecting themselves against the elements." -Lewis Thomas

I like this quote for two reasons. First, it deals with our own natural history, which I wrote a bit about in my post on Brussels sprouts. Thomas describes the pure act of finding out as an innately human activity. Our curiosity may not have been selected for, it may be a byproduct of other facets of our intelligent minds, but it is indeed a very human thing. The second reason is that it directly likens this to play. I'm a fan of play and think the idea that play is something frivolous or other than work or not productive is ludicrous. I like to think that science education and play have a whole lot in common, especially for children under the age of six or so. You can learn a lot about your environment from playing in it, exploring it. I like that Thomas equates the work of all scientists with this sense of playful exploration.

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