Monday, June 27, 2011

Science

In her book The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, science writer Natalie Angier says: "I like science I trust it. It makes me feel optimistic. It adds rigor to my life."

That about says it.

One doesn't have to be a science nerd to like science. Science, for me, is like a house -- four walls, a roof, windows, warmth, protection from the elements, a firm foundation from the wind. But a house Is not a home. A home is what one makes in a house. A home involves human relationships. Books. Art. Music. Food and drink. A home involves what you do in bed, see out the windows, cook up in the kitchen, read with your coffee on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, science is there. A broad consensus of reliable knowledge tested in the refining fire of experiment. A space cleared in the babble of tribal superstition. An affirmation that the world is not chaotic, that the sun will come up tomorrow, that gods and demons do not carry our fates in their whimsical hands.

People have sometimes said to me, "I don't like science. It takes all the mystery out of life." Nothing could be farther from the truth.

If by mystery one means UFOs, crop circles, astrology, spoon bending, pyramid power, water into wine, Lazarus rising from the dead, then, yes, I suppose science takes the mystery out of life.

But if mystery is what one feels when confronted with the whirligig dance of the DNA in every one of the trillions of cells in my body, with the eye-popping prospect of a hundred billion pinwheeling galaxies, with the epic saga of life unfolding in geologic time -- well, then that's a mystery I can say "yes" to without embarrassment, a mystery that spills its affirming power into every nook and corner of my house-become-home.

I like science. I trust it. It makes me feel optimistic. It adds rigor to my life.