This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← The Poetry of Science

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Geoff 21

In his autobiography Bertrand Russell remembers sharing a flat with T.S. Eliot, which must have juxtaposed science and poetry at an interesting level; 'come in under the shelter of this red rock' might not have sufficed Eliot had he strayed into theology at the dinner table.

The contemporary interest of the Bloomsbury group in the writings, especially the Principia Ethica, of G.E. Moore, whom they met, seems to have begun the open conversation of science (or rather, rationality) and poetry at the time.

Later Aldous Huxley, whose early death I would lament alongside Christopher Hitchens', wrote persuasively on the subject. He conjectures that, in a society not bound by religion, a Beethoven masterpiece might have been the 'Evolution' symphony and speculated that a scientifically versed poet could take imagery from microscopic cell structures.

In his well-nigh prescient novel 'Point Counterpoint' he is preoccupied with the contrasting world views of a scientist and a poet, the latter character being a thinly-disguised portrait of D.H. Lawrence. He acknowledges the charisma of the poet but is resistant to his insistence on intuitional notions like the importance of 'blood' which are chillingly reminiscent of the doctrines of nazism. There is also an Oswald Moseley character, but I won't spoil the story.

Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', by the time of Disney's 'Fantasia', they chose to illustrate with an evolutionary narrative, showing just how recent is their descent into fundamentalism in some parts of the USA. Let's hope it's two generations to lose it, so two generations to get it back, given education.

These leading edge examples were intellectuals and distanced from ordinary people, except perhaps in sympathy. This may also be true today. The unifying principle beneath the myth and scriptures of all organised superstition is a (very) human narrative. Stories about people are what engage the imagination and we ignore that at our P. Witness the 'docu-dramas' about any field of science where concentration is on the personal lives of the protagonists, often to a point which obscures the science.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:57:51 UTC | #950942