Science Is A Cephalopod


Hey, my first chance to show off some of the new artwork (for the upcoming revised, updated and improved book)! Mike McRae, the artist behind my banner art (thanks, Podblack, for suggesting him!), has drawn a few illustrations for the chapters. He asked me what I had in mind for each, listened carefully to my rambling suggestions, then wisely ignored a great many of them in order to produce something much much better.

And sometimes, his choices were very very different from mine. For instance, rather than sticking with a cuttlefish for each illustration, he has used octopus, squid, and even nautilus! At first, the notion of the nautilus grabbing the prize gig of representing science rather galled me… but then, it suddenly could not be more perfect. Science, after all, grows by testing hypotheses, and discarding ideas that cannot be supported. If science has grown to the point where an old idea no longer fits, we abandon it, and sort of wall it off (there is no reason to reconsider geocentrism as being worth another look at this point, after all). And with every rejection, science grows.

I guess what I am trying to say is…

Science is a nautilus; it builds upon its past,
By discarding what it clearly has outgrown;
Empirically assessing views that will or will not last,
And adding to the sum of what is known

Our ancient view of nature was ridiculously small,
From the universe itself, to our place in it—
But our knowledge grew, until that view could never hold it all,
And it’s growing more with every passing minute

A new and better theory soon replaced the old and weak;
This may also be abandoned as we grow;
If a theory is found wanting, then a better one we seek,
Which is how we keep increasing what we know

The nautilus will build a wall, to permanently close
Any cell for which it has no further use;
When you find a static charge can heat the air up till it glows,
You’ve got lightning with no need to call in Zeus

Should a scientist today concede the Earth is really flat?
That phlogiston is the reason fires burn?
That demons are the cause of plagues (and never mind that rat)?
That is not the way to grow from what we learn!

An open mind is willing, if it must, to close a door,
If the evidence is clear that’s what to do;
We must never mourn the tiny room we occupied before—
There is so much more amazement in the new!

Comments

  1. says

    My teachers pronounced it 2 different ways, so I freely admit I had to look it up to be sure. I had a different structure in case I guessed wrongly, but this was the first choice.And Stacy S., the cuttlefish art is staying! Cuttlefish are so much cooler than nautilus, but I had to go with the show-off external shell… Glad you like the artwork–there are some even cooler ones I will post, sometime soon I hope!

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