Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Poetry and science: greatness in little

"Poetry is one way of trying to reconcile different and contradictory aspects of life. Poetry is another viewpoint, a way of getting stereoscopic vision or at least perspective. James Watson is not a poet, but when he wrote an account of his work on the double helix he gave a different perspective compared with that given by the famous paper published in Nature. People were shocked or delighted because it told a human story. It told of science, but in the voice of someone who also chases girls, is competitive and does the million-and-one things we all do. A scientific culture that eschewed such an approach completely and insisted that only the academic papers mattered would not be a culture: it would be pedantic formalism gone mad."