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A Poetic Definition of Science Circa 1997

“…science is a human cultural activity, not a purely dispassionate striving after truth.”

Adding to last month’s omnibus of famous definitions of science is John Gribbin’s poetic 1997 meditation from the introduction to Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science: The Universe, Life and Everything — an ambitious survey, reminiscent of Bill Bryson’s iconic tome, A Short History of Nearly Everything, that sets out to explain what we know about everything from the microest of micro to the macroest of macro in a humanized, articulate way, without dumbing down any of the science. Gribbin writes, presaging — and perhaps inspiring — Brian Eno’s “Big Theory of Culture”:

Science is primarily an investigation of our place of the Universe — the place that people occupy in a world which ranges from the tiniest subatomic particles to the furthest reaches of space and time. We do not exist in isolation, and science is a human cultural activity, not a purely dispassionate striving after truth, no matter how hard we might try. It is all about where we came from, and where we are going. And it is the most exciting story ever told.

In other words, as Adam Bly put it in the title of his excellent anthology of interviews, Science is Culture.

Published May 8, 2012




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