Richard Feynman on the beauty of a flower

Note: This is an old post. The opinions and views expressed here may not reflect the author's current thinking.

Can a scientist really enjoy the beauty of a flower? Here is what Mr. Feynman had to say about science and the appreciation of nature.

“I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s some times taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, ‘look how beautiful it is,’ and I’ll agree, I think. And he says, ‘you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.’ And I think he’s kind of nutty.

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is. But I can appreciate the beauty of a flower.

At the same time, I see much more about the flower that he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean, it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter: there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure… also the processes.

The fact that the colors in the flower are evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting – it means that insects can see the color.

It adds a question – does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower.

It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

Richard Feynman

Reid Gower, the same man responsible for the awe-inspiring The Sagan Series project, has just released a new companion mini series called The Feynman Series. Do yourself a favor and watch the first video, and the others too.