The Identity of Man
by Jacob Bronowski
WE CANNOT HOPE to match the total complexity of nature any more precisely than a language matches the complexity of social life. The answer to the polite enquiry "How are you?" is not a medical bulletin. And the answer to the scientific enquiry "How are atoms of carbon made?" is not a full analysis of the mind of the Almighty. There is a tolerant give and take in the reply that we make to questions about our health; and there is the same give and take, an essential intolerance, in the sentences that we can frame to picture the improbable generation of the carbon atom. A single experiment can be described in a bulletin; but the grand processes of nature cannot be sketched without the ambiguity which dogs all language. Science would come to a standstill if every ambiguity were resolved, for there would be nothing left to discover. It is this which makes it more vivid and more enlightening to call science a language for the machinery of nature and not an engineering drawing.'
First Published by Heinemann, 1965