JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

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

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 2000 The Estate of Jacob Bronowksi. All rights reserved.