Drama in the Lab
I’m teaching high school Chemistry this year, something for which I am utterly unqualified. I took Chemistry in high school. That’s one credential. I remember some of it. That’s the other. But I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m thankful for Chemistry and Chemists, and scientific endeavors in general.
It’s the way God made the world to see life out of our head. He gave us certain eyes through which we see everything. And everything we see has a way of bleeding into everything else we see. And this applies to the rest of our bodies. There’s a sense in which we are always leaving vestiges of ourselves everywhere we go, and at the same time, there’s a sense in which we are dragging our past with us into the future. But I was talking about Chemistry.
That is to say, I’m an actor. Or more truly, I’ve occasionally had the opportunity to take part in some drama. But everyone acts. But that’s not my point. It’s the Chemists that I’m actually thinking about and the computer programmers and the all the other scientists out there. Yeah, you. You are acting. You pretend the world is perfect. You, geometricians and engineers, you act as though the world contains circles and straight lines. You pantomime the world with equalities and perfect symmetries. And that’s fine. I love suspension bridges; we’re grateful for our cars.
I just wanted to point out that every science has to isolate whatever it studies for just a moment. It’s impossible to study something without imagining it by itself. But of course nothing ever occurs in absolute isolation. Science is dramatic art. It puts its object of study on a stage, places certain props around it, and tells a story through it. If the scientist tells a good story, his findings will benefit the real world. But the scientist must always remember that he’s pretending in the lab. In real life, chemical equations and reactions are never balanced and circles do not exist.