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 Common Sense of Science
by Jacob Bronowski

IN ORDER TO ACT in a scientific manner, in order to act in a human manner at all, two things are necessary: fact and thought. Science does not consist only of finding the facts; nor is it enough only to think, however rationally. The processes of science are characteristic of human action in that they move by the union of empirical fact and rational thought, in a way which cannot be disentangled. There is in science, as in all our lives, a continuous to and fro of actual discovery, then of thought about the implications of what we have discovered, and so back to the facts for testing and discovery - a step by step of experiment and theory, left, right, left right, for ever.'

'It has been one of the most destructive modern prejudices that art and science are different and somehow incompatible interests. We have fallen into the habit of opposing the artistic to the scientific temper; we even identify them with a creative and a critical approach. In a society like ours which practices the division of labour there are of course specialized functions, as matters of convenience. As a convenience, and only as a convenience, the scientific function is different from the artistic. In the same way, the function of thought differs from, and complements, the function of feeling. But the human race is not divided into thinkers and feelers, and would not long survive the division.'

'Einstein rounded three centuries of the questioning of nature when he equated energy and mass in a single line:

E = mc²

This is not the same as the unification of concepts as that for which Keats was searching when he closed the Ode on a Grecian Urn with the lines

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

But the likeness is more important than the difference. The likeness is more helpful in making us understand that the concepts of science are like the concepts of value, monuments to our sense of unity in nature.'

First Published by Heinemann, 1951.

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

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