The same argument, incidentally, could apply to scientific theories seeking to explain the world, including that part of it that relates to our morality. It is simply a metaphor framed in very different terms, albeit one I personally am finding increasingly limited.That was all I wrote about science, then, and yet the post had been partly motivated by my dismay at the tendency in certain quarters to disparage the beauty that surrounds us in dismissing the claims of organised religion.
In one of those happy little coincidences that life throws up now and then, and yes, I am being somewhat disingenuous here, I recently picked up a book by an author I was very fond of as a child. I will not say who it is just yet, as there is another post to be written about him. The passage I want to concentrate on today draws on a metaphor drawn by the village postman:
Look at these early flowers which appear. So many of 'em are droopin' bells, as though natur' were ringin' em [the courting birds] on their way. When the west wind blows, I watch the snowdrops, the little woodsorrel of the pine-woods, the tall daffodils, and bluebells ... All of 'em ringing their carillon - bells for the birdies' weddin's, swingin', swayin', pealin'; and the great big marsh marigolds and the flamin' buttercups standin' up straight out o' the green grass and holdin' their ... chalices aloft and cryin' , "Good 'ealth to bride and bridegroom".Shortly after this tour de force of rustic mysticism - even if "flamin' buttercups" strikes an odd note to more modern ears - our narrator encounters a keen gardener, with whom he cannot resist sharing the postman's vision, although even the narrator refers to these as "quaint conceits."
'Ah, yes,' he said in his superior way; 'very pretty, no doubt. But we botanists like to stick to facts.'Now, while our narrator is clearly not shy of editorialising - I would have thought that his interlocutor's condescending attitude would have been obvious without us being told twice of his superior airs - and while there are flaws and subtexts that I would like to explore anon, he can coin a wonderful phrase.
'Facts are not so beautiful as truth, sometimes,' I ventured to interpolate.
'Those of us who have a scientific bent explain things differently,' he said, with a superior air. 'You see,' he added. 'those tubular flowers of yours live under cold atmospheric conditions. By closingh the petals much of the warmth which would be lost by radiation is preserved. The surface presented to the Arctic winds and dews being that of the involucral leaves, or bracts, of the calyx, which...'
"Facts are not so beautiful as truth, sometimes" speaks even unto a confirmed agnostic like me, and it's a truth that the more militant atheists would do well to remember.