Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry.
What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
In the spring and summer I watched my plants flower, but it was, perhaps, in winter that I loved them best, when their skeletons were exposed. Then I felt they had more to say to me, were not simply dressing themselves for the crowds.
What’s beautiful in science is the same thing that is beautiful in Beethoven. There’s a fog of events, and suddenly you see a connection. It . . . connects things that were always in you that were never put together before.
God is not only something metaphysical, but also the physical world, the plants and animals, the mountains and rivers, the air and the sun and the earth.
In comparing religious belief to science, I try to remember that science is belief also.
God may have written just a few laws and grown tired. We do not know whether we are in a tidy universe or an untidy one.
We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things — metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.
Researchers have already cast much darkness on the subject, and if they continue their investigations we shall soon know nothing at all about it.
Science is not neutral in its judgments, nor dispassionate, nor detached.
In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.
The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “What good is it?” If the . . . whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not.
When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird.
Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These disappearances . . . say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance. . . . It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open.
Why should nature, whether hostile or benign, be in any way intelligible to us? All the mysteries of science are but palace guards to that mystery.
In a way, nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time — like to have a friend takes time.
What would I discover about the cottonwoods if, when I walked to the mailbox, I listened to them instead of looked at them? What would I find out about the rain if I didn’t run inside? And is it possible that a sunrise would refresh me more than sleep?
I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them.
The idea of regularly acknowledging our indebtedness to the natural world and giving thanks for the many gifts we receive from it, or considering other species to be our close “relations,” which many indigenous peoples still do, couldn’t be more alien to most of us.
What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world. . . . Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.