Beauty, Science and Theology. Part 1: Perspectives on Beauty

This series of more extended posts sums up my recent work on beauty in science and theology, and is reproduced (with permission) from the BioLogos blog.

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek:that I may dwell in the house of the LORDAll the days of my life,to gaze on the beauty of the LORDand to seek him in his temple.

                                        Psalm 27: 4

I belong in the ranks of those who have cultivated the beauty that is the distinctive feature of scientific research.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Marie Curie[1]

All of the biologists I know are undeniable lovers of their objects of study…                                                                                                                  Konrad Lorenz[2]

Beauty in Science

Fluorescent image of Chlamydomonas algae showing location of Fa2p enzyme at the base of the cilia,. © Dr. Lynn Quarmby.

As a biologist, I am fascinated by the fluorescent-on-black images of cells, 3D rotations of protein structures, and cross-sections of colourful tissue samples that grace the covers of scientific journals. I have spent whole weeks staring down a microscope at the beautifully transparent bodies of developing fish embryos, and whenever possible I illustrate my written work with photographs of the natural world. I’m not alone. In the institute where I did my PhD we had a basement full of microscopes and imaging technology, and it was considered important to have beautiful images in your presentations—movies were even better. The journal Nature: Cell Biology always features striking images on its covers, and in an editorial these photographs were described as works of art in their own right. In fact, ‘scientific art’ has become a recognised genre, and displays of science-related images are increasingly popular in research institutes, museums, science festivals and other public spaces. Continue reading