“We pick up a trilobite and the books tell us it is 500 million years old. But we fail to comprehend such an age, and there is a yearning pleasure in the attempt.”
It is the same yearning pleasure I feel when looking at the night sky but not just romantically looking between it and the eyes of my beloved, happy with time and place, but looking beyond the perceived beautiful ceiling, looking as much as my mind is able into the depth of the distance between the dots, and trying to push further that ability in a dizzying spiral of comprehension and stupour. It is the same dizzying spiral I get lost in when trying to understand how I have come to be alive out of the uncountable alternative humans and how it is possible that it is this particular human thinking a thought that somehow proves its existence.
Richard Dawkins, hero of scientific elation, wrote Unweaving the Rainbow as a response to people accusing him and other scientists of taking beauty and happiness out of the world by providing explanations. Especially the chapters that see him unweaving light and sound, taking easily understood concepts and taking them apart, finding poetry and metaphor in them, are where he shines. Later, it is more Dawkins as we know him, discussing memes, selfish cooperators and speculating about the evolution of the brain. (More unusually, there is also a single page on which, with a lot of foresight, he predicts the premise of the blockbuster Avatar, as well as a current long-distance intimacy project.)
I wish all those people who were proud of having no interest in/no talent for science would read this.